Weeki Wachee Mermaids Eating Watermelon Underwater



Dublin Core


Weeki Wachee Mermaids Eating Watermelon Underwater

Alternative Title

Black and White Photograph of Weeki Wachee Mermaids Eating Watermelon Underwater, c. 1950s


Weeki Wachee Springs (Fla.)
Perry, Newton, 1908-1987


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.

Newton "Newt" Perry was born in Valdosta, Georgia in 1908, and moved with his family to Ocala, Florida in 1922. He was a member of the swimming and diving teams at the University of Florida. Perry earned the nickname "The Human Fish" for his performances of underwater stunts in advertising clips and film shorts, and acted as a swim double for actors in movies and TV shows, including Johnny Weissmuller as "Tarzan." Perry also advised filmmakers filming underwater scenes at Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs, and Weeki Wachee Springs, and developed a system for breathing underwater using an air compressor and hose, which was used in the 1948 film "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" and during Weeki Wachee Springs' mermaid shows.

Perry worked as a lifeguard, public school principal, coach, swimming and scuba diving instructor, and Ocala city pool manager. He opened Perry's Swim School in 1955, and taught more than 120,000 individuals to swim during his career. Perry was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. Perry's daughter, Delee Perry, took over Perry's Swim School following her father's death in 1987. It was still in operation as of 2020.

Along with a group of investors, Newton Perry opened Weeki Wachee Springs to the public in October of 1947, and used his experiences working at Silver Springs and Wakulla Springs to develop the original concepts for its underwater theater and mermaid shows. Perry sold his stake in Weeki Wachee Springs in 1950. After peaking in the 1950s and 1960s, attendance began to decline as theme parks and highways changed the dynamics of Florida's tourism. The State of Florida took over the attraction as a state park in 2008. Since then, the park has focused on appealing to a modern audience while preserving its history.


Perry, Newton


Original photograph of mermaids eating underwater: Personal Collection of Delee Perry.


Date Created

c. 1950s

Date Copyrighted

c. 1950s

Date Issued

c. 1950s

Is Format Of

Digital Reproduction of original photograph of Weeki Wachee mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

Is Part Of




5.12 MB


Still Image


Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Weeki Wachee, Florida

Accrual Method



History Teacher
Humanities Teacher
Visual Arts Teacher
Theater Teacher


Originally created by Newton "Newt" Perry, owned by Delee Perry, and published by RICHES.

Rights Holder

Copyright to this resource is held by Delee Perry and is provided here by RICHES for educational purposes only.

Contributing Project

Florida Humanities Council Community Grant Program and Friends of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park


Schwandt, Rebecca

Digital Collection

Source Repository

Personal Collection of Delee Perry

External Reference

Allman, T.D. Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013.
Ammidown, Margot. “Edens, Underworlds, and Shrines: Florida’s Small Tourist Attractions.” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 23, (1998): 238-259.
Georgiadis, Bonnie and Lu Vickers. Weeki Wachee Mermaids. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012.
Hollis, Tim. Glass Bottom Boats and Mermaid Tails: Florida’s Tourist Springs. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2006.
Pelland, Dan and Maryan Pelland. Images of America: Weeki Wachee. Mount Pleasant: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
Revels, Tracy J. Sunshine Paradise: A History of Florida Tourism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011.
Vickers, Lu. Weeki Wachee City of Mermaids: A History of One of Florida’s Oldest Roadside Attractions. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.


Perry, Newton. “Weeki Wachee Mermaids Eating Watermelon Underwater.” RICHES of Central Florida accessed November 28, 2023, https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/11195.



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