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Lost Coming Home From Woodstock

Updated on July 26, 2018

Where have all the flowers gone?

Trudging through the mud leaving Max Yasgur’s farm that Monday in 1969, there was so much hope.

The counterculture had arrived on the world’s stage. Changes were coming, monumental changes for the good, it was all coming together, moving forward, one muddy step after another in New York, Iowa, California and all points in-between.

Out with the old, in with the new, and we would all benefit from the change. All you need is love, baby, that and a commune, working together for the common good, one voice, one vote, equilibrium all around as a new generation steps up on the world stage and shows the old cigar-smoking fogies how it’s done correctly . . .

And toss in some angst, some bitterness, the leaders of that generation gone, shot down, MLK, RFK, vibrant, speaking of necessary changes, their voices silenced in Atlanta, Los Angeles, gone, leaving the movement rudderless, all that was known on that day, in that year, was change is coming, change is mandatory, tune in, drop out, and start all over again. If the old way ain’t working then tear it down, burn it up, and find a new path.

That was the message that weekend, on that farm, the rain pouring, the skin flashing, dancing, twirling, message delivered by guitars, drums, voices, rising up, one melody, thousands of notes forming a single tune, we are one, give peace a chance, please, for the love of God, give peace a chance. Tents and tarps and bare-naked under the stars, feeling no pain, self-medicated, numbing a pain for which there is no permanent relief, trying to find answers without really knowing the questions.

So the bedraggled thousands left that peaceful setting, backpacks weighing down upon them, one foot in front of another, while others piled into VW vans, in threes and fours and eights, and motored off to the far corners of the States in search of a better life, not unlike the pilgrims who came before them, a faceless, formless future ahead, joy and fear intertwined on their young faces.

They would never make the same mistakes as their parents, we would never make the same mistakes, all you need is love, repeat after me, we can do it now, sing the song, sway to the gentle breezes of change, all you need is love.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Woodstock
Woodstock

A New Way of Living

So they returned to the streets of San Francisco, overlooking the bay, and the corn fields of South Dakota, the bourboned streets of the Big Easy, and to every other patch of earth from which they came, and they set about changing society, setting it on a new path where prejudice does not exist, where hatred and bias and greed are simply words and not reality . . . and they made love, and sold their trinkets in the streets, and made love some more, planted crops in new communities, worked the soil, worked the attitudes, made love some more, danced again without the fervor, held meetings, chanted, prayed to new gods, rejoiced when babies were born, babies which needed food, clothing, shelter, the Big Three, necessities of life, necessities requiring cold hard cash, the calendar pages turn, the music just a bit quieter, the dancing just a little less feverish, the need for a job, that ugly three-letter word, but part-time only, never going to play that capitalistic game, never wanting to be a part of that evil, never.

Young girls have picked them everyone!

And the realization that communes are nothing more than a microcosm of a larger society, people working with people, debating formats, arguing over solutions, the necessity for rules and governance a universal gig, no escaping it, sad but true, you cannot run away from one another, not when there are billions of us, and now ain’t that the shits, the grand plan sinking under its own reality, the communes no better than society in general, and food, clothing, and shelter don’t magically appear, man, need some bread, need more work, got a family to raise and the kids need, well, they need more than just love . . .

And the tears flow!

And the calendar pages yellow!

And the war ends, and protests subside, and all that’s left is the day in, day out, grind of living, of providing, the music softens, the meaning lost in new styles, the tie-dyed gives way to polyester leisure suits, dressed up in the finest for the next job interview, the kids need dental work, little Janie needs braces, little Bobby needs a cast on that arm he broke playing Little League, and love ain’t paying those bills, folks, so off to the coal mines they trudge, somewhere in the backs of their minds they remember trudging to another tune, in another time, leaving that farm determined to change . . . what . . . what were they going to change . . .

When will they ever learn?

The Banker and Butcher and Candlestick Maker

No way a child of the Sixties would become a banker, but it happened, friends, it happened, cuz love don’t make the world go round, despite the lyrics of a long-ago song. Cash is the god we must all bow before, cold, hard, unforgiving cash, the Federal Reserve giveth and the Federal Reserve taketh away, to tote that barge and lift that bail, you delusional lovers, get in line for payday, here’s your slice of Nirvana, ones and fives and tens, bank notes, legal tender, we struggle for the legal tender, and in so doing we surrender, surrender our dreams to the mad-rushing hordes embroiled and immersed in profit, and there’s no room for free love in a Darwinian Society.

And Joan Baez became a facsimile of herself, and The Beatles could no longer live their message, and disco replaced the flower children, glimmer and glamour, to be replaced by technological wonders, dazzling us with misdirection and slight-of-hand, and they all fell for it, we all fell for it, eager for the arrival of the snake oil salesman, the cure-all, the magic elixir which will dull the pain and make us forget where the flowers once grew.

And so It Goes

And their children had children, and the dream was once more diluted, the brilliant colors muted, and the words of the song refuted, it all became convoluted somehow, one step at a time, through the mud, backpacks replaced by fanny packs over ever-expanding fannies, and Max Yasgur’s farm a distant memory to be recalled in the stillness of occasional nights, tucked comfortably under silk sheets on the sleep comfort mattresses which cost more than that old VW van of yesteryear; returning there would require a GPS and a seeing-eye dog, so faded are the memories.

Fifty years almost passed, long hair cut, styled, receded, and finally missing altogether like the convictions, the determination, and the childlike innocence. All that’s left are PBS documentaries of black-and-white still photos of tents and tarps and bare-naked under the stars, Jimi and Janis, Sly and the Dead, all dead, all adding to the sweet melancholy forever associated with loss.

Lost coming home from Woodstock!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Author's Note

Of course this does not reflect all children of the 60's. Many went on to do meaningful work in changing society for the better. It was simply my musings about how, at times, for some, reality has a way of altering the most powerful of dreams.

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I am in total agreement with your last sentence, Mona! Thank you for the eloquent summation. Long live the Boomers!

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      8 months ago from Philippines

      How wonderful that you went to Woodstock! I enjoyed your thoughts about the boomer generation, looking back. Especially, I love the phrase

      "the sweet melancholy forever associated with loss". What a kind way to talk about a powerful movement that was marked with sadness and idealism and hope. As a proud boomer, I feel there was never a generation quite like ours.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And I appreciate your thought, Lawrence. I'm not sure they have either.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      9 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      It was an interesting 'take' on the period. Over in Britain, we had the Stonehenge rock festival (actually at the ancient site) and Glastonbury.

      They had a similar message, but both are still happening every year, and I'm not sure the millennial generation has totally bought into the 'materialism' thing.

      But that's just my thoughts.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Peggy! It was an interesting time for our nation and that's for sure.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I was alive when Woodstock happened but would have had no interest in attending it. However, my brother Jim and I often sang that song "Where have all the flowers gone..." while he strummed his guitar. Both of my brothers were in the Vietnam war. This certainly struck a chord with me bringing back those days of long ago.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I am humbled by your praise, Dora! Thank you so much!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      10 months ago from The Caribbean

      You captured the mood of the "all you need is love" era, and painted an effective picture for us to revisit. You're among my favorite writers!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And the wheel goes round and round, William....thank you!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      10 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thanks for the memories, Bill. Quite different times, but somehow the same ol', same ol' comes around every time. Thanks for your musings.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I love the town you mentioned, the opposites of it all, and no, there is no problem at all mixing in a little realism whilst we make dreams happen. As long as the struggle continues we will always have hope.

      Have a wonderful weekend, my friend, and thank you.

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I think you are correct, Shannon!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Liz! I'm so glad you found this interesting.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      10 months ago from SW England

      I understand completely the alteration of the most powerful of dreams. It's such a shame but I guess we were all idealists then. Doesn't mean we can't still have the dream though, just chuck in a little realism whilst still trying to make it happen. If we don't have those dreams we'll never change the world, will we?

      There's a town just north of Oxford, England, called Woodstock which I know well. It's where Blenheim Palace is, where there are many antique shops which used to be overrun by Americans in the 60s and 70s, a well-to-do upper-crust area, the complete opposite of that other Woodstock - no relevance at all, just thought I'd mention it!!

      Superb piece of flowing thoughts from long, long ago....!

      Ann

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      10 months ago from Texas

      I didn't know that, Bill, but it's good to know. Especially since that's where all those kids were massacred on that island. At least I think it happened in Poland. I could be wrong.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      This is a great article. It's an interesting commentary on the contrast between hopes and expectations and harsh reality.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Shannon! There was, and is, a Woodstock festival in Poland, held every year since 1995. Watching videos of that festival make me think perhaps things have not changed all that much since 1969. :)

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      10 months ago from Texas

      Obviously, I'm not from that generation. For me, everyone made a big deal about my class graduating in the year 2000. But when I think about everything that has happened since and looking at your videos here I can't help but think how very different an event like that would be today.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ain't that the truth, Pop? Ain't that the truth!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Glad you liked it, Jackie! It's a much cleaner event to read about. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And thank God you are, Brian! Thank you for being who you are.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, I love your comment. Don't blame you at all...the mud and smell would have been more than slightly annoying for sure. Glad to read an honest comment, so thank you. Nothing wrong with practical.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, thank you for sharing your experience, recollections, and thoughts. Sorry about that first husband. Wet blanket comes to mind lol but you emerged the better for that experience, which is how I choose to view Woodstock and the 60's. We are all better because of that time and those events.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And I am proud to know you, Sean! Thank you my friend....not all of them for sure,Sean. We shall keep dreaming.

      bill

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      10 months ago

      We could use a little of the "love" right now.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      10 months ago from The Beautiful South

      I was slightly after this but it has always been an interesting event to read about and see the wild photos.

      Thanks for the review, a fun read.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      10 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Woodstock has really just been the name of an event to me. Thank you for bringing meaning to it, Bill. Your article is interesting and thought provoking.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      10 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Back in the summer of 1969 when I was 27 I was—and still now in the summer of 2018 at 76 I am—an antiracist, feminist, anti-imperialist believer in democracy.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      10 months ago from USA

      Well written, Bill. You can tell where your heart is.

      Woodstock was before my time but I’m a lone voice in that it would not have been my scene. I’m a practical girl, and the fact that they had no bathrooms, there was all that mud, many people couldn’t actually hear the music, and there were way too many damn people were packed in there all smelly and tripping out and bonking each other. And the litter they left behind! Janis Joplin would have been amazing to hear in person, but I still would have skipped it.

      You write well though, buddy. Had me thinking you actually went!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      10 months ago from Beautiful South

      Where have all the flowers gone...turned into Republicans every one. When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn....

      I remember those days, Bill, and I wanted so badly to be at Woodstock. The music, the art, the love of life, everything was a rebellion against the hypocrisy of the 1950s. I was married to a total square who despised everything these happy hopeful people stood for. The only thing he had in common with them was being a draft dodger himself, as they had a reputation of being.

      He used to say that they were extremists and one day the pendulum would swing back into the opposite direction. And has it ever! I would love to go back to those days. But I got rid of him and I did get to enjoy the freedom of the disco days. In fact I did a disco show on Saturday nights at the lounge at a Holiday Inn in Little Rock in the mid-1970s. I still love disco music. Please don't laugh at me.

      I agree that we need to go back to some of the free thinking of those days. We need to bring back love and erase the hateful thinking of today. Ah, those were the days, my friend. I thought they'd never end. Too bad they did.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Isn't it amazing, Genna, that ten years separated us from Classic Rock to Disco? I still shudder when I hear disco on the radio. What in the hell were they thinking about? Talk about selling out to the almighty dollar!!!!

      Thank you as always, Genna!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Karen, that may qualify as the nicest rant I've heard in a long time, so rant on, my friend. I happen to agree with everything you said. Revisiting that spirit of that time would not be a bad thing at all for this country. If nothing else it would force this nation into some much-needed introspection.

      Thank you!

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 

      10 months ago from Greece, Almyros

      You have right, my brother Bill, unfortunately, you have right. Reality has a way of altering the most powerful of dreams, but not all of them, and that is the blessing. After all, I believe that the Bill you are today and the John that I am today are a little better people because of Woodstock! Love works with patience and does not worry about the old-tricker Time!

      Respect, my friend. Proud to know you!

      Sean

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Love ya,Sis! I can see you dancing in the kitchen to the tunes . . . your spirit was there even though the body wasn't. Thanks so much for sharing your insightful comment, as always...hugs from sweltering Olympia.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      10 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      What a terrific article -- wonderful writing. I wanted to go to Woodstock but my folks wouldn't let me: "You're too young!" And what great music during the days before disco (shudder). (If I live to be 100 I'll never get how Richie Havens' "Freedom," segued into "That's the Way (I like it)".) As the 60's ended, so did a creativity and awareness start to fade into a kind of numbness that had already begun. I now worry about the loss of intimacy with life by our youth who dwell too much in cyberspace. We're going the wrong way.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      10 months ago from New England

      Hey, Bill! Great article!

      IMHO ~ America needs to revisit the shift brought about by "Woodstock." The internet is a mixed blessing, but there are farm stands. Farmer's Markets, artists' co-ops, and different ways to make a living if people want to live as community on a farm and make it work now. Co-housing is one form of intentional community. Yes, we may have to give up some individual freedoms, which involves an amount of self-selection...but the give and take are worth it.

      Seems like some of the ideals of the 1960's are worthy of a 2nd look in the 21st century before our country moves too far back in the other direction. We need more people making that change....to not buy so much stuff in favor of living off the land.... doing what we love. Re-instating our own freedom from ckutter, from cheap fast foods...snd freedom to think for ourselves.

      LOTR by Tolkein was so appropriate as a metaphor for our own task here in the 21st century....with tyrants in the place of dark lord Sauron.....or even The Master from the Dr. Who series who wanted to take over the world and make slaves of the more humble, simple, innocent members of society. The billionaires control the job market, and the popular culture perspective around what type of work is worthy of payment and what isn't. They don't want us to think for ourselves, but just do as we're told....sort of what it was like in the 1950's. Yes, we're due for a new form and/or echo of the 1960's.

      I acknowledge that nothing you wrote was meant to provoke the above rant, yet I thank you for indulging me.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      10 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Now....THAT'S the crowd that rivals any Inauguration crowd, for REAL! LOL.............Bill what an extreme Blast from the Past. Although I have seen movies, documentaries & scads of photos & read all there is to be read about Infamous "Woodstock," I'm sorry to say, I have no personal experience.

      While all the hippies and flower children were expressing themselves in spades and loving one another while inhaling the......um, AIR.....this girl was busily being a dutiful housewife and mother. (and struggling through my college courses) So, my radio blasted the great music of those days and I may have danced around my kitchen.....I just wasn't "there."

      Because of your wonderful article, maybe I'm "there" today!! Thanks so much bro. I am and will always be a devoted, proud BOOMER!!!

      Here, Here to The Way it WAS!!!! Love ya, Sis

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's great, Sha! Love your planned adventure. I fear I wouldn't recover nearly as quickly these days as I did back then. lol Thanks for joining me on Memory Lane!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ain't that the truth, Linda! Kent State was a rude awakening and, in my opinion, the beginning of the end of the dream. Thank you for sharing that.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      10 months ago from Central Florida

      Bill, this is amazing! It's also very sad and depressing that such a generation of believers and dreamers is now a distant memory in the archives of history. We baby boomers are those of whom you speak in this piece. We no longer hear "make love, not war". We hear "make war and to hell with love"!

      I really enjoyed the videos you included. Now I think I'll duck into the basement, turn on the black lights, fire up a fatty and spin the tunes of the greatest generation of musicians in history. Care to join me?

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mike is correct. You were channeling your inner Tobias when you wrote this one Bill.

      We thought we had all of the answers in that summer of love, and if we just spread that love the world would be a better place. Then 8 months after Woodstock . . . Kent State and the world ended.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Elf! It was fun taking a trip back in my mind.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 

      10 months ago from Canada

      Wow - Woodstock was a bit before my youth, but it certainly informed the generation I grew up in. Awesome wander, Bill, and so very true of the times.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Meg, unfortunately, war is big business, and as such I doubt it will ever go away. And that is a sad truth. Thank you!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      10 months ago from Northern Ireland

      Amazing. I used to love those songs from that era, they are playing through my mind, now. I think the moneyed elite behind wars etc are still at their work. The names change but the aims stay the same.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It really is amazing, Zulma, that it's been fifty years. How is that possible? My memories are so clear regarding those days...so much confusion, so much angst and pain, but really so much excitement as well. It seemed like every single day brought some new revelation or revolution.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      10 months ago from United Kingdom

      Nearly, 50 years!? Say it ain't so. That's a whole other lifetime. I can still recall how the adults around me were freaking out over the assassinations. It was like the world was coming to an end and the grown-up didn't know how to stop it. That's a pretty scary feeling for a kid who didn't understand that adults don't always have the answers.

      But the hippies did or seemed to. And it was so simple. It always is when you don't trouble yourself with mundane stuff like reality or try to figure out why things are the way they are.

      How I wish I could go back to that time when the real world was something you could just shoo away like a bothersome fly.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You and me both, Mary...my father died that year as well.....perhaps we will both look back and learn some valuable lessons about ourselves.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mike! I need to go revisit Tobias and see if I still feel good about that book. Thanks for the reminder.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      10 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I was in my third year in university and being in Political Science, I was in the streets, in demos and sit-ins and freddom parks. I had posters of Castro and Che Guevara in my room byt I just can't do communal living. My father just died and I can't give my mother more pain. I have seen friends die for their causes. I'm glad you wrote this. Maybe looking bad will give me better perspective.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      10 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Bill, the writing here reminds me of Resurrecting Tobias, which is among your best. I just looked up when Woodstock was, heck, I was free that weekend, wonder what I was doing instead?

      great writing

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting questions, Eric! I went on to "play the establishment game," but never lost my ideals from the 60's. I think the Dream lives on for sure.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I really enjoy catching your writings on morning work break. I was too young for Woodstock but caught some Dead that were baby Woodstocks ;-)

      I wonder if "necessary" changes in the Style of Life really needs to change our outlook of love and desire for change.

      In a sociology way I wonder if the 70's crowd reverts and secretly votes "against the Man".

    working

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