The Clatskanie Connection

Way up in the northwestern corner of Oregon is the small town of Clatskanie. Despite being over 200 miles away from where Oregon’s infamous whale made its debut, it lays claim to its own unique connections to the Exploding Whale.

In an editorial in The Clatskanie Chief, publisher and editor Deborah Steele Hazen writes, “There are many far-flung paths that begin, end or cross in Clatskanie.” One of those paths involves Jack Sweeney, who, in a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon kind of way, is intrinsically linked to the exploding whale through his relationships with two key players in that drama.

It turns out that Sweeney was classmates with George Thornton — the highway engineer in charge of the detonation — in Clatskanie High School’s class of 1947. And then at some point, Sweeney relocated to Eugene and became neighbors with none other than Walter Umenhofer, the poor guy whose 1969 Oldsmobile was crushed by a large piece of flying whale blubber following the explosion. Recently, Sweeney incorporated Thornton’s story and the exploding whale into his 60th CHS class reunion.

The article concludes with this observation:

Thus, George’s whale explosion – and the worldwide notoriety it has garnered – became an interesting and humorous feature of the reunion, and, more proof that Clatskanie may, indeed, be the center of the universe – especially if you believe in the ‘Big Bang’ theory.

You can read the whole article (which, by the way, does make mention of TheExplodingWhale.com, thank you very much!) here:

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