Today, Rock-Ola stands alone as the last authentic American jukebox manufacturing company on the face of the planet, with almost 100 years of history and experience to our name.
Even casual jukebox enthusiasts, then, know plenty about our brand, and the man who built it up to what it is today; David Rockola. Now, though, we’re re-examining some of the lesser-known facts about our history – those which might not be already known to casual connoisseurs. For example, did you know that…
1. At first, nobody could pronounce the name correctly
Looking at the Rock-Ola name as it’s spelled today makes it more or less impossible to mispronounce – but there’s a reason for that! To our founder David Rockola’s exasperation, his second name was rarely pronounced correctly first time, either by personal acquaintances or business prospects. Eventually, he added the hyphen in the mid-1930s, having endured years of being referred to as Mr Rockollah by all and sundry.
2. David Rockola fell into jukeboxes almost by accident
As we’ve touched on above, the personal history of our founder is well-documented. He was famous as a self-made man, having begun his career as a humble bellhop is Saskatoon, before opening up his own cigar shop in Alberta. Already, his incredible work ethic was clear to see, and he even once suffered from the effects of diphtheria from working too many hours.
There are a few versions of the story, but the most commonly-accepted one is that some Australians entered his shop one day and offered Rockola a type of coin-operated gumball machine. The one machine soon ended up earning Rockola more business than the cigars in his shop. It kickstarted his interest in mechanical coin operated machines, and ultimately led him onto jukeboxes. A pioneering industry force was born.
3. Earlier Rock-Ola jukeboxes were influenced by automobiles
In the 50s and 60s, the fast-evolving automobile industry served as a considerable source of design influence for the jukebox manufacturing industry. (In fact, traces of that design influence can still be seen in various models today.) Rock-Ola wasn’t exempt from this trend – amongst some of our own designs released during that era were jukeboxes in the popular Temple series, which echoed the automobile aesthetic using curved glass screens and a pseudo Cadillac ‘V’ grille on the front.
4. Rock-Ola played no small part in the war effort
During the height of conflict during the Second World War, Rock-Ola suspended commercial manufacturing operations at the North Kedize plant – the seat of operations at the time – and switched production to creating M1 carbines for the US military. Until 1944, Rock-Ola was the prime contractor for these operations, and made over 228,000 carbines for military use. Some of these carbines have survived into the present day, and are highly-prized collector’s items.
Rock-Ola even transformed an underground bunker below the factory parking lot into a makeshift shooting range. When the war ended, the first jukebox to reach the market was emblazoned with the Rock-Ola brand – the 1422 model in 1946.
Even today, our company’s story is far from over. The Rock-Ola name is built on pioneering and innovation combined with iconic, enduring designs, so we’re determined for there to be many more remarkable stories to come!
In the meantime, feel free to browse our site for the ultimate in jukebox perfection, and find out how we’re using our timeless Bubbler model as the basis for our latest landmark designs.