By Brian McAndrew
On Friday night, August 15th 1969, Dunmore natives Jim McCormick, Donny Loftus, Jack Early, Robert Kelleher and myself were 17 years old and hanging at the Carroll’s Drive-In Restaurant at the corner of Blakely and Green Ridge Streets in Dunmore.
It was a hot/damp evening and much of the talk centered around taking a road trip to some kind of rock festival in upper state New York, a little over a one hour drive from Scranton.
Seemed like a good idea at the time but with no car, the road trip was nothing more than pipe dream. Then another friend, Tommy (Bocker) Hunt pulled into Carroll’s in his blue 1954 Dodge Meadowbrook. He was game for a road trip and the next thing we knew we were headed to some place called Bethel, New York.
Well, we got as far as the bridge at Narrowsburg, N.Y. The state police were stopping all vehicles–they were not allowing cars to go any further due to overwhelming crowds. The only alternative was to ditch the car and walk the next 21 miles to Bethel.
Considering the heavy rain and lingering heat, plus running low on beverages, we decided to head back to Dunmore. Besides, it was just another rock concert in the middle of nowhere. Little did we know at that time, it would become the most famous and historic rock concert ever held called “Woodstock.”
Fifty years later, Donny Loftus suggested we all get together once again and try a return trip to Bethel for the Woodstock 50th Anniversary. We did! Donny got the tickets and a travel pass to ensure this time we made it through the state police road checks. On August 16th, 2019, we all met at Donny’s house in Dunmore and departed for Woodstock in Jackie’s old Ford Explorer (not much better than the 54 Meadowbrook).
While much as changed since that Friday evening in 1969–Carroll’s Drive-In is now a Rite Aid Pharmacy, Blocker’s 54 Meadowbrook is at its final resting place in DeNaples junk yard, we are 50 years older, and the country seems more divided than ever–we still wanted to experience the Woodstock spirit.
Upon arriving at Bethel, we saw mostly white-haired baby boomers in tie-dye shirts just like ourselves. After walking the original festival grounds and chatting with other boomers, the music started. Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Edgar Winter Band started the Friday night concert followed by the main act, Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band.
The music was great and the crowd that night had a spirit of unity and togetherness as envisioned by the original Woodstock Festival in 1969.
After the concert ended, I talked with a woman who was at Woodstock in 1969 and asked her how the Woodstock spirit differs today from 1969 with all the changes over the past half century. She agreed much has changed in the past 50 years but emphasized that Woodstock spirit of togetherness and unity comes from inside all of us.
During the drive back to Dunmore late that night, we talked more about our times together over the years growing up in Dunmore than the concert itself. Bocker mentioned this road trip seemed less about the physical destination of Bethel and more about another chance to be together with life-long friends.
This second chance at Woodstock not only gave us opportunity to complete the road trip we started in 1969, but more importantly to be together with friends in the true spirit of Woodstock.