Bringing the Wurlitzer Home to Welch
From Missouri to West Virginia
What Goes Around, Comes Around
The story of the Welch Wurlitzer begins in 1928, when a grand theatre organ was installed in the original Pocahontas theatre. The organist, W.C. Crookshanks provided the soundtrack for silent films and live productions. This extravagant musical addition to the theatre, had massive pipes and a toy chest of drums, symbols and bells! At some point, as sound systems became more advanced and technology changed, the organ and live organist was no longer used, the historical instrument was sold, and most people assumed the era of the Welch Wurlitzer was over.
This important part of Welch history not only highlights the connection of the two theatre buildings but also showcases an important part of the history of CoalTown, USA. While not currently operational, the organ can be seen on display in the lobby of the Pocahontas Theatre and can be heard in the video clip below.
Fast Forward to 2021
However, in 2021. Jason Grubb, a City of Welch employee and native to the area found the organ in Missouri. This coincided with the rebirth of the Pocahontas Theatre and a new era of theatre ownership for the City of Welch. Jason, and Mayor Harold McBride created a plan to bring the Wurlitzer back home so it could serve as the connection between the old and new Pocahontas Theatres. Pictured: Mayor McBride and Susan Franklin, who owned the organ in Missouri.
A Labor of Love and Loss
During the Fall of 2021, Mayor Harold McBride and Andrea Ball, who plans events for the City of Welch, launched a mission to bring the massive organ home. Two trips of almost 1000 each way, two trailers, a lot of sweat equity by countless volunteers and staff and the antique musical instrument was back home at the Pocahontas Theatre.
As a special sidenote, the organ project was completed before Jason Grubb passed away from Covid, and everyone associated with the project is happy to have helped him complete his vision.
Hear the Welch Wurlitzer
Susan Franklin is playing the Welch Wurlitzer in this video. The quality is of the image isn't great but you can hear the rich tones and beautiful music of this grand instrument. Someday, the City of Welch would love to restore the organ to its previous glory. Click here to play the video from Facebook.