Coast spring break has a history, small but sure


FROM THE BERGERON COLLECTION (Even before Mississippi Coast sand was first replenished in the 1950s, there were sandy spots to for beach lovers. This one, circa late 1940s, was near the Gulfport harbor)

Spring break is no new phenomenon on the Coast. But this is not Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Cancun or other destination where students on study break earned the reputation for gone-wild partying.

This is not “Where the Boys Are” country, so don’t expect old photographs or new cell images of young, suntanned George Hamilton look-alikes flirting on Mississippi beaches. And forget the Tom Cruise and Shelley Long wannabes imitating “Spring Break.” These movies from the 1960s and 1980s definitely were not filmed here.

But since the 1950s, when the Coast finally got a sand beach worth boasting about, spring breakers have come and gone. They just didn’t make a big racket. They didn’t come in the kind of droves that caused Fort Lauderdale in the late 1980s to tell party animals they were no longer welcome.

When the first spring breaks of note came here in 2000 and 2001, with a traffic estimate as high as 60,000, the residents weren’t prepared. Nothing from the past had warned them.

“Our first springs breakers were so ‘mild’ that you didn’t notice them,” said Augie Taconi, who at 61 remembers early Baby Boomer days on Biloxi Beach.

“Then one year back in the early 1960s there was what I call ‘a happening,’ certainly the biggest local spring break when I was a teenager.

“I don’t remember what set it off because in those days there were no cell phones or Internet. It was one of those spontaneous things that brought thousands of young people here.”
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