Florida men and women look back on the memories, drugs and magical music of Woodstock.

That older gentleman and lady standing next to you at the Publix checkout line?

Fifty years ago, they might have been rolling in the mud at Woodstock.

Related: What was happening in Palm Beach County 50 years ago?

Quite a few of our readers attended the iconic festival in August 1969 at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, N.Y.

There’s an old phrase, often attributed to hippie prankster Wavy Gravy, that says, “If you can remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.”

But our readers were there -- and they remember.

Here are some of their stories.

Related: A Lake Worth summer of ’69 love story

‘Sitting, eating and sleeping in mud’

It was to be a first adventure after high school graduation and before starting college. I was going to Woodstock with two friends, Barbara and Donna, equipped with a borrowed sleeping bag, rubberized vinyl rain coat and a bag of non-perishable foods (a spray can of cheese was one of the items I remember).

The three of us splurged, purchasing the three-part ticket for “three days of Peace and Music” and had gotten seats on a chartered school bus for the two-and-a-half-hour ride to the festival. I remember that the bus driver said he had big plans for a family-outing back on Long Island that afternoon. He would not make it.

Even before we got close to Bethel, traffic slowed to a crawl. The two-lane road became three lanes, then four as cars took over the oncoming lanes. The bus was barely inching along. Impatient passengers got off. Walking was faster. I doubt the bus driver got home until very late that evening.

We followed the crowd, excitement rising, as we heard Richie Havens singing off in the distance. I never saw a ticket booth. The concert field was like a crowded beach on a hot summer day. Finding a pretty good spot to lay out our stuff, just to the left of the stage, we settled in to watch the crew setting up and adjusting equipment.

Tired of sitting, I took a walk. That was a mistake. It was almost impossible to find my friends in the sea of people. Between sets, announcements paging lost people (and telling people to get off the sound towers) were repeated over and over.

After sunset, on cue from the stage, the crowd would ignite their lighters. Like thousands of fireflies, or a city seen from the air, the lights flickered all around us in the dark. It was quite beautiful.

Then, of course, it rained and rained and rained. We were sitting, eating and sleeping in mud. Saturday morning, we awoke to a sea of brown. It was impossible for us to stay another night. I had a drenched sleeping bag, several inches of water in the pockets of my raincoat and my blue leather shoes were filled with water.

Tired, soaked, and dirty, Donna hunkered down and started to cry. She couldn’t go any further. But we had to keep going, there wasn’t a choice. One mud sucking step after another, we headed to the road hoping to hitch a ride toward home. Our Woodstock exodus was a ’60s hippie version of Gone With the Wind’s scene of the wounded and dying in the aftermath of the battle of Atlanta.

There was a woman in the throes of some drug-induced hysteria tearing her clothes off. Locals offering sandwiches. Cars full of people, inching along, bumper to bumper, with additional people sitting on the cars’ trunks. We were dumped off our ride when the car lurched forward. I tore up my knee, earning my Woodstock purple heart.

If only we had cell phones at that time. We found a pay phone and called home to find we were media stars. Our worried parents told us radio, TV and newspapers were full of accounts of the thousands attending Woodstock.

We returned home relatively intact. My sleeping bag was a total loss, and, for days after, my feet were stained blue by the dye from my sodden shoes.

-- Carol Erenrich, West Palm Beach

‘Love and innocence was in the air’

I had a subscription to the Village Voice and saw an ad for Woodstock. My friend Bud and I decided to go. Bud took his Volkswagen Beetle four-speed without his mother’s approval and we left Monroeville, PA, outside of Pittsburgh for Woodstock on Wednesday. We took turns driving. Bud was 17 and I was 16. This was the first time I ever drove a stick shift and we had problems.

The car did not make it and we were stuck in Hershey, PA and had to junk the car. We continued the journey and hitchhiked to New York and slept in a bug-infested field with our suitcases. The next morning we arrived in NYC, just in time to see the ticker-tape parade for the astronauts that had landed on the Moon.

Afterwards we continued our journey to Woodstock, with no real knowledge of where we were going. When we entered Connecticut, we knew that was the wrong direction and we got out of our ride and switched sides of the highway and got our first ride. It was a single guy with a Plymouth, push button car. He said he was going to Woodstock. His name was Elliott and he was attending Harvard.

After a while we started noticing the backup of traffic. The radio announcements were saying to turn back. We said no way and proceeded to find a parking spot about 3-5 miles outside of Max Yasgur’s farm site. We did not have tickets. It was Friday in the late morning and Elliot parked his car on the side of the street where others were parking and camping.

We were going to part ways, when we asked him if we could leave our luggage in his car until Monday morning, as we felt like idiots going to a festival with our suitcases. He said OK. Trust, love and innocence was in the air.

When we walked in the direction of the music, we noticed that the fences were already torn down, and I believe I could hear the group Canned Heat. It looked amazing and people were offering speed and more. For us, the party was just getting started.

Yes, we did sleep in the mud. Yes, we did put in an announcement that turned up on the (Woodstock) album and, yes, we did find Elliott again.

-- Sheldon Klasfeld, Boca Raton

‘My tent filled with folks I didn’t even know’

In 1969, I was 23 years old and living in central New Jersey. I was the lead singer of the rock band, Men Working. We had just been signed to Richie Havens’ new MGM recording company, Stormy Forest, (which) gave us complimentary tickets to an upcoming event: Woodstock. We had never received free tickets to anything and thought it might be fun.

Of course, we had no idea what Woodstock would become, literally and figuratively, to my generation and those that would follow.

I packed up a six-person tent and traveled with a couple of the guys in my group the Wednesday prior to the show’s start that Friday. My wife could not get time off from work to go up early, so we planned for her to arrive with our manager’s family that Friday evening. I had packed enough food to last until she would arrive with the rest.

We arrived to find a humongous swarm of people looking for parking, for a place to pitch their tent, for a space just to be. I could see right away that this was not going to be a well-controlled event.

We pitched our tent and checked out the staging area. Then we settled in for the night. Sometime during the night, it began to rain. And rain. My tent quickly filled with folks I didn’t even know just trying to stay dry. I counted 14 people at one point!

I went back to my car and unlocked it to give shelter to more people. (Nothing was taken, and my car was left as clean as they found it). I tried to make a phone call to my wife, Maurene, to let her know that connecting would be extremely difficult. I was unable to make that call because the pay phones had filled up with coins and no calls could be made from them.

We enjoyed the concerts from the hillside, it was fun to watch Richie’s opening and be part of the crowd. I think it was at that moment we began to realize just how special and unique this whole thing was. People were amazingly well behaved. But, like many others, we were out of food, and especially because of the rain, it was a mess.

I never did connect with my wife, my manager or his family. It was only after returning home that I found out that when they headed for Woodstock, they were turned away by the New York State Police some 25 miles away from the site. They decided to go to Grossinger’s Resort, which had become a last-minute staging area for the performers. So, while I made my way through the mud, hungry, tired and wet, my wife and manager hung out with the performers and the press and enjoyed wonderful food at the resort.

By the way, music is as important to me today as it was back then. Despite having a career for 36 years with Lucent Technologies, my passion has always been music. Today I am the leader of Mystery Lane, a well-known band on the Treasure Coast.

-- Albert Miller, Stuart

‘Sludge, excitement and my bloody eye-patch’

The summer of ’69. We just graduated. The lucky seven of us were going to Woodstock. We needed a tent. I had a clever idea (I thought at the time). We’ll take our 20-foot round pool cover and toss it over the picnic-table umbrella. Add some strings and wooden spikes and voila!, we had our coverage.

We piled into Tony’s dad’s boat-like Cadillac and left for Yasgur’s farm around noon. About 2 miles out, traffic came to a crawl. Long-hairs abandoned their cars. Hippies hopped on and off the boat-car for a free ride. Doobies being passed as we sang, and laughed toward the promised land.

We finally arrive at midnight, it’s raining, we hurriedly pitched our pool-tent. We crash.

Morning comes. We’re gasping for breath from zero ventilation from the plastic ‘dome-tent’.

We began to put away the umbrella tent, then, WHACK!, a single umbrella spoke snapped, zapped me in the eye. A direct hit. Dripping blood. It hurt. Expecting the worst, I ran to the side-view mirror. At first I thought my eye ball exploded into a mangled mess, but, luckily, my eyelid got in the way. I made an eye-patch. Thousands of freaks everywhere, sludge, excitement, bloody eye-patch. I fit right in.

To this day, 50 years later, I’ll peek at the still-present eyelid scar as a reminder and say, “Hey, I went to Woodstock and made it back in one piece.”

-- Al Manning, West Palm Beach

‘As the sun set, the music world changed forever’

I had gotten a call from a friend in high school that there was going to be this concert, in New York, with a ton of bands. It would be for three days so we would have to camp out. We picked a spot about three hundred yards from the stage to set up our tent. It consisted of poles and plastic sheeting. We brought some food with us, canned ravioli. I guess our judgement was “clouded” when we thought of that as being our only food. Needless to say, the food was gone in a very short time and later that night, a guy on a bad acid trip, ran through our tent and destroyed it. And then it rained.

The next morning, we woke up and found ourselves surrounded by a mass of people. Where the hell did they all come from? There were tens of thousands! More important, where were the bathrooms? During that day we took turns “observing” the sights. Talk about an out of body experience! We couldn’t wait for the music to begin. And as the sun began to set, the music world changed forever.

First up, Richie Havens. I still tear up, fifty years later, when I hear his music. That night we also heard Arlo Guthrie, and fell asleep as Joan Baez finished “We Shall Overcome.”

Saturday, we heard Country Joe McDonald, Santana, John B. Sebastian, Canned Heat, Mountain, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival. And then it really got going around 2 in the morning. Janis Joplin strutted on to the stage. When she finished one of her greatest performances, up steps Sly and the Family Stone. Can I take anymore? Yup. The next up were the pinball wizards, The Who. At around 6 in the morning the music finally stopped. But not for long.

Since it was now Sunday, I figured to get some rest before the afternoon music started. In my sleep I heard the words, “Good morning people” shouted over the sound system. I’d heard that voice before. Could it be her or the dream of a seventeen year old? It was her: Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane. At 8 in the morning! That saw us through brunch -- saltine crackers and water -- and set us up for the afternoon.

First up was Joe Cocker. Are you kidding me? Then Country Joe and the Fish. Ten Years After, The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Young. We finally crashed around 4 am.

When we woke on Monday morning, there were more abandoned sandals than people. We moved our position to within fifty yards of the stage. It was the size of a “normal” concert and there was one group I had to hear. At around 7:30, Sha Na Na stepped onto the stage. No, they were not who I stayed for, it was the guy that came on next to close out Woodstock. For me, the greatest guitar player of our time: Jimi Hendrix.

You will never hear the Star-Spangled Banner played like that ever again. My long weekend was complete.

-- Jeff Eagle, West Palm Beach

‘Bartering our marijuana cigarettes for sandwiches’

It sounded like the perfect way to spend a hot August weekend when my friend, Alex, called to tell me he had bought two tickets for Woodstock.

Before we left late on a Friday afternoon, I booked a pedicure, using my favorite color, “Hot Coral,” so my feet would look pretty in the grass. I dressed in my bell bottom jeans, tie-dyed T-shirt, sandals, leather belt, and lots of turquoise and beaded jewelry. And I packed similar outfits in my back pack, including a flowered head band for my long blonde hair.

When we finally reached the festival, no one was able to collect tickets as a sea of naked and half- naked, mud covered bodies tried to push forward. It felt exactly like being in a stalled, jam-packed, non-air-conditioned subway car, and both of us had the same immediate response - “Let’s get out of here!”

But there was no way to turn back.

And then, quite suddenly, we began to breathe more slowly and marvel at the enormity of the crowd. Surprisingly, our first reactions of discomfort and annoyance started to morph into excitement and exhilaration, as we realized we were part of a huge happening in which Love and Acceptance were key! This discovery completely changed the way both of us adapted during the next three days.

Eventually, we found a small flat area where we could set up our tent. However, we hadn’t been able to carry our plastic sheeting, pillows or other amenities on the long walk from our car and we had also become quite hungry. I had assumed there would be food stands readily available, but there were none in sight, and although Alex had brought along some perfectly rolled joints and plenty of water, neither of us had thought to bring anything to eat.

So I was deployed to forage for food. That first night I went from tent to tent bartering our wonderful marijuana cigarettes for other peoples’ sandwiches. Everyone was laid back, loving, and rather stoned and we were well fed but quite boringly sober. This unfortunate state was rectified by the generosity of other tent occupants and the prevailing atmosphere of Peace and Love. And now all we needed was to reach the area where we could hear the Music!

During the next two days, it took considerable effort to finally get through the crowds to listen to a few of the many artists including Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. Then on the third day, our departure was halted because the cars we’d parked for miles along the road, had slid down an incline in the rain, and all of us had to wait for AAA to come to the rescue. That delay, however, turned out to be a bonus, enabling us to hear Jimi Hendrix who had arrived late due to traffic.

I don’t remember much about the drive back to New York or the heat, the rain, the mud, the crowds, or the inconvenience. What I do remember is the Peace, the Love, and the Music – and how much the world needs all of them now.

Woodstock was a wonderful once in a lifetime experience that forever changed the way I look at and react to life. I am so grateful and so glad that I was there!

-- Kristi Witker-Coons, West Palm Beach

Florida Time archives: Get caught up on the stories you’ve missed

This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.