Woodstock Memories: A Walk On West Shore Road

30 Jul
The hoards of people walking towards Woodstock toward Hurd Road on West Shore Road.

The hoards of people walking towards Woodstock toward Hurd Road on West Shore Road.

How does one write about the Woodstock Festival of 1969? Forty-five years have passed, but when I close my eyes I can see the chaos of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people on roads not made to carry them. I can hear the music and the constant noise. I can feel the vibration of the ground of the bass drums. I hear the loudspeakers telling people what is happening. I smell the rain and the pot.

I was 14 when Woodstock came to me.  It was a weekend that I am unable to ever forget.

I worked at the bakery in Kauneonga Lake. Located next to the Post Office, it was only opened on the weekends usually in the mornings. But sometimes I worked till 3 pm. This weekend was to be like all others. My Dad drove me to work, as the store was about a mile and a half from our bungalow, and I was running late that morning as cousins had come to visit the night before, and I had to be at work by 8 am.

However, the day did not progress as normal. More and more people were coming into town. And then the woman I worked with said, “Someone has paid for all the food in the store, so we can give it away for free to all these hippies.”

And there were lots of young people, who looked like hippies. I always thought it was strange that the food was paid for, and then a crew with a camera came into the store to film as hundreds of people tried to come in and get free food. It was chaotic. We were working like crazy to give the food away. Put it in bags. I turned away from the camera.   It was hectic and somewhat scary for me. It was not a big room, and people were squashed inside against the display cabinets. And I was very shy.

When the food was all gone, and the people emptied out. And the camera crew left. We put a closed sign on the door and locked it. I called my Dad. “I can’t come and get you. The roads are a mess. You will have to walk home. Be Careful,” my Dad said. “Stop at the colony if you need to.”

The bungalow colony my grandparents owned was about two-thirds of the way to our bungalow, which was further up West Shore Road, one of the two main roads that led to the Woodstock concert held on Max Yasgur’s farm on the corner of West Shore Road and Hurd Road. I had relatives staying at the bungalow colony. I knew I would be safe there, if needed.

After I got off the phone, I looked outside. Cars were just stopped in the middle of the street. The center of town was overrun. People were abandoning their cars and walking, walking up to Woodstock, to Yasgur’s farm.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door. A black man from town, whom we all knew, said,  “I am going to walk you home. You cannot go walking alone in this mess.” I think my Grandpa must have called him, because how else would he know that I needed to walk home? So off we went. He was holding my hand and guiding me through the throngs of people.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I will get you home.”

I know everyone talks about how wonderful Woodstock was and how it was the peaceful event that brought together music, love and drugs. How everyone lived in harmony for three days. But on that walk, I saw an ugly side to Woodstock. Sorry, but this is my memory.

As we walked down the road people were yelling at each other. The town people who wanted the cars to move. The people in the cars who wanted to move their cars. Then there were also the hordes of people who were just walking and laughing. They seemed to be having a somewhat good time.

I was calming down, until we came upon a little Volkswagon ‘beetle’ car. Inside a white man was punching a white woman in the face. They were probably in their 20s. Blood was running down her face. The man with me, pulled open the car door and grabbed the man’s hand. And he yelled at the girl, “Get out of the car!”

“But it’s my car!” She cried.

“It is not going anyway,” my now hero yelled. “Get out of the car.”

We were right in front of my grandparent’s bungalow colony. I saw my other grandmother and aunt among the women standing there. They opened the gate, and grabbed the young women, towel in hand to wipe the blood off her face and stop the bleeding. “Come with us.” I remember them saying. “We will call your parents.”

People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera.

People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera. I made it home.

My grandmother called over to me. “Are you okay? Can you make it back to the house?”

I nodded yes and pointed. “He is going to walk me home.” She nodded in return. “Okay, I will call and tell them you are on the way.” I think she was a little shocked about who was walking with me.

We continued walking toward Woodstock and home: up the hill past the White Lake Estates, Finks and Top Hill. To my grandparent’s private home, where our bungalow was located.   My Dad and Grandpa were waiting for us at the end of the driveway. They shook my companion’s hand.

“Thank you,” my Grandpa said. “Come up to the house for something to eat and a schnapps.”

The big metal container is what we filled with water. This is our driveway. My Dad let some people park along the sides of it.

The big metal container is what we filled with water. This is our driveway. My Dad let some people park along the sides of it.

Our property looked different. Grandpa and Dad had let four cars or campers park along the driveway. They had run a hose down from the house to the end of the long driveway. It ended in a large aluminum basin. A sign said, “Free Water.” Cups floated in the water, when they were not being used by the people walking by.

“Where are their mothers?” My Grandpa said while holding his head and staring at the endless line of young adults walking by. Some of the girls looked very young.  It was these girls that brought on my Grandpa’s lament, “Where are their mothers?”

Then he walked back to the house for lunch and schnapps with my Dad and my walking companion. My Grandpa really needed a libation that day!

I remember much more of Woodstock. I remember sitting on our front lawn and just watching the people go by. Woodstock itself was another mile or so up the road.   I remember listening to the music. We could hear it from our home.  I remember that the noise went on all night long.  We heard either the sound of music or sounds of people in the usually still Catskill’s nights.

My brother and his friend; my cousins and many others I knew walked up the hill to the concert. I did not. My parents said no!  My brother, who was a year older was allowed to go, but not me.  It did not really matter, in a way we were in the middle of the concert anyway.

And then you know, the rain started. My brother talked about sliding down the hillside. My cousin took all the food my mom packed, not realizing my brother and cousin would never be able to meet up at the concert. We always teased my cousin about ending up with the food! The blankets disappeared into the mud of the hill. The humans did not disappeared, but when they came home Sunday night/ Monday morning, they were all muddy messes.

For weeks after,  the cleanup continued. Poor Max Yasgur, he became a pariah – a scapegoat in town. There were lots of very angry people.

The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

Woodstock. It was something special for many people. I changed after that weekend. I saw the world in a different light. I saw the worst in people, as the man beating a woman; yelling and anger.  I saw the best in people, as in my companion on the journey home. I learned the color of skin meant nothing. The person inside is the most important. A lesson I have carried with me my entire life.

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/taking-a-walk-up-to-hurd-road-to-the-woodstock-site/

http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Kauneonga%20Lake&state=NY

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodstock

http://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/the-museum

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/647675/The-Woodstock-Music-and-Art-Fair

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Yasgur

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5 Responses to “Woodstock Memories: A Walk On West Shore Road”

  1. Robin July 30, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    I was 15 the summer of Woodstock. We were staying in Sheppy’s Bungalows, just past Top Hill and Fink’s and White Lake Estates. Your blog brought back some great memories. My dad was coming up from the city with another friend and they had to abandon their car in White Lake, near the Ritz Theater and walk the three or four miles to the colony. I too, remember hearing the music,echo through the valley, especially Creedance Clearwater Revival. Amazing times!

    • zicharon July 30, 2014 at 11:06 am #

      Sheppys’ Was further up West Shore Road. A friend reminded me that Grace Slick actually came into my grandparents to use the restroom. Many memories.

    • Skitch February 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

      Many great summers at Sheppys. Stayed there summers from 67 – 75.

  2. Roseann Copeland August 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    I just read this and love this. You have such wonderful memories and are blessed to be able to so eloquently write about them!

    • zicharon August 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      We are here now and I found some old photos from Woodstock

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