DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Here in the U.S., thousands and thousands of college students are headed south right now. It is spring break time - time to drop the books, pack up the sunscreen.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
While there are many destinations that attract youth in search of wild abandon, Florida is the cradle of spring break civilization. The Sunshine State has been popular as a place to get a jumpstart on the beach season since the 1930s.
GREENE: But the real spring break explosion happened in the late '50s after the novel and later the movie "Where the Boys Are" was released.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE THE BOYS ARE")
CONNIE FRANCIS: (Singing) Where the boys are...
JOHN LAURIE: That novel and movie were all about sun, surf, beer and sex. And that spring break really did not exist up until that point. But in a twist of life imitating art, people read the novel, saw the movie, and that set off the rush to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. So it went from 20,000 people to 50,000 people almost overnight.
MONTAGNE: That's John Laurie(ph), who spent his college years in Florida and ended up writing his dissertation on the social and economic history of the spring break phenomenon.
GREENE: Not a bad dissertation topic. Well, by the mid-'80s, hundreds of thousands of people were descending on Fort Lauderdale, and that might have been too many.
LAURIE: Eventually, Fort Lauderdale really got tired of the student behavior. I think they had reached 350,000 people by their peak in the mid-'80s and then set about passing laws that were not spring break friendly. And that is one of the key criteria of spring break - there has to be a certain level of permissiveness on the part of the locals.
MONTAGNE: So if not Fort Lauderdale, then, well, how about Daytona Beach? That became the new destination and soon the spring break experience was in living rooms across the country, as MTV crashed the party.
(SOUNDBITE OF MTV BROADCAST)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's off to Daytona Beach for MTV's live spring break broadcast and possibly the police department's daily lineup.
GREENE: John Laurie says you cannot overestimate MTV's influence.
LAURIE: If MTV is telling the students this is the spring break location to be, that's where the students will go. It increased the perception that, you know, this is where you need to be.
GREENE: MTV has taken spring break to locales ranging from Cancun to South Padre Island, even Las Vegas. This year, MTV's destination is Panama City, in Florida, where it all started.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(YOU GOTTA) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT (TO PARTY)")
THE BEASTIE BOYS: (Singing) You gotta fight for your right to party...
GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.