UL in History: Spring Break

Dr. Clifton W. Potter Jr. ~ UL History Professor

All during the dark cold days of January and the uncertain weather in February faculty and students alike dream of semester break and escape—either from the daily routine of preparing for classes and grading papers, or from the University of Lynchburg and Central Virginia. Some fortunate members of the faculty will be able to travel to faraway places, but most of us shall stay at home and finished midterm grades. Some students will be the lucky ones, and they easily will be distinguished by their new suntans and the bags under their eyes due to lack of sleep.  Has it always been so? The answer is a resounding no!

Personally, when I was a student, I never went anywhere during spring break except to work earning extra funds for the last half of the semester. There were students who lived in Florida, and they would take friends home with them during the holiday. However, by my junior year the mass exodus south had begun, and films with titles like Where the Boys Are only increased the numbers of those looking for “adventures” far from parents and the Dean of Women. My senior year one of our elected leaders was arrested in Fort Lauderdale for refusing to descend from a telephone pole that he had climbed to get a better view of the riot that in progress below him. He was released without being charged, and only received a stern reprimand never to do it again.

In the 1970s the number of L.C. students traveling to Florida increased. Each year rumors would circulate on the activities of these sun worshippers—wet tee shirt contests and something called the “Wet Willie” contest. One young man returned to campus as the national champion in this rather dubious activity. He is now a respected businessman, and I trust his trophy is carefully hidden in the attic. Several years ago one of my students headed to Fort Lauderdale with several of her friends—and her mother who had had made the same pilgrimage a quarter of a century earlier.  This proved to a “life-changing” experience for both of them. The student finally learned why she had never been able to do anything without her mother catching her. Mom had already done it all and knew all the telltale signs!

In the 1980s Florida became passé, our students started to haunt the islands of the Caribbean and the coast of Mexico. Then in the 1990s some of the more adventurous opted for travel to Europe, Asia, or Africa on college sponsored study tours.  However most of our students still returned home, spend a week with family and friends, and perhaps eared a little extra spending money by working at what would be their summer job. (In 2008, my wife and I finally took a spring break vacation—to Hawaii.)

The real change in semester breaks occurred with the arrival of Serve. Now students devote their long-awaited vacation to serving others by working on various projects to benefit those who are less fortunate.  Dr. and Mrs. Hopwood would be very proud of them; it fulfills part of their dream for their college.