The Road to Woodstock by My Dad
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
It was the middle of August in 1969 and a period of severe unrest in the country as the Vietnam war raged on and the Civil Rights movement was emerging. We were all looking for ways to escape to a place where we could enjoy some peace and tranquility. Frankie, my best friend and aspiring musician told me about an outdoor concert called Woodstock that was going to be held in Bethel, New York. It was advertised that performers such as: Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Sly And The Family Stone, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and a long list of other performances were on the schedule.
We did not have any tickets for Woodstock, but decided we would head to Bethel in the hopes we would find a way to get in.
On April 13th, we jumped into Frankie's beat up convertible and began our journey not knowing what challenges laid before us. We were not even sure how long the car would last. I noticed that once we were on the road, that there was a big gaping hole on the passenger side floor of the car that was covered by cardboard. My expectations of us ever arriving safely at the concert was starting to diminish. As we got closer to Bethel, we came upon a huge traffic jam with cars lined up for miles. Everyone was just leaving their cars and walking toward the field where the concert was scheduled to begin on August 15th.
Frankie and I made the decision to join the crowd and leave the car on the side of the road. We never saw the car again.
As we approached Woodstock, we observed a sea of humanity of about 400,000 people enjoying the environment with 32 acts that can be best described as a harmonious vibe which can be attributed to the amazing music and psychedelic drugs. Because of the size of the crowd, the concert became a free event. We were only able to settle in a few miles from the stage, but huge speakers were installed throughout the field that allowed us to hear Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
the performances. We realized that we left
the Bronx with Frankie's guitar and limited
provisions, but we did not need much and
relied on the kindness of strangers for food
As the concert raged on, so did the rain that soaked everyone and created a sea of mud all around us. Clothing became optional when the rain stopped as people found a local watering hole to wash off the mud from their bodies. As the next several days progressed, we were provided with the amazing sounds of Arlo Guthrie, Sweetwater, Joan Baez and a multitude of Rock Royalty.
Photo courtesy of: Pinterest
Frankie and I hung out in a tent with a hippie couple, a bearded six-foot rocker named “Fish” and his girlfriend Jade. We spent the nights listening to "Fish" and Frankie playing their guitars and enjoying how remarkably peaceful 400,000 people could be.
Photo courtesy of: Ebay
On August 18th, at 9:00 am, Jimi Hendrix performed for two hours which included his psychedelic rendition of the National Anthem. His performance was captured in the Woodstock film and considered the most iconic event at the concert.
Photo courtesy of: Ultimate Classic Rock
Now that the concert was over, we needed to figure out a way to get back to the Bronx which was 103 miles away. We started to walk along the road that we arrived on looking for the car, but after a few hours we pretty much gave up.
Photo courtesy of: Alamy
We heard a van behind us honking and as I turned to look it was our hippie friends "Fish" and Jade who were heading back to the Bronx. We jumped into the back of their beat-up Volkswagen and joined several other hitchhikers. We all enjoyed the next several hours reminiscing about the historic event we just witnessed over the last several days.
Several months later, Frankie's Selective Service number came up and he was headed to Vietnam. I received a deferment since I was attending college at the time and my number never came up. I was happy that I spent the time with Frankie at Woodstock, because the last time I saw him was several years later at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. where he was transferred after he was wounded in Vietnam. Frankie died several days after my visit. National Archives at College Park, MD.
Life is a series of experiences that determine the paths that we follow and the relationships we build with the people we meet along the way. I will never regret the day I jumped into the beat-up car wrapped in cardboard and headed with my best friend to a field of Rock and Roll and torrential rain.
Photo courtesy of: Wix
This post is dedicated to my best friend, Frankie who is in Rock n' Roll Heaven.