It was 50 years ago today that Linda Goldman stepped onto the grounds of an upstate New York dairy farm, not knowing she was about to be a part of rock ‘n’ roll history.
The Toronto woman was one of more than 400,000 people who flocked to Bethel, N.Y., for one of the most iconic concerts of all time, featuring the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Goldman says she found out about the show at a Toronto pop festival in 1969, when someone handed her an orange, type-written flyer for the “Woodstock pop festival.”
“I said to my girlfriend Linda, ‘Why don’t we go?'” Goldman said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning Thursday.
“Luckily we were 18, so our parents didn’t really have a lot to say about it.”
Her weekend pass cost $18 (though the show’s promoters would have little choice but to give up on trying to collect ticket money and later made the event free).
The flight to New York was astonishingly cheap by today’s standards — $16 round trip.
No one really expected an army of music fans to descend on the rural farming community, which had a population of just 2,366.
Goldman said she and her friend managed to get near the site after taking a train, some buses and jumping in a car. But by the time they got close on the Friday evening, traffic was bumper to bumper — so they got out and walked.
“We were like lemmings,” she said. “We were just following these mobs of people.
“I was 18. I had absolutely no idea what was ahead of us.”
What she was walking into was a weekend of pouring rain, a lack of food, mobs of people and dazzling performances.
She remembers seeing the likes Sweetwater, Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez and Hendrix. The guitar god was the last to perform at the festival, and by the time he got onstage, it was 8:30 a.m. on the Monday and the crowd had dwindled. Hendrix performed his iconic rendition of Star-Spangled Banner roughly 90 minutes into his two-hour set.
“He ended up playing to an empty field, which was so sad, because everyone had started going back home,” Goldman said.
Goldman, a former library supervisor, remembers these moments so clearly because she captured them all in her journal at the time.
They’re cherished memories — even if the language she used as a teen now makes her cringe. There’s a lot of talk of “hunks” and “rapping with this dude” in her journal, she said.
“I laugh when I read it.”