Sunday, May 26, 2013

Singers, Songwriters and Banjo Players

Hearing that Richie Havens died at 72, I am struck by the fact that he was not that much older than I am, and he was a lead performer at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in NY. I very much wanted to borrow my father's car (quite likely the white '65 T-Bird convertible) and drive up to this early 'field of dreams.'
No surprise that I was not given the car, nor my father's permission... and back in those days girls did honor (usually) their fathers' and mothers' wishes.
These are Washington cattle, but the barn in the background
reminded me of the S. Woodstock structures; my former
school in Vermont.
This news got me started re-listening to some old songs, old music from the 60's and 70's, and it brought back some incredible memories of my days at the Woodstock Country School (continuum) in South Woodstock, VT. While the real school doesn't exist anymore, the energy and spirit that embodied this remarkable educational experience lives on.

I really wish my photos taken during those school years had survived. There were shots of me barreling down 'Suicide Six" with my ski team, me standing next to the weapons carrier, with 16 forward gears, that Bruce Fairweather taught me how to drive so I could join some classmates helping him to pull stumps in one of the fields. I know there was one of me with long hair, in bluejeans looking so very much like Joan Baez's sister that when I went to NYC and met up with some classmates and we went into a coffee house to hear a new singer called Bob Dylan perform, someone came up and hugged me thinking I was her. I went backstage and met Joan Baez that night... such a lucky kid. She said, "Yeah, you could pass for my sister. Must be the nose." (Thanks, Joan.)

No photos remain of me with my dappled horse, Topper. None of the work I did with Lowell Naeve, our art and photography teacher, has survived either. It was required reading to read his book, "Field of Broken Stones"about being a political activist. (Link is to an e-mail thread about the Naeve family.) Rare to go to a boarding school where the teacher can stand up and talk about something he believed in and show his commitment. And he was just one of so many who affected my life and my thinking during the two years I was there.  I still remember his admonition, "Really look and really SEE the essentials of what you want to convey... narrow the photo frame down to capture that."

Where else would a proper young lady learn to do mechanical drawing? Imagine letting a student leave class to simply walk around because she was upset about a family matter, and while never ignoring the issue several teachers checked up on her later on to be sure she was OK? We had freedom, we had incredible teachers who loved what they were doing and we called them by their first names, too! Our headmaster, David Bailey, was an old friend of my mother's which was how I ended up there instead of one of the other four 'strange' schools allowing co-educational boarding in those days.

Because of the folk singers who sang the story of our times, including Pete Seeger who came to the school a number of times to sing and to lecture us about being responsible citizens of the Earth, I learned to love music and to appreciate how it can influence change; something that would be useful when I eventually went on to make a career as a Public Relations counselor.

I want to support the Woodstock Country School philosophy because it really helped me to become me. And as one alumni said in the video, "We all turned out to be decent people." And perhaps some day in the future, there will be another school modeled on the philosophy that students develop a hunger to learn when they are allowed to explore the world in a safe way, keeping them grounded by requiring them to do certain agricultural tasks or washing dishes.

Bill Boardman, graduate of the Class of '56, keeps the historical School information. There was a reunion in 2010 at the Woodstock Country School which I wish I had known about. Well, I am intending to make the next one.
A Rose for Richie Havens... thank you for the "Sun" song.
But back to my Richie Havens purpose in writing. It was his 1970 hit song, "Here Comes the Sun" that would eventually become my Sun Valley, ID, theme song, sung in the car at the top of my lungs, driving through the rain or the snow or even on a sunny day. And he never knew how that song could lift my spirits, or that it is probably one of the ones my kids most remember me singing as we drove along.

And I still sing at the top of my lungs while driving on the back roads... where no one is likely to think I'm some batty old lady at a stop light.


  1. Back when the old man had the house on Arch St., he was trying to sell it and Bill Cosby the comedian was interested. They drove by as I was mowing the lawn on the lower house/apartment and Dad told Bill that if he bought the house he would throw in the white boy to do his lawns. Bill thought it funny and laughed.

  2. Dear AnnoyingMouse, that is so typically O.M humor... thanks for sharing!!