I was 18 years old and had just finished high school. I worked part-time at this handbag company in a New Jersey town as their afternoon receptionist. That was all I did at 18 – school, work. I had two very close friends and both of who moved out of the state at the end of their junior year. Who moves before senior year! At that point, everyone already had their established group of friends. Being on the shy side, it was a lonely time for me but I did make one friend at work, Linda. She was maybe two years older than me and we connected. And then she said, “Do you want to go with me to this concert in upstate NY in August?” And I said sure. And my mother and father said sure. I always thought they didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing, but I think they let me go because they knew I wasn’t doing anything else with anyone else. And they liked Linda.
The rest as they say is history. Fifty years ago, Linda and I rode up with a guy friend she knew in his VW van with two other girls. We drove on, stuck in traffic but got to the concert site and realized quickly that we were spending the weekend in the van. We had a hotel room but never got to it. Unprepared with food, people camping out gave us what they could spare to eat and somehow we managed not to starve. I was a bit of a princess then (okay I still am) so I was afraid of eating anything I didn’t know from where it came. Somehow I didn’t die of malnutrition or of the cold nights of upstate NY. I thanked my mother that whole weekend for secretly stuffing that ski sweater in my bag.
Music? Not sure who I saw the first two days as I just heard singing, guitars and drumming and announcements for people to get off the scaffolding. It was dark and I wasn’t paying attention. It rained a lot – not the best conditions for an outdoor concert which kept getting delayed because of the rain. But then Sunday morning came and we had high hopes of finally seeing the concert. The day opened with sun and Joe Cocker. But the concert gods were not with us. After his act, the heavens opened up again and the fans commenced with their mudslide races. We gave up and decided to pack it in and head home.
Now, 50 years later my reflection of that weekend was not all about the music at all. It might have been if I had spent more time at the venue, but I didn’t. My recollections were mostly about being with people I didn’t know who were kind and helped us out. As I said, I was a shy kid with very few friends. Woodstock made me feel like I belonged somewhere. In later years, it was the thing that made me cool to my kids and their friends. I was the mother who went to Woodstock.
My memories were not recorded on film or video or with souvenir sweatshirts or other apparel. There wasn’t anything like that then. The world wasn’t smart enough in 1969 to realize the potential of making money with marketing gimmicks. I held on to the only items that reminded me of my attending Woodstock – two of my three-day tickets and the ski sweater that my mother packed to keep me warm when I most needed it.