Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another March Madness - Spring Break

By Chester Campbell

By the time you read this, we’ll be heading down I-65 through Middle Tennessee and the full length of Alabama to Orange Beach, a location that in the recent past was plagued with oily waste from the BP well disaster. That’s all behind us now, we’re told, and we’ll soon know for sure. It’s Spring Break time and we’re taking two grandsons aged ten and thirteen. It should be an interesting week.

We took the same two on a trip to Branson, Missouri in December a year ago. That one brought a pair of mini-disasters. We had just crossed the Mississippi River on the way to Branson when the younger boy sounded like he had suddenly exploded in the back seat. We were traveling along a levee and had no room to pull off and park until he had filled a plastic grocery bag with the detritus of car sickness.

Sarah had to get out in the freezing cold and clean him up with a bottle of water. Fortunately, we found a service station a short distance away to finish the job. But that was only half the story. On the return trip, the older boy pulled the same trick, though it was apparently from something he’d eaten. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to better times ahead.

According to a website called CoolestSpringBreak.com, the annual spring phenomenon dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman spring bacchanalia during which the younger set spent days drinking and dancing and indulging in the inevitable. The modern history began in the mid-thirties when a college swimming coach took his team to Fort Lauderdale to practice in the first Olympic-size pool in the state.

The practice of college swimmers gathering in Fort Lauderdale during late winter ballooned, and continued during World War II, though I’m sure on a more modest basis. After the war, though, it grew rapidly, numbering 15,000 students by 1953. Over the next decade it changed from a swimming exercise to a beach party and attracted 50,000 students by 1961. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since my classmates in the late 1940’s weren’t swimmers, we never made it to Fort Lauderdale. By the late sixties the Spring Breakers had begun their shift to Daytona Beach. I was way ahead of them on that score, however. In 1950 I joined a few colleagues from The Knoxville Journal staff on a spring trek to Daytona Beach. Some brought wives, but I was among the singles. We had a few student nurses from Knoxville General Hospital along, one I was dating and later married.

Though we’ll be staying at a beachfront hotel at Orange Beach on the current trip, we’ll spend some time in Pensacola, a few miles into nearby Florida. Pensacola Beach always swarms with Spring Break crowds. We’ll give our two wards plenty of beach time, but I doubt they’ll be terribly interested in the bikini babes. We plan to take them to the Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola NAS and watch the Blue Angels do a little practice at the airfield.

We’ll bore them unmercifully while I do a signing at the Pensacola Southwest Branch Library on Gulf Beach Highway Thursday afternoon and again Saturday at Barnes & Noble in Spanish Fort, Alabama. I’m sure we’ll indulge in more exciting things yet to be determined. All I ask is that everyone keep his tummy contents on hold.


Shane Cashion said...

Sounds fun, Chester! Your post about the early spring breaks makes me think of my mom. Where the Boys are was one of her favorites. Gone with the Wind; Where the Boys are; and Meet Me in St. Louis

Jean Henry Mead said...

We spent our spring breaks along the southern California coastline getting sun tans or burns, then riding the roller coaster and other rides at Long Beach, and taking the streetcar home. I can empathize with you, Chester, about "expoding" children. One of my five never seemed to miss a trip without decorating the backseat.

Ben Small said...

I helped arrange a group flight to the Bahamas my freshman year, and we sold out promptly, filled the whole airplane. Then a frat brother, son of a famous baseball owner, asked to ride along. We were full, and I told him that. So he had Daddy fly his bunch...for free. Argh.

After that, I spent my Spring Breaks in Bloomington. Girls, beer, basketball, the quarries and caves... We'd occasionally head up north to Indiana Beach, to see the Righteous Brothers, the Birds or some other top groups, and we'd take sleeping bags for the overnight. Some good stories there...

As for kids, I'd have to add dogs to the equation, because we'd rarely travel, as adults, without them all. Often to Florida, or camping in the Rockies or Black Hills. And my kid and dog blow-up stores are usually associated with the other end of the gastric system. It's no wonder I didn't get much for those cars...

Mark W. Danielson said...

Clearly, Spring Break is another indication that our society is paralleling the values of the fall of the Roman Empire. (Or perhaps I'm just upset over becoming invisible when walking the beach.)

Jaden Terrell said...

Sounds like a great trip, Chester. Hope you sell a million books!