Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring break! whoo hooo! Remembering spring frolics past

March heralds student spring break frolics, the Associated Press article said.

The article went on to say that Alabama’s Gulf coast is hoping to beat last year’s $237 million in taxable lodging rentals, the best since Hurricane Ivan, in 2010.

“Spring break frolics” is a great description, and an apt one, as I remember spring breaks past.

Spring break has always been a fun time, even back when we called it AEA and before I knew that kids went to the beach or other exotic places during AEA. Spring break is this week, officially, in most of Alabama, but aside from watching and waiting, spring break is not on my radar anymore.

I am in that in-between stage, too old to accompany my grown children to any kind of spring break, even though I’d love to, and too young to have grandchildren (if we someday have some) to visit for spring break.

Gone are the days of being the “adult” on a spring break trip with a bunch of 12 to 18 year olds, and if I look back through the glass clearly, I ought to be screaming good riddance! But, hindsight is like that.

Instead, I find myself looking longingly back at spring breaks past, the good memories floating to the top like a bright pink boogie board in a perfect clear green-blue wave washing up on clean white sands.

Nevermind: finding beer funnels in the shower or past-curfew beach searching, or that heart-in-the-throat anxiety that something might have happened to yours or one of the precious ones in your charge (but nothing ever did, thank you Lord.)

For the record, usually the same kids were responsible for all of the above and never my angels…..

But no, instead, I recall the best of spring break fun.

To trace spring breaks past, I’ll group them into 1. my spring breaks. 2. my children’s pre-teen spring breaks 3. the teen spring breaks, aka, it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time-to-bring-all-these-kids-down-here-what-was-I-thinking spring breaks.

My spring breaks:

In the Grove: For the skinny grade-school me, and I recall sometimes my brother (whether we lived in Birmingham or Huntsville), our spring breaks were spent at Daddy and Emily’s in Pleasant Grove, which was then the COUNTRY, to help Nana and Grandpa with planting the garden. We’d plant the garden, have Coke floats for treats in the evening and at least one day, we’d go downtown Birmingham to shop (I told you it was a long time ago) or maybe to Five Points West and get a new outfit or pair of shoes. Whoo-hoo.

London on $300: Into my teen years, the ultimate spring break trip came in my junior year in high school when a group from Fairfield High School booked a trip to London for spring break. Chaperoned by Mr. Byrd, the school superintendent, and his wife (who may have had that good-idea-at-the-time thought before we returned), it was a trip of a lifetime for us blue collar kids. I still recall the cost, not cheap by 1973 standards, but still, it was $300 for the trip, plus spending money. A first airplane ride for many of us and most certainly the first transcontinental one, we saw London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Stonehenge and a bunch of other cultural stuff that I was too young to fully appreciate, and we had a great time.

Children’s pre-teen spring breaks:

Chattanooga choo-choo: We packed up and went to Chattanooga, to see mountains and the aquarium there, one year when Mary Claire was maybe 5 and Will 10 or 11, Frank driving us through the mountains in an early supposed-to-be-extended-cab pick up truck, me and MC in the tiny back seat. We loved the aquarium. At the amusement park, Mary Claire ran amok in a go-cart and rear-ended another tourist before we tipped on out of there.

The Romine motor home express: Then, there was the year the kids and I piled into Daddy and Emily’s motor home and motored north with them to Guntersville for what I recall was the coldest spring break in recent history. Will and his Pawpaw cemented their mutual love for fishing, and all of us played Bingo (the real kind with paper cards and yelling BINGO!) at the “resort” lodge at night. Aside from the heating going out and using the stove eyes for warmth, it was a great, cold spring break we’ll never forget.

The teen years:

It was not until Will approached teenhood that I realized that some kids routinely go to the beach on spring break, with and without parents, and they frolic. Will went with others couple times, and I began what would be a sometimes tradition of taking Mary Claire and a friend or friends for a day or two. These trips all blur together with brief flashing scenes of:

• My pre-teen daughter and friend dressed too-old-for-your-age and looking to meet boys, and of Will and friends, not dressed too old but looking for girls who look like they are.

• Pleading young girls wanting to get 1 piercing, 2 piercings, 3 piercings, 4. No!

• Fire alarms pulled repeatedly throughout the early morning by some bored spring breakers in high-rise condos to the point where I think the security folks just turned them off. Luckily, nothing burned.

• A very drunk chaperone (not with our group) requiring multi-beach-police people to escort her (finally with someone carrying her arms and someone her feet) from the beach to the waiting police car. She had been dancing and talking to herself while walking on the beach WAY too early in the day when she attracted the attention of the law. My adult spring break partner of that year, Jane Lee, and I watched it all, as we sipped our cocktails, our charges resting (or planning) in the condo. We smugly thought we’re pretty good chaperones after all.

For the spring breakers already out there and those heading out for spring frolics, have fun and be careful. I found this advice from the Alabama State Troopers as I researched Spring break 2010. I’ll repeat this for anyone, teen, college kid, mom, dad or grandparent, thinking about hitting the road during spring break.

• Buckle up on each and every trip, whether it’s a trip to the beach, a friend’s house or a neighborhood store;
• Obey speed limits and all other traffic laws;
• Avoid drinking and driving at all costs; at best the consequences can be costly, and at worst, deadly;
• Keep focused on the roadway, other motorists, and your surroundings; don’t be distracted from the driving task. Hang up the phone and drive. (I added that one).

As Mary Claire heads out for a spring break respite with her still-in-college friends, I just help prepare, wish well and think about spring breaks past.

I no longer have to worry about or have control over outfits or funneling or piercing or curfew or any of it. For that, I am grateful. It is someone else’s turn.

To all spring breakers, obey the rules, have some sense and have a great, safe frolic.

Pictures of the week: Fairfield High School students posed in a boat at one of our stops on the Spring Break, March 1973, trip to London, England. Pictured are, from left, Colleen McArdle, Cathy Randall, Terry Palmore, Clyde Adams, and other two I know but cannot call right now. FHS alumni help please.

This second one is me at Stonehenge. Forgive me for the cool hat. It was the seventies.
Song of the week: Love Train

Written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and a number 1 hit for the O'Jays in the Spring of 1973, we sang this one, in our bell bottoms, on our Spring break trip, with a verse of “the next stop that we make will be England…”

Love Train, the O'Jays

"People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train
The next stop that we make will be soon
Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too
Don't you know that it's time to get on board
And let this train keep on riding, riding on through...."


  1. Don't forget singing "Singing in the Rain" hand n hand as we skipped down a street in London! Funny you just wrote about our Spring Break Trip as I recently mentioned that trip to someone. Had forgotten some of the items you discussed in your blog. It truly was a magical time. Life started becoming complicated after that. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Cathy

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