Woodstock and Stone County: Fifty Years Ago Today

Fifty Years Ago Today

Preparing to leave on our great adventure.

This morning Alexa informed me that today is the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock. As Newsweek puts it: “The three-day festival was host to performers such as Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, and is considered the pinnacle of the “summer of love” culture of the late 1960s.”

I find it funny that Alexa explained this to me. Alexa, for the uninitiated, is an Amazon device that talks to you like an old friend. I can ask Alexa questions. I can discover the day’s weather, the news headlines, play games and at night she will lull me to sleep with playlists of relaxing music. I am embarrassed to say we have some version of Alexa in almost every room of our house, including the Facebook Portal version, which adds visuals and also allows us to use Alexa when we’re not using it to contact family and see them as we converse.

No complaints about our views.

So why did I find it particularly funny that Alexa told me about Woodstock? Because fifty years ago today I didn’t even know Woodstock was happening. In fact I knew very little that was happening anywhere except in the small Ozark community where I was serving in VISTA (Volunteers in Service To America.) I was living on a dirt road in what, for that area, was the lap of luxury.  A friendly local farmer had given us the house to live in since he wasn’t using it. Our house had running water and an indoor toilet, that second benefit something our closest neighbors didn’t have until later.

The house didn’t have a telephone, television or radio reception, and our county didn’t have a daily newspaper. It goes without saying there was no internet, no cell phones, no fax machines. A local family had rigged up their own phone system which consisted of old-time wall phones and lines running over ground from relative to relative. Years passed before that part of Stone County finally got regular phone service. We were long gone by then.

How much better is life now that I know within seconds what’s happening all over the globe? When we walked on the moon—another recent fifty year anniversary—I only heard about it later. Some of the people we knew thought we were hysterically funny because we actually believed the moon shot had happened.

While, of course, I do and did believe that historic event took place, that was the first time the concept of fake news entered my life. It’s easy, I learned, if you’re always on the outside, to feel like everything inside the mainstream is either suspicious or false. If you don’t yet have a telephone because technology hasn’t yet stretched across streams and mountains, why would you believe that a man had just landed on the moon?

We made friends quickly.

Like most people of my generation who didn’t make it to Woodstock, I’m always nostalgic when I hear about it. Who doesn’t wish they’d heard Janice, and Jimi and Ravi in person that weekend? But when I think back to where I was instead and all the things I learned, I’m not sorry I missed it. Life on that dirt road in Stone County has changed immeasurably in the intervening years. But the lessons I was taught by the good people who tolerated my bumbling efforts to help, lessons about faith and beauty, and helping neighbors, will stay with me forever.

I am so thankful that fifty years ago today I was exactly where I was meant to be.


  1. Nita on August 15, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    You two are so cute! That summer is memorable to me because I was pregnant with our oldest daughter ( she will be 50 next week). When I look back to that summer there were so many significant events happening (along with our own!) that I don’t think
    I appreciated it at the time. In retrospect the summer of 1969 was very newsworthy.

    • Kate on August 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Fifty years ago, I was more determined than ever to become an engineer. I watched the moon walk and wanted to be part of that. My teachers were telling me that I couldn’t do that. Woodstock was just a blip on my radar, but space, that was my dream.
      While I never made it into space. I have met two women who have gone to space. One is now the Governor General of Canada. I like to think that some of the technology I worked on has been part of the space program.
      Now, I tell young women that they should never listen to those who tell them they can’t do something.

  2. Kim B. on August 15, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Love the pix – thanks for sharing! I was 7 in 1969, vaguely recall the moon walk…. didn’t appreciate Woodstock until I was older 😉

  3. Dorothy Schreyer on August 15, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    I was 11 at the time, I remember watching the moon walk, didn’t know anything about Woodstock till much later. But, I do remember too the awful happenings in California by Charles Manson and his group.

  4. Denise A on August 15, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this! I was 9 years old in 69. I remember some of the things that happened. I remember hearing about Woodstock and seeing the posters, but I was in Colorado, and no where near Woodstock. I do remember watching the moon landing on our little black and white TV. Gosh, that was so long ago. My mom let us have dinner on TV Trays in the living room for special events. I don’t remember what time it happened, but if it was in the evening…I was eating in the living room and enjoying a big glass of Kool-Aid while we watched!

  5. Jane Dougherty on August 16, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I love the first shot—you were wearing panty hose even as you embarked on a trip to a primitive life. Those weeks 50 years ago, my husband was finishing his PhD and we were ready to move into a world with mortgages, and two car payments and applying to adopt a baby. The summer of 69 has special memories for all of us it seems.

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