Patty Fulton

Thanks to: Frank Gorman, ISHOF, Inc., Betty Perkins-Carpenter, Catherine Cappelle and the other divers that contributed to this information on Patty....

 


From:  Frank Gorman 3/17/07                                
Old Images:   Patty and Greg    The Diver

A flurry of e-mails about  famous AquaStar Patty Robinson Fulton followed the ISHOF announcement that Esther Williams was to be honored at the May induction ceremonies this year.
 
Among the messages it was disclosed that in 1938-9 Patty turned down Billy Rose's invitation to become his female lead in the world famous "Billie Rose Aquacade."  Instead Patty suggested that he consider her friend, swim champion Esther Williams who,  at the time, was available and looking for work.  In her subsequent spectacular cinematic career Esther frequently called upon Patty to double for her when the diving got high.
 
With the help of Betty Perkins-Carpenter and  Catherine Cappelle  I have pieced together some vintage photos and stories that document the high-flying beauty's illustrious career.  I have divided them into separate e-mails.  If you have additional information, or photos reflecting those glory days please hit the REPLY ALL button and share your memories with us.  
 
In  2001-2  Patty was  inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.  Her Masters Diving Coach Betty Perkins accepted Patty's award from Olympic Champion Vicki Draves.  "I accepted for her, at her request in writing,  because she was ill and Vicki Draves put the medal around my neck, which I promptly gave to her daughter, who also attended." Betty
 

Patty Robinson FultonFOR THE RECORD: 32 MASTERS WORLD DIVING TITLES: 12 (1m springboard), 11 (3m springboard), 9 (10m platform); 7 SENIOR OLYMPICS TITLES: 4 (1m springboard), 3 (3m springboard); 5 MASTERS WORLD SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING TITLES; 3 solo, 2 figures; 119 MASTERS U. S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 31 (1m springboard), 30 (3m springboard), 25 (grand masters), 26 (10m platform); 20 ALL-AMERICAN TITLES: (1980- 1999); 15 times Masters Diver of the Year Award. 

Since 1976, Patty Robinson Fulton has been diving Masters and winning National Championships every year since. Beginning in the 55 - 59 age group, she has won 32 Masters World Diving titles: 12 on I in springboard, 11 on 3m springboard and 9 on the 10m platform. 

Born in 1920 in San Francisco, Patty began swimming and diving at age seven.  Among other swims, she swam the Golden Gate Bridge Swim but preferred diving, and by the time she was a teenager, in the 1930s, she had been runner-up three times in national diving competitions. She was asked to join the Billy Rose Aquacades in 1938 but declined so as not to lose her amateur status in order to try for the Olympic Games two years later. She had qualified for the Olympic Trials, but World War II put an end to her Olympic dream when the Games were canceled in 1940. On Patty's suggestion, the Billy Rose Aquacade picked an unknown Esther Williams instead of Patty. 

But she loved being in the water and soon after, under her newly married name of McPherson, Patty joined the Minnesota Aquatennial and Aqua Follies, performing in water shows throughout the U.S. and entertaining U.S. troops abroad during the War. In 1947, she joined the Buster Crabbe Aqua Parade and Follies with Buster Crabbe, Johnny Weissmuller, Vicki Draves and many more swimming and diving greats. For the next 21 years, she became one of the premier divers and synchronized swimmers at the shows. When not performing, Patty taught swimming lessons to Minnesota youngsters and all children who needed to know how to swim. Twenty years later, and now as Mrs. Leonard Webber, she retired from performing and became athletic director of various California athletic clubs including the Athens Athletic Club, the Women's Athletic Club, Fairmont Pool and Leisure World. 

She obtained a degree in astronomy from the University of California Berkeley, building her own reflective telescope. In 1976, surviving her husband, she married David Fulton who encouraged her to participate in Masters diving.  She said that getting back into Masters diving was like learning to dive all over again. After a 30-year absence, the pools were deeper and the diving boards were much springier "causing you to go sailing through the air."  But as a Masters diver, she was the only female to tour Russia on an historic Masters diving team in 1990. She won 119 Masters U.S. National Championships on springboard and platform and over a 20-year period she won 20 All-American titles. She was 15 times Masters Diver of the Year.  She was the epitome of good skills and successes, she embellished those around her with her warm and friendly personality, always promoting Masters diving and those who participated in it.  She was active in the program until her untimely death in February, 2001.


CASTA DEL SOL PROFILE, April 1987

Patty Fulton, national masters diving champion, is Casta del Sol’s answer to Pat McCormick and Esther Williams. As a matter of fact, if Patty had chosen she might well have wound up in Hollywood instead of Miss Williams, but back in the late 1930’s she had her eye on the Olympic Games and, besides, Patty declared, "a nice girl from Hillsborough didn’t go into show business."

However, during the time Patty entered competitive swimming and diving until the present, she garnered enough gold medals and trophies to fill a closet to overflowing. Thus, at the age when most Casta residents are content to take an occasional dip in the pool, Patty is still involved in masters diving tournaments, and as recently as two years ago she won the Gold in Toronto in the first world’s international master’s meet. She hopes to participate in the next masters’ international in Copenhagen in 1989.

Patty, a native Californian, started swimming in competition at the age of 12, but soon turned to diving as a more exciting sport. In those days she trained with others for the diving nationals at the Fairmount Hotel, San Francisco.

At the age of 21 she turned professional and toured with several aquacade shows throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. She was a featured performer in all the shows and her picture graced the cover of many show programs. The pictures show a honey blond with a svelte figure, something she has managed to retain even now by constant practice and competition.

At the same time she managed to rear two children, a boy and girl, who, at one time, participated with her in aquacade shows. For 20 years she also maintained a swim school in Redwood City. During the war she took time out from her professional career to travel with a USO troupe and entertain service men at camp shows throughout the U.S.

Patty says she has reveled in her water career and never had to do anything she didn’t want to do. In the course of competing around the U.S. she has made many lasting friendships among fellow swimmers and divers. She considers Greg Lougainis, 1984 Olympic champion, the best she has ever seen, and Helen Crlenkoeich, a former teammate and friend, and Pat McCormick, Olympic Gold medalist, as the two greatest women divers, but of different eras.

Patty has been a Casta resident for 13 years and about 11 years ago she married David Fulton, retired treasurer of the Eastman Kodak Co. They now spend much of their time traveling when Patty is not involved in a diving meet. Among her other accomplishments are her sewing skills (she once made all her own swim suits) and her interest as an amateur astronomer (she majored in astronomy at UC Berkeley). With it all, she has an unwarranted modesty and plays down her reputation as one of the true greats in the world of women’s diving.


PATTY FULTON: Diving Champions at 62, by Bill Beeney 1985

 

FROM A SLIGHT DISTANCE, as she lifts off the three-meter springboard and jackknifes precisely into the water, she looks like a 22-year-old diving champion, maybe the captain of a women’s college swimming team, with an arresting figure.

          You step closer and watch her next dive. It is equally lovely. So is the lady, but perhaps you adjust your figure (not hers) and put her age in the late 30’s. Okay, make it early 40’s.

          She is Patty Fulton, age 62, and your judgments were right on the mark. She is a national diving champion. She holds four titles at the moment, and over the years has won “17 or 18, I’m not really sure which.”

          She is the wife of David Fulton, former treasurer of Eastman Kodak Co., now retired. They live in Mission Viejo, Cal., and were visiting in Monroe County last week. So naturally, Mrs. Fulton – she and Dave were married six years ago (both were widowed) – visited her friend, Mrs. Betty Perkins-Carpenter, who operates the Perkins Swim Club in Penfield.

          BETTY PERKINS, a former Olympic diving coach, is also a great motivator, it turns out. It was she who urged Patty Fulton back into diving competition four years ago after an absence of 40 years.

          “I was very active in diving and synchronized swimming when I was younger, but I dropped out of competition in 1938,” she says. “I was third in the nationals at three meters at that time.”

          After she married in 1940 and had two children, however, she did continue to do considerable diving and swimming with Buster Crabbe’s “Aquaparade,” and later for four years with the Minneapolis “Aquatennial” which went on for six weeks each Summer. But she bowed out of that activity in 1951.

          Incidentally, Billy Rose had tried to talk her into starring in his “Aquacade” in the earlier years, but her parents had felt she was too young for a show girl’s life.

          IN 1978 she came to Rochester for a visit and dropped in to say hello to her friend, Betty Perkins, at the club’s facility, 1606 Penfield Rd.

          “She talked me into going back into competition,” said Mrs. Fulton. “She almost literally pushed me into it. She worked with me for about a month. My husband, David, also encouraged me to go ahead. This sort of thing may suggest to some people that they can become more active, do things that they had let slide simple because they became older.”

          WHEN THE Fultons returned home to California, Patty practiced “for five days at the Mission Viejo swim club, which is very close to where we live,” and then entered the U.S. Master’s competition.

          “I was lucky; I went into the low board – the one-meter event – and won. Barely won.”

          Competitors in the Master’s are former national or Olympic diving champions, in age groups of from 21 to 100. (There’s an 80-year-old woman diver who still competes.) Two national meets, one indoors, one outdoors, are held every year.

          “I really practiced during 1979,” Mrs. Fulton admits. “I won the one-meter event again that year. Then, in 1980, I added three-meter and the 10-meter (33 feet) platform events to my repertoire. And I truly was surprised when I won all three of them.”

          LAST YEAR, 1981, Patty not only repeated by winning those three events in the 50-and-over class, but she was also named the winner of the John Sable Grand Master Award, given to the Master with the highest point total at the end of the year.

          She didn’t accomplish all this without a great deal of practice, of course, “Practice is very strenuous,” she says. “You have to get into top shape or you’ll fall apart when you come off that tower. You are going about 45 miles an hour when you strike the water.”

          She practices “two or three days a week and I guess I do 50 or 60 dives each time. Although I never actually count them. Our team colors are ‘black and blue.’”

          Mrs. Perkins is proud of her “pupil,” of course. “She’s absolutely marvelous” she says of Mrs. Fulton. “And she certainly proves what a person can do if they have the dedication and the energy.”

          Not to mention the talent, it should be added.

 

SOURCE: Unknown 1982
 


 

The Casta Courier, December 1996

         

THE QUEEN OF MASTERS DIVING STEPS DOWN

 

Patty Fulton Announces Her Retirement

 

          After 18 years in Masters Diving, Patty Fulton has decided to hang up her suit. At 76 years old, most people would understand why. But Patty, bless her heart, shall be climbing to a higher level: Devoting more time to the volunteer work she does with her church.

          Patty leaves behind an incredible Masters legacy:

          116 National Championship Gold Medals

          32 World Championship Gold Medals

15 time Diver of the Year (including this year too)

Patty’s swimming and diving career spans over 60 years. After her Olympic dreams were torn apart by Word War II, she performed in the famous Aqua shows of the 1940’s. She was instrumental in getting synchronized swimming in the Nationals in the 1950’s. At U.C. Berkeley, Patty studied Astronomy and once built her own reflector telescope. A humble Christian Scientist, Patty gives credit to God for everything she’s ever done.
          Patty says she enjoys the camaraderie of Masters Diving the most, and plans to attend future meets as a very experienced spectator.

 


Frank

That story made my day. She sounds like a great lady.  I wish I knew her during her days of professional diving I would have presented her to the New Haven audiences  in our annual Yale Water Carnivals  as we did Esther Williams.

Phil Moriarty


 
Hi Frank:  These past several emails about Patty Fulton have been just great.  She was a wonderful person.  We visited often at the masters meets throughout her career.  She was a delight to watch and to talk to.  She was thoughtful and considerate to others.  She was very much into her religious beliefs and we had some in depth conversations.  She also had a great sense of humor.  So we had fun, which Masters Diving is all about.
Viva la Masters,
Tom Hairabedian

 
Dear Frank,

    I found this old masters photo from the 1980 Clovis Masters Nationals. It has a great shot of Patty Fulton.

   Cheers, Foxy (Fred Fox)