Earl Edwin Larson
- Born: 12 Jun 1917, Columbus, OH
- Christened: 18 May 1918
- Married: 20 Dec 1939, Medford, MA
- Died: 29 Dec 2000, Junction City, OR
Cremated in Junction City, ashes scattered on San Francisco Bay
1. Education: Grades 1-5, 1923-1928, Lancaster, OH.
2. Education: Grades 6-12, 1928-1935, Lawrence, MA. Graduated from Lawrence High School, June 1935.
3. Degree: BS in Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jun 1939, Cambridge, MA.
In the summers of 1936, 1937 and 1938 I worked for J. W. Bolton and Sons in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The first summer I worked as a lowly assistant to the tool room, the second as a drill press and lathe operator, and the third as a draftsman and blueprint machine operator.
4. Employment: Early years, 1939-1947.
In my last year MIT I was interviewed by several large companies and was able to select B. F. Goodrich of Akron, Ohio for my first fulltime job. On my first day at work I found myself one of about 25 new graduates. Our collective job was to run the Testing Laboratory, testing typical rubber products manufactured at various B. F. Goodrich Co. plants in the United States or quality control checks and to get to know how the company made its products. My starting pay was $125.00 per month. So two or three times my college friend and I drove back to Massachusetts to see our girlfriends, leaving Friday after work and arriving back a few hours before work on Tuesday. It was 750 miles each way. This was a hard drive and as I examined my possible options I proposed and Anne accepted and we were married. About four months later I was transferred out of the Testing Laboratory to the Thermometer and Control Department. This department served the entire plant in all matters of temperature measurement and control and recording. We tested new thermometers, adjusted old ones, tested and calibrated new batches of thermocouple wire, tested uniformity of temperature in steel rubber molds for all products, recorded temperature of a twelve foot diameter pot of molten lead, and manufactured very thin wire thermocouples that were threaded thru hypodermic needles and pushed into the tread of truck tires under endurance testing in hot chambers for a one time measurement. We measured and temperature controlled giant four roll calanders using hollow steel rolls with a working surface about 36 inches in diameter and 8 feet long with an overall length of 20 feet or so to produce the new Koroseal table cloths, shower curtains, etc. We selected and installed a timer and up to 7 air-operated valves to vulcanize tires in hundredes of tire machines and we maintained these items. We designed panels for recorders, controllers, switches involving the sheet metal shop, the painting department, mounted and tested all items for new plants and internal projects. This was at the beginning of "INSTRUMENTATION" and "AUTOMATIC CONTROLS", starting with rather crude instruments. It was exciting with new problems and solutions every day with a certain amount of drudgery too. A side benefit was that Anne had the most accurately controlled oven temperatures in the neighborhood.
Then America entered World War II and I was deferred as an essential employee in a war industry. We moved four times ending in Sharon Center. We now had four children in the country who had practically no playmates and a yard where the lawn froze at night and turned to muck every afternoon for five months of the year. My energetic and very hardworking wife was overwhelmed with child care so I started looking for a job in a different location.
5. Employment: Later years, 1948-Retirement.
It is now 1948, the war is over, salaries have been unfrozen, gasoline rationing is over. I went to Boston talked to several employment agencies, read the want ads. I answered one and flew to Chicago for an interview and was quickly hired by ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company) for work in their San Francisco office.
At work it turned out that ARAMCO had hired over a hundred engineers for a dramatic expansion of their engineering department. The plan was to replace engineering contractors like Bechtel and Fluor now working on all sorts of projects in Arabia where "10,000 barrels per day" oil wells were being discovered about every month. However, the company had a serious problem -- all but 8 to 10 of the new-hires had less than six months engineering experience. So Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco received a special contract to design a new plant and explain to our new engineering department why they did it that way. I was preparing a book of standards for the installation details of all kinds of measuring instruments plus pages of simple brief descriptions of how these instruments worked. Also trying to find a working formula to explain why a 25,000 BFD Gas Oil Separator set of three tanks in series could only pass 50 to 75,000 BPD with everything almost wide open. With the help of Standard Oil of California (now CHEVRON) I did it. About a year after I joined the company they decided to move the engineering department to either New York City, or Holland, or Saudi Arabia. With four plus children none of the above sounded good. I was offered a position as Technical Sales engineer with a manufacturer's representative who's main account was Fisher Governor Company. Terms were salary about half of ARAMCO's plus a substantial portion of the profits.
I started an intense two-week period of study of catalogs to find out what I could sell, how it worked, where to find prices, and above all memorize type numbers of hundreds of items. Soon I was given a short list of companies using Fisher products and told to call on them and other similar industries. At night after more study about the product line, I prepared my list of potential customers from the Yellow Pages in the telephone book and Chamber of Commerce lists of industries. So for three or four months I built my lists of companies, plant engineers and purchasing agents. Bonus time arrived. It was very small. The next year was more of the same. Bonus time came again and left my annual income still far below my previous salary at ARAMCO. For several short intervals I was badly depressed about the low levels of company income I was generating. But Fisher was a company that fully backed their products and salesmen and that business was increasing. My boss finaly found himself unable to handle all of the company's business so he introduced me to Bechtel Corp., a large engineering and construction company. I was responding to more inquiries from customers and my time spent on "cold calls" and smokestacks decreased. This year the bonus was good, substantialy above my former ARAMCO salary.
I had been very thankful and lucky to have such a wonderful resourceful cheerful wife feeding all seven of us on a pittance, making children's clothes, finding shoes for them keeping the whole family happy and contented when our money was so tight. We were able to add another high quality line called Lightnin Mixers ranging from a 1/20th HP propeller stirrer I demonstrated by making a new salad dressing in 5 gallon batches in a man's kitchen, to 75 HP monsters with 120 foot, 6 inch diameter shafts stirring 600 psi, 450 degree F steam and bauxite ore. In between were 1/2 HP propeller units mixing chemicals for EASYOFF oven cleaner. It was an excellent account to get to talk to plant engineers. It seemed like almost everyone was interested in mixing, blending, dissolving solids and we could guarantee our recommendations. The company grew from 3 people to 7. I dealt with pleasant but sharp people. Then my employer's short term memory slipped a bit and he became more difficult to work with (I think he had a small stroke). We had a newly appointed Fisher representative in San Francisco. I went to work for N. J. Hatter and Company where salaries were very much higher but the bonus was lower. This boss had to borrow money to get the business started and he had many problems to worry about. I felt that I was running a little business of my own with almost full responsibility for my customers. Business was good, the company expanded and the salary kept going up. The office started in San Mateo, California and then built a new office building in Foster City. This started about 1958 or 1959 and about 1971 or 1972 Hatter forceably retired and over nine months Gil Grey became the new representative. I found him the best of the three. Over the next eleven years the company grew from about 16 employees to over 50. I gradually moved from 70% outside salesman to 100% inside salesman with increasing responsibilities as an educator for new employees and technical consultant for our inside salesmen and shop employees in equipment modifications and valve repairs. However, I was free to make outside calls on customers and handle trouble shooting problems. Mr. Gray had an outside company come in to survey the office. Many of the employees felt as I did that we acted almost as independant business men and technical consultants to our customers.
Soon after Mr. Gray took over, Fisher sold their business to Monsanto Co. Monsanto took control over about a ten year period so there were no sudden shocks and drastic changes in policy. I felt the loss of Fisher's interest in every employee in their representative's organizations.
But back to the company. It grew, added more lines including Ashcroft pressure guages and diaphragm seals, ASCO Solenoid valves, Appolo manual ball valves. However, in mid 1982 Anne and I decided it was time to retire and told Mr. Gray. We had already signed an agreement to purchase a house in Oregon and we had to take possession in August 1982. So Anne moved up with a moving van full of furniture and stayed until our son Bruce and his family could come from Wyoming to start the remodeling that was necessary. I stayed behind to work since Mr. Gray made me a financial offer I could not refuse. The entire office was invited to my retirement party at the Gray's home, where I was mimicked and gently teased about certain events in my working career. The party was wonderful, I laughed and laughed while tears ran down my face. I flew to Oregon arriving in early May 1983. I enjoyed almost all of my 44 years of gainful employment except when I was teaching myself how to be a salesman. The field of automatic controls was very simple when I started and I grew with its expansion in a working life of continuous education and problem solving. But I was ready for retirement and looked forward to a different and slower paced life.
6. Hobbies: Biking, camping, sailing, and other activities, Childhood onward.
Somewhere around the 4th grade a bicycle appeared in my life and it was a wonderful present -- it was my transportation for years. Spent several years making and flying three inch long paper airplanes, rubberband powered balsa wood airplanes, culminating in a three-foot wing span gasoline powered balsa with doped fabric wing and fuselage. I learned how to swim in the muddy lakes of Ohio and enjoyed it greatly, developed ability to swim for hours and was able to relax and keep afloat with very small movements. Had a newspaper route for a few years. Learned to juggle up to four balls.
Several years of violin lessons qualified me for the school orchestra at the 6th thru 8th grade level. I could play just well enough to appreciate the thrill of orchestra work.
I spent several years in the Boy Scouts and found myself in a nice tight knit patrol. I found several long lasting friends with this group. I reached the rank of a Star Class scout -- one level above first class scout.
I went to ballroom dancing classes for seveeral months and learned how to waltz and fox trot. I danced at a number of the many ballrooms in Massachusetts, quickly finding out that Saturday night was singles night and that was where you found the good dancers. This was the era of the Big Bands. When I was in college dancing was my only recreation.
When we became home-owners in Ohio I became a handy-man. Highlights were picking parts of snake out of our reciprocating water pump, completely rewiring the inside of our stove after the jam boiled over and into the stove interior and installing an oil burner in the coal furnace. In California I built my wife a large floor model loom for weaving when neither of us knew how it would work but we were able to figure it out. I had fun making about a hundred wooden accessories including many shuttles, lease sticks and a warping reel.
I had disliked camping overnight ever since Boy Scout experience but Anne kept insisting that it could be fun. On our first vacation in California we set off for Yosemite Park with a one wheel camping trailer and all five children when Bruce was bout 6 months old. We found a National Forest Campground by a river just outside the boundries of Yosemite park. Anne had the camping skills of her father and she made camping fun and comfortable for the whole family including me. I even learned a bit about fishing for trout.
About 1955 I suggested that we buy a sail boat. It was not easy since we knew no one who did sail. We started with the yellow pages and Yacht Brokers and boat builders. We found a small boat builder who suggested we purchase a 13-1/2 foot Blue Jay centerboard boat in kit form and join the Blue Jay Class organization. So we started putting on the 1/4 inch plywood deck, shaping the rudder and tiller and mast -- sandpapered, painted and varnished -- went to class meetings and spent every Sunday at Lake Merrit watching others rig their boats all the while soaking up information about small boat sailing. Finally the boat was ready and Anne and I went to the Lake on a Wednesday so others would not witness our intial attempt to sail. All went well, we were exhilarated and could hardly wait for Sunday. Sunday we split the children into 2 groups and I took one group sailing while Anne tended the others on shore. After an hour Anne took the boat. The same day we placed an order for another kit boat. I purchased plans for an 8 foot centerboard El Toro, built a jig and then two of these El Toros for our children. Both Anne and I started to race but when we sailed for fun with just the family, neither could sail faster than the other. I won at least one Season's Champion trophy and several special race trophies. We sailed in the light wind areas of San Francisco Bay and on lakes and rivers within a 60 mile circle from our house. To try the Bay itself we purchased a 24-foot 25 year old BEAR class wood hull sloop, hull No. 23 with a tilt-up outboard. The family all enjoyed bay cruising and we learned about tides and currents. We raced the boat of course, but I was unable to make it go fast. That, combined with hours of required maintenance and that it was too small for comfortaable overnight cruising, led us in 1962 to a brand new all fiberglass, 28-1/2 foot overall, 8 foot beam, 8000 pound Triton Class sloop, No. 369, complete with inboard engine.
This was our dream boat for about 19 years. Our summer racing season consisted of a 10 to 12 race series with an average fleet of 22 racing boats. In our first partial race season we were usually in the first half of the fleet, in our second we had a few first place finishes and in our third season we won the Season's Championship Trophy in 1965. We won Season's Championship three or four more times. In 1966 Anne and I plus our oldest daughter, Ann Marie, and our best crew Stanley Kintz flew to Long Island Sound in New York to race in the two day Triton National Championship. We were most unhappy at the very poor administration and running of the Regatta. In 1967 we held the Nationals in San Francisco Bay arranged so no skipper sailed his own boat nor sailed the same boat twice, had a strong Race Committee to check and equalise all boats and practice over courses that would be used for racing. Our West Coast fleet put on a very well run regatta and set the pattern for future Nationals. I did narrowly win the regatta sailing with an All Star crew, the best I ever had for racing.
We also used Elan for cruising, usually spending a two-week family vacation in the delta area between the cities of Sacramento and Stockton on the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. Reportedly there are about 1000 miles of inland waterways and rivers. The air temperature daytimes is usually between 85 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is at least 10 to 15 degrees lower on the boats.
I also became active in Richmond Yacht Club of California affairs serving on the Board of Directors for five years plus one year as Commodore and later a year as Treasurer. Richmond was one of the few yacht clubs to own and control land and harbor instead of leasing city lands. In Oregon I am still active in Race administration and protest hearings. I believe sailboat racing has been very useful to our whole family in providing a relationship other than parent and child and that helped our children become our adult friends.
Earl Larson, March 1994
Earl married Anna Marie Jondahl Haakonsen, daughter of Hans Haakonsen and Alma Sigrid Kirstine Hansen, on 20 Dec 1939 in Medford, MA. (Anna Marie Jondahl Haakonsen was born on 13 Sep 1918 in Stavanger, Norway and was christened on 6 Oct 1918 in Stavanger, Norway.)