On The Job
Mermaids had to perform multiple shows a day and the attraction was open 365 a year. During ABC's ownership of Weeki Wachee Springs, shows changed annually. Many of the mermaids interviewed had a specific role or song number that they remember being their favorite. Susie Pennoyer discussed her favorite role: "I really enjoyed the Peter Pan show because there were very distinct characters in that. I used to love to Peter Pan because at that time we didn't have any men that swam. It was all girls, so even the boy parts girls did... The trainee part in that show was the crocodile. Captain Hook had his nemesis that was the crocodile. And the crocodile had this very long, about a six-foot-long rubber crocodile. And you had to get in the crocodile and you had a little, like a rebreather kind of thing. It was just a really, really small scuba tank... But you had that big head on and you had to swim out and then swim back, swim out into the springs, and then swim back out and do some things while you were out there. Not much because you were just the gator." "I used to like to do that, but I was already out of training and that was really a beginner part so I didn't get to do it as much as I would have liked."
Barbara Wynns pointed out, "I think what you'll find with most girls, it's different numbers from different shows." Her favorite number was Swan Lake. "It would be two girls in uh tutus, like this [gestures] making a ballet bar. And then the girl in the center did routine about Swan Lake on their arms, so it would be a ballet bar like they, like certain crescendos and you know you would be standing upside down the girls are here, your head's facing the theater, you're upside down and they you turn and split your legs and then do something else. And then you could shimmy, kinda’ like um limbo-ing through their arms and then shoot up again. And then they would toss you and one would grab your foot and push you, you'd get into a ballet move. We tried to recreate it for one of the reunions, but it didn't work out like that," she said.
For full-time mermaids, there were a lot more responsibilities than just performing shows. Rita King explains what a day in her life as a mermaid was like in the 1960s: “We had eight shows a day. One every hour… There’s about 35 of us. We each swam three shows. You took tickets. At that time, you took tickets for another one, and monitored the theater for another one, and ran the sound and air curtain and the music and did all the announcements for another one. So that’s five shows. Then we also had to, if you were a dry person, meaning if you didn’t just get out of the water, you would have to do posing for people who wanted to take pictures with the mermaids… So we really only had one or two shows max that were free during the day.” Mermaids spent a lot of their precious break time in the Mermaid Villa, pictured here. They would take long showers to warm up after performing in the frigid water of the springs, go tanning in a closed off area atop the villa, or get a bite to eat at the Patio Restaurant on grounds.