Sunday afternoon in the Catskills in August 1969. An irregular column of young people straggled along a road half-blocked by abandoned cars in the tired, haze-filtered sunlight.
I was one of them, a slender 21-year-old clad in a pale blue chambray shirt and jeans. My eyes, as pale as my shirt, took in the sight through plastic tortoise-shell glasses. My shaggy light brown hair was shorter than that of many ambling alongside. A canvas backpack from an Army-Navy surplus store held a new Nikon camera, which served as my ticket to the event, my reassurance that I was merely there to observe; I was in the midst of what was happening yet not a part of it. In addition to the camera, the pack held a second lens, a few rolls of film, and two steak sandwiches on rye bread.
My press pass for the festival was good for the entire three-day weekend. Why then was I among the last arrivals, shortly after noon on the last day?
The day before, I had been in my home state, New Jersey, attending Sabbath worship services of a strict, Bible-believing group living in expectation of the end of the world. A group into which I had been baptized less than four months earlier.
What was a member of a fundamentalist sect doing at Woodstock? Or, to turn the question on its head, what was a baby boomer rock fan doing in a conservative apocalyptic church?
To approach an answer to this two-sided question, let’s go back six years, to another event that helped define the young lives of those born in the U.S.A. in the aftermath of World War II.