Unique spot in Sun­shine State

The Covington News - - Opinion -

What does a Florida State Trooper and a mer­maid have in com­mon? Later this year, they will both be gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees of the Sun­shine State.

Weeki Wachee, the Florida tourist at­trac­tion which fea­tures an un­der­wa­ter show with girls in mer­maid out­fits, has been op­er­ated for the past few years by the tiny ham­let ofWeeki Wachee.

When I say tiny, I’m not ex­ag­ger­at­ing. The U.S. Cen­sus lists the 2006 pop­u­la­tion at 12.

It ap­pears there had been some strug­gles and the state has de­cided to take overWeek­iWachee next Novem­ber. Think about it, you could be a mer­maid and earn a tidy state pen­sion.

The whole mer­maid thing is a bit bizarre.

New­ton Perry, a Navy vet­eran who taught frog­men to swim un­der­wa­ter dur­ingWorldWar II, dis­cov­ered the site in 1946 and thought it would make a dandy place for a new busi­ness.

He came up with the mer­maid idea and fixed up hoses at­tached to an air com­pres­sor. The girls could suck on the hose pe­ri­od­i­cally and keep swim­ming.

By 1959, the Amer­i­can Broad­cast­ing Com­pany ac­quired the place and built a 500 seat theater. Stars rang­ing from Elvis to

Flip­per, whose real name is Mitzi, is buried in the court­yard of the Dol­phin Re­search Cen­ter. Why is it that Flip­per was re­ally a girl and Lassie was re­ally

a boy?

Don Knotts came to vis­itWeeki Wachee and so did throngs of tourists on their way through Florida.

When Dis­ney ar­rived on the scene fol­lowed by oth­ers, such as Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, the once bustling at­trac­tion was over­shad­owed by the big com­peti­tors.

But what would Florida be with­out off­beat at­trac­tions, such as—

Burt Reynolds & Friends Mu­seum, Jupiter, Fla.— We don’t know if they have one of the “Smokey and the Ban­dit” cars, but they do have a piece of chew­ing gum that Burt chewed dur­ing the movie.

Jackie Glea­son’s Mau­soleum, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Ceme­tery, Mi­ami— Here you can see the fi­nal rest­ing place of Burt’s neme­sis in the movies. The only in­scrip­tion on the tomb is Glea­son’s trade­mark “And Away We Go.”

Flip­per’s Grave, Grassy Key, Fla.—“Flip­per,” whose real name was Mitzi, is buried in the court­yard of the Dol­phin Re­search Cen­ter. Why is it that Flip­per was re­ally a girl and Lassie was re­ally a boy?

Ga­tor­land, Or­lando— Billed as the “Al­li­ga­tor Cap­i­tal of the World,” it is home to the fa­mous ga­tor, Jumpa­roo. I guess the name “Killer” was al­ready taken. There is also a ga­tor farm in St. Augustine, where their fea­ture at­trac­tion is a croc­o­dile. That’s as bad as Flip­per be­ing a girl.

World Chess Hall of Fame, Mi­ami— How big of a geek do you have to be to plan your trip to visit this place?

Seven Mile Bridge, Marathon Key, Fla.— This is a marvel of en­gi­neer­ing, but the truth is that it’s only 6.79 miles long. It was first called “Six and seventy-nine hun­dreths mile bridge,” but the name was changed af­ter dozens were killed try­ing to read the sign.

World’s Small­est Po­lice Sta­tion, Carra­belle, Fla.— It’s ba­si­cally a phone booth that dates back to when this pan­han­dle town only had one po­lice­man.

World’s Largest Drive-In, Sun­rise, Fla.— Open since 1963, the Fort Laud­erdale Swap Shop boasts the largest drive-in movie theater and daily flea mar­ket in the world. And isn’t their just some­thing magic about a combo drive-in and flea mar­ket.

Well, I hope I have given you ad­di­tional rea­sons to pack a grip and head off to sunny Florida. If you need bus sched­ules or the lo­ca­tion of a nice mo­tor court, call me up.

Har­ris Black­wood

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