Northeast of Lake Havasu City on Interstate 40, smack dab in the middle of sprawling Yucca, Arizona, sits a tall, yellow and red sign. The ground beneath the sign is void of any structures. What sat underneath was bulldozed into oblivion several years ago. Concrete foundations remain, with faded lettering on the behemoth billboard reading, WHITING BROS.
At one time the Whiting Brothers had a profitable service station on this property along with a motel. For the record, there were close to one-hundred Whiting Brothers facilities throughout the country. Their simplistic motto was,
“Quality gas for less!”
‘Hard times’ hit this company below the belt during the 1970’s. One by one their petroleum stations closed doors. Economic weakness forced such upon a slew of Arizona businesses during the fuel shortage years. Tourism dollars took a terrible plunge because of increased gasoline prices. People drove as little as they could.
A few hundred feet away from the Whiting Brothers sign sits the remains of another motel and café. Mostly built of brick, these decaying buildings can still be seen from I-40. Thankfully heavy equipment hasn’t touched them; yet. Their time is undoubtedly limited.
A young Yucca resident that wishes to remain anonymous mentioned that a huge truck stop is in the planning stages. That’s all the information I could get out of her. Another resident informed me the truck stop rumor has been going strong for years.
It makes sense that a refueling station will ultimately end up in this area. Plenty of property is available for big rigs to park, plus there are several entrances and exits. A little widening and lengthening of the access road, including all entrance and exits would need to be done. Someone with sufficient political pull can make that happen.
Whiting Brothers in Arizona date back to the early 1900’s. The Whiting family moved to St. Johns, Arizona before the turn of the century. Edwin M. Whiting started his first business there in 1901. At an early age, son Edwin I. became a partner. They were highly successful timber and lumber tycoons. Both men were involved in the mercantile industry as well. The Whiting’s as a family were a tight knit group.
Edwin I. Whiting and his wife Ethel had 4 sons; Lee, Merwin, Virgil, and Farr. Lee died as an infant. Merwin was killed at the age of 15 in a horrific tractor accident. Virgil and Farr worked side by side with dad in the various family enterprises. The boys picked up Edwin’s hard work ethics. His moral and business standards also rubbed off. The trio were entrepreneurial go-getters!
Virgil and Farr were instrumental in making the company grow in leaps and bounds. When Edwin I. Whiting reached retirement age, the 2 boys took over reins. They found other avenues of revenue which included substantial real estate investments. The Whiting Brothers thrived. They gave back to the community much of what they took in. They were heavily involved in civic activity. The St. Johns community loved them dearly.
Things went well for many years until March 29, 1961. That’s the day Virgil and Farr Whiting went missing on a flight. They were flying from St. Johns to Phoenix on a business trip. Their twin-engine plane was discovered several days later. It’d cratered into the side of a mountain instantly killing both siblings. A severe storm with icing and turbulence was believed to have caused the crash. Virgil Whiting was an accomplished pilot having flown bombers during WWII. Evidently he misjudged weather on this trip.
Edwin I. Whiting announced after his son’s funerals, that son-in-law: Wilford Shumway, Sherwood Udall, and Darwin Grant would assume control of company holdings. Edwin I. Whiting died less than 2 years after Farr and Virgil perished. He was 80. The husband, father, and businessman is buried in Saint Johns Cemetery along with his wife and 4 sons.
Whiting Investments is now owned by Shae and Steven Shumway. They’ve carried the Whiting success story to a higher level where real estate development is concerned. Whiting Brothers gas stations are mere history. Luxury hotels seem to be the Shumway brothers forte. They recently built their eighth. This last hotel, a Residence Inn by Marriott, opened at Flagstaff in 2017. Perhaps Lake Havasu City will be their ninth?
When I drive past Yucca, Arizona I never fail to glance at that enormous Whiting Brothers sign. I also look for the Kenworth truck on a pole. Both are a bit faded since I first saw them in 1985.
If and when a new truck stop comes to Yucca, hopefully the Whiting Brothers billboard remains. The town mayor needs to address this. I assume Yucca has a mayor. If not, then someone needs to claim the title.
The Whiting Brothers sign is a viable landmark of the unincorporated town; Honolulu Club on the opposite side of I-40 being another. The way I view things: the sign, the truck, and the club (at least their sign) keep Yucca on the map. A brand new truck stop would make it more than just a spot!