Minnesotans’ huge collection of antique pump organs spans neighboring homes

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PLAINVIEW, Minn. – A hundred years ago, they could be found in homes and parlors across the state.

The popularity of the pump organ has faded, but for a man from Wabasha County, they might just be the future.

Ron Manzow has spent most of his life in Plainview. He taught third grade for decades before retiring. But you could say his house is still full of history lessons.

Manzow collected 75 pipe organs. His collection grew so large, in fact, that he bought the house next to him for storage.

It’s a hobby that started when he was a teenager. He became addicted to the music, the craftsmanship and the fact that these organs worked without electricity.

Before the Internet, he bought them at antique stores or found them in newspaper ads. Now it goes online. And like a handyman, he’s an organ-repairing handyman.

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People even know about his hobby and are more than happy to donate their musical relics. Manzow naturally calls these people “organ donors.”

“To be honest, it’s kind of like people who are in pet rescue and they see a pet and they just have to save it. That’s how I feel when I walk into a pet store. ‘antiques and I see an organ that’s neglected. And I think, ‘Oh my god, I could really make that nice,'” he said.

His tour takes visitors back to a time when this type of music was the epicenter of entertainment. Pump organs reached their peak in the late 1800s. They began to die out during the Great Depression.

Its oldest organ dates from the Civil War era. He even has one in his bathroom, and he had to make a plan in his garage to find where all his future repairmen are.

“A lot of people think I’m crazy,” he said. “My sisters roll their eyes when I say, ‘Guess what I got the other day?'”

But part of that is proving that families once lived without iPhones, iPads, and social media. They were perfectly happy to go all out and let the good times roll. In a way, Manzow hopes his collection will inspire people to change their tune.

“It was a focal point for bringing people together, and it still can be today,” he said.

Manzow is part of a national collecting society called the Reed Organ Society. New Zealand is also a breeding ground for collectors, and they still make pump organs in India.

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