Today forty years ago the Woodstock Music Festival started and although it was a supposedly major US cultural event, a big chuck of Americans were unaware of a revolution that started and ended on a farm in upstate New York — including yours truly.
(Illustration found here).
In the summer of 1969 I was 20-years-old and in the US Air Force for just more than a year.
As an air traffic controller, I’d recently passed my final exam to become a full-fledged controller in the VFR tower at Eglin AFB, Florida — the world’s third busiest airport behind Chicago’s O’Hare and Vietnam’s Tan Son Nhut facility — and began my descent into right-wing political thinking.
As a teenager, I was extremely naive when it came to politics and surrounded by mostly Republican supervisors in the Air Force and after listening to their philosophy for years, I moved easily, near-faultlessly farther to the right.
An older sergeant (my immediate team chief and a guy I liked) was a big fan ofÂ William F. Buckley Jr. and I quickly became one also — we would discuss the latest “Firing Line” on long, midnight shifts.
And my father-in-law at the time was a retired Air Force senior-master sergeant and the right-wing slant on politics was also family.
TheÂ summer of ’69 was an eventful one — the last episode of the TV’s original “Star Trek” series aired that June, the moon landing on July 20 and the Charles Manson murders in early August, among a shitload of other stuff.
My thoughts during late summer that year, however, were more personal — my first wife was heavily pregnant with my first child (a daughter, born Sept. 7, 1969) and a big concern for the weather.
Even as crowds began swarming to that farm in New York, eyes in Florida were focused on the Gulf of Mexico and Hurricane Camille.
First indications put the storm right up one of Eglin’s runways on the Florida panhandle.
I was worried about my wife, friends and neighbors as Camile churned its way north through the Gulf — the storm would suddenly steer westward and slam into an area around Biloxi, Miss., and Keesler AFB, a place I’d just left eight months earlier.
The storm missed, but the politics continued.
By the time I was discharged from the Air Force in July 1972 and moved to Gainesville, Fla., to attend the University of Florida that fall, my political views were Republican — I stood in a slight drizzle that November and voted for Dick Nixon — a shame I carry to this day.
However, as a student at Florida and a member those first couple of quarters on the copy desk of the student newspaper, The Alligator, I quickly morphed into a leftist hippie — the ‘Firing Line’ days were all gone by the time ofÂ Nixon’s Christmas of ’72 bombing of North Vietnam.
During my stay at The Alligator, the publication was thrown offÂ campus (its newsroom was originally in the student union) for being too liberal for the university’s administration.
My then-wife told me later I’d started to change as soon as I hit the Florida campus — that I don’t remember.
Upon graduation from Florida in June 1974, I was a card-carrying left-wing hippie freak, stoned-up to three concerts a week and I’d finally obtained the spirit of that music/cultural festival.
(Illustration found here).
Now four decades later, the only thing I can say is Keep on Truckin’.