June Lockhart and her swimming cat, George

“What Do You Know?  George is a Swimmer!”
Thus proclaimed ad copy accompanying some photos taken for an Associated Press piece at the home of actress June Lockhart in April 1963 of her pet cat, George, who apparently enjoyed taking a dip in the Lockhart family pool. AP Photographer David F. Smith was on hand to snap images of June and George as they swam about the pool.

June Lockhart and her swimming cat George

This copy accompanied the above photo:

HOLLYWOOD – April 24, 1963 – George, a cat owned by actress June Lockhart and her family, goes for a swim yesterday with his owner in the family pool in Hollywood. George is one of five cats owned by the actress and her husband, architect John Lindsay, and their two daughters. The youngsters were instrumental in getting George’s feet wet for the first time. Now he seems to enjoy a daily dip in the pool with the family. Miss Lockhart plays the role of the mother in the television series, ‘Lassie,’ which goes into its eighth year on the air next season.” (AP Wirephoto)

June’s other cats were named Jenny, Lavinia, Charlie and Tusla Ruby (a stray they picked up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Most newspapers ran the photo with an abbreviated version of the story, such as this:

April 25, 1963 – George, the swimming cat, enjoys a dip in the pool and even lets actress June Lockhart paddle along with him. Miss Lockhart claims title to the Hollywood pool, but she and George both know it really belongs to him.

Later that year, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune ran a longer story about George in their June 15th issue:

June Lockhart’s Feline Wins Swimming Contest
By Joseph Finnegan

    HOLLYWOOD (UPI) – We had a swimming race with June Lockhart’s aquatic cat “George” the other day and lost.
      George seemed like a pussy cat possessed as he streaked along the water, all four paws feverishly clawing up a wake.
      It’s not easy to lose gracefully to a swimming feline, but it should be pointed out that Miss Lockhart’s cat gets plenty of practice in the actress’ hot water pool.
      Most humans don’t have a hot water pool, let alone a cat.
      George, a two-year-old cat with a hint of Persian in his background and little else, is the pride of Miss Lockhart’s household zoo which consists of two dogs and four other kitties who don’t dare go near the water.
      They look at George with stars in their eyes, not to mention a bit of wonderment when he joins June for a paddle around the pool.
      “I’m sure George could go the whole length of this 45-foot pool if he paced himself,” bragged Miss Lockhart as she dried off the winner.
      “George’s motivation is quite simple. He wants to get on the other side. That’s the same with all of us.”
      Miss Lockhart, who plays the mother on CBS-TV’s “Lassie,” said the cat’s swimming victory marked its debut in competition.
      “I don’t know what we call his stroke,” she said. “It’s certainly not the dog paddle. I guess you could call it the cat paddle. This was his first freestyle open competition. Actually, though, George is nothing with his backstroke.”
      The pretty actress, wearing a fetching black bathing suit, joined George for his first race. The cat was understandably nervous when he saw a photographer alongside the pool waiting to record the winner.
George might be a good swimmer, but Miss Lockhart admitted he’s no good as a mouse catcher.
      That’s probably because he spends all his time hanging around the pool.
      One fact is certain, Miss Lockhart has the most mouse free swimming pool in Hollywood.

Another photo shows June drying off George with a hair dryer after the swim:

June Lockhart and her swimming cat George

Click here to see more of David F. Smith’s images from the photo shoot on Corbis Images

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