Remembering Woodstock

July 21, 1994|By Art Buchwald

NOW THAT the 50th anniversary of D-Day is behind us, the only event to celebrate still is the 25th anniversary of Woodstock -- the rock concert that changed the world.

Many people of my generation who can't remember where they were on Dec. 7 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, know exactly where they were when the rock bands bombed upstate New York with their music.

I asked Joe Smoak if he recalled what he was doing.

"My daughter had gone there and I had my face pressed to the television screen hoping to find her in the crowd. My wife went through 23 boxes of Kleenex as we sat in the living room. We weren't sure that we would ever see her again."

"What did you expect her to do?"

"We thought that she would follow Ritchie Havens into the sea," Joe said.

Bob Albritton told me, "I remember Woodstock very well. I was holding my son's arms and my wife was holding his legs so that he couldn't leave the house. He was very agitated for a 14-year-old boy. Finally we handcuffed him to the water heater in the basement until the concert was over. It was a terrible day for us."

I talked to Doris and Willy Krupp. Willy said, "I wasn't bothered by Geralyn going. But she took our car and she didn't have a license. I was afraid that we'd never see the car again. I was right. Sixteen people sat on it to get a better view of the stage and its roof collapsed."

Duffey Phelps said: "Jean Thompson came over to our house in hopes that we had some idea where her kid was. I said I had no idea but he was probably alive because the FBI hadn't contacted either of us yet. Both our children had gone with Fig Riley, a notorious pot smoker, who never wore a shirt and kept screaming, 'We are the real people, and we sniff airplane glue.' So I decided to go to Woodstock to find my kid, but I only got as far as Yonkers and I was stuck in traffic for three days."

Joy Schwan said: "We went to church and prayed for Astrid. It was the only thing we could think of."

Elaborate plans are being made for the Silver Anniversary. A thousand veterans of the original concert, many now fat and out of shape, have asked to parachute in over Stills and Nash.

A lot of people are going to take their families back and show them exactly where Joe Cocker broke his electric guitar.

"It was so hot," said Jay Arnold Caplan, "that we had to be sprayed with water from fire trucks every time they changed bands. We couldn't get enough food and the supermarket was sold out in the first hour. Most of us resorted to eating raw potatoes from Max Yasgur's farm."

The veterans who are going to return said that they will be looking for buddies. Dennis Ratner said, "I met a girl and we vowed to meet again in 25 years in the same tent we shared that night."

"I hope she comes back."

Buddy Roogow said: "I'm looking for someone who saved my life. I was trying to climb onto the stage when six bodyguards pounced on me. Rachel Martin, who I had never met, screamed, 'Leave him alone, you animals.' I ran and she hid me in her sleeping bag until they gave up looking for me."

And so on Aug. 13 and 14 they will re-enact the Woodstock concert. To parents it was a weekend of infamy, but those who experienced it will never forget the words of President Roosevelt, "All we had to fear was the music."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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