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Leon Drews (1906-2004)
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Leon was opening organist at Portland's Hollywood Theatre in 1926. He was a member of the Columbia River Organ Club (CROC) and was honored at a 2003 National Film Registry event held at the Hollywood.

From the Oregonian, 1/16/2004
A career of silents, talkies and the clubs
"Fingers" Drews plays his way to age 97, first with pipe organs, later with scaled-down steam trains
On opening night of the Portland Theater in 1928, Leon Drews played the huge pipe organ that majestically rose out of the pit before thousands in that sumptuous palace. That grand sound made the hair stand up on your neck. Leon was 21 years old, and it was the greatest thrill of his life, although his mind was blank until he hit the first note.
Leon was one of 82 theater organists who played for silent movies in the Portland area, working his way up from the east side to downtown. There weren't many theaters in town he didn't play. He saw all the Harold Lloyd, Pola Negri, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. movies, but told people: "I enjoyed playing more than watching the picture." He followed the moods of love scenes and chase scenes; he provided sounds for train whistles and cow-milking, broken dishes, screeching brakes, sickening lurches and the ominous crash of steel on steel. In between flicks, he added wood to the furnace.
In addition to the Portland Theater -- now the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall -- he played at the Heathman Hotel, played for a popular Portland radio show, performed at nightclubs along the West Coast, owned a sheet-music store in Northeast Portland, provided music while little girls were chosen for the junior Rose Festival court and gave lessons to more than 5,000 students.
Leon was nearsighted, slight of build, and not much of a talker. But he let people know he believed in his God. "The Lord doesn't have my organ tuned yet," he said, as he lived to 97. The man who was sometimes known as "Fingers" Drews died Jan. 9, 2004.
He was born the week of the San Francisco earthquake in Albina, son of a railroad timekeeper. He started piano at 6, organ at 12 and skipped school to go to the silent movies. There, he sat in the front row and watched the organist. He got his own job playing for the movies and dropped out of school.
His first wife was an heiress, and his dream of attending Juilliard dried up with their divorce -- a bitter disappointment.
Starting in 1926 and later, after talkies came along, Leon played the organ in the lobby at the Heathman for noon and 5:30 p.m. concerts, and also played light classics in a KOIN radio gig that had a guaranteed audience for 15 years -- 3,114 programs -- because it aired just before the comedy series "Amos 'n Andy."
He was too nearsighted for the military and worked in the shipyards during World War II. In 1945, he went to a radio station in the Los Angeles area, met Dorothy, and they had a daughter. He played nightclub dates on the West Coast, until he tired of that life.
He always wanted to have his own music store, and he leased the second floor of Cascade Music Co. on Sandy Boulevard from 1965 to 1986 as Leon F. Drews Sheet Music. He sold the store at 80, then taught piano and organ out of his Northeast Portland home.
After that, every Sunday you could find him at Molalla's Shady Dell Pacific Railroad Park, where he lived out a lifetime dream as volunteer station master and tooted around on the diminutive steam trains.
In his 90s, Leon played organ for Buster Keaton's "The General" for silent-movie nights staged by the Kiwanis Club. And in 1998, he was welcomed back to Hollywood Theatre, where he was an opening organist 72 years earlier.

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