Craftsman welder and artisan Hugh Davis created a surprise wedding anniversary gift for his wife Zelta between 1970 and 1972. She loved whales. He constructed a life size ferroconcrete smiling blue whale in a pond just north of Catoosa, Oklahoma. He was an accomplished wildlife photographer and one-time curator of the Mohawk Zoo in Tulsa. Furthermore, his many grandchildren hovered around him as he fabricated the whale, like those children in the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Only his grandkids were in bathing suits jumping off the whale. Although originally built for his wife and grandkids to enjoy at the family swimming hole, it was eventually opened to the public. It was closed as a “water park” in 1988.
The blue whale stops traffic today on historic Route 66 just north of Catoosa, OK off Exit 248 on I-44. We saw a tour bus there loaded with international visitors. The place was crowded until the bus left! Then it was just us and a British couple that had seen the Catoosa Blue Whale on a travel show and had to pay a visit. You can’t swim with the blue whale, but admission is free to walk through the whale, climb up into its head, peer out portholes, and scoot up a ladder in its tail. The main structure is steel rods bent and welded together, then covered with metal plaster lath. Davis smeared cement over the lath and painted it bright blue. The jaunty smile invites all comers to play Jonah.
Is ferroconcrete strong and safe enough ? Boat builders have made hulls of sailing vessels of welded steel with concrete applied onto the steel mesh. Elsewhere on the site Davis has built a series of brightly painted giant concrete mushrooms, a public concrete restroom building, and concrete picnic tables. An unfinished ark built of lumber remains.
Also onsite is Molly’s Tamales, so you if happens to be lunchtime (or snack time) check them out. The food was very good. There were a number of locals just stopping by for lunch. Of the many wonders along historic Route 66, the blue whale that swallows people is one of the zaniest.