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Florida's Snowbirds

Florida's Snowbirds: Spectacle, Mobility, and Community since 1945

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Florida's Snowbirds
    Book Description:

    Developing numerous themes, including leisure, state-promoted tourism, citizenship, and business investment, Godefroy Desrosiers-Lauzon considers advertisements, movies, policymakers, and the behaviour of snowbirds in Florida to provide the most thorough study of the vacation state to date. He also looks at the temporary communities of Canadians, Québecois, New Englanders, and Mid- Westerners that develop, showing how they blur the lines that usually divide national and regional identities, and youth and age. An insightful work full of amusing details, Florida's Snowbirds pieces together a complete cultural atlas of Florida Snowbirds that goes far beyond the familiar postcards they send home

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8655-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE (pp. vii-2)

    To most people, Florida means leisure, seaside vistas, and a semitropical climate. This popular meaning of Florida has been constructed over time, arguably since its European discovery in the sixteenth century. Most scholarly portraits of the Sunshine State, historical or otherwise, have attempted to assess and analyze the powerful images this view conjures, and the peculiar society, economy, and culture that allowed and built on these images. The important questions that shape this book thus come from Florida storytelling, and make the history of visitors to Florida important to the understanding of twentieth-century North America.

    Historical writing on Florida tourism...


    “Why Florida?” Why has winter tourism been so important there? The obvious answer, climate, is insufficient, for it ignores the extent to which Florida had to be constructed as a tourist destination. Florida’s natural assets would have remained as ignored by mass tourism as the volcanoes of Kamchatka had it not been for human artifice – the construction of hotels and attractions, advertisements and media visibility, as well as transportation technology and accessibility, which will be discussed later. Here is how Southern Florida was turned into one of the world’s most lucrative artifacts: a tourist destination for 86 million people in...

  6. CHAPTER TWO THE DREAM NEXT DOOR Going to Florida (pp. 49-82)

    Tourist Florida is a result of relatively cheap, abundant, and easy-to-use transport.¹ Tourism in the twentieth century is sometimes seen as a quintessentially modern experience, if only for its reliance on technologically advanced means of transportation – trains, planes, and automobiles (and the occasional cruise ship). Yet the modernist idea of technological evolutionimplies that the story of going to Florida inevitably progresses from ships, to trains, to automobiles, and ends with uncontested domination by airlines. In reality, automobile use by Florida-bound tourists and snowbirds has faltered a lot more slowly than the modernist trope suggests, even though Florida is a long,...


    The Florida Dream has drawn tourists and migrants, leading Northerners to take to the railroads, roads, and airlines to enjoy the Good Life. The impact of the Dreamers on the Dream was impressive: it is now time to look at their presence in Florida, at their impact on the state.

    The annual influx of tourists, snowbirds, and the more permanent migrants transformed and indeed overwhelmed Florida. The causal link between tourism and migration was obvious at least since the Carl Fisher days, as the tourist destination counties were also migrant magnets, for obvious reasons: many tourists became snowbirds or permanent...


    Populous, rapidly-growing Florida was more like Babel than Eden. Speedy growth has meant that transplanted migrants have been entrusted with the future of the state. Everybody in Florida is from someplace else, as the saying goes, making the Sunshine State a caricature of the American Babylon. The consequent anomie, social fragmentation, and loss of community, and the accompanying struggle to build a sense of belonging out of this congregation of unattached individuals, make Florida an interesting object for social inquiry in a modern context where fears abound that community loss is the tradeoff for material “progress.” Florida’s extreme fragmentation may...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE FROM BABEL TO THE CLUBHOUSE Snowbirds in Search of Community (pp. 151-173)

    It makes sense that snowbirds sought community. Most people do – even if it’s the transient community of fellow travellers on a cruise ship, airport shuttle, or cross-country train. But did this quest bring them the grail, whether defined as friends with whom to hoist a cup or as an extended family? And did their search for a community of snowbirds come at the expense of their rapport with Florida’s community in general? In other words, did snowbirds living in seniors-only condos, resort motels, and trailer parks cement their own relationships by further fragmenting Florida’s society?

    Any discussion of the snowbirds’...


    What do Canadians have to teach Americans about their own country? As much as – if not more than – any migrant group. Like every other newcomer and sojourner in the United States, immigrants are “American sovereign[s] in [their] probationary state,” in the words of Ambrose Bierce; later, Oscar Handlin opined that “immigrants are America.” Canadians, like New York Jews and Yankees or Cuban émigrés, have always been selfconscious about their differences with Florida’s host culture and eager to make fine distinctions. As foreign nationals rather than exiles, they have been anxious to announce their primary loyalties – not generally through finding fault,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN COMING HOME What Florida Means to the North (pp. 202-236)

    It is time to take this story back North. It is time to ask what snowbirds brought back with them besides suntans. What was the impact of Florida on the culture, imagined communities, and worldviews of the Northern states and provinces? One effect of Florida’s presence was that a folk knowledge of continental space and cultural diversity (or uniformity) took shape on southbound roads. Another was the 1970s wave of Canadian migration to and investment in Florida, which helped federalist Québécois to make their case against separatism. Florida also had additional meanings for Northerners, and this chapter presents more instances...

  12. CONCLUSION (pp. 237-252)

    As snowbirds flew back home to share with their fellow Northerners what they had learned in the South and along southbound roads, theydrove home, to the Northern consciousness, what have been the principal meanings of Florida and the South since the 1940s, at least until the infamous affair of the hanging chads and butterfly ballots. Chapter 7 has shown that these meanings were important to the self-understanding of Northerners: the long shadows cast by Florida royal palms extended all the way to the Great Lakes, the Adirondacks, and the St Lawrence River valley where they affected the local culture...

  13. NOTES (pp. 253-334)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 335-362)
  15. INDEX (pp. 363-364)