Submitted by Earl Lanning, 1950-53
Thomas Dallas George was not what you would call your average Rochester sailor. He was a good seaman and could perform most any of the deck hand skills. He was well-liked by everyone and he was in Jackson’s 3rd Division.
I first met T.D. (that’s what we called him) in Columbia, SC, where they had sent me from Asheville, NC, to be sworn in by the Navy. We went to San Diego by train, and were in the same company in boot camp. Later we were assigned to the ROCHESTER, which we boarded in Japan.
Everything was going OK with T.D. and myself. Although we were later in different divisions, we were in the same area and would see each other every day. Like I said, George was just somehow different….sometimes he would get a little gleam in this eye, and no one had better dare him to do something, because he was fearless.
T.D. was in awe of some of the “old salts” that were on the ship at that time. Many of them had been in the Navy since the ’30’s. He would sit for hours and listen to them spin yarns about “Old” Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and other exotic ports. Back in their days they were pretty wild and dangerous places. Now, some of those old-timers had beliefs that went way back in seafaring tradition. This is where the story begins.
One day I was talking with him and he said, “Earl, you know what my greatest fear is?” I said I didn’t think he was afraid of anything. “Well, I am. I’ve always had a fear of drowning.” I wondered why since he was a great swimmer. But, he smiled at me and said, “I have this figured out now. When we get in port I will show you what I mean. Old Drummond in the 3rd Division told me what to do.” I told him that that old nut would get him killed.
But a few weeks later, after we had been in port, I met T.D. standing back by the 3rd Division hatch. He had that grin on his face. I knew he had been up to something. He said, “Look Earl,” as he pulled up his bell-bottom jeans and pointed down. To my amazement, there, on the top of one foot was tattooed a pig and on the other, a rooster. He said, “Old Drummond says it will keep you from drowning”.
A week or so later we were still in port. A bunch of us were sitting around in the aft starboard mess hall drinking coffee and talking. T.D. had on a pair of flip flops and was staring down at his feet. He looked up at me with that gleam in his eye and said, “Earl, I am going to try them out.” He jumped up and started running. The other fellow asked what that was all about. A few moments later we heard the O.D. call out on the intercom, “Man Overboard! Man Overboard! Starboard Side!” We all ran up topside and over to the rail, just in time to see T.D. swimming alongside, even with the aft 5″ turret. He swam back to the boat boom on the fantail and climbed up on it. He looked at me, sticking one foot out and said, “See, I told you Old Drummond knew what to do…it worked!”