Epic Spring Break Adventures Of Past Generations

The history of spring break goes back to 1936 when a swim coach from New York brought some of his swim team down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to practice at a warm pool during the winter. That proved such a good idea that the coach brought the whole team the following year. Seizing an opportunity in a post-depression economy, Fort Lauderdale quickly grew to be the original “spring break” capital of the world. Today, spring break travelers make life-long memories at destinations around the world. But the spring break options of today are an evolution of what has come before them, some of which were epic moments.

“Most of our lives, spring break has been portrayed as a fabled experience of near-utopian bacchanalia, community with fellow youth and warm sunny weather,” says CoolestSpringBreak, a website dedicated to preserving the history of fellow and future generations of spring breakers, both young and old. They ask, “… where does Spring Break, as a ritual of youth, come from?”

From the end of World War II until the 1980s, Fort Lauderdale was a notorious spring break destination in the United States for college students as was Daytona Beach, Panama City Beach and – well, you get it – warm places with beaches ruled as top spring break destinations.

Other states caught on and started promoting their destinations as spring break-friendly too, but Fort Lauderdale clearly had the lead, drawing as many as 20,000 students in the 1950s. That number grew to over 50,000 annual trekkers coming to Florida in the ’60s but then came the ’70s and along with them a very different scene.

Gone were the wholesome times associated with spring break-defining films like “Where The Boys Are” starring teen idol Connie Francis and the clean-cut songs of the Beach Boys.

Alcohol, a spring break staple, was mixed with drugs, which played a larger role in the festivities. The moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars to bring the hippie “free love” movement. Add college students, on a beach, with little supervision and the cocktail for epic spring break experiences had been mixed.Because of the shenanigans of the ’70s, the ’80s grew spring breaker numbers in Florida to over 350,000, overwhelming city services, taking all available hotel rooms, leaving many in shambles after occupancy and quickly becoming a difficult situation to deal with – but not for long.

The 1990s saw spring break go international in spite of nearly half a million spring breakers coming to Florida as high school students joined the fun. Young professionals began scheduling vacation time during spring break to re-live their college days before turning the ripe old age of 30.

As U.S. destinations tightened up enforcement of alcohol laws, spring break drinkers looked to Mexico, where the legal drinking age is “old enough to see over the bar” and “anything goes” is pretty much a way of life. Already a popular option with budget-minded travelers, Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts offered hotel rooms that held up to four people, included meals and hours of free cocktails throughout the day. Never mind the drug wars, Mexico is perfect for the spring breaker mentality.

Still today, spring break rules the beaches and ski slopes for a period of time each year as a new generation of spring breaker comes forth to create their own epic memories. Google “top spring break destination” today and results vary depending on who is rating them but thousands of hits indicate a whole lot of people are.

Throughout most of the last century, spring breakers did not have anything close to that search ability and relied on newspaper accounts and TV news reports, mostly when something bad happened, for information on where to go and what to do there by reading between the lines. “Students Arrested For Disorderly Contact,” a story might read then go on to say, “25 students were arrested in Florida when things got out of hand.”

Looking for a party place for spring break, the old school researcher needn’t read further in that story than “200,000 students converged on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale to celebrate spring break…” to know this was the place to go. Twenty-five arrested out of 200,000? Pretty good odds for a stage set for epic spring break adventures.

Last week, when Gadling was in town for Seatrade Miami, the SXSW of cruise travel, Victoria’s Secret models Sara Sampaio and Elsa Hosk were hosts for the Ultimate Spring Break Dance Party 2013 with DJ Irie and DJ Cassidy at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach. Here is video of that event:

[Photo credit – Flickr users sean dreilinger and prakash_ut, respectively]

Top 10 travel-themed 50’s songs

When Jeremy took on top 10 travel-themed 80’s songs last week, I headed to the 1950’s. Partially influenced by seeing the 1958 movie version of South Pacific this summer, this choice turned up ten songs that range from show tunes to country to R&B.

Even though much attention was given by American mainstream culture to get Rosie the Riveter back in the kitchen after World War II, certain themes of 1950’s music indicated that Rosie still had dreams of heading elsewhere.

From what I’ve discovered, this theme of escapism–the desire for an exit from the hum drum of everyday life seems to be a predominent expression in song lyrics throughout that decade.

Perhaps with the Cold War giving Joe McCarthy the green light to seek out Communists among creative folks in Hollywood, people had good reason for wanting a mental hiatus from reality. It’s a thought.

Interestingly, some songs, like choice # 9, a song from South Pacific, hold dreams that are as true today as they were back then.

Arranged in chronolgical order according to their release date, here are the top ten travel-themed ’50’s songs, plus a bit of information about each. This is indeed a mixed bag.

[This photo of a woman gazing fondly at the Hi-Fi in her kitchen was hard to resist. I wonder which song she’s listening to?]

Travel 50’s Song # 1. “Jambalya on the Bayou by Hank Williams. Released in 1952, this song captures the need to add a bit of excitement and spice to life. The song topped the charts at # 1 for good reason. How can you not want to head to a Louisiana bayou for a dose of Cajun culture after hearing this one?

As an interesting note about cross-cultural exchange: The original melody of “Jambalaya” was inspired from the French Cajun song, “Big Texas.” After Williams’ version was released, Cajun musicians reworked their version to include Williams’ lyrics paired with Cajun instruments. This helped bring Cajun music into mainstream American culture through its encounter with country music.

Travel 50’s Song # 2. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,” the theme song from the 1955 Walt Disney movie.

How many travelers haven’t been inspired by a thirst for the wild frontier? Davy Crockett’s travels helped change his mind when it came to what American politics and the quest for land were doing to American Indians. Crockett took on the establishment to help defeat a bill that would have cost Indians land that had been granted to them in treaties. In a last wild west move, Crockett fought and was killed at the Alamo in San Antonio in a battle to defend Texas.

Travel 50’s Song # 3. The title “Wayward Wind certainly evokes up an image of heading out to see where life will take you. Sung in 1956 by Gogi Grant, Tex Ritter and Jimmy Grant— and several others since then, the song pays tribute to the type of person who is “next of kin to the restless wind that yearns to wander.”

Gee, that sounds like me. This one is Gogi Grant’s rendition. I love, love, love her voice. Also, this song is the one that keeps playing in my head.

Travel 50’s Song # 4. Also in 1956, Connie Francis crooned “Around the World in 80 Days.” In this song, Paris, New York and London are backdrops for finding love. How many of you out there are traveling the world eyeing the crowds for Mr. or Ms. Right? This is a cornball song, but it does make a plug for travel and romance. Bing Crosby’s version was the theme song for the 1956 movie, Around the World in 80 Days.

Travel 50’s Song # 5. In 1957, the song “Over the Mountain and Across the Sea,” let people know that, although you may not have to travel around the world to find love, it may require traveling a distance over the horizon.

The duet Johnnie Louise Richardson and Joe Rivers sang this version that made it to # 3 on the R&B charts and #8 on the Billboard Top 100.

Travel 50’s Song #6. Even though “Day-O (The Banana Song)” isn’t a Harry Belafonte original, Belafonte shot the song to #5 on the music charts in 1957. The first recorded version of this Jamacian folk song was in 1952 when Edric Connor and the Caribbeans released their rendition. Connor, a Trinadian singer, titled the song “Day de Light” on his group’s album, Songs from Jamaica.

After reading about the various ways the song has been parodied, and the countries where it’s been recorded, it’s obvious that some songs have a way of transcending cultural boundaries.”Day-O” is surely an example of this.

Travel 50’s Song #7. In 1958, “Freight Train,” written in about 1906 by Elizabeth Cotton when she was eleven years old, was released in the album Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar (also then known as Negro Folksongs and Tunes). This song captures the essence of longing for points beyond the horizon. Here’s an older Cotton singing the song herself.

Inspired by the freight trains that passed by her house, Cotton wrote this song when she lived in Carrboro, North Carolina. When she was 13, her mother began working for the Seeger family, as in Pete Seeger. Thankfully, Cotton’s musical genius had a venue to be noticed and she went on to inspire others through her lyrics and signature guitar-playing technique dubbed “Cotton Picking.” Cotton lived to be 92 and kept singing and picking well into old age.

Travel 50’s Song # 8. Like the song about Davy Crocket, “Rawhide” evokes a sense of adventure through its depiction of life in the west. The song “Rawhide,” recorded by Frankie Lane in 1958, became the theme song for the TV show Rawhide that aired from 1959 to 1966. This is a great song to know if you’re planning a trip that involves major hiking or long distance driving.

Travel 50’s Song #9. “Bali Hai,” one of the songs in the 1958 movie version of the Broadway musical South Pacific, calls to the allure of island life that promises dreams come true and an escape from a troubled world. I’ve been to small islands in the South Pacific near the very spot where Sgt. Calley had his fleeting moments of love, happiness and peace. Who doesn’t have a Bali Hai in mind?

Travel 50’s Song “10. Frankie Ford sang Sea Cruise in 1959. This rollicking number became a top-20s hit and has been sung in various versions ever since. Whether it makes you want to take a cruise is questionable. There’s no question that it may inspire you to dance.