Apparently the tradition of American students going somewhere tropical during spring break began in 1935 when The Bermuda Athletic Association invited Harvard, Yale and Princeton’s rugby teams to come to Bermuda for a friendly scrum, offering the students a $50 travel stipend. The spring break tradition of sun and sport was born. By the 1950’s Rugby Week became known as College Week, and later Spring Break.
In 1948 Life Magazine covered the Bermuda Rugby Week in a cover story proclaiming, “It is one continuous party for 500 US collegians.” Soon Bermuda became an annual springtime playground for elite Ivy Leaguers – and those who hoped to marry them. But by the late 1950s rising college enrollment and affluence allowed the masses to crash the party and the seven days of revelry became known simply as College Week.
According to Life Magazine, the co-eds “got terribly tangled up riding bicycles in the left-hand Bermuda traffic. They got terrible sunburns, and most of them saw little of Bermuda. But for the tourist-conscious Bermudians, Rugby Week was sure to pay off. They can expect to meet at least one fourth of the collegians again – as honeymooners.” Many of them did.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s Bermudians and visitors alike were expected to adhere to a strict dress code and students here during college week often came into conflict with that idea. Police Officers were directed to tactfully issue a notice called a ‘Green Ticket’ to anyone they considered to be improperly dressed in public. For example if they felt that the length of a woman’s skirt was too short, or if her shorts were, well – too short!
In 1962 a U.S. newspaper reported that a Hamilton police constable, while measuring a young lady’s shorts, turned ruddy red right up to his helmet when she threw her arms around him and implored, “Henry, let’s get married right away.” And so the Green Tickets were largely ignored and instead became treasured souvenirs to hang on a sorority house wall. But not just short shorts were taboo. So were hair curlers. This calypso was commissioned by the Trade Development Board and supposed to rid Bermuda streets of tourist hair curlers:
In Bermuda, it’s taboo – Look out: don’t let the cops catch you. Keep your curlers out of sight Don’t let ‘em show in broad daylight. Pretty girls are super fine But no one loves a porcupine
Top Photo: As this Bermuda Sun cartoon by John Miles shows, the Bermuda Police was rather uneasy about the annual arrival of College Kids.
Bottom Photo: Constable Robert Wooley measures the length of actress Eunice Gayson’s shorts in this publicity photo taken by the Bermuda News Bureau