The deceased former owners and a longtime caretaker of the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma, were inducted into the 2018 Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame.
The inductees were the Hugh and Zelta Davis, who owned the Route 66 landmark for years, and their son, Blaine Davis, a caretaker for the whale.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Association inducts Hall of Fame members — one living and one deceased — every two years. “These recipients have made outstanding contributions to the promotion, preservation, education, or business along the Mother Road,” the association’s summer newsletter stated.
The Davises were inducted several weeks ago at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.
Hugh Davis, a retired director of the nearby Tulsa Zoo, hand-built the 80-foot-long, concrete-and-rebar Blue Whale in the early 1970s at a spring-fed pond near Catoosa as a surprise anniversary gift to his wife, Zelta, who loved whale figurines. The Blue Whale eventually became a popular swimming hole.
According to a Wikipedia article, the Blue Whale was part of a larger complex:
Originally calling it Nature’s Acres, Mr. Davis continued to add to the roadside attraction until it eventually included The Fun and Swim Blue Whale and the A.R.K. (Animal Reptile Kingdom). The attraction also featured Hugh’s brother-in-law, Indian Chief Wolf-Robe Hunt, a full blooded Acoma Indian, who was famous in his own right for his Indian paintings and as a highly skilled silversmith. Chief Wolf-Robe Hunt once ran the Arrowood Trading post across the highway from the Blue Whale attraction.
The remnants of the A.R.K. and Arrowhead Trading Post still are there.
The aging Davises became unable to keep up the property and closed it by 1988. Hugh died in 1990, and Zelta died in 2001. The Blue Whale site fell into disrepair.
But thanks to Blaine Davis and other volunteer efforts, the Blue Whale reopened to the public by 2003. A group, Fins of the Blue Whale, began several long-term improvements to the property, including a new concrete walkway to the whale and reopening a concession stand as a souvenir shop. The Blue Whale remains one of the most-photographed sites along Route 66.
(Image of the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma, by Ayleen Dority via Flickr; images of the Davies via the Oklahoma Route 66 Association newsletter)