Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Aquarian peace and love-in known as Woodstock. Americans even then knew they were in the midst of a defining cultural moment. Years later, people I met would look back wistfully on those days and say, “I was there.”
I, however, was not there. I wanted to go, but several months before, I moved to Atlanta and got a job in the Merchandise Mart display department. As Woodstock made history, I was gathering Fall gift items for the Mart’s display cases.
Atlanta had become a mecca for hippie life and the epicenter was a midtown area known as “Tight Squeeze.” Attracted to the freedom and camaraderie of communal life on Peachtree Street, part of me longed to join them. Rent, car payments and job security pushed aside those thoughts.
Around the same time, the rising Southern rockers The Allman Brothers played several free concerts in nearby Piedmont Park. Friends who went talked about the magical experience for years. I somehow managed to miss them.
In college three years earlier, I often observed fine art majors throwing Frisbees or lounging on the grass, seemingly without a care in the world. They were the closest the University of Florida came to having hippies, and I envied their unconcern with grades, classes or graduation. I wanted to be like them, but an inner voice urged diligence, study and the promise of a career.
Most of what I know about Woodstock came from the excellent 1970 documentary. Listening to Allman Brothers records, I still play a mean air guitar, and freedom can be sitting with friends under the Golden Rain tree at twilight. These are enough.
Iconic Woodstock photo thanks to Burke Uzzle