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.