The Sixties’ Story is in the Music

It was so many years ago now, that the “1960s seem to be worlds away from today. Having been a teen-ager during those years, for a long time now, I’ve experienced a desire to share my insights about that volatile time in history. It was a time of upheaval, of previously unimagined paths forged . . . paths that would benefit mankind, others that would take a heavy, heavy toll. All in all, it seemed an exciting time in history to have been “coming into my young adulthood.” For Sadie Hawkins Dance 1965

Many of my best friends back from 1961 through 1966 were guys. I’d always found guys easier to trust than most women and far less competitive. I’ve never forgotten the day that Jim, Dave and Don told me they’d just enlisted in the Armed Forces. Yes, I was happy and excited for them, but I was also scared for them. What if there were to be a war? Would they survive? What if they didn’t survive and I lost three of my dearest friends? We wrote letters while they were away and thankfully, yes, they did all return unharmed. But! This was just before the Viet Nam war began. How well I recall listening to and identifying with Barry McGuire’s song, “Eve of Destruction.” This song told the story so eloquently of the beginning of the end of so many young people’s lives in Viet Nam. Little did I know, we truly were living our eve of destruction.Heartbreak ahead

Suddenly, there was this unfamiliar and monstrous thing called, “The draft lottery.” Kids I’d just graduated with from high school were being drafted one right after another. (The story of that upheaval that all young people experienced is told so well in Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times, They Are a Chang’in.”)

One day, my brother came to me and in a panic-stricken voice stated, “Jeanie, I’ve just gotten my draft papers and I’m 4th on the lottery list! What am I going to do?” My immediate response was, “Jeff, you’ve got to enlist right away – BEFORE they can draft you!!” (After all, the guys I’d known who’d enlisted had fared quite well in the service all in all; and I’d just learned that the French had fought Viet Nam for eighty years and finally gave up and pulled-out of that god-forsaken place that I’d never heard of before.) Jeff went down that same day and enlisted in the Navy. I’m so grateful to this day that he did so. He spent his four year naval career in Texas working on jet aircraft engines! (Thank you, God!)

Viet Nam War2 Others weren’t as fortunate as my little brother and didn’t make the right decisions at the time; some were conscientious-objectors and fled to Canada. Most young men of the time were drafted and sent to Viet Nam to fight a war of which they knew very little. Many fought and died over there.

Viet Nam War1It was the (at the time) seemingly universal reaction to the Viet Nam war that took another tremendous toll on American lives. That reaction, in my experience, was the rage experienced by youth throughout the previously peaceful country of the United States. In our eyes, our world had been turned-upside-down; nothing we had believed in made sense anymore.

Combined with the rage being experienced by the youth in America was the fact that the drug scene had just begun to move into the midwest. (I lived in a small town in the state of Minnesota.) Marijuana, or “Pot” and “Grass” as we called it, caught-on like some kind of wildfire. Thus was born, the Peace Movement. Marijuana was known for “mellowing people out.” A common slogan of the time became, “Make Love, Not War.” Then, too, was Woodstock, New York. VW Vans1 Flower Children & Hippies2It was the location where thousands of young people, doing drugs, who called it a time of peace, love and music; these young people wondered aloud, “Why can’t the rest of the world live like this?”

The following is taken from a LIFE Magazine Reporter:

The original plan was for an outdoor rock festival, “three days of peace and music” in the Catskill village of Woodstock. What the young promoters got was the third largest city in New York state, population 400,000 (give or take 100,000), location Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near the town of White Lake.

So began LIFE magazine’s description, in its August 29, 1969 issue, of what has come to be seen as one of the defining events of the 1960s. Forty-four years later, presents a gallery of pictures — many of which never ran in the magazine — from those heady, rain-soaked days and nights.

Lured by music [the story in LIFE continued] and some strange kind of magic (“Woodstock? Doesn’t Bob Dylan live in Woodstock?”), young people from all over the U.S. descended on the rented 600-acre farm.

It was a real city, with life and death and babies — two were born during the gathering — and all the urban problems of water supply, food, sanitation and health. Drugs, too, certainly, because so many of its inhabitants belong to the drug culture. Counting on only 50,000 customers a day, the organizer had set up a fragile, unauthoritarian system to deal with them. Overrun, strained to its limits, the system somehow, amazingly, didn’t break. For three days nearly half a million people lived elbow to elbow in the most exposed, crowded, rain-drenched, uncomfortable kind of community and there wasn’t so much as a fist fight.

For those who passed through it, Woodstock was less a music festival than a total experience, a phenomenon, a happening, high adventure, a near disaster and, in s a small way, a struggle for survival. Casting an apprehensive eye over the huge throng on opening day, Friday afternoon, a festival official announced, “There are a hell of a lot of us here. If we are going to make it, you had better remember that the guy next to you is your brother.” Everybody remembered. Woodstock made it.

For his part, one of the LIFE photographers on scene during the festival, John Dominis, summed up his own recollections of Woodstock this way:

“I really had a great time.,” Dominis told, decades after the fact. “I was much older than those kids, but I felt like I was their age. They smiled at me, offered me pot. . . . You didn’t expect to see a bunch of kids so nice; you’d think they’d be uninviting to an older person. But no — they were just great!

“I worked at LIFE for 25 years,” Dominis said, “and worked everywhere and saw everything, and I’ve told people every year since Woodstock happened that it was one of the greatest events I ever covered.”


It was our rebellion against the establishment that in our eyes, had tricked us into believing that we lived in a country that would keep us safe.

As I recall it, the actual Peace Movement itself, began out on the West Coast in sunny California. As I was graduating from high school, many of my classmates could hardly wait to leave Minnesota to live out by the ocean. Many traveled there in old, painted and beaten-up vans.vw hippie van (Mostly in wild-colored hand-painted Volkswagon vans, as I recall.) Young women had begun wearing flowers in their hair, long dresses and walked in bare feet. Many of them looked clearly, “stoned.” (Eyes appeared glazed and sometimes their speech was slowed-down and sounded very flat.) Then Woodstock took with it, it’s share of young lives in the form of overdose deaths.

Added to this picture was good old Timothy Leary who was busily conjuring-up, in his college lab, what came to be known as “The Mind Expanding Drug, LSD.” More commonly referred to as “Acid.”

Below, taken from Wikipedia:

Timothy Leary1 Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. The studies produced some useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university due to the controversy surrounding their research.

Many of the people with whom I’d graduated from high school, graduated to the latest rage of the time, “Acid.” For those who preferred spending their days and nights watching the elephants on their wallpaper romping around or taking drug induced, imaginary journeys down the yellow brick road, this drug caught on quickly. There, of course, were those individuals who imagined they were Superman and who fell to their deaths “flying” off of tall buildings. The other drugs like speed and heroin had also moved into the mid-western states. These drugs took their toll in the form of thousands of overdose deaths, drug-related suicides, auto accidents and so on. (Much of the emotion from this time in history is conveyed in Jefferson Airplane’s song, “White Rabbit.”)

Kent State Shootings3Not long after, as I recall, were the Kent State University shootings by police during a demonstration. (Expressed so well in Neil Young’s song recording, “Ohio.”  Demonstrations were new to the country at the time, thus seemed very threatening in nature.)Kent State Shootings2 Around the same time was the establishment of the Symbionese Liberation Army who kidnapped Patty Hearst and who DID use violence as a means of communicating their dislike of the United States Government, robbing banks and shooting people.

In the beginning of all of this turbulence, I’d so wanted to be a flower child in California Flower Childwith some of my high school friends who’d pursued this dream. So many moved into communes out there – some became hippies right here in Minnesota living in houses that were little more than shacks; usually out in the country. Not too many years later, I would learn that some of them who’d gone to sunny California, would never return. Buffalo Springfield’s song, “For What It’s Worth” conveys the tragedy of the turmoil of those times.

Having gotten married and given birth to my baby son, these were not options for me. LeeMy son’s life was far too important to risk exposing him to this unchartered and risky territory and I’d really wanted to make my young marriage work. CuttingtheCake!2-5-66Thus, I was never to fulfill my dream of being a flower child. Of course, the Manson murders occurred toward the end of the 60’s and I realized that my dream hadn’t been such a good idea after all. (Clearly, flower children were not all that they’d been cracked-up to be!) Flower Children & HippiesFlower Children & Hippies1I chose my own poison right here in good old Minnesota and it was the legal drug of alcohol, primarily. In retrospect, I thank God that my precious son kept me from going to sunny California to wear flowers in my hair. It seems crystal clear to me that I would’ve been one of the drug fatalities without a doubt as alcohol and other drugs were to become my vice despite remaining in Minnesota. Yet, upon my recent visit to San Francisco, as I toured the foggy city, the song “If You’re Going to San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie from the 1960’s, played over and over again inside my head. For as I toured the big city I was aware that I was viewing many of the streets on which long ago friends of mine had spent their last days – particularly as I passed through Haight Ashbury.San Francisco 041

Some of the Viet Nam vets returned to Minnesota. Many of them missing limbs, most of them very bitter and angry individuals. Many with drug and alcohol problems. Nothing at all like the same boys who’d left us a couple of years earlier.

It’s funny, I’ve always told my children how glad I am that I grew-up in the 1960s . . . because it was a truly exciting time in history. In my experience, the most turbulent time in history to be experienced in our beautiful country of America and I am able to say that, “I was there.” But I truly wonder if those of us who were there don’t all experience a deep and aching pang of sadness looking back at the times when we lost so many.

I came away from the experience of the 1960s with a firm conviction that violence never solves anything and I’m proud to say that I raised my children with that philosophy. I am patriotic and love my country. I never waver where my values are concerned. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to say that I survived the sixties, was able to learn so much and have been blest to have lost so little to those few, never to be forgotten, years in time.”

Copyright by JC Fredlund aka Eberhart 2007 – 2014: 

© JC Eberhart and JC Eberhart’s Blog, 1974 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Eberhart and JC Eberhart’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



%d bloggers like this: