Tag Archives: Alan Gerry

Remembering the Summer of 1969

11 Aug

The most amazing summer of my life was the summer of 1969. In July we watched a man walk on the moon. We stayed up late staring at our black and white televisions as the first photos from the moon came through and we saw Neil Armstrong step onto the moon.

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Photo of a poster put up in 1969 to announce the new spot for Woodstock.  Insure is the incorrect word, it should have been ensure!

Later that summer we had a more impressive event close to our summer home. We first heard of it when signs started appearing about a concert being moved from Walkill to White Lake, New York, in the township of Bethel.

Although we were not in the town of White Lake, we were in its sister town, Kauneonga Lake, which was on the other side of the lake. White Lake and Kauneonga Lake were once basically two separate lakes with a narrow channel connecting the two, but at some time the channel was blasted open and the lakes were combined.

Wikipedia gives more information about the names. It states that Kauneonga is a native American word that means lake with two wings. Originally the lakes were called White Lake and North White Lake, but the northern side, where I stayed, was eventually named Kauneonga Lake.

On the corner of 17 B and 55 where you turn off to go to Kauneonga Lake was an old motel, the El Monaco, we loved going there for pasta and pizza. It was basically the only restaurant in town for the longest time. The El Monaco played an important part on what would become a world known event, Woodstock. The hotel was knocked down years ago. Now there is an empty field and a clock tower on the corner. Honestly, I never thought it would be demolished because of its history.

But then, in Kauneonga Lake and White Lake, the word, Woodstock, did not have positive connotations for a very long time. Max Yasgur became a pariah in town. He sold his farm a short time later and moved to Florida, where he died just a few years after Woodstock at the age of 53.

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By the Dancing Cat.

Times change. Now, thanks to Woodstock, Bethel Township and these two small towns have a better economy that most Sullivan County towns.

The hotels that used to cater to the many are now closed. Most of the bungalow colonies are closed or taken over by Hasidic groups that create synagogues on the property taking it out of the tax base. For many small communities this meant disaster. But the area of White Lake and Kauneonga Lake has had a revival. All thanks to Woodstock and Alan Gerry.

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Kauneonga Lake

This summer, while in Kauneonga Lake, my sister and I took a pilgrimage to the Woodstock site, where Max Yasgur had a hay field for his dairy farm 50 years ago. We have been there many times. But this time we went into the museum and took a tour. Since we actually remember the concert, we were glad to answer the questions of our guide, who was not there.

 

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and the Bethel Woods Museum are all thanks to Alan Gerry. A native of Liberty, Gerry started the cable television business in the Catskills. It was thanks to him that we were able to watch television the night that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Before that we had horrible reception.

He became extremely wealthy, and used some of his wealth to form the Gerry Foundation and to help the economy of Sullivan County, and that included buying the Woodstock site and over 1000 acres surrounding it, then developing the area into a music festival site and a museum. Because of Bethel Woods, other businesses including restaurants and a distillery have opened.

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The pavers by the Bethel Woods Museum.

Now each summer weekend night close to 17,000 concert goers drive to Bethel Woods to see a concert. My parents loved going to concerts there. They had a membership and would go early to eat dinner on the grounds. Recently, when the Bethel Woods sold pavers in honor of the 50th anniversary, we purchased one in memory of our parents. My Dad would have loved where it is located, near to the entrance of the museum.

The weekend of the Woodstock anniversary Ringo Starr, Santana and John Fogerty will be putting on concerts at Bethel Woods. I know that the planned celebration that was going to be held elsewhere was cancelled. But at the site itself, celebrations will continue. Meanwhile at Yasgur’s Farm, the actual farmhouse, there will be a Woodstock celebration as well.

I have written about Woodstock several times. Below are the other blogs concerning Woodstock. I hope you all have a peaceful, wonderful weekend remembering a time of peace and music.
https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/30/woodstock-memories/
https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/11/taking-a-walk-up-to-hurd-road-to-the-woodstock-site/
https://zicharonot.com/2015/08/17/the-legacy-of-woodstock/
https://zicharonot.com/2018/09/17/woodstock-revisited-in-august-1998/

http://www.bethelwoodscenter.org
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Yasgur
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Gerry