August 15, 2009
Martha Slonim spent Saturday excited about the delivery of a new washer and dryer to her Colorado Springs home.
My, what a difference 40 years makes.
On Aug. 15, 1969, she was part of the half-million partying in the mud at Woodstock.
“It is such a big fog. I remember hearing Richie Havens,” recalled Slonim, 60, of the iconic drug, sex and rock fest on a New York dairy farm.
Slonim, then 20 and living at home, had a few Grateful Dead concerts under her belt, but she was still pretty much a good girl from Long Island when she went to Woodstock against her parents’ wishes. She and a friend each paid $18 for three-day tickets.
“I packed a suitcase. A dorky suitcase,” she said. “When we hit the parkway, we hit the traffic jam. You just left the car on the side of the road and walked in. It was like a parade. The gate came down. I tore up my ticket and threw it in the air.”
She got a spot in the middle of the sea of people.
“Everybody was your neighbor and your friend, and everybody shared whatever they had. Joints and drugs. I remember the announcement of, ‘Beware of the bad acid going around.’ We didn’t see any of that, but there was definitely a cast of characters there.”
She pretty much stayed put, afraid she’d lose her spot on her sleeping bag seat. Translation: Slonim wasn’t one of those skinny-dipping in the pond. Bummer. “I’d wear it proudly,” she said.
The event was life-changing. “My mother said I was never the same,” she said. “I didn’t have a sense of identity until I went to Woodstock. It gave me a sense of independence and adventure and freedom. I don’t know if I was headed in that direction, but I definitely stayed in that direction ... always kind of on the fringe.”
It inspired her to spend five months backpacking in Europe, then she went to nursing school in Florida. She moved to Colorado in 1977. She retired from nursing at Memorial Hospital five years ago and works part-time in a doctor’s office.
She mentions her Woodstock experience if it comes up in conversation. “Then it’s like, ‘Wow, you did?’”
Her long, dark “Woodstock” hair is now salt-and-pepper short. She wears tie-dyed shirts. She hasn’t lost it — whatever the “it” was.
Another local Woodstock survivor, Richard Ducommun, was on college break when he and a buddy made the trek from Colorado Springs.
“I went thinking it was a big protest, but it wasn’t that. It was more the emphasis on the artistic and music. And the speeches were great,” the 61-year-old Colorado Springs businessman said.
“So many people thought it was a party of drugs, etc. Maybe I didn’t see it all. I saw it as a group of very bright young people. Some of the most beautiful music was created at that time.”
It was mind-altering.
“It made me so much more aware of how other people felt and what they thought,” Ducommun said. “To this day, it was one of the highlights of my life.”
For Allan Markus, 68, Woodstock is anti-climatic.
The Ellicott man still has the tickets to remind him of what he missed.
He was living in northern New Jersey and hanging out with musicians in August 1969 during the Woodstock fever.
“They were hyping it up on the radio. We got a van and said, ‘Let’s go,’” he said.
He and five guys bought tickets and hit the freeway. Police barricades stopped them about 50 miles from the fest.
They turned around rather than ditch the van.
“We weren’t committed hippies,” Markus said.
He started working at IBM a few months later. “After that, it was a whole new world — white shirts and everything else,” he said.
“What can I say, if I’d been up there, would things have turned out differently? I might have gotten stoned and met some young lady. I might have never worked for IBM for 35 years and become an official old fart.”
Call the writer at 636-0253.