Yep, it was 30 years ago — 1986 — that the city started it’s heavy-handed crackdown that killed spring break. The Button and The Candy Store are long gone. And we don’t have the crowds of spring breakers that peaked at over 350,000 in 1985.
But while on the beach, I figured it was a good time to catch up with an old friend, Tim Schiavone, part owner of the Parrot Lounge just south of Sunrise Blvd.
Schiavone is 65 now, and one of the remaining remnants of the old spring break. He came to Fort Lauderdale in 1973 when he was 22, driving down from New Jersey in a ’67 Chevy van. He never left.
“Do I miss (the crowded spring break?) How can you not miss something that made you feel so young,” he said.
“I just fell in love. Every day was an adventure.”
We talked about the times people would crowd into his bar in the morning if a hurricane was threatening. People would wait for the storm, and boo if it didn’t come.
We no longer laugh at hurricanes. Schiavone is still a glorified beach bum, but he’s now on the Beach Advisory Board and the Tourist Development Council. There is a sidewalk plaque on the beach, honoring Schiavone for welcoming “millions to our beach while living the American Dream.”
Listen, the beach improvements were needed. But still, you have to smile when you recall the old days.
“We used to be a bad-ass joint,” Schiavone said.
“We used to have seven beers on draft for a buck. Now, you’re lucky to get a song on the juke box for a buck.”
And you wouldn’t recognize the new juke box. It’s a huge high-tech contraption connected to the Internet. Schiavone also sells 100 craft beers.
“I used to sell just Old Milwaukee and Busch,” he laughed.
Man, it was fun back then. The college kids have fun now — the few who come — but they have no idea what it was like.
“Spring break, Woodstock and the Yankees winning the World Series every year all went out the window,” Schiavone sighed.
“Spring break was a phenomenon, but it’s not coming back.
“I’m blessed to have lived through it. I proved my body, my mind, my soul could rebound from extreme damage. I developed with the city … the city let me grow and be successful.”
And he’s still living the dream.
“Hey,” he grinned, “I’m still on vacation.”
Excerpted from the article by Gary Stein, Reporter