Obituary: David Rockola
Tuesday 02 February 1993
ALTHOUGH David Rockola wasn't the first manufacturer of the juke-box, his name captures perfectly the thumping beat of music on a coin machine.
Rockola started the Rock-Ola Mfg Company in 1926 to build weighing-machines. From the age of 14, when he started work, he was gripped by a desire to travel and to find a worthwhile profession. He made money in oil shares, was a taxi-driver, and later learnt engineering on the oilfields of Mexico and Argentina.
His first glimpse of a coin-machine was in Chicago in 1919 while running a cigar store. Two Australians offered him a 'trade stimulator', an early type of fruit-machine offering prizes of trade checks to be spent in the store. Within weeks this was out-earning the cigar business.
During prohibition, Rockola claimed he operated machines 'for the boys', but later he was reluctant to elaborate on this colourful period of his life. At one time he was in charge of 5,000 weighing-machines, which from 1926 he started to manufacture. He later added pin-ball machines (1933) and in 1935 produced his first juke-box.
Others had come before him, Seeburg in 1926, and Capehart (later with Wurlitzer) from 1928, but Rockola competed by using simple reliable engineering, together with a keen sense of contemporary design. Competition beween the big-four juke-box giants was intense during the Thirties but, in spite of a million-dollar patent wrangle, Rockola remained on friendly terms with the chairman of Wurlitzer.
Rockola was always proud of his work. A model '1428' juke- box is displayed in the Library of Congress as an example of Americana. And it gave him much pleasure to know his 'Tempo II' machine was featured on the television show Juke-Box Jury.
By the late Sixties, greater access to music via radio and tapes, together with the demise of the 45rpm disc, led to the decline of the juke-box. For the past 30 years the Rock-Ola company has successfully concentrated on manufacturing vending machines.
When interviewed five years ago, David Rockola admitted he was fortunate to have found satisfaction in life and, he added, he must have done something good for the public because God had allowed him to live so long.
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...
£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...