Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY




Is Woodstock Dead?

Woodstock Adventure Preamble:
I took my maiden voyage June 26 on my first new motorcycle in twenty-five years. I don’t have much hair these days, but it’s true that what’s between your legs is what’s important. My Yamaha V Star1100 is a bikers dream! What a machine. It’s wide with a big gas tank and so much chrome right from Jump Street. The power band is phenomenal, and I was careful not to get too carried away in break-in-mode as I roared North on Rte 413 in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, toward Lake Noximixon. I immediately felt comfortable in the ample seat. Many things crowded my mind as I tried to concentrate on what was important. Memories of a prior accident a week before my wedding thirty-four years ago lingered until I realized I don’t drink n drive anymore. My sense of smell had been compromised from that event, and I was surprised to realize all of a sudden, that the smell of cow shit in the morning was a beautiful thing and I now once again smelled it, along with the mixture of freshly cut grass and the early summer pollen. A miracle! I drove along at a steady clip remembering to look ahead for any stray deer or errant motorist. Sufficiently confident I could easily control the metal beast beneath me, I lapsed into a Zen-like revere, only to be startled by a woman in the middle of the road holding a stop sign. Wow, slow down keep alert. I downshifted and came to a full stop just in time. Seems they were repaving the road. “Look at that large swarm of bugs behind you” she offered as I sat there, “they’re gaining on you”. I cranked the throttle and was flying up the road again. Several miles up I pulled into an old diner on Rte 412. I parked my machine and admired it from a few feet for a second and entered. There were a few truckers inside. The whir of the ice machine coupled with the window-mounted air conditioner hummed away as I eased in. I knew I had already traveled back in time, because the people inside seemed well, friendly. Maybe they were amused seeing and old biker with a big grin on his face, obviously enjoying life. A local started talking to me about the cicadas infestation and how bad it had been up at the lake and to be careful that one didn’t fly into me on the ride. I asked for the nearest gas station and was told it was a few miles up the road toward Springtown. I remembered I had once eaten in a restaurant in Springtown proper, which had a gas station a few blocks from it. I motored on up on snake-like Rte 412 and came to the realization that unlike in my youth, the posted speed limit was a fine rate of travel, sufficient to excite my sense of adventure, and was actually my friend keeping me happy and safe. There would be plenty of time to open her up under optimum condition on the straight-aways when the coast was clear. As I pulled into the Gulf station on Main Street in Springtown I noticed the annoyed look on the attendants face. “Another yuppie pain the ass”, he probably thought. I pumped my own gas, and although trying to be exceedingly careful, managed to overfill it and spilled gas all over the tank. Luckily I had a do-rag in my back pocket and quickly soaked up the spilled acidic fuel. As I walked up to the office I noticed the attendant who was sitting on the steps, was missing a few teeth and his entire right hand from the wrist up. “Nice bike, what kind is it?” he said.” Yamaha”, I answered. “How big; looks like a Harley”. “It’s 1100cc”, I replied. “Harley’s cost twice as much”, I continued. “Yeah, he ventured, you need to be a doctor or lawyer to own one of them. What are you?” “Oh, I’m just and Indian Chief”, I said. “Suites you fine”, he said. “Yeah I said, I think I’ll ride it back to Woodstock, been thirty-five years. That’s where I met my wife. Still married to her and they said it wouldn’t last!” “I’m surprised she let you buy it”, he said. “So am I”. She’s quite a girl! Now if I can only convince her to ride back with me".

Is Woodstock Dead?
I returned to the original site after thirty-five years and sadly I have to ask this question. I set out on my Yamaha V Star Sunday, August 22 at 5am from New Hope Pennsylvania (a Woodstock-like town of artists and shops in Eastern Pa.) with Francis Theuer a friend who drives a Harley Davidson Road King. It was cold and damp as we set out at 5 am, but my spirits were high because I was returning in style with hopes and anticipation of recapturing some of the magic I had experienced the first time around in 1969. After all it was where I met my wife and spent a purely magical weekend. My friend although my age had not been there, and I filled him with stories and folklore the days prior, of the original event. It was a long 150+-mile trip first up Rte 287 through Jersey to The NY Throughway to rte 17b and finally Hurd Road. When we finally arrived, the lower half of Hurd road had homes that weren't there in 69 and made the place look quite different. I blew right past the original site without recognizing it, although the dip of grass off to the side of the road sparked a little glimmer of remembrance. I turned around two miles past and finally retracing my ride arrived at the site. I didn't realize the monument had been erected to the lower side near the stage area (from photo's I thought it was on the upper end). No one was there at 9:30 am. We parked the bikes and read the monument. I looked toward the field where I had sat thirty- five years ago, and played back the memories in my mind. I found it hard to determine where the “Hog Farm” (Hippies from California who prepared food and helped talk down those of us who were too stoned on brown acid and needed their assistance) had been set up. I marveled at how pretty and manicured the lawn was now kept (unlike the muddy field I remembered) and how different it seemed surrounded by the wooden fence that shouted "STAY OUT!” I thought about the expensive new homes that had been built all around the place since my last visit and felt sad that the solemnity of the original landscape had been altered. I wanted to stay and play it all back again, but after only a few minutes of reflection we set off for Yasgur's farm. I stopped in the General Store (shown in the film) on 17b to ask directions and saw the headlines "Peace, Love, and Two Stabbings!" blasting out from the newspaper on the rack. It sickened me. I also found out that this incident plus a heavy downpour over the weekend had cleared a lot of people out. When I arrived at the farm around 10am Sunday there were only about a few hundred people (unlike the 25th reunion which I also attended at the original site were I estimated about 60,000 people had turned out). We parked our bikes on the driveway of a neighbor’s house and walked over to one of the coordinators of the event named Paul and I signed the wooden table reserved for the veterans of the original festival. We had a cordial talk and reminisced about the old days for a while. My buddy and I walked around a bit and decided to leave. We smelled the long gone familiar aroma of pot and my friend joked that we were probably the only two people without any. I added that we would probably scare the #### out of any of the kids (thinking we were narcs) if we asked for some. I was hoping to catch my brother Peter there who had restored an old Triumph I once owned, but we never connected. Francis and I drove through the back roads through Ellenville to Newburgh (almost getting literally run over by the Hasidim who were all over the roads), stopped in New Paltz for lunch and drove up to the town of Woodstock fifty miles from White Lake. We drove up Meads Mt, to the old Church Of Christ built by Fr. Francis (a colorful renegade bishop in the 60's) and went in. The church is very rustic with many icons, and on the back wall also the picture of Fr. Francis, Fr. John the present Deacon, and the bishop of the Western Rite Orthodox Church who now owned the place. It brought back a flood of memories of my stay there many years ago. I soaked up the aura inside the church and visited the graves just outside. I scanned the landscape and recalled the anti-war posters that once were tacked to the trees when I had first arrive in 1969. My friend shook me out of my Zen like state, and asked me to leave before it got too late. Then it was further up top of the Mt. to the Buddhist Monastery built twenty years or so ago which overpowered the Church, and then back down to the town of Woodstock. We parked our bikes and sat on the steps of a store and watched the tourists pass by, many of who erroneously thought this is where the festival was originally held. I took note of the commercialism that had begun in the Sixties and was now full blown. My ass was real sore by this time and I was exhausted, so I leaned up against a pillar, closed my eyes for several minutes, only to open them as my buddy yelled out that I should look up. It was Father John the new Deacon of the Church on the mountain, dressed in his long black cassock and full beard and long hair walking down the street. What a coincidence! I had always wanted to meet him. I called him over and we spoke of FR. Francis, the Church and Orthodoxy, and my seminary days and the book I wrote about Woodstock, which I once left with his caretaker a few years before. Fr. John is a gregarious fellow and had a keen sense of humor, but something was troubling him. He spoke about how the Buddhists and some town officials were trying to close the Church and push him off the Mountain. [DON’T LET IT HAPPEN!] How ironic I thought. At 4:30pm we started our machines and headed for the New York Through Way South and the last 150-mile leg of our journey back to Pennsy. Pulling out of Woodstock and flying down Zena Road I couldn't help feel that something had died. Perhaps fifteen years into the future at the 50th reunion we may have been able to recapture some of the spirit of Peace and Love once again. To be fair I have also changed. I had grown hard and callous after Altamont, Kent State, the assassinations of our leaders and all the trauma of our generation. I copted out and embraced the society I once reviled. I left the seminary, got married, turned my back on organized religion, floated aimlessly in a self-induced alcoholic self-pittying cycle of pleasure and pain for countless years. But a spark of hope, once experienced so intensely at that Concert in 69, kept me hanging on all this time. And with tears in my eyes I will never let that ember die, because the MUD OF WOODSTOCK STILL SQUISHES BETWEEN MY TOES.


Christopher Cole author of "The Closer's Song"
You can learn about my book and the church and my poetry at The Closer's Song Fan Page or Patrick Colucci
Christopher Cole
aka Partick Colucci
Doylestown, Pa USA
xyzauto@comcast.net

 





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