Comment 1

I read with great enthusiasm the story by Kathy Niklewicz above (on I myself demonstrated Optigans in a SEARS department store in 1972-3-4 in the Eastview Mall near Rochester NY! I had first seen the instrument at a Long Island flea market in an old aircraft warehouse in Farmingdale, Long Island, NY in about 1971. I was a craft artisan there, creating and selling carved walnut-veneer wooden names on necklace chains; the wood coming from old stereo cabinets. On a break, I browsed the other vendors…and then I saw this man standing next to a strange chord organ I'd never seen before. I asked if I could play it, and he invited me to try it, and he explained the disc system and the electronics. I play keyboards by ear, and so within minutes I was rockin'-out all the pop songs of the time on the Optigan! I visited that vendor and the organ many days while I was doing my crafts.
The next year I graduated from the State University of NY in Farmingdale, and transferred to the State U. of NY school in Geneseo, about a half-hour from Rochester, NY in 1972. The school ran a bus trip to the nearby mall in Eastview, and my girlfriend and I went to the mall sometime in the fall of '72. There is where I first saw Optigans in the stereo department at Sears. I asked the manager if I could try them, and sat down and rocked-out like I did at the flea market. A large crowd gathered to hear it, and I invited anyone to try it. I actually made a few sales that day, and the department manager offered me a job playing it on the 4 weekends during the upcoming holiday season. I took him up on it, and since I didn't have a car on campus, I HITCH-HIKED every Saturday and Sunday through the snowy farmlands to get to the mall! I played all afternoon and evening with no breaks because I loved it, and the crowds were there every time I played! (Strange – I never gave a thought to jumping ship from school and becoming a traveling demonstrator – but I know I would have loved it!) At the end of the first December the manager told me he got a letter from corporate stating that our store sold more Optigans than any other Sears store that year! I have to wonder if I WAS THE DEMONSTRATOR that Kathy saw! And, yes the Optigans sold for exactly $450 as she said.
After 2 years of holiday season Optigan demonstrating, I graduated, and offered to demo them in my local Long Island Mall stores, and you could hear me playing every holiday season at the bottom of the escalator across from the Clinique fragrance department counters! I played in Bloomingdales for 3 seasons as part of the Special Events in the store, and later in Abraham & Strauss and Macy*s over the following years. I bought my demonstrator Mediterranean model at my first season with Bloomies, and dragged it around to play parties and coffee houses everywhere for the next 5 years. It's showing a bit of mechanical wear in the sounds of some keys, and I'm looking for help repairing this 50-year-old instrument.

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