A Sense of the Sixties

Susan Smith is the sister of Gary Smith; the drummer of Artie and my band The Shades of Destiny circa 1967.

December, 7, 2015


My brother Mike enjoyed gardening. Albeit, on a small scale. I remember him holding mom’s garden hose and drowning the grass beside that giant azalea you wrote of in your previous email. We chatted while he watered. With Little East Neck road just steps away disturbing our conversation from its endless traffic. That side of my mom’s property we called ‘the other side.’ where we played ring-o-leevie-o, had always been exposed to the street and all those nosy cars and people passing by.

After Mike died in ‘76, mom discovered an interest in gardening.  Jimmy Oakland erected a tall stockade fence around that ’other side.’ And until the very last year of her life she developed a garden that I would claim to be world class. You may view parts of it at my website here: Mom's Garden Page.

Once, amid the bounty and beauty of Mom’s garden, I sat in her gazebo and munched on a bowl of New England chowder filled with saltine crackers. You know, life is a lot like that tasty soup. It is nourishing. It is chewy.  It is froth with dry crackers. It places one in a world of bitter sweet sorrow blessed with lovely flowers. From loss there is gain. If you seek ugly, it is found. Even in such a special garden.

 I adore your expression: “a window into a youth that was so unique.”  I like to think that our generation were the trend setters for those who followed. Alas! That is not the case at all. All the Teens before James Dean and Marlon Brando dressed exactly like the adults had. Buddy Holly along with all those Southern singers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and the talented Blacks, ranging from Ray Charles to Fats Domino trashed the old Swing sounds and got everyone to purchase a new pair of dancing shoes. Dinah Shore sang, “See the USA in your Chevrolet” and by 1960 every boy had a car to soup-up in his dad’s garage to drive all those Bobby-sockers to the prom. We awoke each weekday morning to the economic boom blasting aloud at Republic Airport. The air had less carbon.  The sun and the stars blazed; clearly seen. The Sixties out-sang the memories of the Roaring Twenties. That 60’s decade is still spoken about today. And you and I accepted we were part of THE younger generation; our families living in rooms separated by only houses. Our living rooms were the parks, the streets and that other new invention: The Malls. So much fun. So much a normal part of our lives. Even when Donovan released his album: “A Gift from a Flower to the Garden” we did not give it a second thought. Of course! That is what we were! Flowers in a special garden.

Naturally, life is like chowder smothered with saltines crackers. So many died. Drugs took their toll. Kennedy. The Beatles. Vietnam. Free love. By the time we got to Woodstock in 1969, we were many millions strong. The largest Teen generation ever. Eventually, we buried the last of the Hippies in a ceremony out on the west coast. Not long after that the Teens grew fragmented and culturally diverse. Until they all bowed their heads to the gateway into cyberspace glued to their hands. We were unique. A breed very different than anything before or after us. Those of us who ‘keep the faith’ seem misfits in society. They slap each others backs, toss their long, but balding hair, give the peace sign and wish for Mayberry and sing “those were the days, my friend, we thought they never end.’ Others, like you and I, Sue, we cherish yesterday. Alas! It will always be “Yesterday.” Still, it rings so very true; as Joni Mitchell strummed and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang out there on Max Yasgur's farm during the hay day of our pride, “We got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

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