Stories From Woodstock 1969
2:20:18 AM 08.13.09

A Week in my Life

Atlantic City Rock Festival
Test driving my newly-purchased-with-babysitting-money, first-car, 1963 Ford Falcon station wagon, my friend Jenny and I, both 17, had driven from Cleveland, Ohio to the Atlantic City Rock Festival in July, 1969. I had never before seen either a mountain or an ocean.
Atlantic City exceeded all my expectations; calm, high, fun-loving people being absorbed into their environment. I discovered the juiciest, most flavorful peaches and I learned to drink water (instead of milk, juice, pop).
Meanwhile, Woodstock was very heavily marketed that weekend: The prevalent Atlantic City theme was, "if you enjoyed this, go to the Woodstock Rock Festival".

I was determined! After returning home, I rounded up a different friend, 17, and my brother, 16, to accompany me. We sent away for our three-day tickets.

We were so excited that we left Cleveland on Monday in order to arrive on Tuesday. We were able to park the car within the farm somewhere. We set up our campsite adjacent to the car.

We had no tents or sleeping bags, maybe we made bedrolls. I think we built a few campfires and tried cooking on them. None of us had primitive-camped or even traveled outside of Ohio before that month. However, we arrived early enough to be comfortable in our new environment by the time the masses of people hit.

The construction seemed to be never-ending (and it never did end) with its persistent hammering.
I feel guilty saying this now, but ... Meanwhile, we were picking up hints through some sort of a network (those of us who had been there for a few days already) that we might be able to get in without tickets if we followed this one fenceline. We knew there was no way the fence would be finished by noon on Friday.
Sure enough! We each sold our tickets at the gates and then entered the festival in roundabout ways. Whether or not we made any profits, I don't remember.

Although my brother and I had gone different directions in the crowds, we each bought some acid and dropped it. Neither of us had ever taken it before. I had no expectations.

There were so, so many people. The vast meadow was tightly packed with thousands and thousands of people sitting and milling around wearing clean, brightly-colored, summer clothes for a hot, bright, summer day. Mostly sitting on grass or blankets, some were standing and traversing the crowds when Ritchie Havens began. The milling movement through the crowds reminded me of images of blood flowing through capillaries like I had studied in biology class.
I sat down with some strangers on their blankets and was absorbed by the music.
Occasionally, I forgot how to swallow. Although I am not an anxious person, this concerned me, so I thought it out carefully. If I could swallow as a newborn, I could swallow now. I just had to put liquid to my mouth and it would go down automatically.
It worked. I calmly asked my neighbors for drinks of their water. The water went in my mouth and down my throat the way it was supposed to, no problem. I knew I was OK and I just needed to continue merging with the music. I didn't move from that spot until the trip was long over.

Saturday afternoon, the PA system announced that the acid was bad. Anyone who took the acid should come to the medical tent. I went. I told them about my taking it the day before. They asked me how I was now. I was fine. End of discussion.

We had been sleeping in the car and on the ground before Friday. Now the bands played in the background all night long, I tried sleeping on the roof of my car Friday night, "under the stars". It didn't work, I was awakened by the music and a heavy drizzle and went into the car. I think I slept inside my car the next few nights.

I wanted to go skinny-dipping like so many others around me. Amusingly, I was too embarrassed that my brother might wander my direction and see me.

I walked through the woods often. There were some arts and crafts booths, but I never bought anything. It was in the woods that I ran into a neighbor. We drove him more than halfway back to Cleveland.

All of those brightly colored summer clothes were muddy brown by Sunday. Everyone was rolling, playing, and sliding in the mud. But the music continued.

We had been using the Port-a-Potties. Either Saturday or Sunday, they were full and gross, only inches from the seats! After that, I went to the bathroom in the cornfields.

Once it was announced that this was a disaster area, I knew that I had to eat as much as I could. Who knew when I might eat again? I ate oatmeal(?) from a soup kitchen at Hog Farm. National Guard helicopters were dropping food (hard-boiled eggs? sandwiches? I don't remember for sure.). I ate.

With heavy rains falling, some guy and I found a large, dry, red tarp that had been abandoned when the heavy showers started. Almost everyone had evacuated this particular hill, where he and I laughed and huddled together listening to the music. Peaking out of our makeshift tent, we discovered that we were surrounded by large quantities of disgusting trash.
But on closer examination, this abandoned trash included a lot of still packaged foodstuffs. Continually sitting, we slid our tent all around and up and down the slimy, muddy-brown hill, amoeba-style, enveloping whatever unopened or partially opened foodstuffs we could get. I remember a bag of oranges, specifically. While everyone else starved, we probably gained weight that weekend.

The fog-like misty clouds of pot smoke reached up to about my chest, at least. They were most visible on Saturday before the hard rains.
NYCPD staffed the festival. The police were stuck and as much a part of the crowds as the rest of us. On a couple of occasions, I saw officers offering a match or lighter to someone needing to light a joint. They were always helpful, supportive, and pleasant to me.

Leaving, we picked up some hitchhikers headed to LaGuardia Airport. Seven of us cramped my car as we headed to NYC. We heard rumors that people were being busted for the pot residue on their clothes and cars. And my car was obviously coated in the now infamous, brown, slimy mud.
Three different NYC cops stopped us. With each stop, we became more paranoid that our luck was running out. Each cop was kinder and more helpful than the next. They wanted to know everything we could tell them about Woodstock. One told us how to shower for cheap (or free, I don't remember) at the YMCA. One allowed us to continue sleeping illegally in, under, and around the car on the Coney Island bridge.

I knew about checking gasoline, oil, and radiator fluid. I had never heard of transmission fluid. My transmission died in the Pennsylvania mountains. We monopolized a small town's Howard Johnson's lobby until my friend's parents came to pick us up at about 4 am Wednesday morning.
After we got home, we learned that my mother had called the New York State governor. She insisted that he rescue her two children from this disaster area. Thankfully, that didn't happen.
Oh well.

2 Votes


miket156 August 13, 2009, 2:29 pm
I was at the Atlantic City Pop Festival, as well as Woodstock. The Atlantic City festival was the first week in August, not July. We only went for one day to the Atlantic City Festival, I think it was on Saturday. I DO remember hearing Janis Joplin, Santana, and Ten Years After. It was hot and sunny, unlike the following weekend in Bethel at Woodstock. The groups sounded better at Atlantic City because it wasn't damp and wet, like Woodstock. Its tough to keep guitars in tune in damp weather, and it "can" be dangerous too! Woodstock was probably the biggest mess I ever saw, but a whole lot of fun!

Anne August 13, 2009, 3:21 pm
Thanks for clarifying the details for me, although I thought the festivals were two weeks apart. You are definitely right to contrast the weather and its effect on the sound!
For years, I haven't remembered who all played in Atlantic City, even though I enjoyed the music. I just remember that I had originally wanted to go because the Moody Blues were going to be there, then they canceled.
Rummbull1 August 14, 2009, 1:58 pm
I enjoyed the heck outta the Atlantic city pop festival. 'course the red double domed acid intensified it some and after I recovered from the bathroom visits due to the impurities that were part of those jolly balls of acid. I remember creedence guitars opening a song and we were drawn to them like a magnet.practically emptying the stands and heading for the stage. I remember walking around and marveling at guys who had managed to climb up those really wide light poles and were enjoying an unimpeded view of the stage.And Booker T's organ was sooo mellowI remember many contrasts of people gathered to enjoy that happenin and was very happy to have had that experience.The rest of '69 did not go so well for me...
miket156 August 17, 2009, 11:01 am

I think you’re right about that, Atlantic City Pop Festival WAS 2 weeks before Woodstock. I was thinking about it, and I’m pretty sure you’re right. Some friends of mine and me were putting together a band, and a few of us went to Atlantic City, the other guys didn’t. A couple of days before Woodstock, we went to band practice at our lead guitar player’s house he said “Hey you guys, look what I got”. He had tickets for all of us for this concert in Upstate NY. We all lived in NE PA and Bethel wasn’t all that far from where we lived. (There were no Ticketrons or Ticket master back in those days, so either we picked up tickets along the Interstate at gas stations, we bought tickets at the gate, or we sent for them). The deal we had made was that whoever came across tickets to a show we would all want to see should buy them and we would give him the money.) We asked him who was playing and he started in to “Janis Joplin, Santana, Creedence” We interrupted him and said “We saw them at Atlantic City”. And he reminded us that he didn’t go. So we said “How much are the tickets” he said “$18 for 3 days”. We said “What? No one told you to spend that kind of money for tickets”. (Tickets sold at the gate were supposed to be $24, the fences weren’t up all the way around the concert grounds when we got there, and then some bikers had cut some of the fences open and drove their bikes it. I didn’t see anyone trying to sell tickets were we walked in) Back then minimum wage was something like $1.35 an hour so $18 was a lot of money for us. We told him we weren’t going to pay that kind of money; we had already seen a number of the groups already. The Thursday before Woodstock, we went to practice again and our guitar player laid a big guilt trip on us. So OK, we’ll go. When we met up on Friday to go to the Concert, he made us pony up the money before we could get in the van. Some of us tried to weasel out of it and said we’d pay him later. He said “You guys will spend any money you have on drugs so no way, pay up”. He was right of course.
August 21, 2009, 9:03 pm
I'm impressed. Your lead guitarist was no dummy for a kid at that time.
You clarified a few memory cobwebs!
I've remembered the tickets as costing $54, yet I couldn't remember having over FIFTY dollars(!) in my pocket after selling the tickets. I also haven't been able to figure out how I came up with that much money in a week (babysitting at ~50 cents/hour and wallpapering a bathroom). The answer? The $54 was the price of all three of our tickets together.

Mike and Rummbull,
I do kind of remember people climbing up the poles in Atlantic City. From my perspective today, I wonder how many fell.
I still don't remember Janis in Atlantic City, but I think I developed my love for CCR there.
Working at a movie theater in high school, I was also able to watch and listen to various Monterey Pop movie exerpts for several weeks (was that the year before?). That's when I fell in love with Santana. I think Santana's presence drew me to both concerts, too.

Sorry to hear the rest of your year wasn't so good.

rambler45 August 22, 2009, 9:02 am
Anne the A.C.PoP Festival Aug.1,2and3. tow weeks to the day .i was thire too i live in A.C. at the tine and work at .W M I D part time . love midnight rambler . atlantic city pop festival. e.m. me if u like@rambler1945@people i like tohear from peopel that wher thire.
fisheye September 20, 2009, 2:20 pm
A concert that was 2 weeks before Woodstock was on Tue, 12 August 1969:
Tanglewood, MA, Music Shed. It went BB King, the who, and the Jefferson Airplane in that order. I went to it with my girlfriend. I had just turned 20. I remember being stoned on hash, looking on the ground, and seeing 2 round buttons with the word "press" on them. We each put one on and just kept walking and grooving until we were through the security (walked right by them )and watched the bands from right in front of the stage with the rest of the press. We just made out a lot and end enjoyed the bands. At the time I had gone for the Jefferson Airplane and hadn't heard of the Who. Loved 'em. He was swinging that mike cord around with his fringe vest and we were right below him. Never forget it. B.B. King was always a plus with any grass smoker. Was inducted by the draft into boot camp one month later.
Anne September 28, 2009, 10:28 pm
Dear Fisheye,
Your concert on Tuesday, 8/12/69 would have been four days before Woodstock, wouldn't it?
It's amazing how we remember some of our super-stoned moments and don't remember so many of the others.
Hope all is well with you now and that you're at peace with having been drafted after that and whatever happened next.
fisheye September 29, 2009, 3:07 pm
Dear Anne,
Your right, it was only one week, well less than one week. I noticed when I posted. Since it was a little before woodstock I thought I'd throw it out there on the chance that maybe that was the one you were looking for.
On stoned moments I agree. A lot of times we are surprised that someone who was there doesn't remember the incident at all.
I made it out alive and am tickled pink that my son didn't get drafted, or join.
I recently retired and was joking with my ex co-workers that I tried to join the peace movement, but couldn't find it. So been enjoying the Woodstock 40th blue-ray and ordered a cat's for peace refrigerator magnet. Has three cats flashing the peace sign.

Soooo, Was anyone at Tanglewood? I wonder if the Who and Airplane went straight to woodstock from there.
fisheye September 29, 2009, 5:53 pm
BTW Anne, I cracked up about your mother calling the New York State Governor to rescue you. Mothers are that way though. Basic instinct I think. My mother called some Admiral in the Navy because the Navy wouldn't let me go to my brothers wedding (I was best man). Guess what! I went to that wedding!
Anne October 27, 2009, 11:26 pm
Hi Fisheye,
Interesting that you should mention my mom's call to the governor. That's been an issue in our house this summer.
My 19 y/o (youngest) took a "gap year" after high school last year to surf in Indonesia for several months. He saved up every cent for the trip itself, but we paid for the vaccinations, medications, and health insurance.
So, last May, when he didn't phone or email us for his older sister's college graduation or Mother's Day the next day, I emailed the American Embassy in Jakarta, with the subject, "Possibly sick, possibly lost, possibly irresponsible, teenage American surfer". In the body, I wrote what I knew of his possible location and other miscellania.
They passed it on to their branch in Padang, Sumatra who called me about 4 hours later with his location and reassuring me he was healthy and would be calling me to wish me Happy Mother's Day shortly ... which he did.
Boy, was he furious!!!
brookeajw93 April 15, 2010, 9:57 pm
Hi Anne!
I'm enrolled in journalistic writing at Stevenson High School and we're working on a creative journalism writing assignment, which is where you take an even from history and tell it as a story but with 99% factual information. I chose Woodstock and I'm really excited to write about it.
I was wondering if you'd be willing to answer a few questions via e-mail/phone and tell me your story with as many minor and major details as possible.
I really want to do Woodstock justice with my paper..

Anne May 10, 2010, 12:58 pm
Dear brookeajw93,

I just opened your note yesterday. I don't know if it's too late for your journalism assignment or not, but I'm willing to help you with it.
My stepson is a newspaper journalist with the NY Daily News, by the way.

Please write back soon and let me know how to communicate with you.

Anne C.

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