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Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2005

Kansas collector keyed up by pump organs

December 18, 2005

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— You could say Dick Rhea has a hankering for pump organs.

His pump organ museum in Sharon Springs is chock-full. He's got them in the Fort Wallace Museum and in a lawyer's office in downtown Sharon Springs.

He's got a few - in varying stages of repair - in his garage just a few blocks away from the museum.

"There's 45 in here," Rhea said of his museum. "I have 61 total."

Rhea has been collecting and repairing pump organs for years, even though he operated a successful implement dealership before retiring. He also raised cattle and horses.

Today, he works away on the organs in his garage-turned-organ-repair-shop. His wife, Bernice, helps him with the task.

What's amazing about Rhea's hobby is that he isn't an accomplished player. "Very little," he said of playing an organ. "I don't know notes."

His two daughters started the task of playing the organs, one playing the keyboard and the other pumping the pedals.

Taking apart an organ can lead to interesting tidbits. He said he's found lots of trash and plenty of hairpins. He's also found money, just not a lot of it.

The costs to purchase the organs have varied.

"I've bought them from $50 to $800," Rhea said. "Not too many I pay that high."

Once he's purchased them, they are moved into his garage for cleaning and repair.

Rhea's collection has earned special honors, as he has perhaps the largest collection of organs in the state. Only about three people in Kansas currently repair pump organs, he said.

"I think he's at the limit," Bernice Rhea said of his collection. "Of course, I thought that 30 organs ago."

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