Dunlap, Tennessee, resident recalls his first-ever concert at Woodstock

Dunlap, Tennessee, resident recalls his first-ever concert at Woodstock

August 16th, 2019 by Patrick Filbin in Local Regional News

In this Aug. 16, 1969, file photo, hundreds of rock music fans jam a highway leading from Bethel, N.Y., as they try to leave the Woodstock Music and Art Festival.

Photo by Anonymous

Kevin Wohl was 15 years old when his Uncle Lou said he had a job for him.

It was 1969 in Sullivan County, New York. Wohl's father, Seymour, was born on the family farm in South Fallsburg in 1925. Wohl was born in nearby Monticello in 1954.

In the summer of 1969, Wohl's uncle came by the house and told the family he needed the young man's help for a concession job he had booked in Bethel.

The job was a music festival with some 100,000 people expected to attend, and Uncle Lou would be doing food concessions.

"I need Kevin to come and help shuck corn," Wohl remembers Lou saying.

That's when his Aunt Dorothy stepped in.

"My aunt suggested I be in charge of the ice cream truck instead," Wohl said.

A few days later, Wohl was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic with two of his cousins and hundreds of boxes of ice cream, waiting to get into Woodstock.

"I had no clue what we were getting into," he said.

***

Wohl was born and raised in rural New York. In 1969, he was a wide-eyed teenager, naive to the hippy culture of 1960s America and too young to even have a sense of what music he liked.

Woodstock Music Festival would be his first concert.

Wohl remembers it as an "incredible, overwhelming and life-changing" experience, but there weren't always good vibes.

"On the first day, I was sitting there working the ice cream truck, enjoying the sights, the sounds, the people. And it wasn't a very stressful job," he said.

But later that afternoon, Wohl remembers a man buying six or seven boxes of ice cream, and within minutes, he came back to the truck with his shirt ripped, no ice cream, "and screaming bloody murder."

"Four or five guys were chasing him and they were pointing going, 'There's the ice cream guy,'" Wohl said.

Wohl said he jumped on top of the truck and held off the ice cream-hungry pack of hippies for as long as he could before eventually abandoning ship.

"I ran for my life," Wohl said.

He had left Uncle Lou's ice cream truck to be ransacked by hippies, but Wohl suddenly had time to wander around.

"It was amazing," he said of walking around the crowd of an estimated 400,000. "I hopped on the hood of a car, met all these hippy guys, girls [and] the music was great."

And "there really was a cloud of smoke over the whole place."

***

He remembers Jimi Hendrix's famous performance of "The Star Spangled Banner," falling asleep in the mud with a girl from a nearby town and rescuing the rest of the ice cream truck once he reunited with Uncle Lou.

The "stoned-out hippies" that pillaged the ice cream truck didn't find the whole loot, so Wohl sold 56 boxes of ice cream the rest of the festival and the rest is history.

"It was an overwhelmingly friendly and peaceful atmosphere," Wohl said.

On Thursday morning, Wohl was on his way back to New York with his wife and friends to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Woodstock. Wohl and his wife have lived in Dunlap since 2006, but he still has a deep connection to where he's from.

Wohl is seeing guitarist Carlos Santana on Saturday night and said he's looking forward to getting back to the place that started it all.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.