We must have left early in the morning on June 6, 1973, because my mother recorded that we flew on TWA flight #474, leaving St. Louis at 8:15am and arriving in Tampa, Florida at 12:03pm, with a stop in Nashville. Our home in Louisiana, Missouri was nearly two hours from the airport. Mother mentioned that we ate breakfast on the plane.
Mother wrote that we “rented an orange Vega.” At the time, Mother’s favorite color was orange — it was the 70s, after all. Dale remembered that car. He also remembers our parents saying that one of the fun things about renting a car is that you could drive something that you would never own.
What I remember about our first day in Florida is the mermaid show. We drove from the airport in Tampa to Weeki Wachee Springs. We sat in an auditorium in front of a giant wall of windows holding water where the mermaids performed. According to Mother’s notes, the show was called “Littlest Mermaid.” I didn’t remember that detail. I do have vivid memories of wanting to grow up to be a mermaid.
The mermaids all had long hair. I learned from this page about the history of Weeki Wachee Springs that the current flows at 5mph in the performance arena, so it’s no wonder that their hair cascaded during the show. The announcer said that everyone asked why the mermaids don’t appear to have wet hair. With that introduction, a mermaid stuck her head out of a port hole above the window to show that, indeed, her hair was dripping wet.
Weeki Wachee Springs has been a Florida attraction since 1947. It is currently operated as a Florida State Park with new additions of a water park and a commitment to preserving the natural environment of the area, while educating visitors about it.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Clearwater Beach that night in an “orange room” where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. There’s still a Holiday Inn at the same address. It appears to have more than tripled in size and received a facelift, but the original building and keyhole-shaped swimming pool are still there.