pub-769827371306972 pub-769827371306972
top of page

Roscoe Evans

• 11th in our series of famous Bluffton High School alumni

• For 23 years he was caretaker of the world's largest organ - located in Atlantic City, New Jersey



Bluffton has a long history of persons with outstanding musical talents. But only one, Roscoe Evans, can claim he tamed the king of instruments, the organ. He spent 23 years of his career as caretaker of the world's largest organ.

Roscoe Evans

April 21, 1889-Sept. 13, 1968

Member of the Bluffton High School class of 1907


Born in Delphos, Roscoe Evans' family moved to Bluffton where Roscoe attended Bluffton schools until his high school years. However, the Evans family moved from Bluffton to Van Wert in 1905. Had the family remained here, he would have graduated with the class of 1907.


Prior to moving to Van Wert, his father, John B. Evans, operated a livery stable in a barn that was originally located on the property that today houses The Curling Iron at 129 N. Main Street.


It is possible that the Evans family moved from Bluffton as a result of the growth of the Main Street business district. The present building at that address was constructed in the early 1900s. Perhaps that's when the livery stable came down.


We know very little about the education path Evans followed after moving from Bluffton.  It is not known if he ever graduated from high school, but his musical abilities compensated lack of any degree in higher education, making his story among the most unusual in this series.


We do know that the musical instrument of his eventual choosing was one Mozart called the King of Instruments.


Roscoe Evans became the caretaker and maintenance person of the world’s largest organ, housed in a building 10 stories high to house its 33,056 pipes.


Here's his story:

The Evans family left Bluffton in 1905, going to Van Wert. There Evans learned to tune pianos in a factory. He may not have traveled the world, but he certainly saw more of the United States than any of his former Bluffton classmates.


From Van Wert, Evans went to Pueblo, Colorado. He then joined the navy and played the clarinet in the band on the U.S.S. South Dakota when he was 18. Later he was a member of the Naval band at Mare Island, California.


Following his discharge from the navy he moved to Denver, Colorado, where he tuned pianos with a music house. From there he went to Portland, Oregon, for additional piano work. In Portland he took up the study of organ.


Later he was connected for several years with the Wurlitzer Organ Co., Tonawanda, New York., and finally went to New York City, prior to going to Atlantic City.


The following details of Evans' work in Atlantic City is from a news feature from a 1937 issue of the Bluffton News.


Headline:

Former Bluffton boy in charge

of world’s largest pipe organ.


Roscoe Evans maintenance man

of huge Atlantic City

Instrument.


Son of former Bluffton liveryman

visits friends here past week.


The former Bluffton man, an expert on organ construction, has been responsible for the care and tuning of the great organ in the Atlantic City Convention hall since it was completed four years ago.


For the preceding two and one-half years he has been at the same place assisting in building the large musical instrument.



So extensive is the $400,000 organ in the auditorium of the convention hall that it requires four hours to walk thru the eight chambers crowded with pipes.


Pipe 64 feet high

Largest of the 33,056 speaking pipes of the organ is one wooded pipe 64 feet in height. Next largest are nine 32-foot pipes of metal, wood and reeds. One of the 32-foot pipes is three feet in diameter made of Oregon fir three inches thick.


Smallest pipe in the organ is no larger than a lead pencil in diameter, and has a speaking length of three-sixteenths of an inch in length. Many of the pipes are less than one-half inch long.


Eight blowers are incorporated in the organ, powered by motors from 40 to 60 horsepower in rating. Today the horse power of the organ’s 12 motors is 365.


10-story organ

A space 10 stories high is required to for the great organ that occupies the sub-basement, basement and eight floors in the auditorium.


The auditorium proper, in which the organ is built is so large that a 14-story building could be built inside its walls, without touching the ceiling, Evans said.


In length and breadth it is so large that a full-sized football field has been laid out with plenty of room for bleachers and night games played under the roof. Completely furnished, the convention hall cost approximately 15 million dollars.


Two consoles may be used in operation of the organ, either separately, or both at the same time.


Largest of the two is a seven-manual console, of the half-barrel type, 10 feet in diameter. It has 1,255 stops control and 933 speaking stops all within reach of the operator.


The other is a five manual portable with 850 stop controls that can be moved about the building. Two persons can play the organ at the same time, one at each console, if desired.


Seldom broadcast

Broadcasts although frequent from Convention hall are seldom made with the large organ.


Instead, a smaller one, a four-manual Kimball in the grand ball room is used.


Evans and one assistant handle all the tuning and other maintenance work on the organ. Both are kept busy continuously.


Designed of the organ was Emerson Richards, Atlantic City attorney and a state senator in New Jersey, who has traveled extensively in Europe and is recognized as an authority on tone. He often brings visitors from foreign lands to view the great organ.


At an electric power rate of two cents, when the complete organ is operated cost is approximately $5.70 an hour.


However, the average cost is approximately $3 an hour since the organ is seldom in full operation.


Post script

A 32nd degree Mason, Evans retired in 1957. Following retirement, he and his wife, Cora, moved to Lima. He died Sept. 13, 1968, at age 79. His obituary stated that he maintained the Atlantic City organ for 23 years.


His wife, Cora, died Dec. 3, 1966. Both Roscoe and Cora are buried in Carmen Cemetery in Gomer, Ohio.


And, it was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who wrote: To my eyes and ears the organ will ever be the King of Instruments.


ALSO FEATURED IN THIS SERIES:


Ivan "Ike" Geiger, class of 1927

R.L. Triplett, class of 1902



Photos below are from the organ's website

It is probable that one of these men is Evans.









Comments


bottom of page