WOOD­STOCK RE­CALLED:

Cel­e­brates 50th an­niver­sary of Wood­stock, jour­ney made in his eclec­tic VW van

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Sameer Rao

The Volk­swa­gen Kombi van that Dr. Robert “Bob” Hieron­imus drove to Wood­stock 50 years ago is gone, but a replica of it was on dis­play Mon­day morn­ing at the Amer­i­can Vi­sion­ary Art Mu­seum to cel­e­brate the trip and the van’s cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance.

To the un­trained eye, the Light bus looks as eclec­tic as the hip­pie cul­ture that birthed it. But Dr. Robert “Bob” Hieron­imus had a more spe­cific in­ten­tion nearly 50 years ago, when he painted an Eye of Prov­i­dence, ankh, astrologic­al icons and other spir­i­tu­ally sig­nif­i­cant sym­bols all over a Volk­swa­gen Kombi van.

“My bus was about con­scious­ness, about how to el­e­vate and get those sym­bols,” Hieron­imus said Mon­day morn­ing. “Our whole phi­los­o­phy is that we are one peo­ple on one planet. How corny that sounds, but how true it is. And some day, we’re go­ing to get there. We’ve got to get there.”

Hieron­imus re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of higher con­scious­ness dur­ing a cer­e­mony Mon­day morn­ing at the Amer­i­can Vi­sion­ary Art Mu­seum. The artist and sev­eral con­tem­po­raries gath­ered to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of the ve­hi­cle’s jour­ney from Bal­ti­more to Bethel, New York, for the orig­i­nal Wood­stock fes­ti­val.

At­ten­dees lis­tened to Hieron­imus and those friends, in­clud­ing sev­eral mem­bers of the band Light who rode that bus, which can no longer be lo­cated, a half-cen­tury ago, dis­cuss the bus’ his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. While the orig­i­nal Kombi van couldn’t be lo­cated, a replica was on hand that Hieron­imus and a team of artists re­stored and painted over the past decade. There also was a show­ing of part of the doc­u­men­tary “The Wood­stock Bus: Finding the Light,” which de­tails Hieron­imus and Co.’s search for — and re-cre­ation of — the orig­i­nal bus.

The bus’ story stretches back to 1968, when Hieron­imus, an Owings Mills na­tive, was a strug­gling artist in Bal­ti­more’s coun­ter­cul­ture scene. There, he met the mem­bers of a lo­cal rock band called Light, who took their band’s name from the Light Med­i­ta­tion that Hieron­imus prac­ticed with the band and oth­ers at the Sav­i­t­ria com­mune in Bal­ti­more. Band mem­ber Bob Grimm ul­ti­mately com­mis­sioned Hieron­imus to paint the bus.

“He and I drove to Ver­mont, where the bus was, and be­gan paint­ing in the woods, drove it to Bal­ti­more and com­pleted the paint job,” Grimm said.

Grimm and Light even­tu­ally drove the bus to Wood­stock, where a pho­tog­ra­pher cap­tured two Light mem­bers sit­ting atop the ve­hi­cle. The As­so­ci­ated Press pub­lished the pic­ture and turned the VW into an en­dur­ing sym­bol of the hip­pie move­ment.

Light mem­ber Trudy Mor­gal said she didn’t even know about that iconic pho­to­graph, let alone that she was in it, un­til two decades later. The im­age out­lasted the band and bus, the lat­ter of which was last cap­tured on cam­era in 1972, and still fea­tures in pop­u­lar de­pic­tions of that era.

John Wesley Chisholm, the doc­u­men­tar­ian be­hind “The Wood­stock Bus,” even­tu­ally reached out to Hieron­imus in the ’00s and as­sisted him as he tried to find the orig­i­nal that he lost af­ter 1972. They couldn’t find the orig­i­nal, but ob­tained an­other Kombi that Hieron­imus and col­lab­o­ra­tors res­ur­rected for the present. They raised roughly $200,000, which went into its restora­tion at an Owings Mills barn.

Hierono­mus re­called dis­cussing the im­por­tance of sym­bols, in­clud­ing the Eye of Prov­i­dence, with the likes of Wood­stock per­former Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970. He noted that the sym­bols, like the coun­ter­cul­ture’s mes­sage of uni­ver­sal peace, re­main ex­tremely im­por­tant.

“We’re head­ing in a di­rec­tion in this world where we’re go­ing to lose a lot of peo­ple, a lot of land,” he said. To him, higher con­scious­ness can bring peo­ple to a place where true peace is pos­si­ble. Chisholm cred­its this think­ing to Hieron­imus’ gen­er­a­tion.

“In that era, we got our hopes up,” Chisholm said. “From that point on, we ex­pected more and bet­ter. We ex­pected more peace, health and pros­per­ity... I see Amer­ica’s com­ing-of-age here, in the cul­tural power of get­ting your hopes up.

On Tues­day, the new Light bus is sched­uled to de­part for Bethel, which hosts its own an­niver­sary fes­ti­val — un­re­lated to the failed Wood­stock 50 con­cert that or­ga­niz­ers tried to res­ur­rect at Mary­land’s Mer­ri­weather Post Pav­il­ion — on Aug. 18. Those who can­not see it in up­state New York this week can watch “The Wood­stock Bus” on-de­mand via Cu­rios­ity Stream, which pub­licly pre­miered the film Mon­day.

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Bob Grimm and Trudy Mor­gal, who trav­eled to Wood­stock in the orig­i­nal VW hip­pie bus cap­tured in the photo be­low them, stand out­side AVAM with the new “Light” bus, head­ing to Bethel, NY, for the 50th an­niver­sary of the Wood­stock con­cert.

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Bob Hieron­imus flashes the peace sign out­side AVAM, with the new “Light” bus, head­ing to Bethel, NY, for the 50th an­niver­sary of the Wood­stock con­cert.

AP

Con­cert-go­ers sit on the roof of a Volk­swa­gen bus at the Wood­stock Mu­sic and Arts Fair at Bethel, N.Y., in mid-Au­gust, 1969.

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