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.
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.”
To die for
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.
This is a 14 x 22-inch window card for the release of Michael Wadleigh’s film Woodstock in March 1970. The top is blank so theaters could add information about the times of the movie’s showings. This was usually written by hand.
A VW bus
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.
“Well, a couple of my friends are going,” she said. “They have a VW bus and they invited me.”
“I really don’t want to go alone.”
(Yup, I was that naive.)
“So, silly, do you want to go with me?”
Underwear and toothbrush
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.”
Get back to the garden
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
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.