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Patsy Hamilton: In Memory of Mom

April 25th, 2009 · 36 Comments · Moms (& Other Grown Ups) Who Were Twirlers

Today is the Patsy Hamilton Memorial Contest.  This is an annual baton twirling competition here in northern California, that has been keeping the memory of my mother alive for the past 15 years.

Last Year's Patsy Hamilton Memorial Contest Solo Finalists

Last Year's Patsy Hamilton Memorial Contest Solo Finalists

I’m so appreciative to the USTA California Baton Council for this ongoing tribute to my mother.  She was involved in the sport of baton twirling, as well as other pageantry activities, for many years.  With her unexpected passing in 1994, her loss was felt by many people in the baton twirling community, and of course the loss personally and for our family was tremendous.

The memorial event includes an essay contest, where young athletes submit one page essays on a given topic, such as sportsmanship, competitiveness, or inspirational mentors.  Over the years it’s been wonderful to read the thoughts of competitors, ranging in age from about 7 to 17, on what life lessons the sport of baton twirling teaches.  Mom was also a writer and she would be delighted about the nature of this legacy!

This contest was formerly the “Council Contest” at the culmination of the regional competitive season.   It’s an event that I competed in, and later judged,  for many years.  The Archive of Champions lists winners dating back to 1967.  It’s especially meaningful that this particular important competition now carries mom’s name.

Patsy Hamilton ~ baton coach, judge, clinician, dance teacher, writer, wife, mother, & grandmother

Patsy Hamilton ~ baton coach, judge, clinician, dance teacher, writer, wife, mother, & grandmother

Patsy Speer (she later married and became Patsy Hamilton) studied dance and baton twirling, as well as music (she played accordion!), throughout her childhood.  Growing up in San Francisco, she performed frequently at conventions, benefits, parades, 49er football halftime shows, a local live TV show called the Belfast Pop Club with Don Sherwood, and on the Ed Sullivan show.  One of her influential instructors was Robert Olmstead.  In the 1950s, Patsy was the featured majorette with the Spanishtown Dons, a men’s precision drill team in Half Moon Bay, CA.

Patsy Hamilton, Featured Majorette (pictured near the middle), accepting awards with the Half Moon Bay Spanishtown Dons

Patsy Hamilton, Featured Majorette (pictured near the middle), accepting awards with the Half Moon Bay Spanishtown Dons

Meanwhile, my dad was a drummer in the Weldonians, a private marching band in Oakland, CA. My parents got to know each other through the parade activity and later while both attending San Francisco State University.

Patsy and Arthur “Bud” Hamilton founded the Hayward Twirlettes Baton and Drum Corps in the late 1950’s.  I grew up learning to twirl and perform with the corps.  My mom continued to be my teacher and coach as I competed as an individual twirler throughout childhood.  My sister twirled as well, and I have armloads of memories of attending baton competitions with my mom and sister.  During this period Patsy also directed the Oakland Raider Girls cheerleading dance line.

Patsy was a judge and clinician, very active in the United States Twirling Association (USTA) organization for many years.  She taught baton twirling, drill team, drum major, and leadership at summer camps for the United Spirit Association.  She was one of the early members of the professional parade judging association, All-American, which later became the Pacific Coast Judges Association.  She taught internationally with the International Twirling Teachers Institute (ITTI) in the early 1970’s.  This organization paved the way for the formation of the World Baton Twirling Federation.

Patsy and Bud Hamilton owned the Hamilton Studios of Dance and Music in San Ramon, CA in the 1970’s-1980’s.  This was after many years of teaching dance, baton, and music at the Bev-El Dance Studio in Danville, CA, which later became Danville Music and Dance Center.

It’s wonderful for me to have the opportunity to remember and write about my mother.  It’s difficult to fathom that she’s been gone 15 years, and yet she’s always here with us…perched on a shoulder as a reassuring, and often laughing angel.

I have added to my “to do” list:  dig through the many historic photos we have that document baton twirling and marching pageantry in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and onward.  I look forward to lots of scanning and future blog posts about some of this rich history!

Copyrighted images ~ All Rights Reserved.  Appreciation to the California Baton Council, Berta Lane and Patty Lohuis for sharing the PHMC photo.

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36 Comments so far ↓

  • 20th Annual Patsy Hamilton Memorial Contest | Twirl Planet

    […] You can read more details about Patsy’s life at this earlier blog post. […]

  • Dellene Duke Bussey

    I was a member of the 49er Majorettes until I started college in 1968. I well-remember taking classes from Patsy at Robert’s summer camp in Santa Cruz, and having Patsy as a judge for both my participation in solo competition and team competition. I’m so sorry to hear of her passing, and cherish memories of the good times when I was both her student, fellow performer, and camp instructor.

  • Rick bolander

    I Still have my parade drum, 1960 to 1965?
    And many good memories.
    Hope to connect the dots of local history, I’m still local.

  • Rick bolander

    Olmsted Studio, 49r’s. Palo Alto, Ca.
    To clarify my interest.

  • Joanne waylett

    I just stumbled onto this. My daughter took dance lessons from your mom in 1978 and 79. She was in the tiny tot classes. She was such a nice lady. Thanks for sharing. How remarkable she was. We never knew that.

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