My Woodstock Memories

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With the soon-to-be release of Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock,” I am reminded of a simpler time: the summer of 1969, which, for me, really happened in 1970.

Yes, Woodstock took place in August 1969, but the music of Woodstock was not released to the public until May 1970. Things took longer to make and to be distributed in those days. Like I said, it was a simpler time, and life and commerce moved much slower than it does today.

In 1969, the population of Santa Maria, Calif. was about 15,000 and there was a downtown area where everyone congregated on Friday nights. The one and only radio station that played pop hits was KSEE AM, located in the center of it all. The D.J.’s window actually faced the sidewalk, allowing any dreamy-eyed girl with a crush a chance at brief eye contact. One look sent most girls running away, giddy and giggling.

At the time, Souza’s Music Store was the only place to buy records. A 45 cost $1, and you really had to save up for an LP, which cost $4 to $6. When the coveted Woodstock albums arrived, they were gone in minutes. I was sure I’d never get one. First, because I’m sure I was lazy and did not want to stand in line. And second, I didn’t have the money. There were just too many other things that came before buying the album. I was fine with this, because I always had my transistor radio – I never went anywhere without it.

Just the other day, I was reminiscing about that transistor radio. I was always running the battery down after falling asleep while listening to it. A 9-volt battery cost about a buck back then. I was always looking for a project to earn money to buy batteries. I loved the radio (and still do)!

One Saturday, my mom came back from shopping and handed me a bag – she was always good about surprises. What was inside made my heart jump for joy. The Woodstock album! Somehow a local furniture store was able to get a shipment of albums; it was the best-kept secret in town (for a while).

I immediately called my girlfriends, Marie and Lynn, and invited them over. We were so excited to get the album that we listened to it for two days straight, probably much to the regret of my parents. The three of us were about as much flower children as one could be in Santa Maria. For us, it was all about fashion. Beaded purses, sandals, crochet vests (thank you, Liz!), peasant blouses, long skirts to mini skirts, lots of necklaces, love beads, peace symbols, bracelets, rings, hoop earrings and long, straight hair. Lynn had to iron her hair and roll it in juice cans to get hers straight!

Life consisted of fashion, music and messages of peace. We read thought-provoking poetry to each other and baked cookies for friends who became soldiers and were sent to Viet Nam.

To our knowledge, there were no love-ins, sit-ins or protests in Santa Maria. We were probably a tad clueless, but that was just part of our innocence and youth – clueless but passionate.

The Woodstock album was No. 1 on the Billboard chart for four weeks in a row. For the musicians who performed at Woodstock and watched their own albums move up to the No. 1 spot, life would never be the same. Forty years later, many are still performing, like Credence Clearwater (love you John Forgerty), Santana, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and The Who. For the three teenage girls who idolized them all, life would never be the same either.

This summer, I was able to enjoy two concerts that really brought back some of those fond memories: Herman’s Hermits and The Moody Blues. If you ever have the opportunity to see either or both of these groups, do yourself a favor and go! They still sound like they did “back in the day.” Entertaining, fun and informative. A few times, I looked up and swore I could see those three teenage girls dancing, singing and laughing in the crowd.

Reflecting upon the summers of 1970 and 2009, I’ve discovered many parallels. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t cut my hair for a while. I’ve been buying music of the ‘60s for my iPod, wearing a few more necklaces, taking time off to enjoy the summer sun and smiling more. And I’ve noticed that I seem to be pondering the news of the world a little more.

Now is a time when the world needs more love. I’m sure glad the singers are still singing, and we are all still listening to their music. Things change, but the singers of yesterday and today still have one thing in common: they love to sing about love, togetherness, peace and freedom for all. Love! Love! Love!

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