Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Batfish director right at home


Muskogee Phoenix
By Cathy Spaulding
March 14, 2006

Tobi Ledbetter recalls spending her first summer in college giving tours of Muskogee’s submarine, the U.S.S. Batfish

“We did not have a museum then, just a little building with a cash register,” said Ledbetter, now 47. “And we had no air conditioning, so it was very hot, but very fun.”

Now, 30 years later, Ledbetter is director of the Batfish, located just east of the Muskogee Turnpike by the Arkansas River. She started work March 1.

The submarine also is getting air conditioning this summer, she said.

Commissioned in 1943, the U.S.S. Batfish sank 15 enemy ships and damaged numerous others during two years of service in the Pacific.

It moved to Muskogee in 1972 and attracts hundreds of people to Muskogee each year, especially during reunions and Memorial Day.

“A lot of people in Muskogee don’t really know about it,” Ledbetter said Monday. “Most of the visitors are from out of town. “We’re closed today, but we had some people coming in from Texas.”

She recalled working a booth about Muskogee tourism at a recent boat show.

“And people would see the pictures of the submarine and ask how did the submarine come to Muskogee and why is it there,” she said.

“We got more interest in the submarine than we did other attractions like the Five Tribes Museum.”

Before taking over as director, Ledbetter was youth director at First Presbyterian Church and before that was event coordinator of The Castle of Muskogee.

One of the first things she plans to do at the Batfish is to work with other Muskogee attractions putting together a pass-book.

“It would be a pass-book of free one-day passes to area attractions,” she said. “We plan to kick it off during the Azalea Festival.”

Starting this year, visits to the Batfish won’t be so hot because of a new air conditioning system, she said.

“We are installing air conditioning in existing ducts,” she said, adding that the system will not alter the historic integrity of the vessel.

“We are inspected by the U.S. Navy every year and they have maintenance plans for the sub,” she said.

About The Batfish
• Open to the public from March 15 to Oct. 15.
• Commissioned May 5, 1943. Decommissioned, Aug. 4, 1958.
• Came to Muskogee in 1972.
• Information: 682-6294.



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