Mary Darlington Fletcher


Three Weeki Wachee Mermaids eating watermelon underwater. Before the mermaids performed plays, their shows consisted of underwater ballet, a deep dive into the depths of the spring, and other stunts. A common stunt the mermaids performed was to eat and drink underwater. Most commonly the mermaids ate bananas and drank soda out of glass bottles.

Mary Darlington Fletcher grew up 30 miles from Weeki Wachee Springs in the 1930s and 40s, before the attraction opened, when the springs were just a popular swimming hole. On the occassional weekend getaway, Mary's father would take the family and a few friends to Weeki Wachee for the day. "They [Mary's friends] would meet us out on the street with their bathing suit and their towel, uh, but before we left, my brothers and I would go out in the chicken yard and kill about four or five chickens and leave mother at home frying the chickens. And so then we got in the trailer with Daddy and went through town and picked up about  four or five people. Came back around by the Pappas' Restaurant. Jackie Pappas was one of our friends and he would come out with a great big Greek salad. And when we gathered everybody up, we came back by the farm and picked up mother who had fried all the chicken." The group then headed to Weeki Wachee and spent their day playing and picnicking.

On one of these trips, they found the springs roped off, and under construction. Mary found out what was happening by going under that rope and finding Newt Perry, who told her all about his plans for an underwater theater and asked if she wanted to be a mermaid: "Go home today, but come back next Saturday and bring some friends you know that know how to swim, and we're going to have tryout." Mary was just fifteen years old when she started training with Newt Perry.