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“We’re in the middle of a time for thinking again of Woodstock – three days in the middle of August 1969.”
Fifty years ago! I didn’t go. I was “too old” at 35, with a job, a husband, and two children to keep me close to home. But I did have a history of folk-singing behind me, so I knew some of the participants — not the best-known ones by any means, but the ones who sang in the coffeehouses of Chicago and its suburbs: No-Exit Café, Old Town School, etc. I had actually been part of a performing trio: My husband played a mean pineapple uke, I did basic guitar chordings, and my sister had the best voice of us all. So I wasn’t one of the 400,000 gathered for that well-remembered (and some would say better forgotten!) event.
But I did have a “friend at the front”: the late great blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield. He was a spoiled rich kid from one of Chicago’s posh North Shore suburbs who wound up in the 9th grade class I was teaching at an area synagogue. He hated school of any kind, and of course religious school; all he wanted to do was make music. “Contracts” were a big device for teacher/student cooperation in that long-gone era, and because I had active folk music involvement, I “contracted” with Mike: If he would hang on and finish our year plus 10th grade, culminating in Confirmation, I would put him in touch with some folks who could help him musically. And so a couple of my musical friends helped Mike select and purchase the guitar he used when he played with the Jefferson Airplane and Paul Butterfield, when he composed the score for “Medium Cool,” the film about Chicago’s race riots in the ‘60s, and for the rest of his too-short life. I had just moved to Dallas when, in February of 1981, I read Mike’s obituary in the Morning News: He was found dead in his car of a drug overdose at age 37. An echo of Woodstock times…
Years pass. Time changes everything. That husband and I parted ways long ago…our children grew up to have children of their own…my sister is in assisted living…and I long-since gave away my guitar. But if this year’s planned Woodstock revisit had actually materialized, yes – I would have gone. Maybe 35 was too old 50 years ago, but 85 isn’t too old for anything today!
A proud native of Pittsburgh, PA, Harriet P. Gross began her journalism career in 1955 at a local paper. She moved to Chicago 2 years later where she worked as a full-time journalist until moving to Dallas in 1980. Here,Harriet began freelancing, doing special projects such as the text for Dallas Section, National Council of Women’s soon-to-be-published history book in addition to writing for a variety of publications.
Today, Harriet’s “In My Mind’s I” column runs weekly in the Texas Jewish Post. She has won writing awards from the Press Club of Dallas, American Jewish Press Association, National Federation of Press Women, Illinois Woman’s Press Association and Press Women of Texas, and has been listed in five Who’s Who publications. In her community, Harriet currently is a book reviewer, discussion leader, and program presenter for clubs, senior living facilities, and Jewish institutions including the JCC’s Senior Program.