A "Hippie" Now...But Not Then

That’s the year Sly and The Family Stone sang “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and those summer months certainly fit that bill. I’ll leave it at that.

For a host of reasons, the year 1969 sticks out in my memory like a sore thumb.  I was in my sophomore year at Washington Township High School in South Jersey. When school was over for the year, my parents and I drove to Florida in a brand new 1969 Pontiac Catalina. It was dark brown and come to think of it, probably qualified as a bona fide gas guzzler. (Very roomy, though.)

The trip to Miami Beach was not eventful. I remember one of the highlights of the entire excursion being the young lifeguard at the hotel pool with the chiseled looks and bronze suntan. That was when it was cool to bake out in the sun. If my memory serves me correctly, I refused to apply sunscreen ("sauce" as my husband calls it), opting for Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil. For the first few days, I suffered immensely from a blistering sunburn.  The thought never crossed my mind that basking and baking in the hot Florida sun was a major no-no. Just the opposite.  A deep, dark tan was almost a badge of honor. I'm paying for that now.

Also during that summer were the teen dances at Bell's Lake. You see, classmates and neighborhood friends would gather on Friday nights in the clubhouse. Ogling boys on one side, giggling girls on the other. The music would be appropriately blasting and reverberate across the lake to the homes on the other side.  That's the year Sly and The Family Stone sang "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and those summer months certainly fit that bill. I'll leave it at that.

It was also the year of infamous bubble gum music -- Sugar, Sugar by The Archies and Dizzy by Tommy Roe. Topping the chart at number two that year was Aquarius, Let the Sunshine In by The Fifth Dimension. Lately I've been thinking that the cosmic forces were summoned with that song and how things haven't been the same since. Mysticism and eastern spirituality were all the rage. These trends were captured in the essence of that song and its ramifications reverberated well into the future. And although Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles was released two years earlier, it remained on the charts long enough to reflect the "far out"  attitudes that prevailed during that era.

The event that has piqued my interest lately is Woodstock. To be  honest, I really didn't pay too much attention to it at the time. I felt so far removed from what was happening on Max Yasgur's farm as a high school student in rural South Jersey. I remember seeing images of people huddled together under blankets trying to protect themselves from the deluge of rain. In retrospect, the longstanding effect it's had on society seems more relevant to me. And although I never considered myself a hippie back then, it seems that those characteristics are slowly beginning to emerge. Talk about a late bloomer!

Over thirty famous and soon-to-be-famous music groups and solo artists performed there. It was non-stop, R&B, rock and roll, ballads and folk music. It's the folk music that seemed to particularly convey the pulse of a generation that protested war, promoted peace, held love-in's, sit-in's and Laugh-In's.  

This Woodstock generation had a profound effect on the quest for world peace and harmony. It was the generation that reminded everyone to take care of the environment and question authority. The generation that carried a social message in its music that still lives on in the musical kaleidoscope of my mind.