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Rare Stories From Woodstock 1969: Some Do Remember It

Culture | July 22, 2019

A woman sits on the grass waiting for a bus to take her to the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, New York, August 1969. The festival ran from August 15 to 18. (Photo by Ralph Ackerman/Getty Images)

There are true stories from the 1969 Woodstock festival -- don't buy the line about 'if you remember it you weren't there.' The 'three days of peace and music' that happened near Bethel, NY, created vivid memories for many who went.

Woodstock became one of the defining events of a decade and a generation. Hundreds of thousands of people off all ages made their way to Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York to hear bands like The Who and Creedence Clearwater Revival kick out the jams. While many believe that there was one blanket experience shared by the hippies at Woodstock, that’s not true.

Over on Reddit people who attended the Woodstock festival, and people who know someone who did, are telling their stories. Some people had a great time, some got stuck in traffic, and at least one person didn’t even want to be there. Take a trip back to the summer of ’69 with these stories from Woodstock. 

His Dad Missed Hendrix But Saw Janis

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From Redditor /u/row_guy:

My dad went, totally sober the entire time. Remembers watching Creedence and the Who in the middle of the night and watching Janis Joplin swaying in the dark. Never saw Hendrix as he left early Sunday. He always said it was raining, muddy and miserable. Had to pee in a coffee can because it was so crowded. I just went to the site with him a few weeks ago and we stood on the hill exactly where he remembered being.

Most Of What They Remember Is From The Movie

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From Redditor /u/hedronist:

I was there personally along with my friend Mike. It was shortly after my 20th birthday. We saw the small ad in the Chicago Seed, the local 'underground' newspaper. We had tickets, but I have no idea where they went (I know, Epic Fail). Actually, "no idea" sums up a lot of my experiences there because we were doing drugs at a Thompsonian level (although this was a few years before Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Fortunately we didn't get any of the "bad brown acid" because we showed up with our own 80 tabs of Orange Sunshine (ah, now that was great acid!)

I remember a little bit of Cocker, and I definitely remember Hendrix's 'Star Spangled Banner.' I remember the traffic in, and the traffic out (while trying to keep my Volvo's engine from melting because of a massive oil leak). I remember the mud, and some of the personal interactions (mostly good).

Unfortunately, most of what I 'know' is from watching the movie because ... drugs. Sigh.

This Guy Still Has His Tickets

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From Redditor /u/bobanddave

My name's Bob and I went to Woodstock with a friend named Dave. We were both in college in Brooklyn at the time. We took public transportation up to the George Washington Bridge and hitch-hiked from there. Just the journey to Woodstock was a trip. But that's for another time. One thing I remember was that we had a light shower on Saturday afternoon and everyone started chanting, 'No Rain, No Rain...' for a while. Soon the sky cleared and a helicopter flies over and starts dropping what looked like several bushel baskets worth of daisies on the crowd. I might still have the book around somewhere with the daisy I pressed into it. 

If you had to take a pee, you had to plan about 45 minutes ahead of time since there were so many more people than planned that the hundreds of porto-sans weren't enough and had decent lines. That and having to get through the crowd to where they were placed. By the time we got there it was crowded so we would walk from one side to the other, each time working our way closer to the stage. We finally found a decent spot to put our blanket down when we were center stage and about as far from the stage as the height of the two towers that had lights and speakers on them.

We shared food, drink, stories, and maryjane with the people around us and had a great time. We went home on Sunday afternoon and ended up getting a ride all the way back to the Jersey side of the GW Bridge riding in one of the seats from the ferris wheel which had been dismantled and was leaving Woodstock. I still have my tickets: Saturday #H03895 and Sunday #H02397. $7.00 each day!

Even Kids Got In On The Fun

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From Redditor /u/DiscoPopStar:

I was there. Granted, I was three, but it still counts. My parents had just moved to the U.S. (from Ireland) and heard about this concert happening in upstate NY (we lived in western Mass) and hopped in the car (a painted beetle, of course) with me and my six week old brother (!) figuring they could get a hotel nearby. Well, of course that didn't happen. It forms two of my oldest memories - a huge sea of people and a traffic jam so long we got out and had a picnic on the side of the road. Every so often, my dad got in the car and moved forward a few feet.

His Dad Rode On The Hood Of A Car To The Festival

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From Redditor /u/isaac2004:

My dad went when he was 17, he rode on the hood of a car for like 5 miles to get the last bit of the way. They bought tickets, but so many people showed up, the fences got pushed down, and it ended up being free. He got stoned the whole time, and had a good time. He remembers them coming over the speaker informing people to not take certain acid.
He remembers waking up to music Sunday morning and it was the greatest moment of his life (coming from a guy who went to Beatles at Shea Stadium, Concert for Monseratt, and multiple concerts at the Fillmore East in New York. He is in the Woodstock Documentary, and is in Abbie Hoffman's Woodstock book (front row looking pissed, he said it was during Santana and he was [mesmerized]). He has tons of music stories, and he and my hippie mom should write of a book of their lives.

Things Didn't Go To Plan For This Guy

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From Redditor /u/fluor_guy:

I was there. Drove up with a few friends from NYC area. I had purchased the tickets for our group and one person bailed, so while parked in the traffic jam I walked up and down the cars until I found someone who needed a ticket and was able to unload the extra :) I still have mine.
The plan was to set up entrance gates to feed the crowd in but that hadn't been completed so we all just wandered into the field in front of the concert stage and other areas. Before things started the organizers were broadcasting over the loudspeakers for everyone to go back out to the entrance so they could collect tickets but everyone just ignored that and eventually they just gave up.
I spent most of the concert in the open (muddy) field area in front of the stage, with forays to the port-a-potties and to wander around the tent areas where there were people selling all kinds of crafts, serving out communal food, treating bad trips, etc.
Drugs? Not so much for me personally. I would smoke the occasional joint but have never even tried anything else, Woodstock or anywhere else. Sure there were plenty of people tripping out but the idea that everyone who was there was a stone druggie is a stereotype and false. There were plenty of others like me who were drawn by the times and the music. What an event - Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe and the Fish, the Dead, Creedence, Janis, Sly, the Who, etc. etc. It was indeed memorable.

Their Mom Worked While Their Dad Partied

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From a former Redditor

My parents went. They said that they watched people jump on the bumpers of semis and try to get rides at first while the drivers tried to get them off. They said that as more and more people arrived traffic stopped as people abandoned cars in the roadway. My mom commented on how by the third day people were giving drugs out for free but fighting over food and water. She said that she spent a lot of time in a makeshift hospital tent because my dad's best friend took a crazy combination of pills and started having seizures. My mom dragged him to the tent and one of the 'doctors' begged her to stay and help because she was one of the extremely few sober people. She was a farm girl from Nebraska and had experience with veterinary medicine. So while my dad partied she helped people ODing. They said leaving was worse than getting there since they had been some of the first people they couldn't get their car out. People had left in no order so the road was littered with cars. Plus people were high so there were tons of accidents. This was her first concert and my mother never attended another concert.

Their Friend Walked To The Festival

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From Redditor /u/atabditslow:

My old general manager went, he was in his late teens snuck there with two of his friends, got stuck in the heavy traffic left the car and walked two miles to get to the concert a day after it started. Could hardly see the stage from where they were but said 'even though those days are a little fuzzy and I can't remember much, I'll never forget hearing Santana play.' Dude is super cool and laid back, truly a genuine dude.

Their Dad Missed Woodstock And Didn't Even Know It

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From Redditor /u/thundering_hobo:

So my dad used to be a mechanic/engineer for Chrysler and spent a lot of time traveling. I guess there was one time he was driving and got stuck in a very long line of traffic and spent hours waiting to get through. He didn't get why there were so many people waiting to get into this field and was just annoyed that he was going to be delayed. Well he finally made it through and continued to his next destination. He later found out that he was in line to get into Woodstock but never made the turn with everyone else.
So close to Woodstock but not cool enough to know.

What A Souvenir

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From Redditor /u/joecooool418:

My friend Billy went as a worker. He built the stage and then was responsible for guarding the beer tent for the musicians while the show was on. He said they never paid him, but gave him free tickets before the show to sell for money. I have an unused mint condition three day ticket framed on my wall.

This Must Have Been Mind Blowing For A High School Student

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From Redditor /u/theDalaiSputnik:

My wife and her sister went. My wife was still pre-senior year of high school (16 at the time), got separated from the people she went with & spent most of the time fairly miserable in the rain and knee-deep mud, but remembers hearing Joan Baez, who she adored. Also heard Swami Satchitananda do the opening invocation & do a meditation session. Saw people bathing naked in the creek & doing naked yoga on a hilltop. Saw an acid freak-out take his clothes off & climb one of the lighting towers. 

Tags: A Brief History Of... | Oral History | Rare Facts And Stories About History | Woodstock

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.