Thursday, June 26, 2008

Want To Be She May Be

This commercial warms my icy heart, combining as it improbably does my loves beee-YOO-teeful mermaids and totally spotless bathrooms.

Bless my buttons, so old am I I only saw color TV at Grandma's house until I was in high school. Imagine (or remember) what Adam West looked like in gray tights! Black and white left a little too much to the imagination. Even so, every graytone commercial for Weeki Wachee looked like a lightning bolt from the blue.
In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries, and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.

The spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared out and Newt experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped onto the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus. An 18-seat theater was built into the limestone, submerged six feet below the surface of the spring, so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.

Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He put a sign out on U.S. 19: WEEKI WACHEE.

The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947 - the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.

In those days, cars were few. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.

Flying Spaghetti Monster, I was probably two or three when I realized the most glamorous human beings on earth were wearing spangled costumes and sucking oxygen out of tubes 19 feet below the surface! The only way they could possibly be more miraculously fantaaaaaastic would be if they spent their days off waterskiing in tiara'd pyramids, like these ladies from Los Angeles, who are so glamorous you could just pet them all day. Some of us probably have.

Alas, my bathroom could be cleaner.



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