1933 Boy Scout will finally get his wings

POULSBO — Erling Olsen’s home is a menagerie of eagles.

There’s the bronze eagle that used to ride atop the fastest of the Mosquito Fleet boat he inherited from his grandfather.

There are the rows of flying eagles he’s received each year as a member of the Crystal Cathedral Eagles Club.

There’s the chainsaw carving his son gave him that seems to be a delight to the living specimens which often circle the yard to get a better look.

And soon, there will be a new eagle to add to the collection — one he’s wanted for almost 70 years.

On March 9, Olsen will receive the rank of Eagle Scout from Poulsbo’s Troop 1571 at the age of 84.

“It’s quite astounding to be able to receive this at my age,” Olsen remarked of the upcoming event. “Personally, I never thought it would happen.”

Olsen is the grandson of Ole and Inga (Olson) Hanson. Inga was one of the 18 Heldalen, Norway settlers who came to Poulsbo in 1890 headed by the Frederickson family. Ole was a skipper on the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet boats. The couple’s daughter Loretta married Erling Olsen, a Norwegian Merchant Marine and halibut fisherman.

The Olsen family lived on a well-known stretch of Fjord Drive and had one son, Erling Jr., also known as “Bubber” or “Bub.” Today, the old town area still bear’s the family’s mark with one street named “Bub’s Alley.”

“My grandmother and grandfather owned quite a bit of property on Front Street and I inherited the home and the alley where five people lived,” Olsen explained with a chuckle. “I sold (the owner of the Davidson house) a portion of the alley and retained 150 feet of it and gave access to the neighbors on the condition that they name it Bub’s Alley after me.”

Bub Olsen joined the local Boy Scouts Troop, then Troop 571, at the age of 10. He was part of the troop for five years, eventually fulfilling all of the requirements for his Eagle Scout, one of the Scouts’ highest honors, in 1933.

Olsen was waiting the few months for his friend Bob Brooks to obtain his Eagle rank, so the two could have their court of honor together, when tragedy struck. Olsen, Brooks and another boy named Earl Borden were to go on a camping trip together.

At the last minute, Olsen was unable to attend. However, the other two teens proceeded and during the trip, Borden fell to his death.

“So then the news in Poulsbo was that this Boy Scout had died and everyone was upset and the Eagle Scout stuff got pushed to the background,” Olsen remembered.

Then, Olsen said, life just went on.

He spent more than five months working on a Norwegian motor ship and visiting Norway at the age of 17.

He worked in Alaska from 1937-1939.

He attended two and a half years of classes at the University of Washington, before joining the Navy in 1941, where he served during the war in different bases in Alaska.

“I was never on a boat the entire time during the war,” the Navy man remembered with a laugh.

After five years in the Navy, Olsen intended to return to Poulsbo and become a fisherman with his father. Much to his wife Alice’s relief, it took only one fishing trip for Olsen to decide that the sailor’s life was not for him.

“You go 40-50 miles out and you don’t go in,” Olsen explained. “The boat rolls and rocks and you can’t sleep. I said, ‘That’s it for me.’”

Olsen ran two different service stations in the Seattle area before becoming an agent for the Richfield Oil Company. Richfield sent the Olsens and their three children to Port Angeles in 1954 where they’ve lived ever since. Olsen retired from Richfield in 1976 after 25 years.

After children, grandchildren, trips around the world and adventures in Port Angeles, including selling yellow ducks for the local hospital foundation fund-raiser every spring, the last thing on Olsen’s mind was his Eagle until last year.

After having a defribulating pacemaker installed, Olsen was visited by a friend during his recovery.

“She said, ‘Well Erling, you’ve done so much in your life, but what have you always wanted to do that you haven’t?’” Olsen recalled. “I told her, ‘I was all ready to be an Eagle but due to the accident and a few other things it didn’t happen.’ And she said, ‘If you earned it you should have it.’ She wrote a letter to the head of the Seattle BSA and told them the circumstances and lo and behold it’s here.”

The Chief Seattle Council of the BSA held a board of review on Jan. 11 and in a unanimous decision told Olsen he could receive his Eagle rank. His old troop welcomed him back with open arms. The court of honor was set for March 9, coincidentally the Olsens’ 63rd wedding anniversary, and the troop even gave Olsen a troop shirt and neckerchief to wear on the occasion.

“The boys think it’s really cool,” said Troop 1571 Scoutmaster Ray Narimatsu of the current troop members’ reaction to the story. Recently, about 15 scouts traveled to Port Angeles at about 3 a.m. to appear on the Today Show with Olsen. “It’s really a neat story to talk with him about.”

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