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Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale

Updated on August 16, 2015
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Spring Break on Fort Lauderdale Beach

When I first moved to this area, I had no idea about its Spring Break reputation.

People still flock to Fort Lauderdale for spring break but its heyday was from the end of the nineteen forties until the nineteen eighties. And it really took off in popularity after the release of the film slightly naughty movie Where the Boys Are in 1960.

The movie was largely made on the beach here and as soon as college students saw it - that was it.

Hundred of thousands of kids descended on Fort Lauderdale wanting to get their own piece of the action.

At first, the city was only too happy to oblige them - they brought millions of dollars to the area every year. But eventually they tired of the boozing, the partying and the noise and clamped down on the mayhem.

The popularity of the city as a spring break destination has its roots in the nineteen twenties. The city was still recovering from a serious and devastating hurricane when the Las Olas Casino was built featuring an Olympic sized pool. Spring break in Fort Lauderdale was about to begin...

Las Olas Casino

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In the nineteen twenties, the Las Olas Casino was built on the beach road. This wasn't a gambling establishment but a swimming pool. College swimming teams began to appreciate the area as they could train in its Olympic sized pool all years round. The invasion was now beginning...

Where the Boys Are - A brief history of spring break in Fort Lauderdale

  • College swimmers flocked to the facility. In 1935 the city hosted the annual Collegiate Aquatic Forum - even more students discovered the area. They went back and told their friends what a great time they'd had and the cycle repeated itself over and over again.
  • The area also had its own homegrown swimming champion, Katherine Rawls. Katy competed in the Olympics in 1936, bringing further fame to the area as she trained at the Las Olas Casino. She was an attractive girl who was often in the newspapers and she helped the area become a popular attraction - unknowingly she was a great advertisement!
  • Teenagers and students continued to travel to South Florida - and especially at spring break - and their base was the famous Elbo Room on the A1A at Las Olas Boulevard. The bar is still open today.
  • In 1959, Time magazine published article about spring break here but in the following year, when Where the Boys Are was released, the area exploded in popularity - and I mean exploded!
  • Gradually, spring break became more and more raucous. Bar owners loved it. Wet t-shirt competitions began and the vacationing girls then decided it was their turn - wet shorts competitions for the guys started. Then banana eating contests ... which I will leave up to your imagination!
  • The city officials decided that this was all a bit much ... they had developed activities for the kids; nice wholesome events such as volleyball, quizzes and tug of war . Strangely, the city was surprised when the kids preferred to be in a bar or on the beach ... they had seemingly forgotten their own college days.
  • Then came the final nail in the coffin. The legal drinking age was raised from eighteen to twenty one. Twenty year olds who had visited our area in the past - and been able to drink - now couldn't even order a beer without showing ID.

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See the movie

Where The Boys Are
Where The Boys Are

This is the classic movie that made every college kid want to come to our area. It was made in 1960 and is so very typical of the era. Even today this film gets rave reviews from people who buy the DVD. See our beach at its craziest - although I've been told that the real spring break here was much more crazy than the movie!What do you think? Tell me in the comments section below!

 

Spring Break video

Something that makes me chuckle about this video - which was filmed in 1967 - is that the college kids you see are in their sixties or even seventies now.

The chances are that they've now got grandchildren who are enjoying their own Spring Break revelries. Did your grandparents visit Florida during the nineteen-sixties? Is that cute girl in the bikini your grandmother?

Fort Lauderdale today - You can still party

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Photography credits

Old photograph of the girl on the diving board from Wikipedia Commons. All other photographs copyright Andy Royston and used with written permission.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

Thanks for reading - please say hi!

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    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Another very interesting article, thanks for sharing all your knowledge of past history which us, enjoyed reading it.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I've had a few spring breaks there over the years :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jfjones1: We still get plenty of spring break visitors, that's for sure. It's not as crazy as the old days though :) Thanks so much for your kind words!

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      jfjones1 4 years ago

      I thought that it was still a favorite spring break destination. Wow! The times have really changed.Thanks for setting me straight and providing the real history. Great lens.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @JoanieMRuppel54: Good for you - you were part of history!

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 4 years ago from Keller, Texas

      I was fortunate enough to spend a college spring break in Ft. Lauderdale in 1976. Never forget it - it was crazy!