Summer of ‘69

From August 15th until the 18th of 1969 people from all over the world flocked to Max Yasgur’s six-hundred acre farm just outside of Woodstock, New York. For three days people came from all around to experience peace and music. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair exemplified the counterculture of the 1960’s and was the ultimate crescendo of the “hippie” movement. Amidst the political, racial, and military tension wrenching America apart at the seams, Woodstock was a beacon of hope for the future, and the possibility for peace.

Three brothers from upstate New York, like much of the American youth, shared the hope for a better America, and longed for change. The eldest brother Don was an apprentice in the Electricians’ Union. The middle brother Jim was also an apprentice in the Electricians’ Union. And Thom, the youngest, and babied as such, was a senior in high school with a part time job. The brothers were from working class stock; their father, like most of their relatives, was a Union Electrician and had served in World War II. Their mother, like most middleclass women at the time, was a homemaker, but had put her time in as a machine operator during the war. They were a blue collar American family engulfed in the 1960’s.

Woodstock was not the beginning of a movement, rather its climactic unveiling to the world. The war in Vietnam and racial inequality spawned a new breed of youth eager to create and shape their America. Don, Jim, and Thom were well aware of the turbulent tide in America, and they were intrigued by it. So when word of a music festival in Woodstock, New York aimed at peace began to spread, the boys knew they had to go.

Don, one week away from becoming a fully licensed Union Electrician, had the most money. He was able to afford a ticket and bought one as soon as he could. Jim, having just begun his apprenticeship, had little money and therefore would probably not be able to afford a ticket. However he was determined not to let his lack of funds deter him from going to Woodstock. Thom, the youngest, almost a graduate from high school, was easily able to afford a ticket with his after school job and money he earned from chores around the house.

On the day of the concert the brothers listened to reports on the radio of traffic jams and multitudes of people flocking to Woodstock. Don heard the report and decided the entire affair was a bit much. So he decided to stay at home and hold on to his ticket in case he wanted to go the next day, which never happened. Jim heard all of the commotion on the radio and knew he had to get to Woodstock. So he jumped in his car and sped towards Woodstock, only to be trapped in traffic, marooned miles from any music festival. Thom had been telling their mother for weeks that he was going to a music festival on the 15th of August in Woodstock; although Thom was the only one in the family that actually believed his mother would allow him to go. Sure enough the days of the festival came and went without Thom.

The morning of August 15th, 1969 and the subsequent events are a rubric for my family’s entire structure. My Uncle Don always has his ducks in a row; he always has a plan of attack in life. Unfortunately, for him, he has never seemed to follow through with a single plan. He still has that Woodstock ticket locked away in his safe. My Uncle Thom, the baby to this day, was the coddled genius son; he was a mama’s boy, and still is. He knew Grandma would never let him go to Woodstock, but that did not stop him from trying. My father, Jim, was, and still can be, a loose cannon; he has never accepted defeat. He rarely plans a single element in his life, but somehow everything seems to work out for him.

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