The material is presented “as is” from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets — [like this] — for clarification. The excerpt is long, so I’m breaking it into manageable bits and posting those bits over the next few days.
The time is the early 1960s.
There had been trouble off and on all week: one kid threw rocks through the windows of a beach shop. A group of rowdies yanked a palm out of its pot and tossed it into the swimming pool at a “swank hotel.” Some guys snatched five swimsuits off a clothes line rigged up by Ohio State coeds staying at a motel on Federal Highway. (*1) “Collegiate pranks” were par for the course in late March at Fort Lauderdale, a mecca for college students during spring break. (*2)
But this year, 1961, the city’s police force found the pranks to be a bit more destructive than normal, and the students more numerous than expected.
But whose fault was that? The cops should have known that this year’s horde would be huge, thanks to “Where the Boys Are,” a hit movie that premiered in late 1960 and was still running in theaters when spring break rolled around in March. The film, which starred George Hamilton, Yvette Mimieux, and Connie Francis, told the story of four coeds on spring break in Fort Lauderdale, and the romances, broken hearts, tragedy, and happy ending that unfolded at the Elbo Room, on Atlantic Boulevard, and of course, on the beach.
Anyone in his or her right mind should have realized that the movie would bring the kids. And it had. Thousands jammed the sidewalks and spilled out into “Function Junction,” the intersection of Atlantic and Las Olas, where boys, who outnumbered girls by about five to one, hopped into female-filled convertibles trolling the scene.
It was as if a collection of aliens had united for a grand convention and were, like conventioneers everywhere, hellbent on having fun.
Back home, they passed as clones of Wally Cleaver or Betty and Bud Anderson, polite youths who wore saddle shoes and letter jackets or dresses plumped full by petticoats. So disguised, they endured a humdrum existence surrounded by eye-rollingly dull old fogies who didn’t understand them. The aliens communed at night when they tuned their radios to the local music station, seeking each other and the solace of rock and roll.
That was home. This was Florida, where they shrugged off the shackles of teachers and parents and frolicked in the company of their own kind. Cast off their dull but necessary disguises and reveled in their natural state of Bermuda shorts, skimpy swimsuits, and sunburned noses.
By day, kids sprawled and crawled the beaches, the boys eying the girls in their bikinis, the girls taking their pick of boys in loafers and plaid shorts. By night, they packed the Elbo Room or twisted hip-to-hip at the Student Prince and Omar’s Tent.
The only flaw in this Camelot-by-the-Sea was that the city father shut the beaches at sunset and banned beer there day or night.
*1: “Pranks Replace Beach Parties: Collegiate Night-Owls ‘Hooting,’” Miami Herald, March 23, 1961, 2-B.