The Many Faces of Marineland

“Science couldn’t explain it… but there it was, alive in the deep waters of the Amazon. A throwback to a creature that existed one hundred million years ago.” So begins the opening remarks from the trailer, The Creature of the Black Lagoon.

When My husband was growing up he loved to watch the horror movies of the 1950’s.  Even today his eyes seem to light up whenever he talks about the time his parents brought him to Florida for a vacation. They visited Marineland in 1962. Back then two of his favorites movies were The Creature of the Black Lagoon (1954) and it’s sequel, Revenge of the Creature (1955). He couldn’t believe he was seeing the studios where scenes from both of his favorite movies were filmed. It’s something he will never forget.

This summer we made a return trip to Marineland.  We learned the attraction first opened as Marine Studios in 1938. It was designed to be a location for Hollywood filmmakers to shoot underwater footage for movies and TV shows, including Sea Hunt (1958)

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A concrete prop used in the filming of underwater film scenes.

Naturally underwater movies call for animal actors. In addition to making films, Marine Studios wanted to give the public an opportunity to see and learn about bottlenose dolphins. During the 1940’s public dolphin feedings evolved into dolphin performances. Keepers discovered how high a dolphin can jump.

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Flippy, the world’s first trained dolphin.

During the 1950’s and 60’s the dolphin performances drew crowds of adoring fans. A favorite celebrity, Nelly, starred in TV shows. Nelly was born at Marine Studios in 1953 and lived under human care for sixty-one years. As dolphin performances continued to grow in popularity during the decades of the fifties and sixties, the focus of Marine Studios changed. It became more of an animal theme park with a new name, Marineland.

As we strolled through the present day facility I was taken by its beautiful location. The dolphin pool is located in close proximity to the beach. Over the years Marineland staff have rescued hundreds of stranded whales and injured marine animals.

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Today’s view of the dolphin pool with the Atlantic in the background.

However, Marineland’s location also contributed to its demise.  As the decades passed, salty air eroded the buildings. Destruction from two hurricanes made it necessary to close the park in 2004. In addition, Marineland experienced a decline in admissions after Sea World of Orlando opened in the late seventies.

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A bottlenose dolphin looking for a playmate.

During the next two years Marineland constructed a new facility dedicated to education and human/animal interaction instead of animal performance. In 2011 Marineland was acquired by the Georgia Aquarium and renamed Marine and Dolphin Adventure. The attraction offers dolphin encounters, summer camps, and field trips for school groups. The Behind the Stage Tour takes visitors below deck where they can view historical exhibits from their years as a film studio. We were surprised to discover the attraction sells a wedding package for avid dolphin loving couples.

We concluded our visit with this snapshot taken at a photo spot, a memento of our return to the hallowed ground of childhood memories.

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My previous blog about the Florida Citrus Tower shares another piece of Florida history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Florida’s Lonely Attractions

Roadside stands like the one pictured above are fairly common along freeway exits in Florida.  This outdoor display invites travelers to pick up a bag of oranges for loved ones up north who may be digging out from a snowstorm.  Today people can buy citrus at any grocery store year round, so purchasing oranges may no longer be a novelty.  This business expanded it’s inventory by selling Georgia pecans, citrus wine, gator jerky, and fireworks. I admire the creativity of Florida entrepreneurs who work hard to keep their businesses alive.

Tourism has a long history in Florida. I’m amazed so many of the older attractions are still open. Today most tourists spend their entire vacations at Disney or Universal Studios. They miss out on the unique attractions which preserve Florida’s past.

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The Citrus Tower in Clermont opened in 1956 as a tribute to Central Florida’s citrus industry. Did you know Central Florida once had a booming citrus industry? No one would know it today. Neighborhoods and roads have replaced miles of fragrant orange groves.

The tower is located on one of the highest hills in central Florida, a whopping 128 feet above sea level.  The structure rises 226 feet and was constructed of concrete and reinforced steel to withstand hurricane force winds. I entered the elevator for the scary ride up twenty-two stories in total darkness with no air conditioning. Who needs the Tower of Terror?

When the door opened I stepped out onto a glass enclosed observation deck and walked around. I could see the rolling hills, spring-fed lakes, roads, and parking lots, but no orange groves.

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I wish I could have been here in the old days when citrus was king.

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This is an artist’s view of the land surrounding the Citrus Tower during the 1950’s. The hard freezes of the 1980’s killed the orange trees. Growers sold their land in the Clermont area to real estate developers. I enjoyed reading the historical information outside the gift shop located in the base of the tower. Back in the day, the attraction included a restaurant. A menu from the past was posted in a display case. I couldn’t believe the price of a sizzling T-bone steak with onion rings was $3.50.

The Citrus Tower offers a  light show during the Christmas season and is open evenings in December. The view from the observation tower is reported to be spectacular at night. Click on the above link for more information and reviews.

IMG_7753 (1)If you visit the Citrus Tower be sure to see the President’s Hall of Fame next door. Ronald Reagan described this museum as a national treasure for over forty years. The Hall of Fame features one of a kind presidential memorabilia.

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Here’s an interesting photo spot. Where did they get that idea?

Stay tuned for more lonely Florida attractions next week.  A side of Florida few people see, and more should.