What do Tarzan, an Olympian and a package pool have in common? Buster Crabbe. If you’re new to the pool industry or young in years, that name probably isn’t familiar. But he was a famous athlete/actor/pool spokesman “back in the day.”
Crabbe’s swimming achievements included an Olympic gold medal in the 400m freestyle (1932) and a bronze in the 1500m freestyle (1928). Much later, in 1971, he broke the world record for those over age 60 in the 400m freestyle.
In Hollywood, he was the only actor to play Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon – the top three syndicated comic strip heroes of the 1930s – in numerous serial movies. The handsome thespian also starred in more than 100 westerns, comedies and action films. His TV shows included “Capt. Gallant of the Foreign Legion.”
Crabbe joined the pool industry in the 1950s, but still kept acting. His main focus became his pool line – Buster Crabbe pools by Cascade Industries. He promoted the heck out of those pools, appearing everywhere, even at shopping malls and fairgrounds. Soon dealers on the East Coast and in the South were selling the newfangled package pools. By the late 1960s, his pools were available in 28 countries. Until his death in 1983, Crabbe actively marketed the pools – as well as his swim camps for kids in the state of New York.
Crabbe and his wife of 50 years, Virginia, had two girls and a boy. Cullen followed in his father’s footsteps, acting and also working in the pool business. In 1972, he talked with Pool News, as we were called then, about being a child actor on the Capt. Gallant show. In college, Cullen was on a New Jersey pool-building crew in the summers; after graduation, he was assigned two crews of his own. Later, he became corporate president of distributor Buster Crabbe Pools of Arizona, as well as appearing in TV shows and a movie with his father.
As far as we know, the Crabbe family is no longer in the pool industry, but they certainly had a positive impact. You might say that Buster and Cullen Crabbe helped make the industry what it is today.