29
Dec
2020
22:42

Scampi’s Organ Palace

There was a cool place in Austin called Scampi’s Organ Palace where my late Aunt would take my cousin and I when I was visiting as a kid. They were two of the most important people in my life growing up so those memories are very special. At one point a couple of years ago, I went in search of information on the internet. I couldn’t find much but since I was bothering to research, I figured I’d make a Wiki page. After a year or so, I Wiki informed me the page would be deleted as the subject was not notable enough or something along those lines. I didn’t think to save it so I thought it was just gone. Then last night I got the idea to use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find a cached version of it. Luckily it had been cached a total of one time, so I figured I’d immortalize it here as well for posterity.

Scampi’s Organ Palace

Scampi’s Organ Palace was a locally owned restaurant in Austin, Texas, from 1977-1985. Known primarily as a pizzaria, the restaurant also served salads and sandwiches as well as ice cream. For entertainment, Scampi’s featured magicians, jugglers, comedians, flashing lights, balloons, bubbles, a cymbal monkey named Scampi, and its centerpiece: a huge Mighty Morton theatre pipe organ.

The organ had a movie screen above it which primarily showed old silent movies and black-and-white films including those of Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, and Woody Woodpecker. Scampi’s also showed the first two films from the original Star Wars trilogy: Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

A second-level stage to the left of the organ showcased performing magicians. A staircase to the right of the organ led to additional seating. The restaurant was carpeted in red.

History

Scampi’s was begun as Scampi’s Old Organ Grinder and Pizza Emporium in 1977 by original owner, Dayle M. Harris. An¬†Eastern Airlines¬†flight captain, Harris had long been fascinated by antique pipe organs.

Scampi’s was located in north Austin at the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and Koenig Lane with a current physical address of 5555 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78751 – now a Goodwill thrift store. Unlike Goodwill which faces North Lamar, the eatery’s entrance faced Koenig Lane. The restaurant received much of its business from the Texas Department of Public Safety located across the street as well as from students of McCallum High School.

After a particularly awful winter combined with the rise of Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E Cheese (which would eventually acquire Showbiz), Scampi’s had to close its doors in February 1985. In the words of last co-owner, Bobby Cordell, “Our last night was on a New Year’s Eve with a pizza and a pitcher of beer.”

The Organ

Scampi’s organ was a Robert Morton Mighty Morton theatre pipe organ built in 1925 for Loews Theater in CantonOhio. The organ accompanied silent movies of the era from 1927-1932.

Weighing over 8 tons, the Mighty Morton had over 1,000 pipes, some as high as 16 feet. It also had a whole battery of percussion instruments attached to it from chimes to drums as well as various other instruments, lights, gadgets, and gimmicks. A 10-horsepower motor powered the bellows to create the air pressure for the organ.

After Scampi’s closed, the organ was purchased by a pipe organ society in Florida.

References

  1. Trademark information
  2. Archived news story from the Roy Faires Collection

Sadly, 2 of the other sources I originally obtained some of this information from are no longer online.

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