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OOOPS I forgot to post this one last week, magical creatures, the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs

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sue1

Hi, Gail and fjed. So glad you both enjoyed the puzzle.

fjed

I lived in Brooksville near there. The mother of one of my students was an early mermaid there.

Gaillou

This brings back memories. We went there in the 50s. I was amazed how the girls could stay under water so long!

racoonstar

@sue1 - you're welcome. Monty Python always makes me laugh. :D

sue1

That was funny, Bob. Thanks for the link.

sue1

Hi, Pam, Julie and Bob. I'll have to check out that video. They have a pen pal program for students under 17 that stress literacy and writing skills. I think that's kind of neat. When I was teaching we did the Operation Dear Abby program for years and had pen pals from all over the armed services. One Navy man actually drove down from Jacksonville and spent the day with our class. He sent us photos of trips he took and a slide show of an African Safari. With their parents' permission several student kept in touch with him for several years.

julie88

Magic indeed. Thank you, Sue.

racoonstar

This reminds me of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"Dennis the Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!”"

https://youtu.be/NQG46KCXLw0

gogogo

Thanks for this puzzle, Sue. Oddly, though a Florida native, and having lived in Tampa for 31 years now, I've never been there. I have relatives with young kids who love the water park aspect of it.
Every month or so, I see a short film on our local PBS station, with former mermaids talking about their time at this attraction back in the 1950's and 60's.

sue1

I have been there many times. It now has all sort of water park rides and activities for family fun along with kayak trips down the river. I was there about 10 years ago with my granddaughter and some friends.

“Weeki Wachee” was named by the Seminole Indians. It means “little spring” or “winding river.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 74-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns.

Deep in the spring, the surge of the current is so strong that it can knock a scuba diver’s mask off. The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides and there, where the mermaids swim, 16 to 20 feet below the surface, the current runs a strong five miles an hour. It’s quite a feat for a mermaid to stay in one place in such a current.

Flowing from the spring, the Weeki Wachee River winds its way 12 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.

Sadly, the spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared and Newt experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped to the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus.

Submerged six feet below the water’s surface, an 18-seat theater was built into the limestone so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.

Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He then put a sign out on U.S. 19 that read: WEEKI WACHEE.

On October 13, 1947, the first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened. It was the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. On that day, the mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.

However, in those days, cars were few along U.S. 19. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.

In the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops. The attraction received worldwide acclaim. Movies were filmed at the spring, like Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. Sights at the park included the mermaid shows, orchid gardens, jungle cruises, and Indian encampment and a new beach. The mermaids took etiquette and ballet lessons.

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