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thedrifter
12-12-05, 08:32 AM
Villager revisits old memories, researches history through extensive collection of knives
By MICHAEL FORTUNA, DAILY SUN

THE VILLAGES — Larry Austin’s collection of knives is anything but dull.

For the past 25 years, Austin has sought out more than 100 knives from such companies as Ka-Bar, Case, Union Cutlery Co., and Remington Arms.

But he hasn’t tried to sharpen any of the blades.

“I never touch them,” Austin said. “It decreases the value by 50 percent.”

Austin lived in Olean, N.Y., where Ka-Bar’s base of operations was located, and he also knew several people who worked in the factory. When he was a child growing up during World War II, he and his friends went trolling for knife pieces outside the factory to make their own versions.

“(The collection is) a reminder of my past,” Austin said.

The first knife that came into Austin’s possession was a Ka-Bar Marine Corps knife that was given to him in 1954 when he joined the Marines. He considers the knives related to the Marines to be his favorites.

“When we were making landings, we’d carry that knife each and every time,” Austin said.

Austin has found the knives at garage sales, flea markets, and on the Internet. In addition, several of Austin’s friends have given him knives after learning he collected them.

“Over the years, I picked up more and more,” Austin said. “I like the history; researching every knife to find out who made it, who carried it.”

Some of the pieces in his collection include a “hobo’s knife” that also has a spoon and fork; a fisherman’s helper that features various tools; a knife commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Marine Corps (he bought it 30 years ago); and a New York state trooper commemorative knife.

His brother made him a knife out of a railroad spike, while another man took a Marine Corps knife and made a duplicate version for him.

One of his more unusual knives is a replica of one Abraham Lincoln carried with him to Ford’s Theater the night he was assassinated. The knife features six different blades and has several etchings.

He spent about five years looking for a set of Ka-Bar fishing knives, and he built a case made of 100-year-old cherry board to house them. They include scaling knives, a trout knife, and one with a hollow handle that hides a compass.

Austin has used some of them during hunting or fishing trips, but he hasn’t done that in about 30 years.

Michael Fortuna is a reporter with the Daily Sun. He can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9234, or michael.fortuna@thevillagesmedia.com.

Ellie