The very words “Spring Break” conjures up memories of golden days on the sand with the air filled with puffy white clouds, rock and roll music and laughter and the smell of beer and sun tan lotion. Every day for a week, parties run late into the night followed by mornings with “the hair of the dog” and starting all over again. Oh the memories!!! Wait! What spring break? We never had spring breaks back in the day. What the heck!
High school and college it was the same. The fall semester ran from the first week of September until January with short breaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas and a last push for final exams. Spring semesters ran from January until May with a single break for Easter again with that final exam crescendo at the end. Were we denied the annual rites of passage that come to the college kids of today? Let me sweep away the cobwebs in my memory. I remember sun and sand, the sweet coconut oil smell of Coppertone, radios blasting rock and roll and bikinis, well maybe “two piece” swimsuits. But those two piece swimsuits had the same effect on the boys. At school, the girls were required to wear dresses; no jeans, no shorts – dresses. So where do those memories come from if not spring break; ah yes, I remember now! It was “first week”.
Down in Florida, where I grew up within a few minutes’ drive of the beach, first week was not as big a deal as it is in South Carolina where the beach is hours away. For us, first week was a series of informal beach parties the week after school let out and before we all started our summer jobs. The books were put away and there was no school work hanging like swords of Damocles over our heads. It was unfettered freedom even if it was short lived. Up here, it was a bigger deal, rooms had to be rented, coordination to make sure that everyone was going to be going to the same place on the crowded beach so they could find each; Etc, Etc. But the end result was the same, a big celebration of youth, life and freedom in the golden sunshine.
There was one other difference worth noting. Back in the day the drinking age was 21 and that meant that there was far less drunken debauchery than apparently there is today. Everybody kept their clothes on and spent their evenings back at home rather than in some jail in a beach community. Well, most everybody, there was always that 10% that took it to the limit. I don’t remember ever seeing that happen, but I did hear stories about it; usually stories about kids from some other school getting into trouble. Maybe I missed something, but I doubt that having that experience would have enriched my life. Do the kids that migrate to South Beach or Acapulco and participate in those wild parties really have experiences that they will cherish the rest of their lives?
I got curious about what college students do on their spring breaks these days, and since this week is spring break week, at the University of South Carolina (THE USC), when I was on campus, I kept my ears open to see what they were planning for their spring break. Boy was I ever surprised! Not one student that I asked was planning a week at the beach, any beach, anywhere! Most of them were headed home for some TLC, even if home was a beach party town like Chicago, New York or Detroit. I couldn’t believe it, even the coolest of the cool or members of the fraternities or sororities where partying somewhere under the sun. Just in case you were wondering, USC is considered to be a big party school, often making the top 10 party school list and never out of the top 25. Their professors didn’t help matters much either. They all scheduled mid-term exams for the week before spring break and papers or reports due the week of their return.
Walking back to my car from the radio station after my show last week, I overheard a group of students in front of me talking about going to the beaches of Florida. Aha, I thought, finally some partygoers! My ears perked up as I was ready for the spicy details. One of the girls was talking about this hot new bikini she had found just for the week. Score! I thought, there is a real “spring breaker” here. But the joke was on me. These students were all from the Daytona area and were planning a beach party like the ones I used to go to. The bikini girl was even bringing her younger sister who was still in high school.
So for everyone who thinks that the younger generation spends their spring breaks in abandoned hedonism on some far away strand, I hate to burst your bubble. The college kids of today are not that much different than the ones of our day; serious about getting a good education and finding their way in this brave new world. Oh MY!