BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (Dec. 29) — This wasn’t so much a Christmas–holiday trip as a pilgrimage.
For the second time in my life — and first with my son, Shane — I visited arguably the most hallowed spot in the history of rock and roll. A meandering, 125–kilometer drive southeast from downtown Binghamton landed me and Shane at the site of the legendary Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in the Catskill Mountains hamlet of Bethel, N.Y. (pop. 4,225). During a span of three days and two nights — Aug. 15–17, 1969 — an estimated 400,000 music zealots occupied every nook and cranny of this sprawling area, swarming the 600-acre dairy farm owned by New York City native Max Yasgur (d. Feb. 9, 1973). Neither sapping humidity, teeming rain nor acres of mud could deter the multitudes that overran what was supposed to be a festival held before roughly 190,000 paying customers. As more than twice that many surged into the area, organizers threw up their hands and Woodstock became a free concert. To deter more people from arriving, police closed the New York State Thruway (I–90) between Rochester and Syracuse — more than 150 miles northwest of the site. That’s how enormously the event broadened in a span of 24 hours.
It occurred during one of the most extraordinary summers in American history — one week after the grisly Tate–LaBianca murders in Los Angeles (later attributed to Charles Manson and his “family”) and four weekends after Neil Armstrong took man’s first step on the moon. Rock legends Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend (of The Who) were among those that performed at the concert, which introduced the now–legendary folk quartet of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Canadian guitarist Neil Young. C,S,N&Y was on the “under–card” and thus obliged to play in the middle of the night.
Shane and I arrived on a grey, unseasonably warm afternoon and had a rather surreal experience… for we were virtually alone. Though several visitors occupied the nearby Woodstock museum, we were the only human beings on the actual concert ground. Without a ripple of wind, it was deathly quiet as we climbed the grassy knoll where thousands had crammed in — shoulder–to–shoulder — in front of the stage.
To have the “run” of such a famous site was more than we could’ve imagined.
I had initially been to the Woodstock venue in February 1990 — 20½ years after the event. The site hadn’t yet been capitalized and was essentially unaltered from 1969. I made the visit on a hockey trip with radio colleague Chris Mayberry. Today, as mentioned, there is a museum on the grounds and an amphitheater for concerts during the summer. Even the famous rock–monument, erected in 1984, is now enclosed by a fence and parking area, and ringed by trees that weren’t yet planted in 1990. Change, I am told, is progress.
With my trusty NIKON in hand, here are some images from Tuesday afternoon:
BEYOND THE MONUMENT (ABOVE) IS THE HILL — WITH ENGRAVED PEACE SIGN — IN WHICH TENS OF THOUSANDS CLOSEST TO THE STAGE CONGREGATED DURING WOODSTOCK. THIS PHOTO DOES NO JUSTICE TO THE IMMENSITY OF THE HILL. THE STAGE, ITSELF, WAS ON THE SNOWY COLLECTION OF BLACK ROCKS AT FAR–LEFT IN THE PHOTO. FOR PERSPECTIVE, THE MONUMENT WOULD LATER BE ERECTED AT THE BOTTOM–RIGHT OF THE AERIAL IMAGE FROM THE CONCERT (BELOW)… WITH STAGE DOWN AN EMBANKMENT TO THE LEFT AND HORDES OF HUMANITY SURGING UPWARD ON THE HILL.
AT THE TOP OF THE ENGRAVED PEACE SIGN (ABOVE) AND LOOKING BACK DOWN THE HILL TO THE SNOWY EMBANKMENT WHERE THE STAGE WAS BUILT. A CLOSER VIEW (BELOW). THESE IMAGES ILLUSTRATE HOW “ALONE” ME AND SHANE WERE ON TUESDAY.
MAPLE LEAF GARDENS — MAR. 7, 1968
In my previous blog, that featured EXPORT Maple Leaf Gardens calendars from the 1960’s and 70’s, I pointed out that an unscheduled National Hockey League game took place at the Gardens on Mar 7, 1968 — to my knowledge, the only NHL encounter at the Carlton St. arena that did not involve the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a clash between the Boston Bruins and the expansion Philadelphia Flyers, as the NHL had doubled, that season, to 12 teams. One week earlier, a wind storm had torn a hole in the roof of Philadelphia’s new arena, the Spectrum. The building was closed for repair. As such, the Flyers played the Oakland Seals in a “home” game on Mar. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York. After a scheduled road game against the Leafs on Mar. 6, the Flyers stayed in town and “hosted” the Bruins the following night.
A long–time and dear friend of mine, Ron Dale (whose son, Daniel, is Washington Bureau correspondent for the Toronto Star), read my blog and fired off an email, wondering if the Flyers–Bruins game at Maple Leaf Gardens involved “Larry Zeidel being arrested for a fight.” Ron’s memory has served him well.
More than 10,000 fans attended the neutral–site match — marred, indeed, late in the first period, by one of the most infamous stick battles in modern NHL history. Former Leafs winnger Eddie Shack and Flyers’ defenseman Zeidel sliced one another to bloody pulps amid the horror and gasps of on–lookers. Referee Bruce Hood also watched in dread as the combatants moved into the corner down the east–side boards from center–ice, swinging and poking their stick blades, as seen, below. I was nine years old and at the game with my uncle. What I remember most are the sounds of people screaming at all the blood. I recall being more confused than scared, as the incident happened rather quickly.
SECOND–YEAR BRUINS DEFENSEMAN BOBBY ORR WAS SIDELINED WITH A KNEE INJURY AND DID NOT PLAY IN THE MAPLE LEAF GARDENS MATCH. PHIL ESPOSITO HAD BEEN ACQUIRED BY BOSTON FROM CHICAGO PRIOR TO THE 1967–68 SEASON. LOU ANGOTTI WAS CAPTAIN OF THE EXPANSION FLYERS.