On our final full day in Florida, Tuesday, June 12, 1973, we drove to Ocala to see Silver Springs with the “World Famous Glass Bottom Boats!”
The Silver Springs are the oldest tourist attraction in Florida with visitors arriving in the 1860s. The first glass bottom boats were built in the 1870s.
Silver Springs was a “white-only” space until 1969 — just four years before I arrived there as an 11-year-old. It’s always good to remember that legal segregation is not ancient history. Gains in civil rights made in my lifetime still need to be defended.
Besides the glass bottom boat ride, we attended a show at the Ross Allen Reptile Institute. Dale and I each took a turn holding a boa constrictor. I remember that as a moment of learning that snakes are neither scary nor slimy.
That lesson served me well later in life as a volunteer at the Powder Valley Nature Center where I occasionally had an opportunity to assist in programs about snakes. Constrictors, like the boa or the common black rat snake, are the easiest to handle because they’ll wrap themselves around your arm and stay still as soon as they feel secure and supported.
My mother also appreciated our visit to the Prince of Peace Memorial.
Silver Springs is now a Florida State Park. There are still glass bottom boats! The other activities are less about spectacle and more about nature. You can paddle a rented boat, take a hike, or camp.