Why more and more people go south in the summer

Sane Canadians never used to summer in Florida. They do now—in thousands—and they're finding a younger, livelier Florida than you'll ever see in winter

Robert Thomas Allen August 11 1962

Why more and more people go south in the summer

Sane Canadians never used to summer in Florida. They do now—in thousands—and they're finding a younger, livelier Florida than you'll ever see in winter

Robert Thomas Allen August 11 1962

Why more and more people go south in the summer

Sane Canadians never used to summer in Florida. They do now—in thousands—and they're finding a younger, livelier Florida than you'll ever see in winter

Robert Thomas Allen

WHEN THE WINTER TOURISTS have gone home and the temperature has gone up into the high nineties Florida begins to look good to a large and growing number of Canadians who go south in the summer. Why they make this migration must be as mysterious, to anybody who doesn't go out of his way to expose himself to heat and hungry insects, as the lemmings’ march to the sea. To me it's just the other way around: 1 decided a long time ago to live in Florida most of the year instead of Toronto, but I’ve learned that Florida isn't really Florida until the natives, who wear ear

muffs in the winter, come out to the beaches in June. They drag along their portable barbecues, youngsters, beach chairs and dogs and sit around telling stories about the things the northerners did last winter. By the end of June there’s a new wave of northerners thrown up on the beaches, but this time instead of wellheeled graying businessmen and their wives the strangers tend to be kids turned loose from high school and college, kindergarten teachers and stenographers, young families and honeymooners, and Canadians who can't get hot enough at home.

The Ontario Motor League in Toronto had almost half as many requests for routings to Florida last July and August as it did the previous December and January (735 to 1.668). TCA, which started its summer Toronto-Tampa service twelve years ago with three flights each way a week, now needs six llights to take the traffic. Two thousand Canadians, mostly from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, are expected at the Hotel Fontainebleau in Miami between June 15 and September 15. Some of them may change their minds this year due to the rate of CONTINUED ON PAGE 26

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SOUTH IN THE SUMMER

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The other Florida: teen-agers, honeymooners—and steam heat

exchange, but it’s hard to see why. Canadian tourists will pay $6.5 I for a room that costs $6.00 in Yankee money; a little over 10Vi cents (Canadian) for an orange juice worth 10 cents (U.S.), and they won’t even pay that at one of the six Florida welcome stations which serve it free. If a tourist plans to spend $100 (U.S. ) for a Florida holiday, he’ll spend $108.50. And what he'll save on summer hotel and motel rates will more than make up for it.

Summer rates in Florida are generally half of winter rates. This isn't true of the northern part of the state, which is mainly a summer resort. But in southern Florida the hotels and most of the other tourist enterprises are geared for winter. The hotel owners, watching with dismay the picnicking, holidaying, boating, fishing Floridians who come for a day and go home at night, drop their rates to entice strangers. Hotel owners, who reckon the seasons by tourist traffic rather than by astronomy, mark the year off into eight seasons. They'll try to cash in on the least new trend, but in general rates drop to their lowest in the off-season — May and June, September and October. Prices go up a bit in July and August but are still cheaper than in winter. You can stay in hotels with foyers like bowling greens, pink swimming pools, chartreuse sculpture, purple fountains and green-fingered bellhops, and pay $19 a day for a posh ocean-front spread that costs $48 a day at the height of winter or $10 for a room on the off-ocean side that in w inter costs $33. You can get a room at a good ocean-front motel like Sherwood Courts, a double-decker on North Miami Beach, for six dollars a day. and for an extra two dollars get a kitchenette thrown in. Or you can go down the beach and get a room for $1.50 w'ith the same sand and same salt water but a beat-up decor. There are hundreds of places to stay. Tourist information people will fill your car with handbills on the way down. They’ll dump them in at intersections before you can roll up the window. Some of the places you won't be able to find. 1 spent two hours one day trying to find a hotel that advertised rooms for $2.50 a day with maid service, free parking, free golf and continental cuisine. I followed the directions of people who kept pointing toward a warehouse and finally came to a dead end in front of a filling station where the owner sat on a kitchen chair beside a washtub and a sign that read, “Cars washed here on the same principle as nuclear physics." But there will be thousands of empty rooms that you can find.

In the meantime, you'll see a different Florida, one filled with young people. Instead of silver-haired senior citizens window' shopping for stoles, you'll see lean-bellied kids eating raspberry snowballs and watermelon (which you can buy at five for a buck in the summer), throwing beach

parties and, when the cops aren’t looking, steering their cars with their bare feet. At a beach in the St. Petersburg area about five hundred teen-agers gather every Sunday afternoon for a dance, at last report the twist, for which the city provides its blessings and a band. One hotel offers honeymooners an extra day. free. The promoters arc so anxious to keep the summer crowd coming that when word got out that there were nine girls to every man in Miami, a Miami paper issued a plea to the residents to find them dates. Daytona sponsors a supervised hike across the state, on which kids starting with nothing but a jackknife. salt and matches, live off the land. They eat snakes, armadillos, turtles and berries, in case you’d like to go along. A motel in Tampa brings out a hula dancer every time a guest orders a certain drink, to keep the buyers in a buying mood, and all over Florida beauty contests are abloom. You can hardly throw a beach ball without hitting a Miss Something or Other.

1 find all this more real, lively and amusing than anything that goes on at higher prices in the winter. Florida can be a lonely place in winter, especially during a cold spell. I’ve looked up the main street of Miami without seeing anybody but one lonely dowager up to her ears in mink. 1 could have arrived on a flying saucer, and I felt like going up and asking her to take me to her leader. I’ve seen the Atlantic Ocean look like a scene frorr The Cruel Sea, when gulls hung on the wind as if suspended by picture wire and the only moving things w'ere the yellow gobs of scud, driven by a northeaster, and a bundled-up elderly couple collecting shells.

In summer the beaches are loaded and if there’s a shell lying around someone is sitting on it. usually someone you’d rather collect than a lace murex. 1 spent fifteen minutes on a Sunday afternoon trying to find a place to sit down to read Plato’s Republic and finally had to settle near three youths with crew cuts and cracker accents chasing three girls and spraying me w'ith sand. Their minds were definitely not on Plato and if I looked and felt like them mine wouldn’t have been either.

Everybody goes swimming in summer, including southerners, who wouldn't dream of swimming in winter. The Atlantic flattens out, turns a delicate translucent blue and warms up until on the east coast it averages eighty to eighty-five. People who can’t be bothered moving their arms and feet just carry deckchairs out into the ocean and sit there awash up to their laps, sometimes holding a fishing rod and sometimes a beer. The beach is aromatic with barbecued hamburgers, french fries, suntan lotion and salt spray. The music from merry-gorounds and the loud speakers over the Frostee Freeze stands mingle with the sound of the surf. The kids are there screaming back at the terns, and at low tide the sand castles, with moats and ramparts, are about as far apart, in scale, as medieval cities.

But it isn’t only on the beach that things are happening. Everything is going on except horse racing, which has moved north. The Daytona Speedway holds special events in summer, including a 250-mile race for late-

model stock cars. You can sit in a jai-alai fronton losing money without having to move a muscle, while beautiful girls take your bets, serve you drinks and bring you roast beef sandwiches while you watch the haughtiest, most disdainful-looking athletes on earth play their gigantic version of handball. Or you can go into the bar and watch the same game on a TV screen. You can go from there to the dog races and try to pick up the money you lost at jai-alai. The chances are you'll also see a row of beauty-contest entrants shepherded by a publicity man. cheering for the dogs, and if they're the dogs I bet on they need it.

I can't think of anything more awful, but if you want to go skin diving there are schools in Florida that rent everything you'll need. There are twenty-eight waterski schools and a surfboard club which Florida claims is the only one on the Atlantic seaboard right up to Labrador and which can make use of the long ground swells set up by hurricanes that pass far out at sea. You can go deep-sea fishing from Daytona Beach for $10 a person per day. which includes tackle, bait and ice for your tea.

The truth about the reptiles

About the weather in summer in Florida; it has one definite advantage over the weather in winter in Florida —you know what you’re going to get. It's hot and humid. In winter, cold spells come and go and if they coincide with a tw'O-week vacation the unhappy holidayer goes back north and spends the rest of his life spreading the w'ord that Florida is a con job. But in summer Florida gets summer weather — from June to October — and you’ll leave with absolutely no doubt that Florida is in the subtropics. The temperature is usually in the nineties. Often at night if you get a little more humidity in the air. it will squeeze out as dew'. And it does. As common a morning sight as the mocking bird singing on a palm frond is the dew trickling down the screens on the veranda in the morning. before the sun has warmed the air enough to take it hack again. It covers your car so thickly that you can use your hand like a squeegee and get a cupful with every scoop.

But to reason from this data that “last summer 1 could hardly take it in my apartment at St. Clair and Yonge when the temperature was eighty-seven; therefore I’d hate Florida in the summer,” is like saying “Brigitte Bardot can’t act; therefore 1 won’t enjoy her pictures.” It leaves out the best part of the story. Humidity is murder when there’s no movement of air, which is what you get during a heat wave in a northern city. But in Florida there’s always a brisk breeze rustling the palms and waving the sea oats and the humidity is a normal part of the weather. There’s a great drop in temperature between sun and shade. You can sit under a palm tree in the breeze and get goose bumps.

I’ve been asked more than once about all the snakes and alligators in Florida and all I can say is that you see them about as often as you see moose in Toronto. Alligators live in the Everglades, the home of the only Indians in North America that fought the white man to a standstill and inci-

dentally, the Everglades are a wonderful place to see. Snakes you’re not likely to see unless you go off by yourself and run barefoot through the pine woods at high noon, and if you’re in shape to do that you'll probably see snakes anyway. I've lived in Florida on and off for eight years and I’ve yet to see a rattlesnake, although I’ve seen some very pretty, harmless snakes coiled around the yucca outside my porch.

The most annoying form of wildlife in Florida is something you won’t see at all, called a sandfly. It operates with diabolical precision as soon as the breeze drops, which it does for half an hour or so just as the sun shows above the horizon in the morning, and just as it touches it again at night.

But sandflies are a transitory annoyance. The most important reason, in my opinion, for seeing Florida in the summer is always there — its beauty. I’ve heard strange tales of Canadians going mad in Florida because the weather was so monotonous, and I’m convinced that they must have spent all their time looking at TV and are the same people who don’t like swamps because they're too wet. Florida has four seasons. In summer everything turns lush green. Oleanders bloom, banana trees grow eight-inch shoots in six hours, billions of yellow butterflies float on the breeze along the shore behind the dunes. The air smells of orange blossoms and night jasmine. A walk across a Florida causeway on a summer morning, watching the snow'y and American egrets pose in the tidewater lagoons, is something that takes you back to the beginning of the world. Fast, violent tropical rainstorms come every afternoon, and the cumulus clouds pile up over the horizon, thousands of feet high, in colors from indigo to gold, and are reflected in the slick, wet sand left by the tide. If you're down there in August or September you'll be there during hurricane weather. The chances are you’ll never see anything but the spectacular seas that come in when a hurricane passes four or five hundred miles out from the shore, but if one heads your way, and you don't want to see it, all you need to do is come home before it arrives. It will be announced days ahead. I sat through hurricane Donna, which wound up to about 120 around where I was. It was the most exciting show I've ever seen, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

But what you’ll see nearly all the time is bright, sunny, breezy weather and deep blue skies. I know many people who wouldn’t dream of being away from Florida in the summer. I know a TV repairman who goes around when the temperature reaches the high nineties throwing back his shoulders and saying, “How about this w'eather!’’ Each winter, when the temperature drops to forty, he swears he's going to move his TV business farther south. A neighbor of mine, a lively elderly woman who travels most of the year and visits relatives in New England in winter so that she can see the snow, carefully plots her itinerary so that she’ll be back in Florida for the summer. She says every day is a “pretty day,” and I agree with her. A pretty day in Florida is something that, along with a lot of other things, makes it a place worth seeing in summer. ★