From Classic Boat Library
Larson Boat Works/A Short History
By Lee Wangstad
January 4, 2002
I would like to preface this by saying that the first part of this history is pieced together from a pamphlet put together by Larson Boats in 1987 to commemorate their 75th year of building boats. I’ve tried to condense this to get to the part that is most interesting to me: the fifties and sixties. This is where my heart is. This history, put together with interviews, newspaper accounts, and Larson factory literature all combined to paint the picture as it was. Enjoy the story, it is as unique as Paul Larson’s boats themselves. As some have said, the marine industry was a wild roller coaster of a ride during this time of uncontrolled growth. But in reality it was actually more like a ride on a rodeo bronco....hang on or get the hell out of its way!
Paul Larson built his first boat in 1905 when he was only 11 years old. The materials were found around his parent’s farm, with nails salvaged from a neighboring farmhouse that had burned to the ground. This first boat was a flat-bottomed skiff used to explore sloughs that were close enough for him to pull and drag this new boat to. When Paul was 19, he wanted a boat that he could use for duck hunting and fishing. He couldn’t afford to buy one, so he designed and built a double-ended boat for his own use. Others around Little Falls saw this boat and wanted one just like it. It was 1913 and Paul Larson started to build boats in any spare time that he could find away from his full time job at the Pine Tree Lumber Company. He was also trapping furs to support his family. It was money from trapping that allowed him to buy some woodworking machinery that would help him to increase and improve production.
In the early twenties there was a “cottage boom” in the areas just north of Little Falls and the demand for his boats grew. Any of these new lake property owners coming from Minneapolis or St. Paul would have to pass right by Paul Larson’s boat shop on their way to the lake. He couldn’t have found a better location. Also booming was the resort trade in the lakes area surrounding Brainerd, 30 miles to the north. What was good for the resorters, was good for Larson Boat Works. The Larson reputation spread all the way to the Canadian border and beyond.
In this part of the country, every area that was lake-rich was sure to have a local boat builder close by, but Paul Larson’s boats went beyond his boundaries. He was able to compete by building strong, honest boats that provided value. His business was prospering and growing. There were setbacks along the way, but nothing that Paul Larson and the community of Little Falls wouldn’t deal with and walk away from, stronger from the experience.
In 1939 Larson Boat Works introduced the world to the Falls Flyer. This boat, initially offered in either 12’ or 14’ length, could be powered by the largest outboards of the day. In 1940 Paul Larson applied for a design patent on an inboard version of this boat that was granted on April 15, 1941.
This inboard boat was highly acclaimed at the 1941 Chicago Boat Show, with orders outpacing all ability to produce enough boats, but the onset of World War II would interfere with its success and fate would later deal another devastating blow to the inboard Falls Flyer.
Immediately following World War II, Paul Larson and Bob Wold, a neighbor in Little Falls, collaborated in another boating enterprise, Larson Watercraft, that would produce aluminum fishing boats. The similarity in the design of these two different lines was intentional and effective, but they were two completely separate corporate entities.
In a full page advertisement that appeared in the Centennial Section of the Little Falls Transcript dated June 12, 1948, Paul Larson talked about the difference between the two companies and the competition between them and simply stated that he was in the business to build the finest, not to promote one at the expense of the other. At this point he was employing over 100 workers in the two plants. They were producing approximately 1,700 wood boats and another 800 of aluminum per year. He had also designed and built two boat haulers, patterned after the big auto transporters that were capable of carrying 10 boats at a time across the country.
Just when it seemed that there would be no stopping Paul Larson or Larson Boat Works, a disastrous fire leveled the wood boat plant on December 13, 1949. And leveled meant leveled...completely. Starting from scratch would not be easy, but Paul Larson continued on. Using a portion of the Larson Watercraft plant, Paul set about to recreate the molds and jigs necessary to get back to building wood boats. The decision was made at this time to discontinue the inboard line, and concentrate on the rapidly growing outboard market.
Shortly after, Paul sold his interest in Larson Watercraft to Loiel Ryan Sr. of Little Falls, who brought the company into the national market and started using the Crestliner name, still in use today.
By 1953 Larson Boat Works was building more boats more efficiently than ever before. Paul Larson had seen the new fiberglass boats that were starting to appear at the Chicago Boat Shows, and saw the potential of this new material. Larson Boat Works began to offer “Armor-Glass” coating running from spray rail to spray rail on the bottoms of their fishing and runabout lines.
It would be 1954 when Larson Boat Works announced their first molded fiberglass boat. It was the new Falls Flyer. Working from molds taken directly from the cedar strip model, this boat was an easy transition into fiberglass, with the top and bottom halves forming shapes that were extremely easy to produce and pull from the molds. By 1955 other fiberglass boats began to appear in the new “Larson Laker Line”.
By 1956 it became obvious that fiberglass was the wave of the future for Larson Boat Works. Paul Larson took the chance that others either couldn’t or wouldn’t. His keen insight into the future of the market would guarantee that his company would survive, leaving most other wood boatbuilders to become statistics in an ever-changing industry.
Revolutionizing how boats are built wouldn’t come easy, but it became a necessity. It was increasingly difficult to find woodworkers with the skills to build the wood boats. To train workers to craft the wood boats took time, and if there was a slowdown, they were quick to jump to the furniture makers and cabinet shops around town. There were no schools that could teach boat building. After Larson began to use fiberglass, the workers grew more dependent on the boat works for employment. It was a highly specialized field. And at Larson Boat Works, there was a high degree of skill involved. The difficulty of successfully producing the Lapline hull necessitated more than just unskilled laborers.
In 1957 Paul Larson first began to seriously think about retirement. He had built the company up over the last 44 years and felt ready for a break. At this time he sold an interest in Larson Boat Works to Earl Geiger. Geiger, originally from Cornell, Iowa, had been working with Cargill, Inc. of Minneapolis and brought with him the expertise in handling national accounts. Not long after, Chuck Gravelle came to Larson as director of sales and marketing. Together these three formulated the plan to take Larson from a regional builder into the national market. Gravelle put together the marketing plan and began setting up a true national dealership network.
Larson Boat Works entered into licensee agreements with four companies located in Nashville, Georgia; Casper, Wyoming; Ontario, California; and Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. This gave them the nationwide manufacturing and distributorship that they needed.
1957 also marked a vast difference in the boats that Larson was producing. The 21’ Outboard Cruiser was the lone wood holdover tying Larson to it’s past heritage of cedar strip construction. By 1957 even this boat was slipping from it’s past, using plywood for its hullsides. New to the lineup were the Surfmaster, Thunderhawk, in both Junior and Senior models, and a restyled Playboy, utilizing the new Thunderhawk Lapline hull. The All-American was still available in 14’ or 16’ lengths, featuring fiberglass hulls and mahogany plywood decks. What was remarkable in the All-American line was the list of standard features: a folding top and side curtains; upholstered cushions with backrests; wrap-around windshield with molded base; steering; and a complete set of deck hardware including navigational lighting. This may not seem so astounding today, but in 1957 this put them way beyond the competition.
The big news at Larson was the Thunderhawk, borrowing a few styling touches from the automotive industry and bringing high style to the family runabout. From its sweeping sheerline that set off the fins to the “motion” stripes along the rear quarters, the design of this boat was proof that Paul Larson could design a boat that could keep up with the times, yet not go beyond the limits of good taste as many of his competitors had. The new Larson line not only led the way in styling, but the level of fit and finish proved to be a powerful statement to the rest of the market.
Making this national quest a reality wouldn’t be easy. Selling to the masses and being able to produce enough boats to keep up with demand were two different things. Help would come to Larson in 1958 in the form of Al Hegg. Hegg had been working for 3M and found the corporate culture too stifling for his maverick approach to manufacturing. His keen insight into production methods and his ability to roll up his sleeves and get elbow deep in fiberglass on the production line became his trademark. His ability to reach production quotas was more a mark of his ingenuity in creating processes than just riding the workers harder. With a major national advertising campaign in the leading boating magazines, Larson was gaining the name recognition necessary to challenge the leaders of the small runabout market.
Also instrumental in increasing production was Paul Larson’s involvement in the development of the Rand Gun, the first marketable version of the fiberglass chopper. Helping both financially and with production, this apparatus was invented by David F. Anderson of Quebec as an assignor to Ingersoll-Rand Company Limited, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His application to the U.S. Patent Office was filed October 13, 1954 and was titled “Apparatus and Method For Forming A Fiber Reinforced Plastic Article” and was granted on April 2, 1957. The description in the patent application of this new development claimed that the gun would distribute the fibers more evenly, control the resin/catalyst/fiber mix, and help eliminate the air bubbles inherent with hand cut mat layup. Ingersoll-Rand sent trainers to Little Falls to help transition the Larson workers into this new production method.
Changes to the 1958 lineup were many. The 19’ Surfmaster easily became the replacement for the 21’ Outboard Cruiser. The Surfmaster was now available as a convertible runabout, a sedan, or a flying bridge cruiser. The All-American now sported fiberglass decks and the 16’ model was available with an optional hardtop. The now-famous Larson sweepspear, standard on the Thunderhawks in 1957, became an option on the All-American and Surfmaster.
The big news in 1958 was the all new Falls Flyer. This latest Paul Larson creation, while a complete departure from the past, still retained the individuality of its predecessor. In its first year of production it was available in black, both hull and decks, with a choice of white, yellow, or red trim. Like the Thunderhawk, it was also available in custom colors for those feeling the need to go completely beyond the horizon. The 1958 catalog described the Flyer as having “a keen sense of style--bold but not bizarre, modern but always graceful.” Some may question this today, but this boat was another of Paul Larson’s designs that today commands attention wherever they turn up.
What is interesting to note is that while these runabouts and cruisers began to dominate their lineup, fishing boats, long Larson’s staple, began to fade into the background. The company had grown up building cedar strip fishing boats, covering the lakes of Minnesota and northern Wisconsin with their many models. These small boats had made the transition to fiberglass production, and the demand was immediate. The resort owners especially liked the low maintenance aspects of fiberglass. But the real money was in runabouts. This is where the new “recreational boaters” were driving the market.
Owens Yacht Company was on a similar mission. Their main interest was in the cruiser market, but had entered the runabout market in the early fifties. In 1957 they built a plant in Tell City, Indiana to produce fiberglass boats. These would be marketed as Cutter Boats, Inc., a division of Owens. They hired three or four key personnel from Lone Star Boats, built a couple of molds splashed from Lone Star models, produced some boats and were promptly sued by Lone Star. There were hundreds of others that were pirating designs from other manufacturers, but none with the financial backing that Owens had. They were an easy target. The court ordered Owens to cease producing these boats and pay a royalty on each one that they had built.
From this harsh lesson, Owens hired noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens to style a new line of boats to carry both the Cutter and Owens nameplates. These designs were mated to an outstanding hull designed by Norman Owens, naval architect and son of Owens founder Charles C. Owens Sr. for introduction in 1958. The first Cutter lineup included three boats: the Jet de Ville, a 15’ runabout; the Como, a 15’ utility; and the Avon, a 17’ deluxe runabout. Cutter advertising proclaimed that they were built in “America’s largest plant devoted exclusively to producing superior fiber-glass boats!”
The dealer network supporting the Owens Yacht Company was based on sales of the large cruisers that they had become famous for. These dealers weren’t accustomed to selling boats to the outboard market. Cutter Boats would have to forge their own way into the marine market. But forge they would, based on the strength of their performance and their strong styling they were making inroads into the small runabout market nationwide. In 1959 Owens also introduced a line of larger runabouts designed and built by John Norek in California.
In 1959 Owens had Brooks Stevens add variations to the three Cutter models by styling sliding hardtops and adding a flying bridge cruiser to the line. At this time Stevens was not only working for Owens, he was also doing all of the styling at OMC, including Evinrude, Johnson, and Gale. Stevens had also designed a line of stainless steel deck hardware for the Vollrath Corporation of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. This hardware was a standard feature on Cutter Boats and Owens runabouts, carrying his styling talents one step further than other boat manufacturers were willing to travel. Vollrath’s main business was producing stainless steel surgical instruments, so the transition to precision-built stainless marine hardware came easy.
1959 brought another banner to Larson Boat Works. The sweepspear side stripe became standard on all but the most economical models. In an effort at becoming somewhat more conventional, the Falls Flyer was offered with white hull and decks with Pirate Red, Marlin Blue, Light Tahitian Blue, or Tigershark Black trim. The lapstrake bottoms were gelcoated in alternating colors along each strake. 1959 was also the first year of the Pla-Mate, an entry level 14 footer giving Larson-quality to the first time boater. The big news was the 25’ Cruisemaster. Early reports alleged 25 boats built with orders for another 100 already on the books. In actuality, 2 were built. Larson was looking for a plant to build these new cruisers when the business leaders of Little Falls caught wind of this need. Not wanting jobs going to another town, they collected the necessary money locally to grant a loan to Paul Larson to build this new plant across the Mississippi River from his main plant. This new plant became fully operational on April 22, 1959. With sales of the runabout line going completely berserk, Larson threw the new plant into producing the All-American lines, leaving the Cruisemaster for a later production date (a date that would never come).
In early 1960 the Brunswick Corporation bought Owens Yacht Company. Brunswick had attempted to buy Chris-Craft but was outmaneuvered by the Shields group. In buying Owens, Brunswick felt that they had a good catch, for considerably less money than the buyout of Chris-Craft would have required. Owens was to concentrate on the cruisers that they were best known for while the runabout market became a secondary issue. John Norek was still turning out a few Owens runabouts from his Crystalliner plant in California.
1960 brought many changes to the Larson line in Little Falls. The Thunderhawk was dropped. Labor intensive production techniques combined with slow sales brought it to its final conclusion. Larson instead was attempting to meet demand for the All-American line, now selling at an all time high. They had their finger on the pulse of what middle America wanted, and knew just how much they were willing to spend to get there. The buying public wanted all of the extras that Larson was including as standard equipment, and saw the value that Larson was delivering. An integral part of this success was Larson’s national dealer network, second to none in the industry.
New to the lineup was the Sea-Lion, a 17’-8” model available as either a convertible runabout or a flying bridge cruiser. This was a big water model with a chine that was beginning to square off the round chine that was such an identity with the early Thunderhawks, Playboys, and All-Americans. Sales went beyond all projections set by Larson management.
On September 15, 1960 the Little Falls Transcript announced that Brunswick had bought Larson Boat Works. Newspaper accounts listed the purchase price as $3.7 million in Brunswick stock. Brunswick was challenging Chris-Craft in the cruiser market and hoped that with the inclusion of Larson that they could circumvent the success of the “Worlds Largest Producer Of Motor Boats”.
Their biggest gain was the strength of the Larson name in the market and the loyal dealership network already in place. The Larson management team stayed on with the new organization. Brunswick consolidated their holdings into the Brunswick Boat Division. This new division would be broken down into three distinct groups: Owens Yacht Division, featuring the larger cruisers the company had been known for; Larson Boat Division, selling to the middle and upper level trailerable runabout market; and Cutter Boats, building entry level runabouts.
The main focus of the Brunswick Boat Division centered on marketing this new concept to dealers that were interested in heading into the future with a sure winner. So much was at stake and the market had started to soften at this point in time and the dealers came flocking to this new industry “giant”.
With all of this new enthusiasm that the Brunswick marketing people were generating, the dealers were projecting sales that went way beyond what Larson was capable of producing. To further complicate matters, Larson was in the middle of a major restructuring of its line when Brunswick bought them. With the energies centered on marketing, there was little time left for thought of production.
Brunswick knew that they had to consolidate the plants that they still had. The Larson licensee plants in Ontario, California and Casper, Wyoming had already closed their doors. The Tell City plant was going through some intense labor relation’s issues and the decision was made to move the Cutter/Owens operations to a newly built Larson facility in Alliance, Ohio. Although this plant wasn’t operational at the time, the move was made anyway. This left the Little Falls, Minnesota; Nashville, Georgia; and Alliance, Ohio plants to produce enough boats to fill the orders.
Another issue plaguing this operation was the inability of Brunswick to understand just how an industry so large seemed to have no operating procedures written and in place in either of these successful operations. They had an immediate need to grasp hold of this industry and thought that the engineers should document the operations. This additional usurping of energy further slowed production.
With all of these problems, they were going through capital fast. It is estimated that Brunswick spent in excess of a million dollars within the first three months of owning Larson, with most of it concentrated on marketing. The internal audit wing of Brunswick came to Little Falls to get an accounting of money spent. To Larson management, this was an intrusion into their arena by outsiders and left a feeling of resentment towards the parent company.
Despite these problems, Larson’s 1961 production began in Little Falls and Nashville. The Cutter/Owens boats were in less demand and would have to wait until the Alliance plant became operational. The Owens Yachts were still being built in Maryland.
A sharp difference of opinion began to develop between the new Brunswick Boat Division managers and the “old guard” Larson management. Although the “old guard” was theoretically in charge, it was obvious the head office in Chicago was now running the show.
Amidst all of this, “The Million Bubble Ride”, marketing’s answer to the Lapline hull, was announced in 1961 and brought with it Sumner Young, account executive with Erie Savage Co., a Minneapolis advertising agency. Young would later become Larson’s advertising-marketing manager. The All-American line was completely re-designed for 1961 with the exception of the 142, a holdover from 1958. There was a hardtop version of the 15 foot model, the All-American 157 that brought protection from the elements. The 178 brought a flying bridge cruiser to the All-American line. The Surfmaster and Sea Lion continued with little change from 1960. One change that did develop was happening throughout the industry...the introduction of the stern drive. Larson called their version the Comboard, utilizing the new Volvo-Penta I/O units. These would be the first inboards produced by Larson since the disastrous fire of December, 1949.
The Cutter line for 1961 was definitely geared for the entry-level boater. There was no crossover from Larson models into the Cutter line. Brunswick’s plan was to be the “General Motors” of the marine business, and Cutter was where this plan made its entrance. There were seven models ranging from the 13’-6” Scamp to the 19’ Olympian. Brooks Stevens was still doing design work for the Cutter line, but these boats lacked the spark so visible in the earlier models. They were much easier to produce; just what Brunswick management was looking for. Also gone was the Vollrath stainless steel hardware, replaced by less expensive Attwood and Crest pieces.
After the 1961 season the decision was made by senior Brunswick management to move all operations to a new plant in Warsaw, Indiana. This plant was centrally located and could be efficiently operated, building all three runabout lines: Larson, Cutter, and Owens. The Little Falls plant would be used to assemble the boats after fiberglass production in Warsaw. The Alliance and Nashville plants would be closed. The Alliance plant by this time was operational and producing both Cutter and Owens runabouts successfully. Directions were to take the equipment from both the Little Falls and Alliance plants and move them to Warsaw. This was done over Labor Day weekend in 1961. Brunswick’s idea was to start fresh and eliminate the two factions wrestling for control of the division. They brought in a management team from Chrysler to run this new operation.
Earl Geiger left Larson in January of 1962, along with most of the other senior managers still left in Little Falls. In March of 1962 the move to Warsaw was complete and the Little Falls plant turned to assembling boats and doing upholstery.
Meanwhile, on September 30, 1961 Brunswick bought Mercury Marine from Carl Kiekhaefer in a bitter fight with AMF, its pin-setting machine rival. Kiekhaefer became a member of the Brunswick Board of Directors in the process of the sale. In one of his early meetings with this board he noted his displeasure with the association of his company with the boat-building division. He felt that the association with these builders would limit his ability to sell to dealers who handled other boats. It was at this point that the board at Brunswick began to look for a way out of the boat business.
1962 should have been a great year for Larson, but they seemed to be back-pedaling. The line was pared back to a bare minimum. The All-American was still the primary focus, with the Surfmaster, Playboy 140, and the Playmate 143 playing supporting roles, but the Sea Lion had disappeared. It was as if they had gone back to try to retrace the steps that had led to their success earlier. At Cutter there were new 17’ lapstrake models and also a 19’ hull. The primary focus had changed from Larson to Cutter.
In 1963 the Larson line diminished even more. There were still a couple of All-American models in the line, but for the most part, the entry level models that were once Cutters wore the Larson nameplate. One new boat was introduced as the Brunswick Tahiti Comboard; a tri-hulled family runabout 17’-4” in length powered by a MerCruiser 110hp sterndrive. Those that thought the Falls Flyer was unconventional in appearance hadn’t waited long enough; this one was the winner, hands down.
In three short selling seasons the Larson name went from the forefront of the industry to entry level production. Carl Kiekhaefer wanted the small boat division gone, and now it was happening, Brunswick was looking to sell the division and try to regroup its Owens cruiser holdings and consolidate the Mercury Marine division.
In late August of 1963 Brunswick tried to shed their small boat division but had no callers. Claiming that the small boat division “did not fit into the total corporate pattern,” they were willing to listen to any offer. They contacted the former management team in Little Falls and even they had their doubts about resurrecting the sinking ship.
Paul Larson and Al Hegg thought that it was worth a try. Paul wanted to bring the jobs back to Little Falls and Al Hegg knew that they could do it. Earl Geiger, Sumner Young, and Paul Larson became the major investors who bought the company back on November 8, 1963. A later newspaper account listed the purchase amount at “around $160,000”. This was little more than the cost of inventory. Al Hegg and Dick Eich came on board as equity investors. Hegg became production manager and Eich was named sales manager. Eich, who had joined Larson Boat Works in May of 1961 as dealer service manager, immediately began to line up the old dealer network, now in shambles. The strength of Paul Larson’s name meant a lot to these long term dealers and it wasn’t long before they had a loyal regional dealer organization.
Paul Larson, now 70 years old, pledged to support this new enterprise financially and in spirit, acknowledging that he was beyond the age where he could make a significant contribution. It was a typical response from a modest man. Paul’s pivotal role in this venture came from his relentless desire to promote Little Falls both as a community and as a town built on a proud tradition of producing great boats. Besides his role as promoter, he found himself more often than not in the design shop, crafting the master plugs to build the molds that would produce the renewed Larson lineup.
This new group began immediately with 25 employees working out of the “new” plant built in 1958 on the west side of the Mississippi River. Brunswick had added 14,000 square feet of production space onto this building with help once again from Little Falls business leaders. The new owners of Larson Boat Works were able to take over the lease that Brunswick had in place. The board of the Little Falls Industrial Development Corporation was only too happy to have a new tenant with ambitious plans. Originally looking for distribution on a regional basis, they were soon overwhelmed with orders from dealers all over the country. The Nashville, Georgia licensee plant was put back into production in short order in an attempt to keep up with demand.
The 1964 line consisted of the Playboy 142, the All-American 152, the All-American 162, the All-American 166, the All-American 176, and the Sea Wolf 186. They all featured the now-famous sweepspear side stripe, making them easily identifiable from anywhere on the lake. This was the line that brought the Larson name to national recognition in the late fifties, and it would do the same once again. Sales for 1964 totaled approximately $1.5 million, not bad for a company starting with an empty plant in the middle of November with poor prospects of even opening the doors.
Long range plans included doubling sales for 1965. To help reach that goal, Larson departed from their lapline hull with the Volero, brand new for 1965. It was Larson’s entry into the Deep-V market. The Volero 167 was 16’-4’ in length and in outboard configuration weighed 790 lbs. Powered by a MerCruiser 110hp, it weighed 1,350 lbs. A larger version, the Volero 187 had power options up to a MerCruiser 150hp.
Added to the substantial list of standard items provided with the Larson line in 1965 was a built-in 18-gallon gas tank with a dash mounted fuel gauge. This new feature stemmed from a boat outing on Minnesota’s Gull Lake where Larson CEO Earl Geiger experienced first hand just what it was like to find yourself in the middle of the lake without gas. It was just another way to make boating more convenient for Larson customers.
In 1965 the unions came to the Little Falls plant seeking to represent the Larson workers. The International Association of Machinists and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, who had represented the workers during the Brunswick years, were both vying to represent the workers. The Little Falls Daily Transcript of April 29, 1965 reported both were soundly defeated. This affirmation of Larson policy and the belief that Larson management had brought meaningful, steady employment back to Little Falls was good news for this small community.
By May of 1965 there were more than 120 employees at the Larson Boats. This group of dedicated industry veterans had done it! Production went further and faster than anyone had imagined. By the time the season was over, sales figures for 1965 had indeed doubled the 1964 total and the company was now on firm footing.
Larson celebrated their 50th “Golden Jubilee” in 1966, introducing the Medallion 166, a dressed up version of the All-American. Also new were the 16’ M-class, a racing scow for sailing conforming to ILYA regulations and also a line of three aluminum canoes. 1966 also brought the introduction of the Eagle and the Falcon, Larson’s entry into the world of snowmobiling. The Eagle and Falcon were powered by 10hp and 9.2hp JLO engines respectively.
Larson was now producing 44 boats per day in their 44,000 square foot Little Falls plant. They were building boats at an unprecedented pace for a market that seemingly could not get enough. While others in the industry were experiencing a slowdown, Larson continued to increase sales. Strapped for space, they were once again considering major expansion. They ended fiscal year 1966 with sales of over $11.6 million, a phenomenal showing just three years after pulling the company out its close call with receivership.
The headline of the October 25, 1966 Minneapolis Tribune brought shock waves to the entire marine industry. It proclaimed: “Larson Industries Will Acquire Assets of California Company.” It wasn’t just any California company; it was the Glasspar Company of Santa Ana, California. Glasspar had been an industry leader since the early days of fiberglass boat production following World War II. The company had found profit an elusive target after their founder and spiritual leader Bill Tritt left the company in 1961. In fact, 1963 was the only year that they were in the black since his departure. In 1965 they had lost more than $767,000 on over $6 million worth of sales. Could the miracle workers that transformed Post-Brunswick Larson do it again? Could the time-honored Glasspar name once again visit profitland? Stay tuned and please be patient for the next installment of Larson/Up From the Ashes and Up From the Ashes and Up From the Ashes and Up From the Ashes.............
I would like to sincerely thank Dick Eich, Chuck Gravelle, Earl Geiger, John Monahan, Dennis Casey, Bill Tritt, the late Lem Larson, and especially Al Hegg for their willingness to participate in endless interviews helping me put real meaning into this story. I also have to pay a debt of gratitude to the late Bob Speltz, who taught me that knowledge is nothing if it is not shared.
Some Falls Flyers