Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Remembering Aquarama - Vintage Roadside visits with an Aquamaid - Part 2

We hope you're enjoying our interview with Janie from the long-gone Missouri attraction Aquarama! We're thrilled to present Part 2 of our interview.

Vintage Roadside: What were your costumes like?

Janie: We wore basic swimsuits that Nola had embellished with heavy stones; some one-piece, some modest two-piece, complete with padding where we needed it. The boys wore black tights and long-sleeved, black shirts. Often costume pieces, scarves and belts, were added to the basics depending on the routine.

Vintage Roadside: You mention Nola working on the costumes, that sounds like quite a bit of work.

Janie: She really made our costumes special with all the hours spent attaching rhinestones and fringe.

Vintage Roadside: Were there any "novelty" acts performed?

Janie: We had many routines, including the Beatles, a bullfight, gypsy dance, mermaids rising out of giant seashells, trapeze, clown acts, etc.

Vintage Roadside: Who was responsible for inventing the acts?

Janie: Most of our original routines were choreographed by Barbara Hodgson and Mark Johl. Mark also was responsible for keeping all our equipment in good order, including the HUGE tank (50,000 gallons?) with a glass front that we swam in. I remember we had to shut down for a couple of nights when the pool water was too cloudy due to an algae outbreak to allow the audience to see us.

Vintage Roadside: What days/months did you work?

Janie: Excluding spring rehearsals, our shows ran Memorial Day to Labor Day. At first, we did three shows a day, six days a week. I think it was in the second year we reduced the schedule to two shows in the evenings. Then we could have rehearsals in the daytime, allowing us to change things up a bit.

Vintage Roadside: How was the reaction from visitors to Aquarama?

Janie: We were always given positive feedback from "out front". Nola and Wally gave constructive criticism about performances and we tried our best to please them. Most of our parents were regular attendees, and their suggestions were helpful too.

Vintage Roadside: I remember my job at 15 and it was nothing like working at Aquarama! It must have been great to be one of the Aquamaids?

Janie: It was cool to be known as a "performer" and not just a kid with a summer job. Nola was a great promoter and saw to it that we were featured in all the local advertising pieces and parades.

Vintage Roadside: So the Aquamaids were recognized around town?

Janie: Because we spent so much time underwater, the hair of all the girls turned green by late summer from the chlorine. (Most were blondes to begin with.) Locals would always recognize us as "Aquamaids" from that.

Vintage Roadside: How long did you work at Aquarama?

Janie: Five summers as a swimmer and one year as director/restaurant hostess when the show building was converted to an oriental restaurant/underwater show in 1969, with a live band for dinner music between shows. The business was then called Cabaret-Aquarama. The year before that, the Johl's had taken on partners in the business named Wilbur and Esther Whitehead from Mexico, Missouri. The Whiteheads bought out the Johls and I worked for them the last season, when I ran the show from "up front" and didn't swim. This involved running all the taped music and lighting from a booth in the restaurant, and serving as hostess until the restaurant closed, usually around midnight. I think the restaurant ran one more year, without the water show, then closed. I married and left the area for 7 years in 1970.

Vintage Roadside: Do you still enjoy swimming?

Janie: My husband and I have a home on the lake, but boat more than we swim. We do occasionally take a dip with our two-year old granddaughter.

Vintage Roadside: Janie, thank you so much for sharing your history at Aquarama with us. It's wonderful to speak with you about your time as an Aquamaid and to learn more about one of our favorite attractions.

Janie: You're welcome!

If you have any memories and stories from Aquarama we'd love to hear from you. Also, if you'd like to read more history you can visit our Aquarama page here.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside


Rick Kilby said...

Great interview- thanks!

Vintage Roadside said...

Rick - You're welcome! It was such a great time for attractions.

Learning Spanish at 41 said...

So fun, very good job on this whole series, Jeff and Kelly--thank you for sharing it with us.

Vintage Roadside said...

Tina - You're welcome! So glad you enjoyed reading it. We were thrilled to get a chance to talk with Janie and share some of her history.

Todd Franklin said...

Excellent post! Truly one of the places at the Lake I wish I could have visited.

Vintage Roadside said...

Todd - So glad you found our interview with Janie. It was a thrill for us to talk with her. If you ever turn up home movies or photos of Aquarama let us know!