Farm Collector

AND THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND

Newman, Georgia 30263 and through the kindness of The Newman
Times-Herald.

Remember when the joyful notes of the old Steam Calliope used to
proclaim the coming of the circus parade?

Or, if you’re a real old timer did you ever ride on a river
boat, thrilling to the tune of ‘Here comes the
Showboat’?

The old fashioned Calliopes are almost extinct today; however, a
Newman steam-hobbist became so nostalgic for the melodious sounds
of his childhood-that he actually constructed a genuine
Calliope.

Howard Camp, Newnan plumber, of 18 West Washington St.,
demonstrated his masterpiece last Friday on U. S. 29, south of
Newnan, to the delight of many calliope fans. Playing the
instrument was Burt Mashburn, 12-year-old talented pianist of
Cumming, who became enamored of it this past summer when Camp
carried it to Cumming to be used in a Fourth of July
celebration.

Camp says he saw his first calliope in 1933 during a Coweta
County Fair. He has wanted one ever since, but it was not until
1958 that he actually decided to build one. He has worked on it for
almost a decade, traveling many miles to look at some original
models in museums and obtaining the necessary specifications,
patterns and materials.

He went up north to see a calliope in a museum that was used on
Captain Billy Bryant’s Showboat in 1870 and make drawings, etc.
Returning home, he learned to make the patterns first in wood, and
then made the real patterns of aluminum, machining them down thin
enough to make brass castings.

‘The hardest thing for me to learn,’ he stated, ‘was
how to voice the whistles so they would not only have the correct
note but have a pleasant sound.’

‘I also studied the components for brass that would take it
year after year out in sun and rain. Some of the old calliopes were
on the poop deck of steam boats so long that the steel 3-inch pipe
manifold had rusted almost away, but the brass was good as new, and
one even still had the mud that flowed in when the old boat sank,
when it was raised fifty years later. My brass founder in Atlanta
knew just what I needed, and he put in just enough lead to make it
possible to machine it.’ He obtained the brass tubing for his
whistles in Mexico City.

Camp’s calliope has 24 whistles and its valves control 100
pounds of steam pressure. They are so carefully balanced that a
slight pressure on the keyboard will operate the valves and cause
the whistles to blow.

The steam traction engine used by Camp to supply steam for the
calliope is an old one that was used before the turn of the century
in a gold mining operation in North Georgia.

The correct pronunciation for this musical instrument is often
debated. Accordingly to Webster, it is a four syllable word
pronounced CAL-EYE-OH-PEE, taken from the Greek, meaning
‘beautiful voice’. Nevertheless, river men and circus men
who were associated professionally with the instrument call it
CAL-EE-OAP. The unpretentious folk along the river didn’t
attempt either pronunciation, calling it simply the STEAM
PIE-ANNA.

  • Published on Jan 1, 1968
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