Get­ting ar­rested, drink­ing, sleep­ing on the beach — spring break of yore sounds fa­mil­iar

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Travel & Life - By Dan Sweeney

With all the sto­ries about the traf­fic night­mares and gen­eral de­bauch­ery go­ing on in South Florida dur­ing spring break, we had a nag­ging sus­pi­cion that the very same folks who are com­plain­ing now were the ones caus­ing the com­plaints a few decades ago.

So, we asked read­ers to share their spring break mem­o­ries.

We were ex­pect­ing a lot of strange tales from the Golden Age of Spring Break, those crazy mid-1980s years that have reached leg­endary in­famy. But we ac­tu­ally re­ceived a lot of emails from folks who par­tic­i­pated in what you could call the Clas­si­cal Age of Spring Break — the post-“Where the Boys Are” 1960s. Nev­er­the­less, our the­ory has been largely con­firmed. We can’t say that the peo­ple do­ing the com­plain­ing now are the same ones who caused the com­plaints years ago — we’re cer­tainly not ac­cus­ing our read­ers of hypocrisy. But what we can say is that crazy spring break sto­ries seem to go hand in hand with young peo­ple seek­ing sun and fun, re­gard­less of the era.

Reader Jim Adel­man came to Fort Laud­erdale for spring break the year be­fore and af­ter “Where the Boys Are” came out, and found a very dif­fer­ent crowd in 1962, fol­low­ing the movie’s re­lease.

“The pub­lic­ity seemed to have at­tracted a very dif­fer­ent mix of kids with a dif­fer­ent agenda. Nu­mer­ous fights broke out in con­trast to our pre­vi­ous visit, when we never saw one se­ri­ous al­ter­ca­tion,” Adel­man wrote. “We de­cided to make the most of the beau­ti­ful weather and did our best to stay clear of spon­ta­neous ri­ots and fo­cus on the pos­i­tives, which in­cluded vis­its to the beach and the Elbo Room.”

Un­for­tu­nately, Adel­man walked out of the Elbo

Room, was in­vited to go for a ride in a car full of girls, and was im­me­di­ately ar­rested when he stepped into the street.

“Ap­par­ently, the cop at the in­ter­sec­tion had warned ev­ery­one not to step off the curb, and when I got into the car, he ran over yelling at me to get out of the car. He said I was un­der ar­rest for dis­obey­ing him, and if I tried to run he would hit me on the head with his club,” Adel­man wrote.

Adel­man was fined $15 and re­leased the same day. But he says that me­dia re­ports at the time re­ported that he had been sen­tenced to 15 days, not 15 dol­lars. This news gave his par­ents a great deal of agita un­til he was able to ex­plain.

“Not long ago I stopped by the Elbo Room in­ter­sec­tion to rem­i­nisce with my wife of 55 years. Of course she’s heard the story sev­eral times but it was fun for me to be there and ex­plain all the de­tails,” he said. “To­day, I’ve come full cir­cle as we are ac­tively look­ing to per­ma­nently move to South Florida. I hope the char­ac­ter of that part of the beach doesn’t change, so I can visit again and smile.”

One Fort Laud­erdale na­tive, who asked to re­main name­less, grad­u­ated from high school in 1969. He would re­turn from col­lege for spring break “and spend the week on the beach, never hav­ing to sleep on the sand. On the Fri­day or Satur­day be­fore Easter, I would show up at home, ex­hausted. Mom and lit­tle brother never knew I was in town all week.”

Ruth Per­low, now a 78-year-old Boca Ra­ton res­i­dent, came down to Fort Laud­erdale from nurs­ing school in Bos­ton in 1961.

“Two other stu­dents and I flew down on a small plane to Florida for one whole week in the sun. We stayed right on Fort Laud­erdale Beach in a small trailer park lo­cated on the sand next to the wa­ter,” she wrote. “Our lit­tle trailer be­longed to a friend’s un­cle. Two young men lived next door. They were on strike from work­ing in a Pitts­burgh steel fac­tory, and so

were en­joy­ing the beach while col­lect­ing union pay. We all had fun to­gether.”

Fast for­ward a decade and … well, it’s pretty much the same.

“My friend and I drove down to Fort Laud­erdale from New Jer­sey for spring break in March of 1972 in a Chevy Vega. I was 19 years old, gas was 29 cents a gal­lon and it costs us $15 each way,” wrote reader Don Ap­pig­nani. “Drove straight through for 22 hours. Reached Fort Laud­erdale about nine in the morn­ing. We didn’t have any money for a ho­tel, so we took our sleep­ing bags and went to sleep on the beach. Sky was over­cast, so we didn’t think sun­burn would be a prob­lem. Woke up about 3 p.m. with the worst sun­burn I ever ex­pe­ri­enced.”

Ap­pig­nani re­turned sev­eral times, along with his wife. They loved South Florida and wound up mov­ing here in 1993, when Ap­pig­nani went to law school. He prac­ticed law lo­cally af­ter­ward.

“Had a cor­ner of­fice on the cor­ner of Las Olas Boule­vard and An­drews Av­enue, when Block­buster’s head­quar­ters was across the street. Spent a lot time in Fort Laud­erdale and many days I would drive over to the beach for lunch. Lived there 14 years and prac­ticed law for 10 years be­fore mov­ing to Palm Coast in 2007,” he wrote. “Saw many changes to Fort Laud­erdale and South Florida over the years. I still love the area, its trop­i­cal beauty and di­ver­sity. If the traf­fic wasn’t so bad, we would prob­a­bly still live there.”

Fast for­ward to the 1980s and … yes, same again.

“With no ad­vance lodg­ing re­served, had to head north a few miles in the then sleepy beach vil­lage of Laud­erdale by the Sea & Mardi Gras Mo­tel, across from Trader Jack’s with $2 Five Flags lo­cal brand booze and now a town park­ing lot ... boy, was that a great time and de­ci­sion,” wrote Gary Bur­nett, who came down from Pen­sacola and now lives in Laud­erdale-by-the-Sea. “[The] Elbo Room [is the] only bar [on that strip] with same name now, Blondies was Stu­dent Prince then, and

But­ton Lounge, Pen­rods and The Candy Store — most pop­u­lar on the strip — gone.”

All three of those bars closed in the late 1980s as the city cracked down on spring break, though their own­ers mostly went on to

other suc­cess­ful bars and night­clubs, per­haps none more than Jack Pen­rod, who closed down Pen­rod’s in Fort Laud­erdale and im­me­di­ately opened Mi­ami Beach’s Pen­rod’s Beach Club, which be­came Nikki Beach, which be­came a

chain of four re­sort ho­tels and 14 restau­rant/night­clubs across the globe.

Fast for­ward to the 1990s, as Pen­rod’s Beach Club was chang­ing up to be­come Nikki Beach and … you guessed it.

“Sev­eral of my co­work­ers

(we were cock­tail servers at a New Jer­sey hotspot called Sa­van­nahs) had opted to fly to Fort Laud­erdale for Spring Break,” wrote reader Lin Ma­te­ria, who re­called “the fire alarms con­stantly go­ing off in the ho­tel. Be­ing my first Spring Break, I did not know they were false alarms. I grabbed my purse and walked down sev­eral flights of stairs bare­foot. When I got to the lobby, I was scolded for be­ing bare­foot, and they didn’t want to let me back in my room with­out my key. We did have a great time all in all. Now I re­side per­ma­nently here in South Florida.”

Bot­tom line: If you find fault in the traf­fic, the row­di­ness, the sun­burns and shots and car­ry­ing on, just know that it’s not kids these days. It’s just kids, no time set­ting needed.

And for ev­ery­one com­ing down for spring break now, just know that your par­ents and grand­par­ents did the same thing, and were prob­a­bly even worse-off than you.


Wes Wal­ton of Le­high Univer­sity com­petes in the belly flop com­pe­ti­tion March 10, 1984, at the Candy Store in Fort Laud­erdale. Wal­ton won the con­test.


Fort Laud­erdale Po­lice are sur­rounded by stu­dents dur­ing the Spring Break “riot” in 1967. The in­ci­cent ap­par­ently started when crowds of stu­dents on both sides of At­lantic Blvd. near the Elbo Room started to cross the street in the mid­dle of traf­fic and then just sat down in the mid­dle of the street, block­ing traf­fic. As po­lice were haul­ing stu­dents into paddy wag­ons, stu­dents watch­ing would chant ob­sen­i­ties while oth­ers tried to rush po­lice to al­low their cap­tured com­rades to es­cape.


Spring Break stu­dents are cooled off with a hose from the stage March 13, 1985, at the But­ton on Fort Laud­erdale Beach.


Cops play kin­der­garten nurse­maids on the north side of The But­ton on A1A on Fort Laud­erdale Beach dur­ing Spring Break 1986. Go­ing to the bar is a daily rou­tine for po­lice of­fi­cers, who gather and form a pro­tec­tive ring around the cor­ner of ELO and A1A.

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