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I’ve been intrigued this week by a former San Diego staple, the Organ Power Pizza restaurant, which hosted pizza-eating families who wanted to listen to a little organ music while they ate. Today I’m going out to Spring Valley to watch a couple of people who used to play at the restaurant rehearse for a concert coming up on Sunday.

Here’s a commercial for Organ Power Pizza that @ginavdk dug up for me:

I especially liked the motto: “When you say music and pizza, that means party!”

The Theater Organ Society of San Diego sent me a bit more information about the organ that the piano and organ duo, Cheryl and Wayne Seppala, will be playing this Sunday at 2 p.m. The segment from our visit will air Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on NBC San Diego.

THE MIGHTY WURLITZER — A JOURNEY OF ADVERSITY AND TENACITY

The very existence of the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ organ, now housed in Trinity Hall is a story of adversity and tenacity. In the 1970’s the California Theatre in Santa Rosa was slated for urban renewal. Organ buff Preston “Sandy” Fleet saved the theatre’s 6-rank organ by purchasing and donating it to the Theatre Organ Society of San Diego which had the organ renovated, added ranks of pipes and chests and organized an installation in San Diego’s California Theatre in April 1982. San Diego’s California Theatre had lost its own organ when the ‘talkies’ arrived and the theatre was closed. In the early 1990’s, the ownership of San Diego’s California Theatre changed and the building was slated for demolition. The Theatre Organ Society of San Diego evacuated the organ, hoping to find a new home for the instrument. A space at the Trinity facilities in Spring Valley was secured and in October 1995, the now 3-manual, 13-rank organ enjoyed a premiere concert in its new home.

Only six months and four concerts later, the Trinity facility and the organ were destroyed by arson fire. It has been said that the organ played a last cacophony of music before going down in flames. Work began immediately to search for a replacement and within a few months TOSSD had arranged to purchase a 4-manual, 20-rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ located in Sacramento. This organ was a combination of two organs, one originally installed in the Strand Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin in 1926 and the other in the Tiffin Theatre in Chicago in 1922. It was removed from its location in Sacramento and transported to a storage space in Spring Valley to be restored and await the rebuilding of the Trinity facility. The 4-manual, 24-rank organ, now known as the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ premiered at Trinity on Saturday, September 11, 1999.

I am the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with me on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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