Tag Archives: Woodstock Festival

Woodstock Revisited in August 1998

17 Sep

Photo #4: Monument at West Shore Road and Hurd Road, looking to Woodstock site.

Before the Bethel Woods Museum opened, a concert was held at the Woodstock site in mid-August 1998.  Alan Gerry, who had purchased about 2000 acres of land around the Woodstock site, and eventually started the museum and the Bethel Woods Music series, sponsored the three-day concert as a pilot program for his eventual summer series.  Now the Bethel Words Center for the Arts and the Museum, opened in 2008, are known throughout the Catskills community. Then it was just a dream.

My parents took a ride up to Hurd Road from our home on West Shore Road to check it out.  They eventually became season ticket subscribers to the music series and visitors to the museum.

When we cleaned out their home, I bundled up a bunch of photos and papers to take home, and I slowly have been going through them.  Today’s find was 20 photos from the 1998 concert site, before Bethel Woods was built.  I share a three of those photos here.

The monument area is very different now, with shrubs and landscaping.   Just over the hill and ridge is the site of the museum and the music festival.  The actual site of Woodstock has not been used for a concert for years.  It is kept as an historic site.

But it still rains in August.

The Legacy of Woodstock

17 Aug
The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

It is amazing to me that an event that divided a community; created havoc and orderly chaos; memories that lasted a life time, both bitter and joyful, is now the reason why the Town of BethEl, White Lake and Kauneonga Lake in Sullivan County, NY, might actually survive.

It was the Woodstock Festival that put these small towns in the eyes of the nation. I remember that weekend and the weeks that follow so well. My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake and we spent each summer there for my life. My grandparents had made Kauneonga Lake their year-round residence. They knew everyone. They were active in the community and the synagogue.

And I remember the hostilities and disruption that came after the festival was over and most of the people had left.   I say most because a small group stayed behind and never left the area.

I see my Dad trying to direct traffic in front our home. And letting a few vehicles park on our long driveway and front lawn.   I remember the people who came to ask if my grandfather would let helicopters land on our lawn. (That would be a NO.)

I remember the police on horseback trying to ride up the hill to the Woodstock site.

And I remember the mess afterwards. The days upon days to clean up the debris left behind.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

But now that same event that caused pain for many, especial the Yasgurs, is now the reason for renewal.  It so amazes me now that the sign of a bird on a guitar that was so hated by some of the townspeople, is now redone as a bird on a leaf and is  symbol used in the town. And even a horse stable uses a take off of the iconic sign as its symbol. Wow! How the attitudes have changed.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

At first the site of the Woodstock Festival became a legend and people would come up each summer on a pilgrimage to see it and talk about it. There was no monument. A group of people, the remains of the Hog Farmers who had helped at the concert, who hung out there to tell the story. Over time a monument was built, and the field was left empty.

Those who love the area owe thanks to one family’s vision, Alan Gerry and the Gerry Foundation. I believe it is thanks to him that the area is surviving the loss of income from the bungalow colonies. As the colonies closed or came under the ownership of orthodox Jewish communities, the area became desolate. But then in 1997 the Gerry family began it’s interest in the Woodstock site.

With the development of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel and White Lake and Kauneonga Lake have had a small rebirth. Each summer I come up and I see new restaurants, new stores, new houses even. On the weekends I hear the sounds of cars whizzing by our home before and after concerts.

People come to hear the music and to visit the Bethel Woods Museum. Every summer I take a journey the almost two miles to visit the Woodstock site and take a photo. I remember the blocked roads, the multitudes of people. I remember my grandfather’s reactions to all the young adults walking by our home. “Where are their mothers?” He kept asking as he shook his head.

But along with the memories of 46 years ago, I also see the new site. I have to tell you, it is wonderful!


Taking a Walk Up To Hurd Road to the Woodstock Site

11 Aug

My sister and I decided to take a walk up to Hurd Road this past weekend, as my brother told us that they had carved a giant peace sign into the hillside where everyone had been to watch the Woodstock concerts 45 years ago. We started the two mile walk at 7 o’clock in the morning. It was cool and brisk: a perfect summer morning at 56 degrees. We passed what was once Sheppy’s Bungalows on the left. Going up that hill brought back memories of many walks along West Shore Road. Right passed Sheppy’s is a little road called Lollipop Lane. I don’t remember that street at all. And it really is not a street at all, just a little impression in the grass. I am trying to remember what was once there. I actually think there was once another colony on that side of the road. Lollipop Lane Just past Lollipop Lane, walking in the other direction, came my brother. He had left for his walk much earlier. It was a great walking day. We spoke for a few minutes, and he continued back to our house. As we walked down and then up the bigger hill to Happy Avenue, we remembered when they filled the bottom in to make the hill and road less steep. The hill was once horrible on cars, but great fun for children. We used to go horseback riding once a week at Pine Creek Stables, it no longer exists, except in our memories. But our favorite part of the drive to the stables, which we took sitting on hay bales in the back of a pick up truck, was hitting the bottom of the hill and bouncing in the flatbed of the truck. We would all yell, “Go faster!” Now, of course, that is illegal. But then it was part of the fun of going up to the stables. We would spend about two hours at the stables each week. It was so much fun. We got to go horseback riding and visit with the horses, while our mothers had a couple of hours of peace. I now wonder what they did then? Visited with each other in quiet, or cleaned. I hope it was just relaxing. One of my cousins loved the stables and riding so much, he actually worked there for many summers. Mucking out the stables, riding whenever he wanted. Another friend also spent many hours there. I went whenever I could. Since the owner knew us all so well, as we got older we were allowed to take horses out without a guide. Great fun!

I love their sign. I love their sign.

As we continued our walk up to Happy Avenue, we passed a new riding stable. Rolling Stone Ranch. Its’ sign is definitely a play on the original Woodstock logo, but different. I loved the sign. This stable is not where Pine Creek was located. It is right before you reach Happy Avenue, Pine Creek Stables was a bit after the intersection. When we reached Happy Avenue, our brother drove up behind us. Okay, I admit it, my sister and I did not walk all the way to Hurd Road. We road the second mile with our brother.

These is where Pine Creek Stables once existed. These is where Pine Creek Stables once existed.

We passed the Pine Creek site on the right. Then we passed the farm with the famous “Woodstock” pond on the left. He no longer has the chicken coops there. Now there are fields of corn on both sides of the road. Then up one more hill and there we were at the site of part of Max Yasgur’s farm. The part everyone knows: the natural amphitheater where the Woodstock concerts were held. Woodstock monument We walked to the monument and looked over at the giant peace sign carved into the grass. Over the top of the hill we could see the tents of the Bethel Woods concert site. In fact tents were set up just on the other side of Hurd Road on a piece of land bordering both West Shore Road and Hurd Road. We are sure it is for the events celebrating the anniversary of Woodstock.

Peace Sign carved into the side of the hill. Peace Sign carved into the side of the hill.

The walk is so peaceful now. Nothing like the chaos of 45 years ago. And perhaps calling the area Bethel Woods has more meaning. Yes, it is in the Township of Beth El. But how many realize that Beth El means the House of God? And here we are in this peaceful place of West Shore Road, with so much beauty around us. While we were in Kauneonga Lake this past weekend, my siblings and I were cleaning out the many items stored by our grandparents and parents over the more than 50 years our family has owned our house.   We found some photos from the Woodstock weekend taken from our driveway. Our dad then is almost 20 years younger than my brother and I are now! While walking the path to Woodstock, I could not help remembering all the cars and the people who were there 45 years ago. I think of all those hills along the way. The only way to get anywhere that weekend was by foot or by horse. I remember the mounted police officers riding past our house to get up to the concert.

Looking up the hill from where the stage once stood. You can see the peace sign and the tent and a building belonging to BethEl Woods. Looking up the hill from where the stage once stood. You can see the peace sign and the tent and a building belonging to BethEl Woods.

As a friend reminded me, the concert organizers asked my grandfather for permission to land a helicopter on our lawn to get the musicians to the concert. He, emphatically, said, “No Helicopters!” We were not happy, as we told him then, we would get to meet everyone! But to my now adult mind, he was right. It would have caused mass hysteria from the crowds of people on the road. And even though we had a cleared acre of land, there were many trees nearby. The Woodstock weekend is one I will never forget. But for me, I love the quiet and joy and peace of West Shore Road that we usually relish. I love to walk and see the sights. I wanted you all to know that peace is in the Kauneonga Lake, Bethel Township. The giant peace sign on the grass is for the concert, but for me it was also for the inner peace in my heart whenever I return to Kauneonga Lake.   (My memories of the Woodstock weekend are in my blog,  “Woodstock Memories: A Walk on West Shore Road.”

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.

ordpress.com/2014/08/woodstock-toward-town.jpeg”> People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera. I made it home.

My grandmother called

[/caption]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.

om/2014/08/woodstock-our-driveway-woodstock.jpeg”> 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. G

[/caption]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.

598.jpg”> The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

Woodstock. It was something special for many peo

[/caption]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.