I was 29 when Woodstock happened, and while certainly in the age range, I was about as far from the stereotyped Woodstock life style as I was from it geographically – Minnesota to New York. It was a different world. In fact, at the time I don’t recall even knowing that it had happened. Two weeks after Woodstock my second child was born; in the same week we moved into a new house. I was busy and about as completely ordinary as they come. It could be said that I missed the 60s.
Still, when I happened across the revisiting of Woodstock on the History Channel Saturday night after Thanksgiving, I was riveted to it. There is something about it that speaks to me across the years. Had I been out there, then, I probably would’ve wandered over.
We all have our biographies, however dramatic or mundane. I had some of both in the 60s.
I was a junior in college when 1960 began; later that year John F. Kennedy was elected President of the U.S.; Dwight Eisenhower’s eight years in the White House were concluding. An Italian Pope, John XXIII, had convened something called the Second Vatican Council to reform the Catholic Church I still belong to. One of JFK’s first initiatives was the promise of a man on the moon by the end of the 60s, a truly audacious goal which was achieved.
College over at the end of 1961, I joined the Army to get it out of the way – those were still the days of the Military Draft. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred on my watch in the service. I was engaged to my college sweetheart and we got married in June of 1963. Without knowing it then, I was part of the first “class” of that military group called “Vietnam era Veterans.”
A month out of the Army, teaching school in northern Minnesota, JFK was assassinated. My new wife was pregnant and very ill. The Beatles joined the American conversation. In July, 1965, my wife passed away, leaving me a single Dad during most of the rest of the 60s. She was buried on the very day that the Medicare act was signed into law. Survival became the essence of each day for me.
In the spring of 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated, then, a couple of months later, Robert Kennedy fell to an assassin’s bullet. The riots; the Democratic Political Convention in Chicago…. I remarried at the end of November, 1968.
So, a few things were happening as 1969 entered.
Then Woodstock happened, apparently without my knowledge, not long after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
Four months after Woodstock we had a house guest for a short while: my brother had been nearly killed in a aircraft accident over Thailand. He survived. (We just returned from a visit with him in Utah.)
The 60s ended, but not the conflict. The Kent State massacre occurred on my 30th birthday in 1970.
The 60s began 50 years ago this year. They were the “best of times, and the worst of times.” One could be both troubled and optimistic. They were a time of change.
Today we’re long past Woodstock and the 60s…or are we? There are good reasons for a new “revolution” centering on the crucial question: will our descendants even have a planet worth living on 50 years from now?”
It’s worth a thought, since we’re the ones who will make it or break the future for those who follow.
Time for another Woodstock.