Ear: Larson

"I was surprised to see my father's picture in the 'Sailing the world,' article in The Astorian's Weekend Break on Nov. 14," Marion Larson Benke wrote. (Marion graduated from Seaside High School; her sister, Virginia Larson Moir, graduated from Astoria High School.)

The photo in question, captioned, "A crew dressed up for their equatorial line crossing ceremony in the early 1900s," is shown courtesy of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Marion and Virginia's father, Al Larson, is at right.

"My dad had signed on the MV Carmen along with his cousin, Henry Elfving, nephew of Capt. Fritz Elfving," Marion explained. "Henry had installed the engines on the Carmen, which was built in Astoria, but her home port was Portland.

"Later, after several world cruises, the ship broke apart on some reefs in Australia. My father was then employed by Pusey and Jones shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware. He was installing diesel engines in yachts.

"On a 236-foot yacht belonging to Erle Halliburton, named the Vida, my father became the vessel's chief engineer, and was in this position when World War II broke out. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that luxury yachts were to be turned over to the government. The Vida was stripped of her luxury items and renamed the USS Crystal.

"Upon hearing that Roosevelt was creating the Lend-Lease program, men were sent all over the world to help our allies. My father went to Russia. His job was to install and instruct Russian submarine crews on the use of diesel engines. He was in Russia for two years.

"Upon his return to Astoria, he opened Marine Equipment Co., a diesel engine franchise. His wife, Mildred, was his bookkeeper, as well as organist for many churches and mortuaries in Astoria for 20 years.

"In 1969, he sold the business to Bumble Bee Shipyards. Upon his retirement, he constructed ship models for all six grandchildren."

Al Larson's father, Capt. Charles Larson, owned the Brookfield Co. in Astoria. His mother, Hilda Elfving Larson, was the sister of Capt. Elfving, lower Columbia River automobile ferry system pioneer, whose most famous auto ferry is, no doubt, the Tourist II, aka the Astoria Ferry.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.