Friday, September 17, 2010

Vintage Roadside Visits: Aquarama Aquamaid Dian Sevra - Part 1

One of the most rewarding parts of our years-long Aquarama research has been the opportunity to talk with many of the people involved with this unique attraction once located in Osage Beach, Missouri.

We're thrilled to bring you part one of our interview with Aquamaid Dian Sevra - a member of the original 1964 cast of the Aquarama. After months of training for that first season, Dian's career as a mermaid came to an abrupt halt after two months of performing. In addition to her time as an Aquamaid, Dian also performed in local water ski shows and spent time working at her family's resort at the Lake of the Ozarks. Let's take a trip back to 1964.

Vintage Roadside: How did you first hear about the Aquarama?

Dian: Marc (Marc Johl, son of Aquarama's founders) and I were classmates at The School of the Osage.

Vintage Roadside: So the two of you lived in the same school district?

Dian: Actually no. Although I should have attended school in Camdenton, the high school at that time was not accredited so my parents who wanted me to be able to attend college paid tuition for me to attend The School of the Osage.

Vintage Roadside: How old were you when Aquarama came along?

Dian: I was 15 years old.

Vintage Roadside: Do you remember how you landed the job as an Aquamaid?

Dian: I really don't remember the details. I think it was along the lines of - I knew Marc from school...I could swim...and I was willing!

Vintage Roadside: You also lived fairly close to where the Aquarama building was being constructed didn't you?

Dian: Yes, the Aquarama building and parking lot were on the highway right at the end of our lake road.

Vintage Roadside: Were there any other factors you can remember that led to you becoming an Aquamaid?

Dian: One of the main reasons I swam at the Aquarama that first summer is a bit convoluted.  I had also been asked to ski in the Tex Bemis Water Ski Thrill Show that year, but being 15 I didn't have a driver's license yet. The Ski Show was at Bagnell Dam, which my father thought was too far to drive illegally, however he didn't seem to mind if I drove to the end of our road and turned into the Aquarama parking lot - so I became a mermaid!

Vintage Roadside: Had you been working at your parent's resort (Robin's Resort) before this?

Dian: Yes, and although they had a yard boy and a maid it seemed like I was on the clock 24/7. I wanted to go and earn my own money and this seemed like the ticket for me!

Vintage Roadside: Did you already know the rest of the cast members that summer?

Dian: Marc and I had 56 students in our graduating class which I think was the largest class up to that point. I believe we also had six sets of twins...weird...anyway, I digress...Living at the lake at that time everyone pretty much knew everyone else.

Vintage Roadside: We've heard about the unheated outdoor pool used for training that first season. Do you remember that?

Dian: Oh yes, I think we were a lot crazy!! We would go to school each day and then after school we would all meet at the pool of a motel along the highway in Osage Beach. I believe it was like April and the water was sooo cold! All of us were good swimmers but this type of swimming was all new to everyone.

Vintage Roadside: One of the critical parts of performing at the Aquarama was using the air hose. Do you remember learning to use the hose?

Dian: We had some sort of generator on the pool deck and air hoses running from it to the swimmers in the pool. A huge part of swimming with an air hose is learning how to regulate your breathing, in part by biting down on the hose with your teeth so you can maintain your position underwater. Too much air, you tended to float, too little air and you sank.

Vintage Roadside: It sounds like holding your position for the routines was one of the hardest things to learn. Aside from the temperature did the motel pool pose any other problems in your training?

Dian: In the motel pool we had to "imagine" where the glass for the tank would be. And then we had to learn the routines. I don't believe we could hear the music in the pool at the motel - another problemo!

Vintage Roadside: Was it difficult learning the routines?

Dian: We had to coordinate our moves not only with the music but with our cast mates. Believe me, swimming and being a mermaid was much more difficult than it sounds. It might sound dramatic and glamorous, but in truth it was very controlled, difficult, challenging and took a lot of stamina and strength!

We hope you've enjoyed Part 1 of our visit with Dian! In Part 2 we'll raise the "Curtain of Bubbles" for a look at those very first Aquarama performances.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

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