Sum­mer of ‘69 and the stage from Wood­stock


The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By James Bar­ron

In this year of 50th an­niver­saries – astro­nauts walk­ing on the moon, “Sesame Street” pre­mier­ing on tele­vi­sion and the New York Mets win­ning their first World Se­ries, to name only three – Steve Gold has what he says is the big­gest sou­venir from one of the big­gest hap­pen­ings of all: the stage from Wood­stock.

“It was the fo­cal point,” said Gold, who was 15 when more than 350,000 peo­ple de­scended on a field in Bethel, New York, about 15 miles from where he grew up.

It was, af­ter all, where the Who, Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Re­vival, Sly and the Fam­ily Stone, Ja­nis Jo­plin and Richie Havens per­formed.

Gold was in the crowd. As a lo­cal, he was not stuck in traf­fic on the New York State Thruway, as so many were. “I went back and forth ev­ery day be­cause I knew the back roads,” he said. “Not that many peo­ple knew the back roads, but I was able to go in and out as I pleased.”

Af­ter Jimi Hen­drix de­liv­ered his elec­tri­fy­ing per­for­mance of “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” and the crowd left, Wood­stock be­came his­tory. Now there is a mu­seum at the site with psy­che­delic-look­ing ex­hibits. There is a stone marker. Last year, when ar­chae­ol­o­gists combed the field for five days – one day longer than the fes­ti­val it­self – Spin magazine mused: “Per­haps they would find an old peace sym­bol? Or a strand of hip­pie beads? Or Jimi Hen­drix’s gui­tar pick?”

Gold had no such thoughts when he went home from Wood­stock in 1969. He fig­ured what he had wit­nessed was just an­other rock con­cert. “For Sul­li­van County, it was a big to-do,” Gold said, “but it didn’t seem like this world­wide big to-do.”

The big to-do for him was a girl named Robin, whose par­ents owned cot­tages they rented out dur­ing the sum­mer.

“My girl­friend’s fa­ther was build­ing a lit­tle sports area, like bas­ket­ball hoops and a pad­dle­ball court.”

One day, Gold went by to watch. “I want to be nice to the fa­ther be­cause I’m dat­ing his daugh­ter,” he said, retelling the story. “He asks if I would help him un­load wood from his pickup truck. I say OK. They’re th­ese ply­wood pan­els. He says, ‘I bought th­ese pan­els at Yas­gur’s farm be­cause they were sell­ing ev­ery­thing from the con­cert, and this was the stage. I was like, so what, I’m here be­cause of your daugh­ter, what­ever.”

He did not imag­ine that the mo­ment would re­play it­self some­day, but a cou­ple of years ago, it did, in one of those mid­dle-of-the night mo­ments when things come to mind out of nowhere. He was ly­ing in bed. “I didn’t tell my wife I was think­ing about my first love,” he said. “But I thought, ‘I re­mem­ber Robin’s dad telling me he was build­ing the pad­dle­ball court with wood from the stage.’”

Soon Gold, who lives in New City, made the drive to Wood­bourne, where Robin’s fa­ther’s bun­ga­lows had been, and he and a friend went look­ing for the pad­dle­ball court and found it in the woods.

He could not be sure it was the court he had watched Robin’s fa­ther put to­gether with the boards from Wood­stock.

With­out ex­plain­ing why, he asked the own­ers – Robin’s par­ents had long since sold the place – if he could pull off a cou­ple of the wooden pan­els. He said they thought it was a strange re­quest, but they agreed.

“I saw a lot of the mark­ings that you see in the Wood­stock movie and photos,” he said. There were lo­gos for Wey­er­hauser, the lum­ber man­u­fac­turer that had made the boards. “They’re very prom­i­nent,” he said, “and some pan­els had dif­fer­ent color paint.”

He re­mem­bered see­ing pho­to­graphs of the stage with paint like that. “So I was 99 per­cent sure this was the stage,” he said.

He hired an in­de­pen­dent con­sult­ing firm, which con­curred af­ter test­ing the wood and check­ing the Wey­er­hauser mark­ings and the paint. “It ap­pears that the ply­wood in your pos­ses­sion is au­then­tic and from the Wood­stock Fes­ti­val,” the con­sul­tant con­cluded.

Gold did one other thing. He called Robin.

As he tells it, he got right to the point. “I said, ‘Robin, the rea­son I’m call­ing is the pad­dle­ball court,’” he said. “Her first words were, ‘Did you know the pad­dle­ball court was built from the Wood­stock stage?’

She sent him a no­ta­rized let­ter to that ef­fect.

Now Gold is cut­ting the wood into small pieces and sell­ing them on­line. He even plans to save the saw­dust, and sell that.

He sells cir­cles (for pen­dants with peace sym­bols, $99 apiece), small pieces mounted in a frame ($299) or slightly larger squares ($499, com­plete with a glass cover). He said he had sold 500 pen­dants, 200 frames and about 50 of the $99 items since they went on sale on March 19.

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