For those of you who have not heard read about it, this complex of performing arts center and museum is built on the site of the famous music festival held exactly 40 years ago this summer, which was not actually held in Woodstock, NY, but in Bethel, New York.
Forty years ago, I had just finished my junior year in high school in good old Haverstraw, New York. In that year I was still very immature, but I managed to see Hair on Broadway--and survive even tho I thought I would faint at the end of Act I. Here is a clip from the Smothers Brothers and some of the original cast.This song from that show played on WABC for half the year. That summer of 1969 was the summer of my seventeenth year-- a great and worry free time in my life. It was a wonderful summer, full of long hair, lake time, and lifeguards ( I dated an awful lot of lifeguards that summer, because that was when a casual "date" was just that--a date--and nothing more). It was a summer about getting excited thinking of my last year of high school and getting ready to go away to college and wondering and talking about where that college would be. Naturally, it was a summer of great music (actually it was a decade of great music, but that is another long post altogether).
Unfortunately for me, even though I grew up not too far from the location of the event, it was not a summer of great music at the Woodstock festival because I came from an old fashioned family that needed to know where I was at night and with whom. I had curfews, doncha know. Heading off for three days to listen to music and sleep somewhere other than my own bedroom? Ha! Sadly not in the realm of my growing up experience; my mother would have had the state police out looking for me, and I was not a good liar at making up plausible "where I was going" stories. So, even though I know there were plenty of kids there even younger than I who had the ultimate rock and roll experience in the summer of 1969, I
was not one of them.
Fortunately I have had the pleasure of f a) living through that whole time and b) visiting the Museum at Bethel Woods.
If you have not yet done so, you make a point of visiting this museum. This museum is not just about Woodstock, even though that event and this property were the driving force behind the creation of the entire Center for the Arts. This museum is really about the 1960s, a decade that started out like "American Grafiti" and "Back to the Future" and ended up like Gimme Shelter. To use yet another movie reference for those of you not yet alive or too young to know, think--"Hairspray" is set in 1962. That is a heck of a lot different from the whole hippie/love-in/flower children/ ambience of Woodstock just seven years later.
Our dear friend Micahel Egan was the person in charge of bringing this museum into existence and overseeing the project working with the multi-talented designers at Gallagher and Associates. The whole project was made possible by the generous upstate NY businessman, Alan Gerry, who purchased the land and funded the work with the very idea of creating the magnificent site that is there today.
Heading to Bethel Woods is well worth a trip. The museum does a great job of presenting the picture of 1960-1969 in a way that everyone will understand and will be able to grasp, no matter what point of reference is brought to the table. With a great many interactive displays it is a great hands-on experience for young and old alike, so bring the family.
Needless to say, it was a fun time machine adventure for me. I left wishing I had braved the wrath of my parents and lived life a little more dangerously in that summer of 1969. Ah, well, it would not have been who I really was back then, which was very young in so many ways--maybe even "younger" than the fourteen year olds who did indeed manage to sneak up there for three wonderful days.
Well, back to work for me. Lately, while I work I have been listening to a sixties music feed. My head is stuck somewhere between big giant rollers and Dippity-do. I must be trying to conjure up the summer of '69 once again. Not too hard when one is lost in thought and art and music of the time.
Part of me will be glad when the summer is over. I think it will be a welcome relief when I will return to 2009, which I expect to do with more energy once I step out of this endless summer of time travel.
But, until I do, I'm revving up the jukebox and thinking about Coppertone, Saturday nights, and Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Edited to add: I did forget to add that 1969 was also the summer of the Moon Landing, of course. Where was I? I was in the Kopper Kettle in New City, NY on a date (probably with one of those lifeguards) watching it on TV. Thank you, Carol, for reminding me about that special summer event!
For a wonderful movie that captures that summer, the moon landing and Woodstock, check out "A Walk on the Moon" with Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, and Liev Schrieber (with lovely additional performances by Anna Paquin and Tovah Feldshuh).