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The Day I Went to Woodstock for Three Days of Peace and Music: NOT!!
Woodstock 1969 Promotional Poster
Artists Who Performed at Woostock
Performers at Woodstock
- Richie Havens
- Swami Satchidananda
- Bert Summer
- Tim Hardin
- Ravi Shankar
- Melanie Safka
- Arlo Guthrie
- Joan Baez
- Country Joe McDonald
- John Sebastian
- Keef Hartley Band
- The Incredible String Band
- Canned Heat
- Grateful Dead
- Credence Clearwater Revival
- Janis Joplin
- Sly & the Family Stone
- The Who
- Jefferson Airplane
- Joe Cocker and The Grease Band
- Country Joe and the Fish
- Ten Years After
- The Band
- Johnny Winter
- Blood, Sweat, & Tears
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
- Paul Butterfield Blues Band
- Sha Na Na
- Jimi Hendrix
The Summer of Peace and Love
The Summer of Peace and Love
It was the summer of '69 (1969 that is), billed as the "Summer of Peace and Love." The concert that would come to be known as "Woodstock" was looming near in the future, and myself and two of my friends were excitedly making plans to make the trek to Max Yasgur's farm in upstate New York for the event. It was going to be the biggest concert event ever, up to that point in time, with lots of famous musicians appearing there. Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sha Na Na, Country Joe and the Fish, Alvin Lee, Sly and the Family Stone, and many, many more. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
My friend, Doug, was going to drive after he had finished his bundle driving paper route on Friday morning. The plan was that Dale and I would go with Doug on his route on Friday morning, leaving at 5 AM, and after he was done and returned the newspaper company's car, we would hop in Doug's car and head to New York for the event. It was already widely publicized that people were crashing the gate, so we figured we woudn't even bother with getting tickets.
Of course, I was 17 years old, and I was rebellious by nature already. My parents had told me that I wasn't allowed to go, and I was being defiant. (If any of my children read this, remember, ALWAYS obey your parents!!!). This was something I wanted to do, and nobody and nothing was going to keep me from it, or so I thought. Because, when you are 17 and defiant, you also think you are invincible.
Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock 1969
My Whole World Turns Upside Down
My Whole World Turns Upside Down
I remember, I was still sleepy in the morning when we left our humble home from Stroudsburg, PA and the first thing we did was go pick up Doug's bundle of newspapers to be delivered to various, small general stores and markets throughout the Pocono Mountains. I was lucky enough to draw the short straw and get the back seat with all of the newspaper bundles, where I quickly fell asleep at the beginning of our newspaper delivery journey.
Rolling through the mountainous terrain over various hilly and windy roads, I was resting peacefully being lulled by the monotonous drone of the air-cooled '69 VW Beetle's engine, and the relaxing ups and downs of various inclines and drop-offs. Then, suddenly, I felt something, and woke up and sat up. I saw a car coming around a corner, and he was in our lane and he wasn't moving over. Doug tried to get out of his way, so he drove onto the shoulder of the road, which was substantially lower than the road itself, and the dirt was soft. As I looked through the front window, everything was turning upside down, and I didn't understand what was happening.
The next thing I remember, was not being able to breathe, and having incredible pain in my back between my shoulder blades. I was pinned under the back seat of the car and several hundred pounds of newspapers, with my knees doubled up to my chest. I couldn't see anything, but I could hear voices outside of the car. Then I heard the door open, and Doug and Dale where asking me if I was OK, but I couldn't get my breath and I couldn't answer them. Then I saw the back seat coming out of the car. I thought that was a good sign..........it wasn't.
If you know anything about VW Bugs, the battery is underneath the back seat. Back in those days, battery cells were filled with sulfuric acid and water. It was good that the weight of the back seat and newspapers were off of me, but now sulfuric acid was dripping into my eyes, on my face, and all over my clothes. They finally got to my feet and were able to extracate me from the vehicle, which was on it's roof, with all the windows shattered and popped out of the car. We were inches from the edge of a cliff where there was no guard rail.
Doug's main worry now, was that the newspaper company would find out that he had passengers in a company car, which violated the terms of his employment with them. He asked Dale and me to go down to the bottom of the cliff that we were tettering on, and hide in the woods until the after the police had left. There were no cell phones back then, so a passing motorist had evidently gone somewhere and called the police. Of course, they asked if there was anyone else in the car, and I don't know what Doug's response was, but the police heard us moving around in the brush and called for us to come back up the hill. I was starting to be able to breathe now, but I was still in a great deal of pain, and my eyes and face were burning from being exposed to sulfuric acid, plus all of my clothes were starting to fall apart because of the acid.
The policeman gave me some water to wash out my eyes and wash my face, and asked us each to give an account of what had happened. When he finished filling out his report, he asked us if any of us needed and ambulance, and of course, still believing we were invincible, we all said no. I don't think we realized are far out into nowhere we were. We were somewhere around Lake Harmony in the Poconos, near to where Split Rock Lodge is these days. We started walking...............not even sure what direction we should be going in.
If You Were at Woodstock, Did it Make a Meaningful Impact in Your Life?
Woodstock Music Festival Traffic 1969
The Crowd at Woodstock 1969
Woodstock '69 Sha Na Na
Finally, A Telephone in the Wilderness
Finally, We Find a Telephone Booth in the Middle of Nowhere
Remember that Cat Stevens song, "Miles From Nowhere?" That's how it seemed to me. I didn't know where I was, I was in intense pain, my clothes were nearly totally deterioated, and we were walking aimlessly on a mountain road, not even knowing which direction home was. Even if we knew which direction home was, we were so far away, it would have taken us days to walk back into town.
Finally, we came upon on old general store, and there was a telephone booth outside. Dale was able to call his mother and ask her to come pick us up, but he could only give her an address provided by the shopkeeper. There were no GPS back then, so I don't know how she eventually found us, but she did after several hours. We were tired, we were all hurting, and she decided that the best course of action was to take ua all to the hospital. I laid on a stretcher there for what seemed for a very, very long time, but one of my high school classmates was working in the Radiology Department, so he kept me comfortable, through my pain, with some conversation.
Finally, I got X-Rayed, got a perscription for some heavy-duty pain medication, and had to have a meeting with the newspaper company that owned the car Doug was driving. They agreed to pay my hospital bill if I would agree to sign a waiver saying that I couldn't sue them anytime in the future for damages or pain and suffering caused by the accident. Maybe this event was what inspired Doug to become attorney?? Who knows.
I agreed and my father came to pick me and my mother up at the hospital (my mother worked there at the time), and took us to get my medicine, and then home. I received several hours of lectures about how I could have gotten killed and if I had obeyed my parents in the first place, I wouldn't have gotten hurt. The medicine was kicking in by now though, and I just wanted to sleep. The hospital had said no serious damage, but just pain that would go away soon.
The next day, we received a call from the hospital asking us to come back for more X-Rays, because they thought maybe they missed something, which as it turns out, they did. After the second round of X-Rays, I learned that I had received compression fractures of two vertabrae in my back T-9 & T-10. They told me that it was something that just has to heal on it's own, and maybe I will have minor back problems for the rest of my life. The pain never totally goes away, and maybe I made a mistake by signing that waiver.
The saddest part of the whole story is that I totally missed Woodstock. Doug and Dale got a clean bill of health, and Doug went to Woodstock the next day with his girlfriend. I had to settle for watching the news, and hearing Arlo Guthrie announce "The New York State Thruway is closed, man!!!" Nearly 500,000 people showed up at Woodstock. It was the biggest single concert event ever held on American soil. It was historic, and I missed it. The lesson I learned is, that if I was going to disobey my parents, I should have driven myself to Woodstock.
Mountain Performing "Southbound Train" at Woodstock 1969
Woodstock '69 The Movie
Woodstock '69: Thank You For the Movie
Nearly everybody between the ages of 18 & 29 (you know, because we weren't supposed to trust anyone over 30), was gone to Woodstock, and I was left nearly alone in my desolate town in the Poconos. I was despondant because I was missing the event of a lifetime, I was still in pain, and I was heavily medicated.
Fortunately for me, the powers that be, decided to make a movie about Woodstock '69, so even though I missed the event itself, not long after the movie showed up in our local drive-in movie theater (back when drive-in movie theaters were all over the place). So, me and a few of my friends piled in my 1951 Chevy Bel-Air and I at least got to see Woodstock on the big screen. It wasn't anything like actually being there, but for me, it was a good substitute.
Of course, a 2-hour movie, can in no way replicate an entire three days of music and all the human interactions that occurred during the course of those three days. It could only give a sense of imagination about what the traffic was like, and how the people in the town of Bethel, NY reacted to the influx of hippidom into their lives. No one really believed that you could get a half a million people together in one place without having any violence, but the world was amazed at how peaceful everything was, even with the lack of food, sufficient toilet facilities, etc.
There have been two other Woodstock anniversary concerts, on the 25th and 30th anniversaries of Woodstock, but neither came close to the magnitude of the original Woodstock. The 25th anniversay concert drew about 350,000 people, and the 30th about 200,000 people. Gradually, Woodstock '69 becomes a distant memory, but I hope the world will never forget that the young people of the '60's COULD and DID congregate in massive numbers for the simple common purpose of listening to good music and promoting peace, harmony, and brotherhood among mankind.
Alvin Lee and Ten Years After Performing "I'm Going Home" Woodstock 1969
This Hub is Dedicated to the Following Fallen Musicians
Dedicated to the Memory of:
- Jimi Hendrix
- Janis Joplin
- John Lennon
- George Harrison
- Stevie Ray Vaughn
- Alvin Lee
- Jerry Garcia
- Mama Cass
- Jim Morrison
- Felix Pappalardi
As many people know, one of the world's greatest guitarists of all times, had a leg amputated due to complications from diabetes. We are especially glad to see that Leslie West continues to perform and astound his audiences with his musical proficiency. Long live Leslie West. May your reign as guitar God continue for many years into the future.