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George McCormick walks around Vashon Island on March 23, 1938.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3722 : Printer-Friendly Format

On March 23, 1938, George McCormick, a hardware store owner on Vashon Island, wins a bet that he can walk the circumference of Vashon Island in less than 24 hours. He starts his walk at 10 a.m., and finishes at 6:50 a.m. the next morning, becoming $67 richer in the process.

All Bets are On

Earlier in the month, McCormick wondered amongst friends if it was possible to walk the shoreline of both Vashon and Maury Island in less than a day. A good-natured debate ensued, with McCormick firmly stating that it was indeed possible, and that he was the man to do it.

Vashon and Maury Island are connected by a small strip of land, effectively forming one island. The total circumference of the land mass is 65 miles. Many felt that distance was too great to be covered in one day, especially considering that the walk would be over sand and rock the entire way.

Islanders placed their bets. The money was kept by the proprietor of The Alibi, a combined pool hall, card room, and home of the 35-cent blue plate lunch special which included Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, and buttered bread (coffee extra).

Dressed for Success

McCormick began studying tide tables. He scheduled his walk for March 23, when the water level was at its lowest. Agnes Smock, editor of the Vashon Island News Record, noted that once George set out to do something, nothing could stop him. Besides, she wanted a little piece of the opposition money herself, having thrown in a couple of bucks in George’s favor.

When asked what his wife thought of his shenanigans and the betting, McCormick stated, “Mrs. McCormick is noncommittal.” Other islanders were more outspoken, and within a few weeks, $67 was sitting in the Alibi’s kitty.

McCormick readied himself. He packed a flashlight, an extra pair of shoes, and six pairs of socks. If it was raining he planned on wearing dungarees and a shirt, but if the sun was out, he’d go without the shirt.

Walk Around The Clock

On March 23, A crowd of well-wishers were on hand as McCormick started his journey from the Tahlequah ferry dock. At 10 a.m., Deputy Sheriff F. J. Shattuck fired a shot into the air, and the walk was on. McCormick proceeded counter-clockwise around the island.

At 1:30 p.m. he passed Burton, and at 2:00 p.m. he arrived at Dockton. School was let out early so that the youngsters could cheer him on. At 7:30 p.m. he stopped at Glenacres, near the northern tip of the island. Deputy Sheriff Shattuck was there to give McCormick’s feet an alcohol rub.

He reached Vashon Heights at 8:30 p.m., and began travelling down the west side of the island. He received another foot rub at 9:50 p.m. when he reached Cedarhurst. From there it was Colvos at 11:00 p.m., Cove at 1 a.m., and Lisabuela at 4:30 a.m., where Shattuck was on hand for yet another alcohol rub.

By now it was apparent that McCormick would easily win his bet. After passing Paradise Cove at 5:30 a.m., he arrived back at Tahlequah at 6:50. There was much rejoicing.

Secret of His Success

McCormick basked in the glory. The Vashon Island News-Record vaguely compared his feat to Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic crossing in 1927. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed a picture of a smiling McCormick rubbing his tired feet, as well as a gnarly close-up of said feet.

McCormick told the P-I that he owed his success to Deputy Sheriff Shattuck’s three foot rubs. That, he said, and the pint of Kentucky bourbon he knocked back just before he reached Tahlequah at the end of his historic walk.

Sources:
“Around Vashon in 24 Hours -- He Hopes,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer , March 6, 1938, p. 2; “McCormick Starts Long Hike Around Island,” Vashon Island News-Record , March 24, 1938, p. 1; “Man of Iron Circles Vashon to Win $67,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer , March 25, 1938, p. 2; “George McCormick Wins Again,” Vashon Island News-Record, March 31, 1939, p. 1.


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George McCormick waits while Deputy Sheriff F. J. Shattuck prepares to fire the starting shot that will begin McCormick's walk around Vashon Island, March 23, 1938
Courtesy Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association


 
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