Friday, January 13, 2012

George Grim Dead at 99 - played NWA Stratocruiser organ on a flight from New York City to Mpls.-St. Paul in 1959

I wish I had known George Grim was still alive when I published my book, Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels in 2009. How I would have loved to ask him about the time he saved the day by performing as organist on a NWA flight from New York City to MSP around Christmas, 1959.
His performance is immortalized in a chapter called The 'Organic' Stratocruiser.
The chapter begins with the story of why and how a Heritage Model Lowrey organ was installed in NWA Stratocruiser 709 in the first place. The "how" is testament to the wiley airframe engineering staff at the airline and the forebearance of the F.A.A. I'm not totally sure about the "why," but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that C. R. 'Swanee' Swanson, owner of Northwest Organ Company, donated the instrument to the airline provided he and other Northwest Organ organists would play it inflight and get free flights to New York and other East Coast cities in return. It was win-win, so to speak.
One such organist, 'Swanee's son Chuck Swanson, is the reason George Grim stepped to the keyboard that day. Chuck was 19 years old, on his first flight to New York. The outbound flight went just fine. Trouble was, the return flight was delayed and Chuck wasn't in the loop. He missed the flight and it left NYC sans organist.
George Grim was on this flight. George was a well-known personality in the Twin Cities. He wrote a column in the Minneapolis Tribune called "I Like it Here." There were folks on the flight who knew George had an electric organ in his home and knew how to play it. They prevailed upon him to entertain as they winged their way to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Northwest Airlines was delighted that George dedicated his next column to his experience.
I'll bet that he still remembered this incident when I was writing about it in 2008. Sadly, it never occurred to me that George was still alive. I had heard nothing of him for decades and didn't even try to find out about him. Some reporter I am! When I read his obituary this past Tuesday, Jan. 10, I learned that he moved to Florida in the 1970s and had lived there ever since.
Thanks, George, for entertaining folks in MSP so many years with your foreign correspondence, your columns, your radio and TV appearances and for launching "Santa Anonymous."
What a productive life!


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