Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival
THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
|The Wonderment That Was... My
By: Allen R. Rowe
Don’t forget …my fellow Woodstock Sojourners…the world, and the times we came from…growing up in the relative innocence of the 1950’s …followed up by one of the most tumultuous and violent decades in American History. This decade brought forth.. multi-faceted social upheavals on a massive scale.
To borrow from Charles Dickens…and applied to our time then:
“It was the best of times… It was the worst of times…It was the age of Wisdom…it was the age of foolishness…it was the epoch of belief…it was the epoch of credulity …it was the season of light…it was the season of darkness…it was the spring of hope…it was the winter of despair…we had everything before us…we had nothing before us…we were all going to heaven…we were all going the other way..“…etc..
The politics of war..…the politics of poverty, race, and injustice,... the politics of the freedom of women…..and the freedom of thought,..through our music, brought us all together that August, back in 1969...Driven by an unknown force,.. still not fully explained…a calling for all the tribes to gather…from every direction…on Yasgur’s farm.
It’s rather like the Steven Spielberg movie ”Close encounters of the Third kind.” Where all those people are called upon…to answer a calling… and are driven,... to get to some place they have never been…and get there no matter what. …To a happening.
Mary Johnson was her name, …A beautiful little blond …cute smile… and Oh,.could she dance. …She was from Buffalo NY, and I was from Wolcott, NY…We met each other on a beautiful warm Saturday night, along the shores of Lake Ontario, where we danced,..and walked on the beach,... and fell in love.
All us young guys from school, would “go to the Point”…Sodus Point NY, our summer hang out …to the Arcade there, where we would try to meet pretty girls, and dance the night away…hoping….hoping.
Mary and I kept in touch daily from that time on…sneaking phone calls to each other whenever we could …
I used to read the” Village Voice“ when I could. ...It's where I first saw an ad for the concert…I could hardly believe the line up …Joplin,.. Hendrix, ..Jefferson Airplane ..the Who …Richie Havens and so many more…I had to go…no matter what… I sent for some tickets for Mary and Me.
My parents were against my going to some “Hippie Camp out”…and wanted me to stay home and keep working on the farm…but the calling was too strong …I had to go then, ...tickets or not.
Fortunately, in the end, my tickets did not arrive before I left with Mary, or they never would have survived the devastation's of rain, mud,and mass humanity. Thankfully, I still have my original tickets today., because they finally arrived a week after Mary and I had already gone.
I conspired with my girlfriend, for us to meet up early in the morning, ...we were gonna run away together…even though the concert wasn’t for nearly two more weeks yet…I couldn’t remain at home any longer…those teenage things... we all went through, ...had caused a major blow out between my parents and me, ...so I decided to leave.
I went through the house… and stole every can of soup, every can of food, …packages of dry soups, and rice…stuffed it all in a couple of duffel bags with my clothes…met up with Mary…and both ran off …to Woodstock,.. to what would be the most magical adventure of our lives.
It was a real shame…three of my best friends from school…saw us hitch hiking near my home town…and decided to go ahead…and drive us both…all the way to the town of Woodstock…a pretty long and tiring drive of about 200 miles…. Where John Weber, Andy Wadsworth, and Paul Reed, my good friends,... decided to turn around and go all the way back home, so not to get in trouble with their parents…and no matter my pleas…I watched them as they drove off…leaving Mary and I behind…in this little town called Woodstock. …and missing the time of their lives.
I think it was in a little coffee shop there in Woodstock…that Mary and I found out that the concert had been moved…again… to some little place called Bethel …We had no idea on earth where it was…but a truck driver we asked…told us that he was going through Bethel…and he would give us a ride there…If we would help him load up his truck, with hundreds of heavy masonry tile blocks, from an old corn silo, that was torn down, that he was to haul away… we agreed to help him. …It was very late at night, and we were fully exhausted, when we actually arrived at Yasgur’s farm… Finally,...the concert site!
We just threw our tent on the ground…not bothering to put it up…crawled into the collapsed tent…tired from the very long day….made beautiful love…and fell asleep together.
The sounds of people walking around, firing up the campfire for a pot of morning coffee, …the smell of burning wood in the chilled morning air,.. woke Mary and me. …It was the first time we had ever been so far from home...…we got out of our tent…and stepped out,.. into history being made.
Hippies to the right of me… Hippies to the left of me …as we set our little tent up, and tied it up to the chain link fence that ran down the length of our camp site area… The guy camped on one side…from Scotland… and Boston on the other, smoking a morning joint in his plastic sheathed lean-to. …Hippies everywhere we went. Hippies on "Gentle Path".Hippies on "High Way".. How wonderful.
On our way from the tent,… passing the psychedelic painted buses of the Hog farmers, Mary and I walked towards the pond to bathe with so many others " Au Natural", …trying to absorbed the wonderment we saw everywhere around us…on that beautiful farm. We had food we shared…and when we ran out…those incredible Hog Farmers fed us... I think it was the best rice and Beans I ever ate.
It was kind of odd though, that every day there …we met more and more people that, like us, had no tickets…some had paid…some had not. …We thought of the possibility of all of us .. just “storming the gates”…..Ha ha,.. who knew,.. the day we all finally began "the invasion of the bowl” …that the gates were wide open, and the concert made free.
At the time, I remember being pretty upset,.. that I had lost my High School ring, somewhere on Yasgur’s farm in the mud, where our little pup-tent was set up... After all, the genuine Gold tone finish, with it’s simulated Emerald stone, cost me a whopping $88.00 or so,… a lot of money back then,...for a high school kid.
As the years went by,.. and life went on,… I sort of forgot about it,… forgot about the ring… But these days, I am so happy that it was lost on Max’s beautiful farm …where “The Gathering” made such history. .. In many ways…I never left Woodstock…Wearing the title proudly ever since of “Woodstock Hippie”… It has always been in my heart… and leaving the ring there…is like leaving a small part of me there…in that sacred ground.
One door closing…another world opening…the same with the ring…Ironically, on it “Leavenworth Central High “, the name of my school…sounding much like the penal institution to us teenage rowdy dreamers,.. that wanted to break away…to break out of one existence, and into another. …To me that silly little ring, became a symbol of my change between those two worlds… Teen aged.. seeking adulthood... Pre-Woodstock/ Post Woodstock.
There is little need for me to comment on the extraordinary music there. It was all incredible. .. We all have our favorites we remember… we all heard the music in our own way…listening to our musical hero’s ...sharing all.…with the music echoing,.. all around the rolling wooded hills…the night sky filled with the meteorites of the August Persiad meteor belt…the cool mountain summer air, filled thick with the smell of Weed, incense, and wooded camp fires …”We must be in heaven, Man!”
Late that Monday afternoon, after Hendrix’s earlier performance, Mary and I finally connected with a ride going south…they were headed to Virginia… I was headed for DC. I wanted to be there…I wanted to be in the political epicenter.. of what was about to happen there,…as we finally confronted…Nixon.!
Leaving, …staring out the rear window of the car…seeing Yasgur’s farm fading into the distance… we felt a little sadness that it was over…but a huge sense of excitement… to tell everyone I met…what really happened there.
Thousands of Cars, Trucks, buses, and campers of every description, were abandoned, as far as one could see,.. on both sides of the roads in every direction …I wondered about those people… that felt the calling so strongly,… that they just left their vehicles and went the extra 20 miles or so…any way they could. …Nothing would stop them. …Nothing stopped all of us.
I have always considered all of those thousands of people, that were stuck on the New York State Thruway..and all the highways in every direction…That never even got close to the site…to also be members by default…of the “Woodstock Hippies” …they all heard, and answered the call as well.
It was the most incredible time of my life. I have carried those memories with me always…and have always wanted to thank those guys…Mike Lang, and Artie Kornfeld
For what they gave us all…what they gave the world…what they gave to history.
I wanted to see them in person …to say my thanks…and to.. " Shake the hands..that shook the World."
…This is MY Woodstock story…by Allen R.Rowe, class of 1969...Yasgur’s Farm