Saturday, February 27, 2010

This time--in the opinion of the Panama City newspaper --our visiting Spring Breakers had gone too, too far.

"Absolutely the most disgusting (display) we have ever seen," was one description from the editorial page. "Exceeds all bounds of good taste," was another. "Rotten and distasteful," was yet another.

So, you ask, what over-the-top spring break activity was the target of such editorial ire? Bikini contest? Barely-clad babes riding mechanical bulls? Foxy ladies using American flags as a bun warmers?

Uh, not exactly. You see, the above quotes are not from this year's Panama City News-Herald coverage of spring break.

They're from the Panama City Pilot, and the date is April 25, 1929--that's three-quarters-of-a-century ago!

Seems that the University of Florida baseball team, in town for a series of games at the local ballfield, was sponsoring a dance--fully chaperoned, by the way--in the crystal ballroom of the Dixie-Sherman Hotel in downtown Panama City.

A local band, the Jimmie Lee Orchestra, was on hand to--in the words of the Pilot--"render the jazz and beautiful waltzes...with all the pep and vim of old."

The paper reported: "Scores of girls from Florida State College for Women will arrive in the city Friday afternoon to attend the dances."

And that's when trouble started. Seems the UF students placed posters advertising their dance in store windows around town. It was these broadsides that inspired the above quotes.

"The offending posters," reported the Pilot, "describe the dance as a 'hop,' ...with "enough sorority girls from Tallahassee to stock all the harems in Turkey."

"This is scarcely complimentary to the young ladies to whom the reference is made," the Pilot said. "Apparently the University's instruction in the art and ethics of advertising is gleaned from the pages of Whiz-Bang Monthly."

That's right: the big controversy of Spring Break '29 was over the use of the word "harem," and all the shady connotations it whipped up in the minds of Pilot editors! It was a different world back then, wasn't it?

By the way...anyone know where I can find the April '29 issue of Whiz-Bang Monthly?

--Ken Brooks
Panama City News Herald, March 22, 2000