It’s about 6:30pm on this gorgeous June afternoon in Civic Park, O’Fallon, Missouri. I’m sitting under the shade provided by Dogwood trees overhead. Blades of grass tickle my fingers and legs as I lay back against the hillside amongst a community of music fans outfitted with lawn chairs, various fan accessories, and coolers full of beer.
This community has come together for a dusk entertainment provided by a dozen-or-so musicians old enough to recount the stories of Vietnam. With the music of the sixties booming, an older generation has turned out to relive “The Good Ole Days.” Visually, veterans with silver hair—if any at all—gleam in the sun while some wear caps belying the wars they’ve fought in. As I look down the hill and to the left, these silver heads and veteran caps bob up and down to the sound of Deon and the Belmonts “The Wanderer.” Although their knees and hips don’t allow “The Twist” and “The Shake” to be danced quite so eloquently as forty-years prior, the enthusiasm of youthful hearts beat with the fervor of draft day as the Band, Butch Wax and the Holidays, chants tunes of the 60s and 70s with mid evening delight.
“Are you here yet?” The tiresome alert of a mother’s text message buzz’s my hip.
“Yes, I’m sitting in the shade far right of the stage.” I reply.
“Are you standing?” The indefatigable alert continues to buzz.
“Oh, we’re [my mother, father, uncle, and some neighborly friends are] sitting to the left of the stage in the sun. Stop by. We have beer.” Vexation continues to alert.
I could go for a cold one. I think. “Be over in a minute.” I respond to the tiresome buzz.
“You’ve lost that lovin feelin,” two of the five-or-so lead singers of Butch Wax and the Hollywood’s sing as I traverse the shaded, grassy knoll of war veterans and genial families until I reach my sun-spotted baby boomers to the left of the Righteous Brothers.
“You made it. Would you like a beer?” My Dad greets me with an open cooler of Americas.
“Sure. Thanks.” I grab some suds and sit in the remaining twilight and chat with the forebears responsible for creating the vogue of tonight’s 60s entertainment.
“Now, you see the saxophone player in the back?” My Dad asks.
“Yea, he sounds pretty good.” I take in the bright sonorities ringing out of the alto saxophonist’s bell.
“That’s Sonny. He’s a hell-of-a player and I used to play music with him back in the day.” Dad touts past recognitions.
“Wow. Sounds like a fun time.” It really does. I think. And now my thoughts start churning as Sonny steps up to the front of the stage to sing some Al Green. Look at all of these folks: Baby Boomers, Korean and Vietnam War Veterans, mixed in with today’s youth. All down to the right—on the dance floor—forebears and next of kin swing hips and raise their arms with praise for the sanctity of music. It’s amazing. My thoughts continue to churn. It’s as if all prejudices have dropped. All political campaigns have been hamstrung to a halt. All worries have been replaced with sips of America and it’s longstanding traditions.
It’s a veritable American evening of summer fun: Frisbees fling across the park; kids hop and skip to a musical provenance preceding their birthdates by several decades; dogs sit wide-eyed looking and salivating at funnel cakes and nachos, waiting for little tykes to drop snacks on picnic blankets; under dogwood trees afar, food trucks behind the stage cook up theme-park morsels at Civic Park’s discounted prices—a bottle of water is only a dollar! Nothing subversive lurks in the warm evening air as the yellow mass behind the trees dims and blankets the sky with tints of orange and purple twilight.
“Another beer?” Dad steals me from my reverie.
“Yea,” I gladly take another can of America.
America, that’s the theme tonight. And now I see the war veterans dressed up in their army fatigues. Their heads: full of thick, black and brown hair slicked back with Butch Wax. The Righteous Brother’s have taken the stage with Phil Spector’s wall of sound. Unchained Melodies and string orchestras supplant the dozen and turn this into an outdoor ballroom somewhere in a history of American greatness.
But the time is present. We can truly enjoy the sanctuary we’ve all come to attend! The Musical sonorities have turned on youth in the hearts of tonight’s elders. Suddenly, I feel older, observing the young men and their girls dancing hand in hand with their brimmed caps turned camouflage, their girls adorned in long, pin-up dresses and Audrey Hepburn pixie cuts. Although it may be 2016, tonight we’ve stepped back in time into the “Good Ole Days.” Tonight, in O’Fallon’s Civic Park, it’s a Commemoration of American Pastimes. I wish we could stay forever.