Hippie looks back 50 years to Woodstock Music Festival

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The motto of the Woodstock generation was ‘never trust anyone over 30!’ An original poster helped promote the event. Actual attendance in August of 1969 dwarfed all expectations.

By Craig Welling

WHITE LAKE, NEW YORK – It was the summer of 1969. In July, Apollo 11 went to the moon and Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin aboard their lunar module set foot on the orb. Millions of people in America and around the world witnessed the event from a distance.

But back on planet earth my generation was emerging from adolescence under the cloud of the war in Vietnam. A subculture was forming in the Northeast and on the West Coast. For us, images of a trip to the moon – an epic event for many — quickly faded in our rear view mirrors.

The sun was shining. Really man, it was.

As the storm of protests over the war developed, we turned to the visionaries among us for comfort. Our music collections included Country Joe and the fish, Dave van Ronk, Bob Dylan (the times they are a changin), Joan Baez (Blowin in the Wind), Peter, Paul and Mary (Where have all the Flowers Gone).


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The voices were different, but the messages were all the same.

Idealism, “peace,” and free love, were all part of our shared new realty. We were onto something new and good and not really understood by the generations that came before ours.

Being called a Hippie by detractors was not an insult to us. We wore Indian madras clothing proudly, and embraced the Hippie label. West Coast Hippies sought strength in numbers and refuge from ridicule in Haight – Ashbury. East Coast Hippies had doctor Timothy Leary to guide us, Harvard Square to supply us, and the Boston Tea Party to entertain us.

I led two lives. Five days a week I wore a suit and tie and commuted in and out of an office on the 26th floor of the Prudential Center in Boston, Mass.

When not required to disguise myself as a respectable young junior executive, I would assume my other identity. I wore Hippie clothes, listened to anti-war folk songs, drank Colt 45 malt liquor and Boone’s Farm Apple wine to excess, and hung around with friends from my high school days.

And in the summer of 1969 I, along with my wife, boarded our own Lunar module: A 1967 Opel named Emily. We packed a large tent, a cooler full of food and drink, and cigarette papers; everything we would need. And we blasted off to another planet: Woodstock.

The drive to Woodstock was uneventful. There was some traffic on the road as we got within a few miles of our destination; but otherwise no big deal. We arrived in Bethel, NY early; getting all the way to the event area and parking directly across the road from the concert stage.

We arrived to find a few folks scattered around the field sitting on their blankets, and plenty of free space to pick the spot for our blanket.

Unnoticed at first, the empty spaces gradually disappeared. And within a few hours the grassy field was mostly covered

A few Stage hands were climbing around and still setting up. Some anonymous person on stage after the mandatory “testing, testing, 123 testing” to be sure the mike was working informed the growing crowd that the roads to the event were clogged and in the process of being closed altogether.

Performers were delayed getting to the event. But we were assured that there will be a concert “as soon the artists get here. Honest!”

A later announcement mentioned that helicopters were being used.

And then a public service announcement:

“Don’t take the brown acid man. Someone did and is having a really bad trip”. This PSA was repeated every few minutes for several hours.

We were but a spec in a sea of humanity, and it never felt crowded. No strangers to be found in a group of thousands; most of whom had never met before.

Blanket to blanket small talk made it feel like you were among a small group of friends. A typical greeting: ” Do you want a hit toke man?”

In this friendly environment smoke was literally in the air. No need to inhale, just sit and breathe.

Although I can’t remember any of his words of wisdom; I think I vaguely remember maharishi somebody (mahesh yogi?) appearing on stage and speaking to us.
Finally a musical performer came on stage, Richie Havens. Cheers, applause, let the concert begin. Sufficiently mellowed out, many a mind took flight while Richie sang Strawberry Fields Forever.

It could have been my spacewalk.

I think I remember Ravi Shankar appearing on stage and hearing sitar music sometime either before or after Ritchie.

Eventually, nighttime arrived, the ground under our blanket was getting hard to sit on, and it was time to walk back to our tent.

And then the rains came.

And we hid out in our tent while the rest of the concert played out for several days. When it ended, we were able to pack up and drive home. Many abandoned vehicles on the side of the road for miles attested to the unexpected crowds and inadequate preparation by many.

Bummer, man. But we made it! We experienced Woodstock! An experience from 50 years ago that I still remember as the best day of my life.

Is anybody out there? If you remember going to Woodstock, the original Woodstock, the real Woodstock – let me know you are still alive. Woodstocko@yahoo.com