Earlier in the month, I attended a two day professional development in Meridian, Mississippi. Meridian is famous for many things – including being the home Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman and Father of Country Music; the international headquarters for Peavey Electronics; and the birthplace of many musicians and actors. In the past month, I’ve brought you pictures from the Causeyville General Store as well as the Gypsy Queen’s grave. This week I bring you photos of Meridian’s rare Dentzel Carousel, one of her other prized attractions.
If you are going to visit Meridian to see their Dentzel Carousel, don’t be misled by the website linked above. You can’t plan to just show up between the hours listed and expect to take your $1.00 tour. Call the number that is listed and arrange for your tour; don’t be disappointed like I was. If you just show up, I can almost guarantee you will be stuck looking through grimy windows at beauty you can’t get anywhere near. No tickets for you.
If, however, you do make the proper arrangements, you’ll find out a ton of wonderful information – like not only is a working, restored Dentzel Carousel rare, but having a small, stationary double row Dentzel is unique – so much so that Meridian’s is the only surviving in the world. (The only one. In the World) The building that houses that carousel is also rare – according to my guide, a lovely gentleman from the City of Meridian Parks, it is the only carousel shelter that has been built based on Dentzel blueprints.
The menagerie on the carousel is also unique for a couple of the animals that it features. The hand-carved horses are a dime a dozen, but the lion, tiger, giraffes and reindeer are rare.
From the time the carousel was installed in 1909 until the 1980s restoration, any time cosmetic repairs needed to be done to the carousel, anyone who worked for the city and could find a paint can and brush could go about fixing things up. When the restoration begin, which would ultimately take 11 years, the animals bore little resemblance to their original colors and designs. Those in charge of restoration removed layer after layer of paint, finally getting down to original colors. Now – touch-ups are only done by those who have been trained and are qualified.
Another rarity at the Highland Park Dentzel Carousel is the band organ. According to the gentleman who allowed me to climb in and around the carousel, Meridian has hosted several national band organ conventions (there are such things?!) simply because of the band organ at the carousel.
Do you see all of those details – on the organ, on the animals in the menagerie, the panels around the top of the carousel – all of those are done by hand. Unfortunately because it’s been 20 years since the last restoration, there are areas of the carousel where she is certainly showing her age. Some of the panels around the top of the carousel are torn – the paint is beginning to show her age. The recession has hit Mississippi hard; there is little money in the city of Meridian to make those repairs. They are applying for grants and beginning to think about raising money. Right now, though, they continue to care for the old girl as best as they can.
I imagine that’s all any of can ask for in our old age – to be cared for and loved, to have brought some joy to people. Meridian’s Dentzel Carousel certainly has had and will continue to have that kind of life. In just the week that I was there, approximately 300 elementary school students had enjoyed field trips that included multiple rides on lions and tigers and horses and giraffes and four children had their birthday parties in the carousel house. Not bad for an 118 year old, eh?