It Was The Summer Of 1969!

scan by captleon51.
(Senior picture McLane High School 1969)
The summer of 1969 was the beginning of the rest of MY life, I just didn’t know it back then!
What I was about to witness in the summer of 1969 would define my youth and ultimately define the “Baby Boomer Generation”.
But first I need to tell you what made the summer of 1969 possible.  The happenings of the previous year of 1968 made the events of 1969 all the more historic.  The Vietnam War had become the most unpopular war in the history of the USA.  The war  had dragged on for many years with no end in sight, all the while the casualties continued to add up daily.  The youth of our country had become extremely disenchanted with the Vietnamese War and formed a nationwide, and very organized, opposition to it.
In April of 1968 Martin Luther King, the most prominent civil rights leader in the nation, was assassinated in Memphis, TN.  The very next month, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, CA while campaigning for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination.  Within those two months the hopes and dreams of this country’s youth and the disenfranchised were destroyed!  The country was in disarray and divided over many issues.  As the unhappiness boiled, the rest of the citizens watched the rebellion and demonstrations later that summer in Chicago, as the Democratic Convention convened in Chicago, IL.  It appeared that our very societal foundations were crumbling before our very eyes.
Fast foward to April 1969, an enterprising young man named Michael Lang, along with as associate named Artie Kornfield, had devised a plan to put on a rock festival similar to the festival that had been staged earlier on the West Coast as the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey,CA.  The only catch is that he needed some investors.  Fortunately for Lang, he came across an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal under the name of Challenge International, LTD: “Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions”
That ad had put into the Wall Street Journal by two young men that had just come into some money via an inheritance.  Those two young men were John Roberts and Joel Rosenman.
Lang, Kornfield, Roberts, and Rosenman eventually agreed and formed “Woodstock Ventures” for the purpose of putting this idea together.
After viewing many potential sites, Woodstock Ventures settled on a 300 acre site at Mills Industrial Park located in Middletown, NY.  On July 15, 1969, just 30 days before the scheduled concert date, the Walkill County Zoning Board of Appeals revoked the permit on the grounds that the portable toilets did not meet the county code.  Fortunately, a farmer by the name of Max Yasgur was willing to allow the Woodstock Ventures to lease his 600 acre farm as the site of the festival!  It was crunch time, could this thing be put together in less than 30 days???  Good old American ingenuity was about to shift into high gear!
Initially, there was difficulty signing up the entertainment, but once John Fogerty and Creedance Clearwater Revival signed up the other acts quickly jumped on board!
The line up looked like this.
Richie Havens
Ravi Shankar
Arlo Guthrie
Joan Baez
Country Joe McDonald
John Sebastian
Canned Heat
Grateful Dead
Creedance Clearwater Revival
Joan Baez
Sly & The Family Stone
The Who
Jefferson Airplane
Joe Cocker
Country Joe & The Fish
Ten Years After
The Band
Blood. Sweat, and Tears
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
Paul Butterfied Blues Band
Jimi Hendrix
Even though there were huge thunderstorms during the weekend, people came in huge masses to experience this once in a lifetime event.  There were traffic jams on the NY State Thruway that were many miles long.  People abandoned their cars and walked the remaining distance to the festival.
Little did the four people that were behind “The Woodstock Ventures” know that there would eventually be and estimated 500,000 people attend this festival.  Additionally there was no way of knowing the wordwide impact that the weekend of August 15-18, 1969  on Max Yasgur’s farm would have on our society!
The legacy of Woodstock is still being written 40 years after that magical weekend on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY.
Joni Mitchell wrote a song that Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young made famous about this event.  Oddly enough it was titled “Woodstock”!
Peace, love, and harmony existed for one weekend in August in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s farm in up state New York!!

40th Anniversay of Lunar Landing

2009 Daytona 500 197

(photo by Leon Hammack)

Where were you on the evening of July 20, 1969?

I still remember very well where I was and what I was doing on that evening.  I had just graduated from high school just one month earlier, and had the world by the proverbial, ah um, the lower hanging spheres!!  Just a few days earlier I had witnessed a picture perfect launch of the Apollo/Saturn rocket that would lift three astronauts, Neil Alden Armstrong, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins to the Moon.  The flight would eventually allow two of those astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to be the first human beings to walk on the surface of the Moon!

This mission was the culmination of a speech that the late President John F. Kennedy gave on May 25, 1961 to the U. S. Congress that challenged this country to put a man on the Moon by the end of that decade, the 60’s.  It was a time of the “Cold War”, of Sputnik, of the “race for space”, and the race for nuclear arms with the Soviet Union.  It was a time of nuclear fear and national pride!  There was was a feeling in this country that there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished with”good old American ingenuity!

The images that were relayed back to Earth were black and white, not in color.   Not only were the images in black and white, but the quality was very poor and grainy!  What did we expect, after all the images originated 240,000 miles away on a foreign site…..The Moon!   Apollo 11 was the first mission to land on the Moon, but it was the third manned mission to orbit the Moon.   The first mission to orbit the Moon was Apollo 8 with Frank Borman as the commander of that mission.

We are rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of that  those daunting odds,nevertheless  the U. S. Space Program succeeded!  In one way that lunar mission seems like just yesterday, and on the other hand I was a mere lad of 18 and now I am 58 years old and a grandfather, to boot!

On July 20th, take some time to think about what happened on that historic day!  Just fathom what was accomplished in just 8 short years after President John F. Kennedy challenged us all to pull on the same end of the rope and put a man on the Moon!!  What we did as Americans in that short period of time may NEVER be replicated again in the history of MANKIND!

I will paraphrase Bob Seger’s song ,”Like A Rock”.  Forty years, where’d they go?  Forty years,I don’t know!    But sometimes late at night, when I’m bathed in the firelight, I recall, I recall!!

Again I ask what were you doing on that evening of July 20, 1969?   I would like to know?

I know that you are wondering who, what, when, where, and why, regarding the picture that I chose to incorporate into this article.  Are your ready?  Well that is not Neil Armstrong  looking up waiting for Buzz Aldrin to come down the stairs of the Lunar Module!  It is my brother Jim at Daytona looking up at me at the top of the tri oval at the start/finish line !!!  For Jim to walk up to me, it truly was not one small step for man, nor one giant leap for mankind!!!  It was just plain breath-taking!!