Spring Weekend, Florida Style
While Harvard men and their dates enjoy an exclusive Ivy-League-brand Spring Weekend, thousands of college students all over the country will just be exhausting their stories of spring vacation. These are the 125,000 students who flocked to Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach for the annual "spring invasion" which is fast becoming an American folk legend.
This year was better than ever for the two resorts; both Lauderdale and Daytona were packed from about March 20 through April 5. Students came from colleges all over the country, some at considerable sacrifice, spending about as much time on the road as in Florida. Most, however, were there for at least a week, and had an opportunity to be members of a unique society that comes into existence only once a year.
Who were the students who comprised the 73,000 or more in Daytona and almost that many in Lauderdale? While no tally was taken in Daytona, fairly precise "registration" figures are available for Lauderdale, which, contrary to common impression, is far from being a "has been" for the spring vacation crowd.
Ivy League schools were well represented among the 731 different colleges claimed by Lauderdale's visitors. Twenty-nine sons of Harvard allowed their bursars cards to be given the Lauderdale stamp, and forty Princetonians checked in. Yale was way ahead among the Big Three, however, with about a hundred frustrated souls wandering along the beach. As might be expected, Cornell was far ahead of any other Ivy school, and its 180 or so representatives made it one of the "big names" in town.
The Seven Sisters had the weakest representation of any classification of schools, and not even one 'Cliffie showed her face at the registration booths.
The majority of the Lauderdale gang came from the Big Ten and other Midwestern schools, especially state universities. Ohio State topped them all, as about 320 of its sweatshirt lined Atlantic Boulevard. The closest contenders were Florida State, the University of Florida, Wisconsin -- and of course, Miami. Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, University of Cincinnati, and Bowling Green University led the rest of the field.
The official figures are undoubtedly very conservative, as they include only those who checked in at one of the Lauderdale Department of Recreation's "Welcome booths," and paid their quarter for a tag and key chain ("COLLEGIATE GUEST -- JAYCEES PANHELLENIC -- FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.") that would admit them to all the planned activities for as long as they stayed.
The age of the average vacationer in Lauderdale or Daytona is one of his more surprising characteristics. The majority of the students seemed to be at least juniors, and many were recent graduates, graduate students, or on a leave of absence. There were almost no freshmen. "Where the boys are" is as appropriate a name as ever; the boys outnumber the girls by about five to one, in both Lauderdale and Daytona. By the middle of the week, when many of the girls have been picked up, the ratio becomes much more unfavorable -- something like a Radcliffe jolly-up.
A typical day for a member of the college vanguard begins when he gets up at about noon, grabs a quick breakfast, and runs for a good spot on the beach. After soaking up an afternoon of sun, he goes to the public dance (early in his stay) or a wild party in someone's motel room (once he has been there for several days). The usual evening includes as much dancing and drinking as humanly possible, and at about 4 a.m. everyone goes to sleep so that he'll wake up in time to spend the next day doing exactly the same thing.
A notable feature of the Lauderdale or Daytona vacation, perhaps like almost any vacation, is the remarkable speeding-up of life. The steps in a re- lationship between a boy and girl are shortened considerably, and sex becomes an open and important concern of all. Relationships are measured by both male and female visitors purely in terms of "conquests," and they are more functional than meaningful.
Never has there been such a huge number of bored people gathered in one place; though few are quick to admit it, after a few days of the usual routine, everyone spends his time searching for something new to do. After a certain number of times, one tires of playing volleyball or having tugs of war on the beach.
Drinking becomes the main release. False ID's are extremely easy to come by, and the Elbo Room, Student Prince and other bars along Atlantic Boulevard in Lauderdale are the most popular places all day and all night, except perhaps from 6 a.m. to noon. Time magazine was probably not far off in its estimate that each boy would consume an average of nine cans of beer a day, and each girl three. (The slogan, according to Time: "When in doubt, drink and shout.")
So it is that things like the Daytona riots develop. After being closed in by three days of bad weather, the natives became restless. When a policeman tried to stop them from tossing a girl up into the air on a blanket, a huge chant of "Go to hell" broke out. By the end of vacation, Daytona police had arrested an average of 100 students a day. Until they realized that it would end up costing them a great deal of money, most people thought it pretty exciting to be thrown in jail overnight, and it was definitely the way to be "cool." A reserve policeman in Daytona commented toward the end of vacation that the students had been "pretty good after all, considering they were all drunk. They deserved to make a little trouble after being penned up by the rain."
The original home of the spring fling in Florida is, of course, Fort Lauderdale, which was featured in Max Shulman's book Where the Boys Are and the movie starring Connie Francis. But after the 1961 Lauderdale riots, Daytona invited the college students to come there and each resort has by this time developed its own particular personality for the collegians' stay.
This year, as soon as anyone bought his registration tag in Lauderdale, he received an eight-page promotional piece, which listed all the churches in town and about sixty places where he might find accomodations. It announced all the planned activities, in-