Why Become a Weeki Wachee Mermaid?


A tourist visiting Weeki Wachee Springs in 1964. The tourist is standing beside a sign that reads, "Openings for Mermaid Training School Apply Here."

During an interview with the former mermaid, Vicki Smith, she reflected on her young adulthood in Hernando County stating “When you graduated from high school, Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida, you had three options. You could either go off to the university and go to college, you could get married, or you became a mermaid. And many of us became mermaids.”[1] While Hernando County grew substantially throughout the 1950s and 60s, the area remained relatively small and rural compared to the closest major city, Tampa, which was also home to the closest state university. The most common positions offered to women at the time were clerical, in the service industry (waitressing, nursing, custodian), and in private households (nannies and maids). Weeki Wachee Springs gave many a unique career route. Eager to join, many young women auditioned within weeks of graduating high school.[2]

The following quotes are excerpts from oral history interviews with former Weeki Wachee Springs mermaids, who discuss why they wanted the job.



[1] Vicki Smith, interview by author, Brooksville, FL, September 22, 2016.

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Table 43. Florida, Economic Characteristics of the population, by sex for counties: 1950-con. 10-94; U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Table 83. Florida, Education, Employment status and selected labor force characteristics of the population, for counties: 1960-con. 11-234; U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Table 121 Florida, Employment Characteristics, for counties: 1970-continued.


Life of a Mermaid
Why Become a Weeki Wachee Mermaid?