If you need to lighten the mood around the Thanksgiving table today, maybe you can share the story of Tom-Tom, the swimming turkey of Glendale who met an untimely end just before Thanksgiving in 1960.
The celebrated swimming turkey of Glendale was a strange and wondrous bird. And if ever there was a turkey that figured to survive Thanksgiving, it was Tom-Tom, because he was different.
When Albert LaChasse’s four small boys acquired Tom-Tom as a chick last spring, little did they dream he would grow up to be a non-conformist.
But Tom-Tom soon gave a hint of his individualism by scorning the usual scratch feed and taking up a diet of hot dogs, dry cereal, watermelon and toast.
In the torrid days of late summer Tom-Tom astonished everybody by plunging into the LaChasse pool at 1321 N. Howard St., Glendale, and swimming with the boys. It got so the turkey would splash in by himself before breakfast. He followed the children around like a dog.
National magazines heard about this unusual fowl, and Tom-Tom became famous.
"Some people accused us of putting cork in his mash," Albert LaChasse recalls.
The truth is, however, that Tom-Tom’s mother was frightened by a water ouzel. And his father was a floater.
With the leaves reddening on the trees and the festive season approaching, tragedy befell the LaChasse family. Tom-Tom had taken a quick dip, shook his wattles and gobbled a hot dog. He was riding a tricycle. He fell off and broke his drumstick.
Tenderly, Albert LaChasse took Tom-Tom to the Calabasas ranch of Mrs. Mae Hunter, a sister-in-law of baseball’s Casey Stengel. She doctored the turkey. Penicillin. When Tom-Tom failed to respond they operated.
The operation was a success, but the patient died.
"We gave him a decent burial," LaChasse murmured. "But I still haven’t got the heart to tell the kids."
Thus it happened that Tom-Tom, the swimming turkey that brought happiness to people in a different way, fell two weeks short of making it through Thanksgiving — the ambition of turkeys everywhere. And if there is a moral to the story, it’s probably this:
Non-conformity is for the birds.
Original published caption, Nov. 16, 1959: GOBBLERS—Diane Vaccaro is surrounded by birds at only turkey ranch left in Torrance. Others have moved south of the mountains. Credit: Los Angeles Times / UCLA Library