Two Women on Water Skis Wearing Tutus and White Gloves


Dick and Julie Pope founded Cypress Gardens in 1936, one of the many roadside attractions that began to line the highways of Florida and other U.S. states in the 1920s. Located between Orlando and Tampa in Winter Haven, the lush botanical gardens attracted tourists driving south through central Florida on U.S. Highway 27, known as the Orange Blossom Trail. During the early 1940s, Pope hired women to walk around the park wearing antebellum-style dresses. He introduced water-skiing shows during World War II to entertain soldiers who visited the gardens. The displays at Cypress Gardens helped inspire greater regional and national interest in competitive skiing, and by the 1950s Cypress Gardens was known as the water-skiing capital of the world. It was also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida, and thereby paved the way for much larger theme parks, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. In this image from the 1960s, female skiers perform a synchronized act combining ballet, the charm of the mythic Southern belle, and undisguised female physical allure—all behind a speeding boat while smiling for the camera. The photograph was produced for the Florida Department of Commerce, which used shots such as this one to promote tourism to the state.

Last updated: January 27, 2015