About Paul Mikkelson
My love for boating could, in part, come from my ancestors from Norway who were mostly fishermen. My father would have fished every day if he could. One luxury this ultra conservative afforded his family was a small lake cabin on Eagle Lake north of Willmar, Minnesota. Every summer of my youth was spent at the lake. My first hands-on experience was rowing our Larson fishing boat around the lake. The 5hp Johnson motor would have to wait until I was deemed more worthy of such an upgrade. We were frogmen, Vikings, and pirates, with imaginations spurred on by that new-fangled TV and matinees at the old state theater.
Sometime in my teens, the
boat was upgraded to a better Larson boat with an inset transom and a 10
hp Johnson motor. In my mind, I would surely be the envy of all with my
new-found blazing speed. The use of what we called surf boards was a daily
event. All sorts of feats of daring-do were performed for all to see. A 16
hp Scott Atwater marine corps surplus motor was our next upgrade. While
supplying more power as our size and weight increased, it was nearly
impossible to keep tuned and difficult to start. At this time, a pair of
homemade water skis was added to our list of options. One day in the mid
50’s, after hearing daily about how inadequate our equipment was, my
father came home with a new 14’ Larson Falls Flyer with a 30 hp
Javelin motor. It was totally out of character for him to allow a salesman
to talk him into a frivolous face-forward, go-fast, boat, but there it
was. His three sons stood in awe. My mother was sure we would all be
killed. My father reminded us this was only a test, mind you. The boat
never left Eagle Lake.
It seemed forever before my
first business started to generate income beyond house payments, medical
bills, and groceries, but it did. In a weak moment, my wife said, either
get rid of that old boat or fix it up. A search introduced me to John
Monahan from Little Falls. John was both knowledgeable about Falls Flyers,
having been around them all his life, and he was also willing to take on
the restoration project. Months went by as I waited patiently to see the
end product. One spring Saturday, the call came and the boat was done.
LaRue and I jumped into the car and headed for Little Falls to pick up our
long-awaited prize. It was better than we had hoped. Sunday morning, the
lake was like glass and the sights and sounds were unchanged from the
past, as we glided effortlessly across Eagle Lake.
A short time after the show, I called John Monahan to
discuss the possibility of doing another one. By this time, I had
discovered that Paul Larson had been quite an innovator and that Falls
Flyers had been built in many variations of the theme. So the search for
other rare examples of the breed began. Over the last 12 years, I have
tried to locate and procure each variation to add to the collection. A
building was purchased in Willmar, Minnesota to house the collection and
it evolved into The Mikkelson Collection, Inc., Classic Boat Museum.
Housed in the museum are, without question, the finest collection of this
rare boat in existence. The building has also been embellished with all
sorts of boating memorabilia, including outboard motors, signs, and all
manner of marine collectibles. On display also is a toy boat and motor
collection considered to be one of the best in the nation. Extensive
archives of boat and motor literature are also carefully filed for future
reference. The museum is open most days during the spring, summer,
and fall, and by appointment in the winter. There is a $6.00 fee to tour
the museum and, as I like to say, “You ain’t seen nothing like it!”
Paul's passion for the Falls Flyer built by Larson Boats of Little Falls, Minnesota began when he was a high schooler. In 1956 he obtained his first "Flyer" with the help of his father. Since then, its all history; Larson's seem to attach themselves to Paul! As Paul said during his tour, "According to my dad, if it wasn't a Larson with a Johnson motor, it wasn't worth a darn."
Apparently Paul is a chip off the old man's block! If you want to see a dozen or so Falls Flyers, just go to Willmar and visit his museum. Another ten or so boats, such as the Larson Thunderhawk and Play Boy, a 1928 duck boat, and others fill out the collection.
On the official tour, Paul gives the explanation of the various boats and how he came to acquire them. As an example, he owns consecutive Falls Flyer hulls, numbers 4172 and 4173 - certainly the only collection to be able to make this claim!