As textbook manager of the Franklin & Marshall bookstore, Ray Fulton sells plenty of history books. But as he leans back in his chair on the lower level of Distler House, he becomes a historian himself.
One minute, Fulton traces the bookstore's path from the Steinman College Center to Distler, with a stop at College Square in between. Next he tells of his trips to the historic Saratoga Race Course, the oldest horserace track in the United States. Then he talks about his love of 18th- and 19th-century American history.
But his history as a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies is most timely on this day.
"I've been a fan ever since the big choke in 1964," he says. "My two older brothers and I would listen to games on the radio. The '64 team lost 10 games in a row, and it affects you. That's what's been so unbelievable about the last two years. You never expected them to do what they're doing."
Fulton joined the College in 1987 around the time when the bookstore went to a computerized textbook system. "They used to have cards, a Rolodex of information," Fulton says. "You'd place an order in the 1980s and it would take a month to get here."
The bookstore used to be in the space that is now the Phillips Museum of Art. In 1990, it came under the umbrella of the Follett Corporation, and moved to the second level of College Square the following year. Now under Barnes & Noble management, it moved to Distler in 2004.
"When we were at College Square, I wasn't on campus more than a few times per year," Fulton says. "Now I'm right beside Jazzman's, in the middle of campus. I can pop out and get coffee whenever I want."
Fulton's duties are the most hectic during the bookends of each semester, especially the first week in September. "Sometimes it's difficult to pull off because there are so many pitfalls," he says. "Different textbook editions and different enrollments for classes make it challenging. A class might start with five students and end up with 25, so you might have to do a quick turnaround."
Away from his job, Fulton enjoys traveling to Saratoga Springs each summer to watch horse races, one of his longtime passions. He is fascinated with the history of Saratoga, and of the prominent Whitney and Vanderbilt families who were heavily involved in thoroughbred horse racing during the 19th and 20th centuries.
He also likes to relax by playing classical guitar—the result of a surprise Christmas gift he received from his wife five years ago.
"It's a stress reliever," Fulton says of the guitar. "I was getting to the point where I wanted some other skills. I'm a halfway decent golfer, but I said, 'why not guitar?' They teach you a few chords and you can learn on your own. My instructor said if I learned some classical techniques, I could manage my way around it."
Back in Distler, Fulton exudes a love of books that has inspired him since he began working at F&M. "A good bit of knowledge of mankind is sitting here in this bookstore," he says. "I feel fortunate to be around it every day."