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Galveston


LOST 1965-1990


Remembering 1970 2005


Sea-Arama Marineworld By Kathleen Maca


Long before crowds watched Shamu at Sea World, visitors came from near and far to see Mamuk the Killer Whale at a state-of- the-art marine park named Sea-Arama Marineworld right here in Galveston. Known all along the Texas Gulf Coast as an educational and entertaining experience for adults and children alike, Sea- Arama summed up its vision in a theme song still recognized by anyone who heard it: “Come see the sights, come see the show. Come to Sea-Arama super sea show by the sea shore!” Conceived as a way to increase year-round tourism on the island,


the $2 million theme park was opened on November 7, 1965 at Seawall and 91st


Street. Its classic 1960s modernist construction


was overseen by architectural engineer Kenneth E. Zimmerman, also known for his work on the Warwick Hotel, Astrodome, Jesse Jones Hall for Performing Arts, UT Graduate School of Business and Olsen Stadium at Texas A&M. With over 200,000 visitors per year, and nearly half from out of state, it soon seemed impossible to drive in Galveston, Houston or beyond without seeing Sea-Arama’s distinctive blue, shark- shaped bumper stickers on cars. Within two years of opening, oceanographers rated Sea-Arama as one of the finest aquariums in the world, and the only one of its kind between the east and west coasts. Families flocked to the park from 9 a.m. until dusk to enjoy four hours of continuous live performances, visit the porpoise petting and feeding tank, board LaFitte’s River Ride, take photos with 16- foot tall tikis, grab lunch at the Pirate’s Nook and Crow’s Nest Restaurants beside an impressive 13-foot waterfall and cool off with a treat from the Pink Porpoise Ice Cream Parlor. Local adults and children knew most of the animals by name, like Barnaby the harbor seal, Otto the otter, Jocko and Samantha


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the sea lions and Fat Albert the 1,000 pound elephant seal. Sea- Arama became a vital part of the community, hosting scouting events, choir and band competitions, Halloween costume parties and school field trips. It was a different, more trusting time, and parents would buy season passes for their children and drop them off in the morning to spend the day roaming the 24-acre paradise.


THE OCEANARIUM The centerpiece of the 25-acre complex was a 200,000-gallon glass-walled oceanarium filled with exotic fish, turtles, Buzz the giant sawfish, Egor the alligator gar and electric eels. During the popular “Dive to the Deep” show, visitors watched through 32 huge viewing ports below the waters surface as lovely young ladies dressed as mermaids swam with the residents, and divers hand-fed eight sting rays, giant spotted groupers, barracudas and sharks while narrating their actions to the fascinated crowd. The main tank was surround by a circular walkway, with jewel tanks along its outer edge. Each jewel tank held species from a particular region of the world, including the South American tank with piranhas, and the Texas exhibit featuring 27 varieties of native fish. An 8-inch saltwater line ran through the Galveston seawall about


six feet below the surface of the boulevard, supplying salt water to 32 tanks for marine specimens.


WATER SKI STADIUM & BIRD SHOWS One of the biggest draws during warm summer months and weekends was the water ski show on a four-acre, man-made lake. Undoubtedly, the reason many young boys passed by the other attractions and went straight to the show was to see the pretty girls


Photo in 2005 by John Hall, courtesy 1970 image


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