History of the OSI Strasse Orgel

This is the story of the evolution of the OSI organ as related by its creator, Paul Fischer, retired President of Paul E. Fischer Pipe Organs, Inc., Erie, PA. Note that this company is no longer involved with either Hofbauer or OSI small organs.

The evolution of the OSI 20er organ is somewhat convoluted!

Many years ago I was offering the entire Hofbauer line of tracker church organs, drehorgans, clocks, tanzbars, etc.

A wealthy man by the name of Dan Morgan from Boca Raton, Florida conceived an idea for an Italian Ice product to be sold from unique vending carts which he would franchise under the name of 'Hurdy-Gurdy Italian Ice'.

Every cart was to have a grind organ on it to attract attention. Somehow he found me and I went to Florida to negotiate a huge contract with him to supply all of the organs he needed. He had mega financial resources and had the venture up and running in unbelievable time.

The designer's concept sketch of the Hurdy-Gurdy Italian Ice cart. Note that the the large wheels are non-functional, with the actual support being castors hidden by a skirt. Apparently the sketch is generally a good representation of the final product since the cart in a photo on TheGreatEvent.com is very similar. Right-Click here to download a high resolution copy of the picture.
"Italian Ice" is not "shave ice"/"Ice Ball," produced by cutting ice from a block and adding syrup, but is frozen from a flavored mix.
Picture courtesy Ed Ditto, via Mark Mitchell

Hofbauer could not produce the 20er Mikro organs fast enough to meet the demand. He got the first 50 or so to me in fairly short order but the Florida people demanded faster delivery. I went to my good friend Dennis Unks, then the CEO at Organ Supply Industries, and asked him if OSI could produce an equally good organ in quantities. I gave him a stock Hofbauer 20er organ and OSI essentially replicated it for the most part.

Detail of the organ in the concept drawing. Note that it is not a picture of either the OSI or Hofbauer organ since the crank is in an unlikely location and the back of the organ is decorated.
Picture courtesy Ed Ditto, via Mark Mitchell

OSI declined to have anything to do with the music reader system, however. I had a friend at the time who had developed for me when I was at Tellers Organ Company, the very first truly solid state pipe organ combination system ever used in this country. Don Smith and his son at Synergistic, Inc. here in Erie, designed the hardware, reader system and software for the MPV-4000 in record time!

The biggest fly in the ointment was that I could not find anyone capable of quickly arranging suitable 'grind organ' music for the Carl Frei 20 note scale system. Out of desperation I simply hot wired the driver output pins on a Hofbauer 20er organ and read the whole library of Hofbauer Mikro boxes for that organ while having someone actually play the tunes! Don Smith put together a breadboard device that he then read the music from and into his dedicated program for the MPV-4000. From this program he was then able to burn the PCMCIA cards. If you compare the OSI music to the Hofbauer music you'll find that they are identical . . . even the mistakes!
Don Smith passed away unexpectedly and we were really left in a lurch for music. His son was extremely despondent and walked away from the Synergistic business. It had been a 2-man operation. The son refused to relinquish the documentation, software and other protocols for the MPV-4000 and its music program.

I owned the rights to the MPV-4000 so I bought the inventory of the completed units from the son. In the meantime OSI had about 60 organs completed and ready for the MPV-4000's but I was dead in the water when it came to music. A young engineer at OSI eventually cracked the code for the music software and we were able to get up and running again eventually.

In the meantime the guy in Florida got greedy and cheapened his Italian Ice product. At the same time a group of Japanese investors schmoozed him into cheapening the entire franchise . . . vending cart, organ and all! They started selling him a really fake looking grind organ in a cheap cabinet that contained a boom-box with a tape player, which played canned street organ music . . . no operator necessary! You can't fool people with a fake 'come-on' and people became suspicious of the product he was selling, also. The venture ultimately tanked and there were/are about 170 owners out there who bought the franchise, each of which included an organ. About half of these organs were/are Hofbauer 20er Mikro organs and half the OSI version.

A Doug Maharg in Markham, Ontario bought the franchise rights for all of Canada and had 27 franchises in operation at the time the venture tanked! The last I knew he had been trying for several years to sell off the carts, organs etc. piecemeal but was not having much luck. He tried several times to unload the organs on me but I was already holding the bag with about 100 MPV-4000 units on hand! I ultimately sold the MPV-4000 units to OSI so they could at least have an operating organ to offer.

I worked with OSI for a while and we managed to sell off several of the OSI 20-er organs but with a very limited amount of available music. Eventually Dennis Unks retired from OSI and the new CEO had little or no interest in the Strasseorgel. I have very little contact with OSI anymore but the last I knew for certain was that they still had about 30 organs on hand but I've since heard that they unloaded them all.
So there you have a little more of the story of the evolution of the OSI Strasseorgel.

August 2011
Paul Fischer - Paul E. Fischer Pipe Organs, Inc.
6366 Browning Circle, Erie, PA 16505-2694
tel.: 1-814-838-4315

In August 2011 I (WV) found a webpage for one Hurdy-Gurdy Italian Ice. The only picture is small, and does not show the organ.
TheGreatEvent.com, Darryl Scotti Events Inc. says
"serving all Bay Area cities. ... house made Frozen Dessert and Beverage services for corporate and special events. ... Hurdy-Gurdy Italian Ices are served from our authentic turn of the century ice carts with or without our Hurdy-Gurdy Monkey Barrel Organs. ... You can find us at Art & Wine Festivals, Fundraising Events, Car Shows, and other events....  Italian Sorbets in the following lemon, tangerine, peach, apricot mango, strawberry, raspberry cherry, cherryberry, chocolate, mochaccino, cappuccino, ... Granitas ... Frozen Mochaccino ...  Frozen Cappuccino .... Frozen Cocktails Prices are as low as $3.00 per person for over (100) guests. ... "

More information on Daniel Morgan
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