Tag Archives: Woodstock

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

Woodstock Revisited in August 1998

17 Sep
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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!