Having attended college in San Marcos, Texas, I was fortunate enough to live just a couple of blocks from the legendary Aquarena Springs, famous for its live mermaid show, while the park was still operational.

I even had the pleasure on several occasions to sit in its submersible auditorium and witness the underwater ballet of breath-defying swimmers, performing the same subaquatic stunts that made the park nationally famous when it opened in the 1950s. Having friends in the show, I even got a couple of unauthorized behind-the-scenes tours and got to meet the famous Ralph the Diving Pig, the world's most celebrated swimming piglet.

I regret never taking the opportunity to work their myself, but at least I can say I'm still friends with a couple of genuine merpeople.

Sadly, the show was closed for good after my alma mater, Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State), purchased the property in the '90s and turned the park's focus to ecological preservation and education. The underwater theater itself, long out of use, was finally demolished last year. Maddeningly, they don't even use the name Aquarena anymore.

For a look back at what I consider a quintessential example of roadside tourism, check out this wonderful, in-depth article from Collectors Weekly.