The 1960s: Swinging Sixties bring Spring Breakers and broken barriers
The famed Elbo Room in the 1960s was spring break central for hundreds of students. (Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, courtesy / March 1, 2006)
One unusual, and controversial, construction was the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel, which burrowed 35 feet under the New River where a drawbridge had stood for 32 years. The tunnel, named after the Broward editor of The Miami Herald who campaigned for it, is Florida's only non-private tunnel.
Nova University of Advanced Technology got its start in a storefront on Las Olas Boulevard. Now named Nova Southeastern University, it's the state's largest private university. Broward Community College also opened with 701 students on land where the airport now sits. Now Broward College, its student body currently tops 20,000.
The Pier 66 hotel and its rotating rooftop restaurant became an overnight tourist draw. And the New York Yankees came to Fort Lauderdale for spring training in 1962 and returned for 34 more seasons.
The same year the Yankees arrived, a young man named H. Wayne Huizenga bought a single garbage truck and smattering of accounts. From that modest start, Huizenga rode the region's growth wave and his own entrepreneurship to help form Waste Management and create two other Fortune 500 companies as well as two new sports franchises.
The Cold War too had an effect. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the military again deployed to Port Everglades, a staging area for possible hostilities.
In 1964 the core of Hurricane Cleo, a category 2 storm whose 110 mph winds wrenched bricks off buildings, raked over Fort Lauderdale, more windy than wet.
But the biggest of the city's figurative storms resulted from people: mobs of college students and determined groups of black activists.
In December 1960 the film "Where the Boys Are" premiered at the Gateway Theatre. The movie, filmed on Fort Lauderdale beach, recounted the romantic adventures of a group of college kids on Spring Break, at the time a minor annual influx.
No longer. Three months after the movie's premiere 50,000 college students swarmed Fort Lauderdale. Beachside streets resembled parking lots, and though the kids' mayhem was generally harmless, families kept their distance.
After decades, the ever-growing yearly pilgrimage became too much for the city to absorb. Spring Break was ultimately quashed.
Also quashed was the ban on blacks on Fort Lauderdale beach. On July 4, 1961, a small group of activists including Eula Gandy Johnson, Dr. Von D. Mizell and his niece Lorraine Mizell clasped hands and staged the first of a series of "wade-ins" at city beaches. Tired of a lack of cleanliness and facilities at the "black beach" across the inlet, the protesters demanded entree to the shore like anyone else. A judge overruled city efforts to halt the protests, and a year after the first wade-in officials opened the beaches to all.
But racial tensions still simmered. The decade ended with the city's sole race riot in 1969. Angered over an alleged police shooting of a black woman outside a store, African-Americans unleashed their pent up rage in a week of rioting. Businesses were burned in the city's predominantly black northwest neighborhood. Thirty-four were injured.