The Blue Whale: A love story in Catoosa, Oklahoma

If you’ve traveled through Oklahoma, you’ve probably heard of the Blue Whale. Today you’ll enjoy the site of the 80’ long metal whale happily floating on the waters of a small pond, and you may catch a glimpse of the turtles and geese who live there, but that’s not the real story here.

The wooden ark to the left upon entering the parking lot was the first to be erected for a playground for the Davis children. Today, it’s surrounded by a fence and signage warn that it’s fragile and poses a risk to climbers. 

Other structures are also past their prime, but the place offers visitors a glimpse about the character of Hugh Davis, the architect of this colorful roadside attraction along Route 66 in Catoosa, Oklahoma. 

A sign written by Hugh’s daughter, Dee Dee reads: “The Blue Whale was built by Hugh S. Davis, Boy Scout, photographer, zoologist, lecturer, father of two, grandfather of four, great-grandfather of nine, and friend of many. Hugh believed that every day was a beautiful day, that people should use the talents God gave them, that one should keep busy by thinking, planning, and creating, that people should love what they do and do what they love, that you should always finish what you start, and that you should enjoy life and live it to its fullest.”

Hugh retired from the Tulsa Zoo, and in the 1960s, began sketching a fish that would result in the waterfront attraction that has survived more than half a century. Work began in 1970. It took Hugh and friend/welder, Harold Thomas more than two years, several thousand dollars and many hours of hard work to create the keeper of this once playground for the Davis children. The history alone makes it a worthwhile place to stop, take a few photos and have a stroll. 

But the message that begs to be told is why the vision lived inside the mind of Hugh Davis. Hugh’s creation is a masterful and touching love story. While toiling some 2,900 hours just to hand mix and carry in the cement to encase the metal frame, Hugh, had a single focus. He had to finish the monument as an anniversary gift to his wife, Zelta who delighted in collecting whale-shaped figurines.

Hugh died January 11th, 1990.  Zelta passed away August 1, 2001. Their daughter, Dee Dee (Davis) Belt and her husband, Dick Blaine and his sons, John and Paul, kept the grounds maintained and the gates until the grounds were gifted to The City of Catoosa in 2020.

Author: Margaret

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