Monday, August 20, 2007
Elbo Room Going Strong After Nearly 70 Years
When I ventured to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break in 1984 as a student at Eastern Illinois University, the Elbo Room was the center of activity. Made famous by the 1960 film "Where The Boys Are", this place remains etched in the minds of many people like myself who trekked to Fort Lauderdale during college to let loose a little before entering the world as a responsible adult. The memories of the crowded A-1A highway along the beach with students from all over the country is one I will never forget. I have returned to this spot on several occasions since. I always find people like myself who return to a place where they yearn to return to the idyllic time and place they knew when they were still in college.
The Elbo Room has changed little with time as its surroundings have changed dramatically. As I ventured into the place today, I was taken aback by how little it has changed. The bathroom was just as disgusting as I recalled it 23 years ago. Performing on the stage late this afternoon was an entertainer by the name "John O". The bartender, who was about my age and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, knew little about him. "He performs every Monday and that's all I know about him", she said. License plates from across the county adore this cozy bar. I found an Indiana license plate at the back of the bar near the men's restroom, along side a South Dakota license plate. I found my native state of Illinois' license plate above the stage. Does it say anything about what folks at the Elbo Room think of folks from Indiana?
A friend of mine from Canada, who also attended the Phi Delta Phi convention this past week in Fort Lauderdale with me, looked for initials he had carved in the bar 22 years ago. He could not find them. He couldn't forget, however, that image of being chased by a mounted police officer. In those days, policemen on horses were commonplace for crowd control during the Spring Break rush. He recalled being nipped on the shoulder by a horse as he stood outside the Elbo Room. Instinctively, he turned around and slapped the horse, causing it to rear up with a policeman in the saddle. At that point, he did what any Spring Breaker would have done. He fled on foot as fast as he could. Leaping a nearby fence, he escaped the wrath of being arrested by a Fort Lauderdale police officer.
I vividly recall the scene of a tank-like vehicle strolling down A-1A highway dispersing the unruly crowds with a powerful stream of water back in 1984. As I sat with my friend drinking a planter's rum punch at the Elbo Room this afternoon listening to John O sing old rock-and-roll songs, two young men with backpacks dashed through the bar knocking over stools. The bartender ran to the street to try and figure out what they were running from. If it was anything serious, I told him they were caught on camera. Like many popular clubs, the Elbo Room operates a live webcam you can stand in front of and talk to your friends at home while you enjoy the free spirit that exudes at the Elbo Room. The two young men ran in front of the camera. How times have changed.