The Second Half: ‘Peace and Love’ in our second half

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Peace and Love.

Coming of age as a flower child was a true adventure. “Peace and Love” was the battle cry of flower children everywhere, used freely as a greeting or parting blessing much like “Aloha” in Hawaii or “Namaste” in yoga class.

Unfortunately, I don’t know too many other people (besides me) who sign their cards and letters that way anymore. I admit it, they are less frequent than my e-mails, but I try. In my Second Half, I am saddened by the loss of a thoughtful letter sent between friends and loved ones. Who gets that warm feeling, knowing someone really cares about you, when they read a text like “C U L8R”? It doesn’t have the flair of “Peace and Love to you, my friend.”

I had a Peace and Love flashback recently, attending an open-air music festival up in Evansville, Wis. (Seriously… Evansville!) Now, this wasn’t a huge deal like On The Waterfront or Summerfest, just a community event put together by a country music radio station to raise money for a special cause: wounded soldiers.

Now, I don’t listen to much country music, I’m more of a jazz/blues kinda gal. Hubby loves that cry-baby stuff, though, and I have learned to appreciate some of it. I even enjoyed seeing Willie Nelson and Toby Keith together at the MetroCentre—so there! Mostly, I like any music that is skillfully performed, and I’m almost always up for a live musical event. So, when Hubby suggested we attend Big Red’s Backyard Bash, I agreed with a happy heart. I recalled such events as Mother’s Day concerts in Anna Page Park and seeing Janis Joplin at Ravinia.

“A music festival?” I cried, “I’d love it! Just like the old days!”

Hubby acted like I should know who Big Red is, but, aside from nodding with a knowing look on my face, I had nothing to say: “Who’s Big Red?” I wondered.

I listen mostly to Sirius Radio, dialed to jazz, blues, the oldies and NPR. And when the granddaughter comes over, the Disney Radio. Country? Not dialed in. It seems Big Red is a DJ on WJVL Radio 99.9 FM, with a show every Sunday morning. Hubby listens all the time, so he knew about the Wounded Warriors Project (WWP), for which the “Backyard Bash” was a benefit.

WWP was founded in Roanoke, Va., by a group of veterans and friends who took action to help the injured service men and women of this generation. (Read more about the WWP: Pretty cool stuff—I can get behind that organization—Hubby’s a veteran, too.

We pulled on our boots, hopped on the Harley, and away we went. Actually, we took the geezer way out—Hubby strapped fold-up chairs to the back of the bike so we wouldn’t have to sit on the ground. We couldn’t risk our knees and hips locking up by the end of the evening, and having to call the EMTs to haul us off the turf—embarrassing.

When was the last time you were at a music festival? I was stunned by how different it was from my memories of the ’60s and ’70s. First, more than half of the people attending had gray hair. And all those geezers had chairs, too.

“Oh my gosh! The audience is so old!” I whispered to Hubby, who replied, “So are we.”

Oh, yeah. We figured the $35 advanced ticket was a bit pricey for young people, as I remember paying $8 to see the Grateful Dead and the Doobie Brothers.

My son shook his head: “Mom, have you checked out the price of concert tickets lately? 35 bucks wouldn’t get you two hot dogs and a drink at a concert!”

“Well, maybe it’s the headline acts,” I pondered. The Bellamy Brothers—even I remember them!—are no spring chickens, and Dale Watson is no kid, either. But Cody McCarver is a young guy with current music videos—a handful of young, scantily-clad chicks were welcomed up on the stage during his final number to dance with the band. That was more like the music festivals I remember.

“Oh, well, so we’re a mixed crowd,” I said cheerfully. “I like that young and old alike are getting along.” Shades of Peace and Love!

Warming up the crowd for the Bellamy Brothers was a country rock group from Beloit, Wis.—The Jamie Campbell Band. Halfway into their performance, Jamie quieted his band and asked all the veterans from any branch of the U.S. military to come line up in front of the stage. It was an interesting group: men and women, young and old, cowboy hats and fatigues, disabled and whole. Hubby proudly took his place among them.

Then, Jamie Campbell spread his arms declaring, “This is what it’s all about! That’s why we’re all here today—for these guys here. Feel free to come up and hug a veteran, man! God bless ’em! Don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid—shake their hand! Tell ’em thank you…”

Then, the band performed “An American Soldier,” a moving Toby Keith number. During the entire song, tons of people swarmed up to those folks: hugging, shaking hands, sharing the love. I don’t mind saying, I was pretty choked up. Lots of those big, strong military folks were crying, too, Hubby included.

Now, that’s what I’m talking about—just like the old days, only the band tossed glowing bracelets to the crowd instead of flowers! Peace and Love to you, my readers.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the June 15-21, 2011 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!