Woodstock Nation


ar, farking out, man!

Okay, I’m entitled. It’s almost the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. I went. I am going to tell you about it. What this has to do with public policy in Virginia, I have no idea.
I was 16 and almost in 12th grade at a high school in suburban DC. Some guys at school (I went to a Catholic boys school) knew about Woodstock up in New York somewhere and wanted to get people to go. Back then, high school kids were divided into two groups: the “jocks” and the “heads.” I was a head. Only heads went to Woodstock.
I told my skeptical parents that it was some kind of arts and crafts thing. Hey, it was the 60s and things were a whole lot looser then. Only dorks like Jim Bacon were in some straight-jacket society like the Young Americans for Freedom. Eight of us climbed into Eric’s three-row station wagon with Maryland plates and set off.
Closest parking was seven miles away. (“The New York State Thruway’s closed, man!,” shouted Arlo Guthrie). The eight guys in our group hiked it through the throngs moving, Pied Piper-like) to the concert. There were girls in doeskin halters. One barely-clad man in a purple top hat led a goat. Lots and lots of freaks.
We got to the gates. The cyclone fences had been torn down and despite the concert now being free, I naively paid $20 anyway for a ticket. There was a gigantic bowl of mud covered with people. We picked a spot not far from the stage and lay down, eight in a row, like sardines in oil.
Oil it was since rain turned the mud to glop. The crowd grew to 500,000. Our biggest fear was getting separated from our group which we did several times. Believe it or not, I didn’t do anything illegal. But I saw lots of things both illegal and interesting. Water sold for five dollars. We got very thirsty. And we were very tired.
The performers grew into a blur. I remember Country Joe McDonald’s rousing and profane rant against Vietnam War. CCR jammed on “Green River.” “Freedom” was belted out by the toothless Ritchie Havens (I think he was one of the first the play). After a while, we didn’t pay much attention to the music. The crowd was too interesting. The loudspeaker guy warned us about bad trips from brown acid. Despite the profound anti-war nature of the crowd, forest green Army Hueys choppered out kids who were either sick or having bad trips. We got thirsty. And hungry. And tired. Pretty soon we were asleep again. After a couple of days in the rain and mud, you can sleep anywhere.
Later, when the movie came out, we learned about all kinds of things that we didn’t see or know about, notably the scores of kids skinny dipping in a lake. We didn’t know there was a lake.
Interesting time, 1969. As Rob Kirkpatrick’s recent book remembers, it was the year of big advances. The Boeing 747 revolutionized long-range air travel. Nixon was enjoying a brief honeymoon in office and was seen as a positive since he said he was going to end the war. The guys in my group were lucky since we missed the draft and Vietnam by at least a couple of years. “Vietnamization” was on the way.
Also, Nixon actually cleaned up the environment (he was a true “green” president, something people don’t remember). After all, that was the year the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire. The lunar landing happened. Great movies such as “Midnight Cowboy” were in theaters.
Indeed, 1969 seemed a relief after 1968 which brought us Tet, the deaths of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Miami and the Siege of Chicago.
I can’t remember when we decided to go home. The performers were still on. We hiked back to the car and set off around two in the morning. At four a.m. we were still in New York driving through some darkened small town. A cop pulled us over. We didn’t know it but you had to be 18 to drive at night in New York. We were all 16 or 17.
The cop saw some Sweet Tarts in the front seat. He thought they were acid or uppers. He pulled his gun. We shouted: “No officer, they’re candy, they really are!”
Peter Galuszka

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12 responses to “Woodstock Nation”

  1. Larry G Avatar

    a pure grin reading about your memories of that time and place.

    thanks, Peter!

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Well done, Peter. I wasn't there & wouldn't have wanted to go. But I truly enjoyed your short retelling of your experiences at Woodstock.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    I was at the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven, near where we kept the boat. Some People I knew invited me to go with them, but I went sailing instead.


  4. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Peter, you wild rebel, you! I can't believe you paid the $20 bucks to get in! Here's the million-dollar question: Did you meet any hippie chicks?

  5. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Yeah Jim,
    Paying that $20 was one of the duymbest things I have ever done. My companions thought so, too.
    As for hippie chicks, no I did not meet anyway. But watching them in action in full view of half a million people let me believe that I knew them very well. Details on request.

  6. Star Womanspirit Avatar
    Star Womanspirit

    I love the direction your new blog is taking…prosperous, sustainable, eco living in VA.


  7. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Star Woman,
    You sound like Mother Superior here. Can't we take a break from the serious policy wonking (if not wanking) and enjoy Woodstock just for a few minutes?

    Peter Galuszka

  8. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    EMR has been planning to get this up for a few days and perhaps it will make Star Womansprit feel better.

    As summer was winding down 40 years ago EMR lived just three counties away from Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel. We heard a lot about Woodstock before, during and after the event (‘before’ because of the controversy over naming / moving the venue).

    At the time EMR was too busy to pay much attention. He was wrapping up reports on The Future of the Adirondacks and the revision of New York State’s land use control legislation (21 Syracuse Law Review 2, Winter 1969) as well as preparing for the first of three years as a full time professor of planning.

    EMR learned a lot about Woodstock and its aftermath once the school year started. Well over half the students in every class (undergrad architects and grad students in Urban / Environmental Studies – Yes EMR was teaching THAT in 1969 in an old line and well respected ‘Technological University’) had been there, some as organizers. They were keeping a low profile since no one yet knew what the eventual fallout from ‘participation’ would be. But the whole tenor of the educational experience changed.

    EMR had been a participant / observer / facilitator-of-what-happened-after the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in 1964 (our second year of law school) and had been a leader in the death of in loco parentis at universities in the West in the late 50s but that was nothing like the class rooms filled with Woodstockers in the Fall of 1969.

    We all survived and in 1979 Published “10 Ideas for the 80s.”
    Among them was a proposal for nation-wide free, universal health and youth physical education / sports paid for by taxing and taking some of the profits from legalized recreational drugs (in addition to alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.)

    That proposal – which still makes more sense than what is being kicked around now – was informed in part by the experience with the Woodstockers. Also in the package was the application of Telework as a way to jump-start evolution of more functional human settlement patterns.

    The MainStream Media is now full of Woodstock Remembered material so congrats to Peter for getting there first – even if the picture is revolting. For those interested in Woodstock Trivia and Fallout, the Sunday 9 August WaPo’s Outlook section is a mother lode – especially the Five Myths about High Times in America.

    Feel better now Star?


  9. Not Ed Risse Avatar
    Not Ed Risse

    Question for E M Risse:

    "Also in the package was the application of Telework as a way to jump-start evolution of more functional human settlement patterns."


    Doesn't Telework facilitate living anywhere you want no matter how scattered and remote?

  10. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse



    "Doesn't Telework facilitate living anywhere you want no matter how scattered and remote?"

    Surely you gest!

    Telework does not work well for scattered and remote. Very few apply Telework for long periods of time to overcome locational dysfunction. Check the data.

    Telework's best application is to attract Lone Eagles who can in turn attract others, mentor students who stay or come back and in other wasy create Critical Mass in places that have the potential to evolve to become Balanced components of human settlement.


  11. EmsPoo(: Avatar

    I'm researching for a 60's music project and i came upon this. i have one thing to say :
    You are so lucky.
    i wasn't even born then but i wish i was. i love your story. nicee:D

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