The material is presented “as is” from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets — [like this] — for clarification. The excerpt is long, so I’m breaking it into manageable bits and posting those bits over the next few days.
On Sunday night, March 26, the dam of youthful resentment burst. As twilight dissolved into darkness, a gang of boys stumbled out of the Elbo Room and disappointed, perhaps, at not finding Yvette Mimieux and Connie Francis where the boys were, rocked a car and overturned it. Someone tossed firecrackers into the crowd.
The commotion attracted more kids. Auto traffic came to a standstill as people lay down in the street, threw rocks, shouted insults at the cops, and chanted “We want beer. We want beer.” (*3)
The crowd had become a mob of ten thousand by the time the sheriff’s department, the highway patrol, and police from seven towns converged on the scene. They and arrested forty-four kids and eventually subdued the beast.
But not for long. Monday night, the mob reappeared. “What do they expect us to do?” shrugged one student. “We . . . didn’t come here to sit in the hotel room and play bridge.” (*4) That night the police arrested more than two hundred kids, among them 22-year-old George Dalluge, a senior at Mankato State in Minnesota. George was to have graduated in May, but that plan fell by the wayside after he shinnied up a street light and led the crowd in a stirring rendition of the national anthem and “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley.”
His display of athleticism (he was a physical education major) landed him seventy days in the Fort Lauderdale jail; he would be there when his classmates back in Mankato marched across a stage to pick up their diplomas. “‘I was stupid,'” Dalluge conceded after the fact. (*5)
The first wave of legal-aged “war babies” had arrived. News to warm the hearts of beer barons everywhere, especially because the Fort Lauderdale rowdies, most of them born in the early forties, represented but the first surge of a larger tsunami: the millions of post-war babies who had pushed the nation’s birth rate to historic high levels.
Still, the Fort Lauderdale riots left the barons scratching their heads in puzzlement. What was it with these kids? Rioting over beach bans and beer? Throwing bottles at the police? What kind of sense did that make? And their attire! Girls wearing what amounted to underwear in public. Boys dressed only in shorts and loafers, no socks, no shirts. Youthful pranks were one thing, but this was outright rebellion.
*3: “‘All We Want Is Jade Beach,'” Miami Herald, March 28, 1961, street edition, 1-B.
*5: “‘It Was Stupid Thing,’ Says Student in Jail,” Miami Herald, March 29, 1961, p. 1.