RAINY LAKE (AP) -- Bill Fisher was 15 years old the first time he came over the hill from Kabetogama Lake to the Kettle Falls Hotel and heard the unforgettable clatter of the 1928 nickelodeon in the hotel's bar.
The time was the 1960s. But the sound he heard -- a mixture of twanging piano strings, dinging xylophone and banging drums -- was the exact sound heard decades earlier by lumberjacks, anglers and ladies of the evening.
Hooked by that sound, which he heard repeatedly during the summers of 1969, '70, and '71 while working for the hotel's then-owners Charlie and Blanche Williams, Fisher found his interest develop into a passion.
Today he owns several of these precursors to modern-day juke boxes and goes on the road from his home in Mora to repair others. Now Fisher is donating his time and expertise to Voyageurs National Park to bring the hotel machine up to par.
The hotel, restored to its prime in the 1980s, is today a prominent feature of the water-based park east of International Falls. But while the hotel underwent a restoration, the nickelodeon -- likely barged up Rainy Lake to Kettle Falls in 1928 and placed where it sits today -- was in rougher condition.
''When I went to redo it in the '80s, the hammers went sideways as well as back and forth,'' Fisher recalled in a break from his work during a recent repair trip.
The original stained glass front, he added, had turned brown from varnish and the silver fox stain had dulled. Fisher returned to the hotel last fall to take the machine apart and appraise its condition. He removed the box pump, took out a fly wheel and broken piano strings.
Since then he has had the coin mechanism rebuilt, a broken strut welded and ''specialty stuff'' repaired by an expert.
While Fisher is volunteering his time, other costs, including tuning and parts, are being paid for through money raised by the Friends of Voyageurs National Park during their 1999 March for Parks.
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