Welch, WV: On Saturday, June 10, at noon, the Pocahontas Theatre’s original 1928 Wurlitzer organ will be dedicated to the late Jason Grubb, a native of McDowell County and former City of Welch employee. Grubb located the instrument in Missouri in 2021 and was the catalyst for returning an important piece of Welch history to the area. He was also influential in the revitalization of The Pocahontas Theatre prior to his passing in October 2021 from Covid complications.
“After he located the organ, Jason and I created a plan to bring the Wurlitzer back to the Pocahontas Theatre, its original home, so that it might act as a bridge between the original and new Pocahontas Theatre,” said Welch Mayor Harold McBride. “Because of his service and dedication to the city and the Pocahontas Theatre during his lifetime, it is my honor to dedicate the organ in Jason’s name to our community.’
Mayor McBride, as well as Grubb’s widow, Stacy Grubb, will give remarks during the ceremony.
The organ, which originally had enormous pipes and toy box filled with bells, cymbals, and drums, was installed in The Pocahontas Theatre in 1928. Organist W.C. Crookshanks provided the soundtrack for silent films and live productions for many years before it was sold during the mid-1900s. Eventually, the original Pocahontas Theater burned, so the return of the organ is especially important to commemorate the history of the area.
Of the nearly ten thousand theatre organs built between 1910 and 1940, only a few hundred still exist today, including many collections of salvaged parts. Only 38 theatre organs remain in their original venues.
McBride and Welch event organizer Andrea Ball worked together with staff and volunteers to complete the mission of bringing the organ back to The Pocahontas Theatre in the fall of 2021.
“It took two journeys of approximately 1,000 miles each, two trailers, a box truck and a lot of labor to get the organ back here to Welch and the Pocahontas, but it was worth it,” Ball said. “Everyone involved feels immense pride in making Jason’s vision come full circle, and we are thrilled to display this important part of West Virginia history in Welch.”
Attendees wanting to attend the ceremony may park in the downtown Welch Parking Garage. The organ can be seen on display in the lobby of the Pocahontas Theatre during business hours and more information on the storied history of the theatre and the organ can be found on the theatre website www.thepocahontas.com/history.