The Beautifully Restored Carousel at the Burnaby Village Museum

The Burnaby Village Museum is a re-creation of a typical village that might have existed in the area in the 1920s. The museum contains a general store, drugstore, barbershop, school, farmhouse, and many other attractions. One of the most popular attractions is the beautiful carousel and the Wurlitzer organ that accompanies it.

The carousel was in a bad state when it arrived at the museum but has been lovingly restored. The ride has become a highlight of a visit to the museum for many people.  I often visit the village and always take photos, including ones of the lovely horses on the carousel.

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My favourite carousel horse is Scampering Dawn, or horse number six

The carousel dates from 1912 and was made by the C. W. Parker company in Kansas. The C.W. stands for Charles Wallace. The company made many carousels. Parker called them “Carry-Us-Alls” because he disliked the traditional name of Merry-Go-Round. According to the Burnaby Village Museum’s website, Parker wanted to emphasize that his rides were meant for all ages and sizes. It’s easy to see how the name of his rides could have given rise to the term “carousel”.

Charles Wallace Parker lived from 1864 to 1932. It sounds like he was an interesting character, as the quote below shows.

He called himself “Colonel Parker”, “America’s Carnival King” and “World’s Greatest Showman”. Parker was a great showman and conscientious about a clean image for carnivals … but he also stretched the truth to extremes. — Burnaby Village Museum

The carousel at the museum is the 119th one made by the C.W. Parker company and is sometimes known as Parker #119. Each horse has a number, a name, and a personal history. For example, horse 18, or Bingo (shown behind Scampering Dawn in my first photo) was named after Bingo Hauser, who played a major role in bringing the carousel to the museum. The horses were sponsored by individuals or families, who were able to name them after donating money to the restoration project.

The carousel has a place for a wheelchair, enabling disabled people to enjoy the ride. It also has a low carriage pulled by ponies for children who don’t want to get on a horse. An adult is allowed to stand beside a horse to support a child. The ride is accompanied by music played by a Wurlitzer military band organ. It’s located in a specially-built indoor enclosure, which protects the restored carousel from the elements.

One horse is named Old Paint and is not on the carousel. Instead, it’s in a display case beside it. Old Paint hasn’t been restored so that the public can see what the horses looked like when they arrived at the museum.

CariouselThree

Another attractive horse

After the carousel was created in 1912, it toured the United States for a while. It originally had a steam engine. Its complete history in the U.S. isn’t known. In 1936, it was moved to Canada and was placed in a Vancouver amusement park called Happyland, which was located in Hastings Park. When Happyland closed in 1957, the carousel was moved to another amusement park in Hastings Park called Playland. This still exists today and is a very popular place.

By 1989, the carousel had seen better days. It was in bad condition due to its age and exposure to the elements in its outdoor location. Playland announced that it was going to dismantle the ride and sell the horses individually at an auction in New York State. Some concerned citizens came together in an attempt to prevent this from happening. The citizens formed a group called Friends of the Carousel.

CarouselTwo

The Carousel

Friends of the Carousel raised funds to purchase and restore the ride. Their efforts were helped by the Government of British Columbia and the Municipality of Burnaby. (Burnaby didn’t become a city until 1992.) Burnaby agreed to build a pavilion for the carousel. The city is located immediately to the east of Vancouver.

The restoration of the carousel involved some hard work by many people, including ones with special skills. Welders, machinists, electricians, carvers, artists, and other dedicated people were involved in the project. Even today, mini-restorations are performed periodically to keep the carousel and its horses in great condition.

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The Wurlitzer military band organ

The Wurlitzer organ that accompanies the ride dates from 1925 and has also been restored by specialists. It was created by the Rudolf Wurlitzer Company.  I think the decorations and paintings on the front of the instrument are very attractive.

The music resembles that created by a large military band. It’s fascinating to see the organ apparently playing itself as the pipes, bells, cymbals, and drums produce sounds. A very basic overview of how the sound is produced is given below.

The key to the sound production is two paper rolls perforated by holes of different sizes. The rolls are moved over a tracking bar. As they do this, the holes create a break in an air vacuum. The disruption cause tubes connected to the instruments to stimulate sound production.

WurlitzerTwo

A close-up view of the beautiful Wurlitzer decorations

The museum is located at 6501 Deer Lake Avenue. Instructions for reaching the village are available on its website. Admission is usually free, except for some special events. An admission fee was once required for every visit. The administrators discovered that by making admission free, more people visited the museum and the money made from visitor purchases more than made up for the lack of an admission charge.

The museum’s website should be consulted before a visit in order to check whether the village is open to the public. It’s currently open during spring break, in summer (early May to early September), at Halloween, and at Christmas.

At the moment, only the Halloween event charges an admission fee. Carousel rides cost $2.65, but the other attractions are free. The carousel and the small display area next to it can be viewed without paying for a ride. The ice cream parlour sells light meals in addition to ice cream. In summer, ice cream is usually sold outside as well. A gift shop is located next to the carousel and the museum entrance. A small charge is required to start the player piano in the music store.

I live quite near to the museum and am able to visit it fairly often. I think a trip to the village is very worthwhile for people living in nearby areas and for people visiting Vancouver and its surroundings. The carousel is interesting both artistically and historically.

References

  • Information about the carousel and the Wurlitzer military band organ from the Burnaby Village Museum
  • Facts about the horses and the carousel from The Globe and Mail newspaper

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