Jack Fulton has been described as the Godfather of lacrosse in New Westminster, a benevolent but strong-willed facilitator who transforms the tough into the conceivable. Jack Fulton is a big ‘W’ winner: he gets things done. The curriculum vitae of the man with the easy smile include seaman, fireman, family man and sport nut.
“I’ve had a very good life,” Fulton often says, a master of understatement. Born in New Westminster on July 30,
1926, Fulton quit high school after Grade 11 to join the merchant marine service. He went off to sea, serving initially on coastal runs and then on the Great Lakes before heading off to deep sea in 1944. Following the war, he worked on tugboats towing gravel and coal barges down the B.C. coast.
But Fulton longed to take the lovely Jean as his bride and didn’t relish the idea of long nights up and down the coast while his new wife remained alone at home. Fulton decided to drop anchor in his hometown and began working at a local plywood company. Enter old friends Sid Martin, Jake Proctor and Reo Jerome, all lacrosse stars and firemen, who urged Fulton in 1951 to become a firefighter. Fortunately, New Westminster had just purchased an old navy barge for $1 and had it converted into a fireboat. With his tugboat master’s ticket in hand, Fulton soon became the skipper. Actually, the vessel operated only on an on-call basis (e.g. the 1966 Rainier mill inferno) until it was retired in 1974.
When the fireboat wasn’t in use, Fulton served with distinction out of the New Westminster fire hall; rising in rank to captain, then assistant chief and finally deputy chief, the level he held until his retirement in 1986. Fulton never played lacrosse as a youngster, but for a native of the Royal City, it would be sacrilegious not to love the game. Besides, the fabled Grumpy Spring lived just two doors away from his childhood home. With so many of his friends and co-workers involved in the boxla scene, it was inevitable that Fulton’s interest would be tweaked.
In 1956, a friend asked Jack to accompany him to a Salmonbellies meeting to see if they could help the floundering team. The friend failed to show up but, before the end of the year, Jack was appointed team manager. And, like everything else he did in life, Jack jumped in feet first. Recruiting fellow fireman Harry McKnight in his quest, the pair set about the task of building a winning environment by 1957.
First on board was old friend Jake Proctor as coach, followed by veterans Mario Crema, Stan Joseph, Joe Durante, Jack Byford and Bob Raffle to bolster the defence. Already on board handling the offensive chores, were youngsters Cliff Sepka, Jack Barclay, Bill Jobb, Ivan Stewart and Ken Oddy. All that was needed to bring back the Mann Cup to New Westminster in 1958 was the insertion of Jack Bionda. Two years later, Paul Parnell was recruited from Peterborough via one season in Victoria. Nine years as team manager and two more as general manager netted Fulton four Mann Cup rings.
“That 1959 team that beat Peterborough was undoubtedly my favourite team. The 1965 team was probably the least talented to win the Cup, but boy did they work hard,” he recalled. “And then there’s my coaching record. Jake (Proctor) had a habit of getting suspended from time to time and I had to take over the bench. I had nine wins and only one loss.” He failed to add his record as coach of a Peewee-level team that captured two B.C. titles in the late 1960s.
Fulton left the Salmonbellies after the 1966 season when he was elected to the Canadian Lacrosse Association executive. He served as a vicepresident from 1967 to 1970, president 1971-72 and past president 1973-74. He also served as general manager of the Canadian team that travelled to Australia in the 1974 to take part in the World Field Lacrosse Championships. He then spent the next six years as chairman of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame board of governors, followed by a further six years as chairman of the Hall’s Player Selection Committee.
But Fulton’s first love remained the Salmonbellies so, in 1989, he returned to the fold as an advisor.