the newsstand’s “house hippie” heads for woodstock

I WORKED ON THIS PIECE FOR A WEEK! I in­tended to pub­lish it on Au­gust 15, 2019, the first day of the 50th an­niver­sary of Wood­stock. But no matter what I wrote or how I wrote it, ei­ther I came out sounding far more con­ceited than I was in 1969 (ah, but I was so much older then) or the whole thing came out sounding like a sappy Hall­mark movie. So, in­stead, I set­tled on this “nut­shell” ver­sion of my story.

But first, a little back­ground: After grad­u­ating from high school in May 1969, my girl­friend and I broke up. She was my first love and we had been going steady for two years. We both left the re­la­tion­ship vir­gins, which was prob­ably the norm at the time.

My hair cov­ered my eye­brows in the front, my ears on the side, and my collar in the back. This was con­sid­ered long in most parts of the United States at the time. (The re­lease of the movie Wood­stock in early 1970 would change that.)

I was a few months shy of my 18th birthday. I didn’t smoke or drink and had never been near a drug that Mommy or a doctor hadn’t given me. This was also the norm for most Amer­ican youth at the time.

 

Woodstock original poster 800
This is the orig­inal poster for “An Aquarium Ex­po­si­tion” in While Lake, New York, that ap­peared all over the north­eastern US in 1969.

House hippie

In the Summer of ’69, I took a job at Leo Matus’s news­stand on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, Penn­syl­vania. Aside from the items it sold, the store func­tioned as a kind of so­cial hub for the city. It seemed like every­body in North­eastern Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley (“the Valley with the Heart”) showed up at the news­stand for some­thing even­tu­ally. Due to my hair, I was im­me­di­ately dubbed the newsstand’s “house hippie.”

One of our cus­tomers was a young woman who was to-die-for beau­tiful. Tall, wil­lowy, shapely, blond hair, blues eyes. Very friendly. After she had been in sev­eral times, it be­came ob­vious that most of her friend­li­ness was beamed in my di­rec­tion. She was, in fact, flirting with me — more subtly and more ma­turely than I was fa­miliar with at that point in my life.

One day in July, she asked to speak with me out­side, alone. This was the first time I was close to her, as the newsstand’s counter was al­ways be­tween us. She was older than I had as­sumed — maybe 25.

“Do you know about this thing in Wood­stock?” she asked.

“Sure.”

“Well, a couple of my friends are going,” she said. “They have a VW bus and they in­vited me.”

“Okay.”

“I re­ally don’t want to go alone.”

“Okay.”

(Yup, I was that naive.)

“So, silly, do you want to go with me?”

 

Woodstock movie original poster 800
This is an orig­inal one-sheet movie poster from 1970 for the doc­u­men­tary movie Wood­stock. The poster mea­sures 27” x 41” and was folded at the time of printing and has a small sep­a­ra­tion at the center cross-fold.

Get back to the garden

Even though I usu­ally worked the weekend, Leo gave me four suc­ces­sive days off! We were sched­uled to leave early Friday morning (Au­gust 15, the first day of the event) and re­turn on Monday. As Wood­stock was 250 miles from Wilkes-Barre, we were fig­uring on 5–6 hours of dri­ving each way.

I packed some things to take (un­der­wear, tooth­brush, etc.) and dreamed of losing my vir­ginity to this beau­tiful, “older” woman.

Heck, maybe I’d even smoke some mar­i­juana for the first time while I was there!

On Thursday, Leo called and told me that the guy who was going to cover my weekend shifts was sick. So you know what he asked, right?

“I need you here,” he told me. “Can you cancel your trip and work in­stead? I’ll pay you double-time.”

I did not go to Wood­stock in a VW van with the tall, shapely blond.

I did not get to be part of the half-a-million strong who were star­dust, who were golden, who got back to the garden for three days of peace and music.

I did not even get the girl, who never came back into the news­stand again.

But I did get $5 an hour for 32 hours at Leo Matus’s newsstand.

And I did get to see the movie seven months later . . .

Was I part of the half-a-million strong who were star­dust, who were golden, and who got back to the garden for three days of peace and music? Click To Tweet

Woodstock crowd buses 1500 crop

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page of a small por­tion of the “half a mil­lion strong” who boldly went where no rock fan had gone be­fore. It was taken by El­liott Landy and I found it with an ar­ticle simply ti­tled “Wood­stock” on the His­tory website.

While the media fo­cused our at­ten­tion of the lean men with hair down their backs to their waists and top­less women with flowers in their hair, most of the people en­camped in this photo are rather normal looking.

In fact, the re­lease of the movie Wood­stock in 1970 prob­ably caused more men to grow their hair re­ally long than any­thing that hap­pened in the ’60s.

 

Woodstock album 800
This is the orig­inal 1970 sound­track LP album from the movie Woodstock.

Addendum

I re­ceived an email ad­dressing from Anna in­forming me that her son Braayden re­cently had to do a school project on the six­ties and was as­signed the Wood­stock Fes­tival. He needed to do re­search about the sub­ject and came to “The Newsstand’s House Hippie Heads for Wood­stock,” which was helpful in giving him some back­ground information.

“He found a number of in­ter­esting web­sites that he has been using to write his re­port which has given him a good overall look at Wood­stock. He found one re­source that had a lot of back­ground in­for­ma­tion on the fes­tival and how it had an im­pact on the music scene since. Brayden wanted me to pass along the re­source to you. He thought you’d want to add it to your page for any other stu­dent or anyone finding your web­site. Hope­fully, it’s helpful.”

That page is ti­tled “The Legacy of the 1969 Wood­stock Music Fes­tival” and it lists links to more than two-dozen other ar­ti­cles about Wood­stock. Now, I have not read these ar­ti­cles, so I can’t vouch for the ac­cu­racy of any of them, but this should cer­tainly help anyone looking for more in­for­ma­tion than my anec­dote above. To read the “Legacy” ar­ticle, click here.

Thanks Brayden and thanks Anna!

 

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Well at least you avoided some of that “bad acid” that was floating around. Great story Neal!

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