I’m supposed to be at a reunion today - a gathering of ex-employees of Aquarena Springs. But I’m not. I decided not to go, even though reporter Bob Phillips emailed to ask if I’d be there.
First of all, it’s a weekend-long event, with golfing, exhibits and dinner (and not free). Second of all, I swam there years ago, back in my college days. Seems a bit weird to go back.
Don’t get me wrong, swimming in the underwater show was a great job. Didn’t pay much, but it helped with expenses, kept me in shape, and every year I was tan (okay, that last one was not a plus, I now know). We mermaids would lay out on the training platform, rub on baby oil and bake our young bodies, day after day. Yikes!
I usually swam about four shows a day - underwater ballet and a picnic. It’s odd that four bananas and four Hawaiian punches would totally fill me up. It’s also odd that, back then, I could hold my breath for a loooong time. The idea behind the ballets was to take half a breath of air, hand off your hose to one of the guy swimmers, then perform your ballet moves as slooow as possible (keeping in sequence with the lead mermaid), then glide to a finish with your hand outstretched for the guy to snap the hose back in your hand.
Those of us who swam year round (most were just summer help) could go very slowly and hold our breaths a long time. You could spot the rookies because they would be through their routines and sucking on the hose before the rest of us had finished the first forward roll.
Maybe I’ll tell stories about my years as a mermaid every so often. Since I mentioned the ballet routines, I’ll tell a quick one now. One day, I swam the ballet as usual - slowly. We had different routines, but they included most of the basic moves: forward roll, reverse split, backward flamingo roll, etc. One time, after swimming the ballet, I hurried to the warm-up room inside the volcano to change into the mermaid tail … and discovered my swim suit stitching in the crotch was totally gone. It was a bit difficult to buck up and go back out, but I changed suits, put on the tail and went out for picnic.
So I offer you this piece of advice: If you’re ever a mermaid, always check your swim suit before you do a show. (That’s actually good advice, even if you’re not a mermaid.)
4 months ago