In my weekly column, Surfin', I wrote about my Woodstock experience, but I left out some of the details so as not to make the column too long. For anyone interested, I added the details below. The original text in the column appears in green, the details, in black.
Forty summers ago, my high school classmates Joe Bergantino, WA1CYU, non-ham Ron Cibulskis and I decided to attend the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. I did not see much of Joe and Ron after Woodstock. Ron married another classmate, Anita Rosa, and the only contact I've had with him is when I ran into him at one of our high school class reunions. Joe became a television journalist and was well-known at WBZ in Boston. He also worked as a correspondent for ABC news and today is Director and Senior Investigative Reporter of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University. We have exchanged e-mails over the years. Our plan was to drive to Bethel, New York (the site of the event), on Friday night, stay over in a hotel and go to the concert on Saturday and Sunday. We decided to pass on the first day of the show because the Friday line-up was heavy on the folk music side of the music spectrum and we were rockers, not folkies.
With tickets in hand (I still have mine because no one collected them), we completed the 120 mile trip without difficulty. Traffic was heavy at times, but there were no slow-downs or stoppages; we arrived in the Bethel area in about three hours. Traffic was heavy on I-84 and NY Route 17, especially for a rainy, Friday night, but it never slowed down or came to a stop. We probably spent an hour in traffic in Monticello circling the town looking for a hotel.
We found a room in a hotel on Route 17B, which according to the desk clerk, was a "few miles" up the road from the concert. The hotel was a classic Catskill resort. We planned to drive to the concert site in the morning, so we got a good night's sleep, had breakfast and then went outdoors to discover that Route 17B was now a parking lot (a four-lane parking lot with all the vehicles pointed west, i.e., towards the site of the concert).
Since the concert site was only a "few miles" down the road, we figured we would walk to the site, see the show and walk back to the hotel whenever we needed a break. Ten miles later over hill in dale on a hot, humid August morning, we arrived at the site and plopped down on the ground with 300,000 others. We were seated about three-quarters of the way up the side of the hill that formed the natural amphitheater. I was very tired after that hike and when I plopped down on the ground, I thought to myself that I wished I was home.
That summer, I was working at a local discount department store (Caldor) unpacking clothing in the receiving department. I became friends with another summer employee named Jeanette, who worked in the women's clothing department. We did not mention our weekend plans to each other at work that week and I was very surprised to see her plop down on the ground a few feet away from me that Saturday afternoon (and she was also very surprised to see me). Small world.
I had just graduated from Sacred Heart High School and my eyes saw things that weekend that I had never seen before like marijuana and live naked women, as opposed to the naked women I had seen in Playboy. By the way, I did not partake in the marijuana or other drugs and I was too shy to deal with the naked women.
Boxes of food made their way through the crowd and I recall eating an orange from a box of fresh fruit and a popsicle from a box of popsicles. Late in the afternoon, I went searching for more food and found a booth selling sandwiches. I bought a meatloaf sandwich that consisted of two slices of white bread and a slice of meat loaf. I don't remember what I paid, but I do remember that the price was exorbitant and the sandwich was not too tasty.
Joe and I did not bring our ham radios. The equipment I owned at the time (the Heath DX-60B and HR-10B "twins") was not portable and Joe owned Hallicrafters equipment, which was no more portable than my twins. The only gadget we had on hand was my Kodak Super 8 film camera and I shot about half a roll of film that day. I returned to the site in October and shot the other half. I cut and spliced the film, interspersing the August scenes with the October scenes. One of these days, I will digitize that film and upload it to the Internet.
The concert began around noon, and after seeing performances by Quill , Keef Hartley Band, Country Joe McDonald (I was out on my sandwich hunt while Joe was playing.), John Sebastian, Santana (for some reason, I don't recall their performance), Canned Heat (great), Mountain (great), Grateful Dead (It was the first time I ever heard the Dead and I was not impressed. The Dead later admitted that they also did not like their Woodstock performance. I became a Dead fan later.) , Creedence Clearwater Revival (I loved Creedence and they did not disappoint), Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone (freakin' fantastic), and The Who (also freakin' fantastic; I do remember Pete Townsend removing Abbie Hoffman from the stage by whacking Hoffman's head with the back of his guitar), the Sun came up and I was very ill. I convinced Joe and Ron to leave and we hitched a ride back to our car, drove home, and I spent most of the following week in bed nursing flu-like symptoms. On the way home, we picked up two female hitchhikers, who were very "far out." I think we gave them the impression that we were not "far out."
This weekend is the 40th anniversary of that weekend, so I searched the Internet for any and all connections between Woodstock and ham radio...
After the event and for years thereafter, 300,000 was the estimate of the crowd size. These days, 500,000 is more like it. I dunno which is correct, but my gut says the former.
In December 1969, I wrote a letter to Time Magazine nominating the Woodstock Nation as their man of the year. I was very surprised to receive a telegram (the only non-ham telegram I ever received) informing me that Time would publish my letter. It appeared in the December 29th issue and was the first letter on the page. You can see it here.
In retrospect, I am glad that I went. The music was great and I received an instant education about the late 1960s counter culture, which would do me well as I prepared to go to college.