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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Paul Fischer - Paul E. Fischer Pipe Organs, Inc.
6366 Browning Circle, Erie, PA 16505-2694
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
Return to main OSI Strasse Organ page