Judy Auritt Klein


Junior, collegiate and national record holder at 50 yard, 100, 220, 440, 880 yards & 1 mile

Judy Auritt Kline was a pioneer in the sport of swimming, and was setting records and winning championships while women’s swimming was still in its initial stages. Born in Philadelphia, Judy began swimming at an early age. While attending elementary school, she vacationed with her family at Lake Almonesson in Deptford. Some cousins took their vacations across the lake, "and my mom kept showing up there," Judy’s daughter Anne Klein Farber told The Philadelphia Inquirer, even though it was a long walk away. It took some time, Anne noted, for her mother's parents to realize that the child was swimming all the way across the lake. Judy grew up in the Cobbs Creek area and graduated from West Philadelphia High School. She was an AAU Junior National and Middle Atlantic States swimming champion in her teens, despite swimming against older women. She told The Morning Call (of Allentown): “At 13, I swam against 20- and 21-year-olds. There were two classes: You swam in novice if you never won a medal, and the rest was open field.” Auritt traveled as far away as Minnesota and Chicago to AAU meets. Each time she and her teammates were about to compete, all the Philadelphia papers – the Ledger, the Record, the Bulletin, and the Inquirer – published their sagas. She held Middle Atlantic Championships and resident and championship records in 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and the 220-, 440-, 880-yard and one-mile distances. Several of her records still stand. Lane lines had not yet become a part of the sport, and older pool designs and the lack of lane lines made for a great deal of water turbulence. Judy had to learn to swim straight without bumping into the pool walls before she was accepted in the high-caliber Broadwood swim club, coached by the legendary Bill Watson. While the high-gutter swimming pools were 25 yards wide and 25 meters long, races consisted of 100-, 150-, 220-, and 440-yard distances and many summer races were conducted in lakes. “You didn’t finish to the end of the pool,” Auritt once explained. “You swam to ropes and flags that were strung across the pool. It was a little archaic. It took a lot of value judgment in some races, and it wasn’t very fair. You had to win decisively with ropes.” Judy attended the University of Pennsylvania where she was captain of the swim team. She won the 150-yard individual medley in the collegiate telegraphic nationals four times, and she still holds the record because the distance was changed to 200 yards after she graduated. The Penn women swam in regional championships against schools such as Swarthmore, Temple, and Bryn Mawr. Their times were submitted by telegraph to a central agency which determined the national collegiate champions; thus, the nationals were called “telegraphic.” Although she undoubtedly would have qualified, her dream of going to the Olympic games unfortunately never materialized: While she was at the peak of her career, the 1940 and 1944 games were cancelled because of World War II. During the war, she organized water ballet performances with the USO for servicemen and was the official pin-up girl for the 33rd Fighter Squadron in Iceland. In 1946, Judy married Robert (Bob) Klein, a civil engineering student at Penn State after he returned from World War II as a decorated Marine with three purple hearts. Judy transferred to Penn State University for her senior year. After Bob joined his family's stove-making firm, the married couple moved with the company to Allentown and raised their children there. After college, Judy never swam again in any competition. She became very involved in voluntary services in both Allentown and Philadelphia: She served as Board of Education president for the Allentown School District from 1976 to 1978, and was also a volunteer for the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Judy Auritt Kline is a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the West Philadelphia High School Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and has received the Penn State School of Liberal Arts Service to Society Award. She died at age 91 in September 2016. by Marc Kirsch

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Charter Class (2004)

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