Give Peace a Chance
By Richard Hoynes
May 22, 2009
Last evening, I was reminded of my childhood. When I was eight years old (1969), my parents, Anita Mary and Andrew Joseph Hoynes, took my sisters and I to the march on Washington, which was co-organized by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. We joined more than 2 million people that day to “Give Peace a Chance”. We were marching for the end to the Vietnam War. At eight years old, we sang with Peter, Paul, and Mary and this day, thirty years later, we found ourselves singing with them again, the same songs.
I was brought back in time to my childhood at the State Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not blocks from where I went to Rutgers College, and a few blocks from where my father worked his last job at Johnson & Johnson before he passed on. We were twenty minutes from the home where I grew up in Middlesex, New Jersey; where my parents started the FISH organization in 1971 to feed the hungry, provide clothing, toys for underprivileged children, and blankets for the elderly, furniture, and eventually a homeless program. Dad was an x-Catholic priest, and mom was a social worker. The music of Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Pete Seeger was a part of my childhood memories. Of course there was also Simon and Garfunkel, Andy Williams, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, Alan Sherman, and Mario Lanza. My mother loved Mario Lanza. She cut a 78LP record when she was young and used to sing operas around the house. That’s a story for another day.
Our home was the poster child for the activists fighting for the reform of the 60’s. We boycotted Gallo wines because they were spraying harmful pesticides on the Mexican farm workers that came across the border. We collected money in these gray containers with the label “Biafra” to provide relief and promote peace in after a violent civil war with the Nigerians in the north. We fought against discrimination. We collected food for the poor at the local super markets and churches. My Saturday chores were taking the 50lb bag of potatoes and putting 10 potatoes in each bag along with other necessities for delivery to a poor person later that day. The list goes on and on.
Mary Travers shared a story of her win against the fight with Leukemia and the subsequent lung scarring from one of the drugs she had taken to ward off the disease. Mary gave a great concert in spite of her health challenges. I whispered to my wife, “We may be seeing one of their last concerts together.” It struck me that we were witnessing the end of an era. Who was going to take this example forward and replace their voice for the fight for Peace, Civil Rights, freedom, and equality? I felt a strong sense of responsibility.
Noel Paul Stookey has a great sense of humor. He talked about his joining Peter and Mary. He said he was not so much into the mission when he joined them, but that it grew within him as he travelled the journey. He mentioned that sometimes, at the end of a concert, people come up to him and say, “I grew up with your music”, to which he thought, “So did I”, highlighting the journey of life we all take. He is great.
Peter Yarrow is a special person, a leader, a man of conviction, and not afraid to stand up and fight…by peaceful means. The power of a song was most evident to me at this moment. I had the opportunity to play a Martin guitar that Paul bought for my friend Richard’s son Andrew. Richard and he were close and worked closely together. I was excited to get the opportunity after 30 years to meet Peter and Paul after the concert. What gracious gentleman. Paul gave me, and everybody else, a hug as he made his way through the crowd. They graciously stood for pictures with us before leaving to go home. It was one of life’s highlights to meet a part of the history of positive change in the world.
I was emotional, nostalgic, happy, sad, reflective, prospective, concerned about future generations, soulful, spiritual, peaceful, and anxious about the future. I thought about the value of a life and how I was going to spend the rest of mine, leaving the world a better place. I’m sure I was not alone.