Occupational Folklore: The Boat Guides of Wakulla Springs c.1980


Tourism has long played a central role in Florida’s economy. On November 8-9, 1980, Florida Folklife Program folklorists Ormond Loomis and Doris Dyen set out to document examples of the colorful narratives or “spiels” used by tour boat guides at Wakulla Springs. Track 13 is their recording of James A. Moretz, a guide for the “Jungle Cruise”; Track 14 features George Bower, a guide for the “Glass-Bottom Boat,” whose spiel includes summoning “Henry, the Jumping Fish.” Both men’s narratives are examples of occupational folklore and draw upon older American narrative traditions practiced by sideshow “talkers” and circus “barkers.”

Wakulla Springs, now part of the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, is the largest and deepest freshwater spring in the world. Located about fifteen miles south of the Florida state capitol, Tallahassee, this remarkable body of water was the location of several Tarzan films in the 1930s, as well as the 1954 B-movie classicCreature from the Black Lagoon. Tourists are drawn to the springs’ crystal-clear water and miles of underwater caves containing the fossilized remains of mastodons and other extinct creatures. A local boat-building and guide tradition has developed to accommodate them.

James Moretz. “Jungle Cruise Tour Guide,” 1980. Florida Folklife Program Boat Tour Guides Collection, 1980.

George Bower. “Glass-Bottom Boat Tour,” 1980. Florida Folklife Program Boat Tour Guides Collection, 1980. [AFS 22510]