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Woodstock: Countdown to 50

Memories from Woodstock

Ellen Cohen: Manhattan, NY

I was from Beachwood, Ohio at the time. I was still in high school and went with my best friend Karen. Our parents thought we were at Ohio State orientation with an older friend. Those lies we thought we could get away with. The experience was well worth it. There will never be another.

Steve Douglas: San Diego, CA

I actually bought tickets to Woodstock, even though we wound up not needing them. I went with my girlfriend and another couple. The hillside in front of the stage was fairly empty when we all got there after having walked 10 miles; we had to park the car so far back due to the interstate being closed. The four of us sat down, laid out our blanket, and the other guy and I went into a big clump of woods to the right of us facing the stage. When we reappeared the entire area was packed. Roger and I dropped the wood we thought we were collecting for a campfire and luckily found the girls. The rest is history: lots of rain, lots of hot sun, tons of mud, no food, overturned or overfilled porta-potties so you weren’t sure whether it really was mud you were sloshing through. Great music with many bands that were largely unknown until Woodstock: Santana, Ten Years After, Sly and the Family Stone and others. Many forget that it was also an arts fair. I still have the leather belt I bought at Woodstock, but my waist has grown a bit and it doesn’t fit. Once we got home, I remember watching the news reports saying how peaceful it had been and feeling so very proud to have been part of it.

Terry Grady: Portland, CT

What a rush hearing the cry of “Freedom” followed by a sound that was the roar of thousands.

The bowl was pretty full already and, from the top, one could see not only the thousands within but well beyond the stage and off to the sides.  The crowd just didn’t quit. Nor did the speakers. I’d never seen towers like that, about as high as we were coming off from the floor of the bowl.  There was gonna be no messing around when The Who and Hendrix came on.

I don’t think that I ever saw a lineup until well after the concert. There were a couple of posters and lots of rumors, but no one seemed to know who would be coming on and when. Even as performers were announced, I recognized most but certainly not all. We knew we were in for a ride when Country Joe started things off with a thunderous Gimme an “F.” I still don’t know who the hell Bert Sommer is. Maybe I hit the head on that slot. Politics aside, Joan Baez was in possession of one of the sweetest voices on the planet.

Not a dog in the bunch.

Even Crosby Stills & Nash, who wavered a bit, blew us all away.

Then it started to rain.

Tom Eslaver: Liberty, NY

The tent [we used] was never treated to hold back water, and guess what? There was a lot of water that weekend! So we were soaked and stayed that way until I found an old piece of plastic and threw it over the top. I remember we stuck it in the corner next to where there were fences when we first got there to keep from being trampled or run over.

It was there that, after not getting much sleep the previous nights, I woke up to a familiar sounding guitar player... yaaa, Jimi Hendrix was playing the “Star Spangled Banner.” I’m saying to myself (because my buddies had left and gone home) your missing Jimi, Tom! Get up and get down there to the stage and see him, knucklehead!

I felt that all the rain, mud, sleep deprivation and starvation that I endured would all be for nothing if I didn’t see the man himself: Jimi Hendrix. Forget all those other no names, ha! Little did I know what or who they’d all become. So I was off through the mud and the trash and thousands of people in sleeping bags, just rising, too, to the incredible sounds inundating every inch of the air around us for miles.


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