WILKES-BARRE — Cool, neat, groovy, uptight, alright and outtasight.
What’s the matter? Don’t you speak sixties, man?
Those words were part of the lingo in the 1960s when hippies walked the planet and music was transcendental and Mad Dog 20-20, Ripple and Boone’s Farm were the preferred drinks of the under-aged.
At the peak of all that was the sixties — JFK, RFK, MLK, The Beatles, Vietnam, the moon landing, Chappaquiddick, and, of course, Woodstock. It was the music that changed the world. Not the politicians, not the sports heroes, not anything or anyone.
It was the music, man — music that lives on and is timeless.
In 1967, The Young Rascals had a song that was popular to people of all ages — “Groovin’” was the title.
One person that loved the song was my mom, Elizabeth Kraszewski O’Boyle.
“Play that song again, Billy,” she would tell me when I was listening to my 33⅓ rpm record player in our Reynolds Street, Plymouth, home. “I really like that.”
So much so, she learned the lyrics and would sing along to the Young Rascals.
“Groovin’, on a Sunday afternoon,
Groovin’, really couldn’t get away too soon.
I can’t imagine anything that’s better.
The world is ours whenever we’re together.
There ain’t a place I’d like to be instead of,
Groovin’, down a crowded avenue.
Doin’ anything we like to do.
There’s always lots of things that we can see,
We can be anyone we want to be.
And all those happy people we could meet just,
Groovin’, on a Sunday afternoon.
Really couldn’t get away too soon.
We’ll keep on spending sunny days this way,
We’re gonna talk and laugh our time away,
I feel it comin’ closer day by day,
Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly,
Groovin’, on a Sunday afternoon.”
Looking at those lyrics I could see that they offered a hopeful message to my mom, who would pass away within a year or so. I think the song offered her hope that maybe a miracle would happen or a cure.
All I know is the song made her smile and I can see why.
And that’s what the ’60s offered our generation — amid the radical changes in music, fashion, behavior, there was this hope for the future.
The hope didn’t arrive wearing bell bottoms and sandals or tie-dyed T-shirts or in a Volkswagen bus. It came in the form of an awakening — a realization that we could make a difference — that the world could be a better place.
I’m not sure that mission ever was or will be accomplished, but it sure was fun to experience it. A lot of hippies went on to be difference-makers. Many fell short.
But the world did change, I feel, for the better. It comes down to how we handled this new form of society that had not existed before John, Paul, George and Ringo touched down on American soil.
And so, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Max Yasgur’s party, sometimes known as Woodstock, we have to also celebrate all that was good in the ’60s. Yes, we should remember that nearly 500,000 people crashed Yasgur’s party on his alfalfa farm and did so without much incident.
They simply partied like it was, well, 1969.
But like Woodstock, the ’60s are not a place you want to repeat, but it’s OK to remember. Fun, actually. And we who were there can find great satisfaction in knowing what it was like to live and survive what arguably was the most significant decade in recent history.
The old saying is, “You had to be there.” That is used to graciously exit any uncomfortable conversation. But more than that, it really is nearly impossible to explain to someone what it was like to experience the sixties — to hear The Beatles for the first time; to watch JFK’s funeral; to see the first man walk on the moon; to night after night watch those horrific reports of the lives lost in Vietnam; to be at Woodstock; to keep up with the unbelievable music that kept pouring out of our transistor radios.
It was way cool, man.
It was cool, neat, groovy, uptight, alright and way outta-sight.
As The Rascals sang, I can’t imagine anything that’s better. The world really was ours whenever we were together.
In the ’60s, we did realize we could be anyone we wanted to be.
And now, 50 years later, we are gonna talk and laugh our time away.