Anyone who has been on the authentic Carousel at Lagoon and who has looked closely at the band organ may have noticed the name “Freedola” painted on the bottom. It’s understandable if you assume this is a small reference to the Freed Family who has been operating the park since the 1940s, because that was my assumption at first. I’ve recently discovered that was incorrect.
The story behind this band organ seems to have begun at Opera House Square. When the area opened in 1968, it featured many authentic pieces collected from across the country. This was before Pioneer Village opened at Lagoon so this was the first large display of antiques in the park. One of those displays was Lagoon’s Engine No. 999, a miniature locomotive which pulled Lagoon guests around for many years until it was placed in storage around 1949. The engine and tender were brought out again to be displayed at the new Opera House Square. This excerpt from a Deseret News article explains what happened from there:
Dick Thiriot, a Utah miniature-train buff and theaterman, told Peter Freed, new general manager of Lagoon: “Hey, I know a guy who could get that engine into running condition and you could operate it at the park again. How about it?”
That guy was Richard Freed who is not related to the Freeds of Lagoon. While working on the train, Richard mentioned to Peter Freed that he also built and worked on band organs. The band organ on Lagoon’s Carousel had stopped working and at the time only recorded music was in use. Peter was interested and Richard agreed to build a new 105-pipe band organ which has been in place ever since it was completed in the late ’70s. It’s fitting that the “Freedola” bares his name since he made almost all of its parts from scratch.¹
Along with his work on Engine No. 999 and the band organ, Richard Freed also restored the clock at the end of Pioneer Village’s Main Street as well as several music boxes for the Music Hall and was a maintenance worker on the Bamberger Railroad (which was once the main mode of transportation to Lagoon).
Engine No. 999 is on display once again at the Railroad Museum at the south end of Pioneer Village.
On a side note, Dick Thiriot built the miniature train which operated at the original Pioneer Village in Salt Lake. When the land was sold, the train was moved to Thiriot’s home in Midway and the buildings, of course, ended up at Lagoon.
- You can read more about the other band organs Richard Freed has built and the work he puts into them in this 1984 newspaper article.
Old Engine 999 is comin’ down the track. Deseret News, 23 Apr 1977.
He’s behind the calliope. Deseret News, 17 Jun 1984.
Small train brings great joy. Deseret News, 7 Sep 1999.