Route 66 in the News

Highway Icon Good As New

2011-09-26 09:44:54

CATOOSA, Okla. - Route 66's most famous water-dweller has been rescued from the depths of disrepair.

The Bill Haynes Company, a Tulsa business, recently painted The Blue Whale, restoring the roadside landmark to its former glory.

"It needed refurbishing," said The Blue Whale curator Blaine Davis, adding that the concrete attraction hadn't been painted since 1995. "The timing couldn't have been better."

A former Tulsa Zoo director, Hugh Davis, Blaine's father, completed The Blue Whale on a pond in 1972 as a wedding anniversary present to his wife, Zelta. Hugh Davis died in 1990.

"In Oklahoma weather, with the way things expand and contract, especially concrete, it had developed large cracks," Blaine Davis said. "The cracks were big enough that it would have really been a problem this winter...The water would have got in there and froze and expanded, and it would have started coming off in chunks. The surface is back the way it looked the day Dad got through with it."

Hampton Inn, as part of its Save-A-Landmark Program, renovated the restrooms, fence and grounds of the attraction in 2002.

But the hotel chain only scrubbed the 80-foot-long, 15-foot-tall and 10-foot wide creation, Blaine Davis said.

Haynes performed a full-blown makeover, taking about a week to fill the landmark's cracks and apply Ultracoating, which expands and contracts and doesn't crack like normal paint, he said.

Haynes also has painted the Will Rogers Birthplace Home near Oologah and the Golden Driller in Tulsa. He agreed to paint the Whale in exchange for use of it in the company's promotional materials for three years.

The coating is expected to last at least 25 years, he said.

"The whale is just an iconic figure there on Route 66," Haynes said. "I passed by and looked at it, and it was in very serious need of attention.

"Obviously, it was a great place again to showcase our Ultracoating, plus also help protect The Blue Whale."

Every year, thousands of people come from across the globe to visit the blubbery behemoth. Plans already are under way for its 40th birthday party in September 2012, he said.

"Everything will be blue-ified," Davis said.

~Rhett Morgan, Tulsa World


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