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Recalling Ghosts of Spring Break Past

A Boomer’s Journal

By Tom Anselm

The first day of spring came and went a few weeks ago. And the earth didn’t get the message. Low temps and crazy snowfalls were the norm rather than warm sun and green sprouts. But luckily there were other signs that bespoke the season.

Area schools took a breather for spring break, and March Madness, aka the NCAA Basketball Tournament, made it’s inevitable appearance.  The former put most parents face to face with the quandary of child care.  The latter reduced national productivity and caused untold anguish amongst the die-hard hoops fans as they saw their brackets crumble.  I did my patriotic duty, basing my picks on the team rankings, and as of Easter morning, I was “totally busted.”  Oh well, it’s still fun.

Back to that phenomenon of Spring Break, with capital letters this time.  The best I can figure, and with the  help of  my  crack research team of Wikepedia and Google, it’s origins can be traced to the celebrations of the good old Greeks and Romans as they ushered in the growing season by honoring Dionysius and Bacchus, the gods of wine.

In more modern times, wine was joined by beer, vodka and any number of intoxicants imbibed in warmer climes like Florida and Texas and Mexico, to name a few.  Our nation’s youth took to this in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and there seems to be no end to it.  Hollywood made it the thing to do with their productions of “Where the Boys Are” and “Beach Blanket Bingo”.

I’ll never forget the sight of  perfectly-coiffed former Mousketeer Annette Funicello as she tried to actually act opposite Frankie Avalon.  She was awful, but sure looked good in her pink two-piece, that, by today’s standards resembled my grandma’s underwear (not that I ever saw that, but… well, you get the idea.)

My only foray into Spring Break-dom was in 1968.  Me and friend Mike from high school decided we’d be cool and head to Daytona Beach.  We of course were taking the economy tour, which consisted of a bunch of snacks, sleeping bags and his green ’64 VW Bug. Reservations?  We don’t need no stinking reservations.  Road trip, baby!  Yeah, I can’t recall what my parents must have thought, but I am sure they knew what idiots we were.  “Call us when you get there”, they said.

Things were so different 45 years ago, with no email or cell phones.  I did call when we got there, from a pay phone in an actual booth, reversing the charges, of course.  Talk about old school.

So, anyway, we’re sailing south, through Arkansas, pushing that Bug up to 70, downhill. We get halfway into Mississippi and have to go through this little town called Durant. One stop- light. We come to said light behind an 18-wheeler.  He runs the light, which to us is totally hidden from sight. We run it as well, and SMACK, some guy in a big-fendered Ford Galaxy nails us in the left front fender.  Lucky we weren’t T-boned.  So here we are, two 19-year-old dorks in the heart of Dixie with a mangled front end and Sheriff Buford T. Cornpone staring into our window.  He had the Smokey the Bear hat, big gut, the perfectly-stereotyped small town constable.

Mike calls his dad from the police station, they talk, the sheriff talks, we hand over $50, which is over half our total travel budget.  Assuring his dad we are okay and the car is drivable, off we go. We manage to tear off the fender, and with the tire waggling like an oval, we continue south, top speed a hot 50 now.  Yeah, Beach or Bust… after we’d come dangerously close to the latter.

It took us another 12 hours of drive/sleep/drive to get to the Atlantic coast and down to the Daytona.  Our first night was spent at a lovely seaside resort, cozying up on a couple of lounge chairs by a garage, with an early-morning shower in swim trunks under an  ice-cold nozzle by the lifeguard shack.  Ah, luxury.

After a day of wandering and sleeping in the sand, the always-resourceful Mike produced a quart of some indeterminate liquor, the end result of which I quickly became over-served.  As we were talking to some girls, I leaned against what I thought was a wall but was in fact a sliding patio door, ending up about five feet to their left, and wondering where everyone had gone.

It would have been hilarious if it weren’t just so dang stupid.  Mike gently escorted me back to Motel VW, where I spent the night quietly and safely.  The next day being Easter, and feeling like we’d risen from the dead, we grabbed some waffles which did not stay with us very long, and headed north.  It was a very tedious and shaky return trip.  Needless to say, Mike’s dad was not happy to see him pull up.

That was our first, and last, Spring Break outing. Sure hope yours have been better.

(Tom welcomes all comments at

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