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He Says He Found a Souvenir From the ’60s: The Stage at Woodstock – The New York Times

He Says He Found a Souvenir From the ’60s: The Stage at Woodstock - The New York Times
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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/31/nyregion/woodstock-festival-1969-stage-souvenir.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage
 
nytimes.com
He Says He Found a Souvenir From the ’60s: The Stage at Woodstock
8-10 minutes

Grace Notes
Steve Gold with a wooden panel from the stage of the 1969 Woodstock music festival.CreditDesiree Rios for The New York Times

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Steve Gold with a wooden panel from the stage of the 1969 Woodstock music festival.CreditCreditDesiree Rios for The New York Times
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In this year of 50th anniversaries — astronauts walking on the moon, “Sesame Street” premiering on television and the 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 Mr. Gold, who was 15 when more than 350,000 people descended on a field in Bethel, N.Y., 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.
Mr. 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. “I call it the tomb of the unknown hippie,” Duke Devlin, a longtime “site interpreter” for the museum, declared in a museum video. “Looks like a grave.”
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?”
Mr. 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,” Mr. 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 a bungalow colony with cottages they rented out during the summer and repaired before the weather turned cold.
“What happens after Labor Day is you start renovating or adding additions for the following season,” he said. “My girlfriend’s father was building a little sports area, like basketball hoops and a paddleball court.”
One day, Mr. 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 O.K. 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 bought part of the stage.’ I said, ‘O.K.’ 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 Mr. Gold, who lives in New City, made the drive to Woodbourne, where Robin’s father’s bungalow colony had been, and he and a friend went looking for the paddleball court. The compound had fallen into disrepair and was overgrown. After wandering around, disoriented, he was ready to give up the search.
“My friend says, ‘What’s that all the way deep, deep in the woods?’” he said. “I go, ‘I don’t know, but I don’t remember it being that far away.’”
They pushed through the brush, crossing a stream that seemed as wide as the Mississippi River. There it was. “The same exact paddleball court that I remember,” he said.
Jimi Hendrix was among the stars who performed onstage at Woodstock in August 1969.CreditLarry C. Morris/The New York Times

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Jimi Hendrix was among the stars who performed onstage at Woodstock in August 1969.CreditLarry C. Morris/The New York Times
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.
Mr. Gold did one other thing. He called Robin.
“I hadn’t spoken to her since I graduated from high school in 1971,” he said. He reached her after sending her sister a message on Facebook, asking for a telephone number.
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?’ I said, ‘Would you write a letter and notarize it?’”
She did.
Next Mr. Gold hired people to take the paddleball court apart — carefully, piece by piece. He lent some to the Museum at Bethel Woods, adjacent to the original festival site.
The museum director and senior curator, Wade Lawrence, had doubts when he heard Mr. Gold’s story about tracking down the plywood panels. “As a museum professional, as a museum curator, I’m always skeptical of any claims of authenticity of any object,” he said.
But he met Mr. Gold at a storage unit where Mr. Gold had stashed the wood, and left convinced that it was what Mr. Gold said it was.
What was his confidence level? “If I were to put a number on this,” he said, “I’d say it’s in the 90s.”
A journalist, Joel Makower, who interviewed Mr. Gold in the 1980s for his book, “Woodstock: The Oral History,” said after hearing the story of the stage that it “sounds plausible.” Michael Lang, one of the 1969 event’s original promoters, said through a spokesman that, “It’s true.”
Still, Mr. Lawrence initially resisted Mr. Gold’s offer to provide several panels for the museum’s 50th anniversary exhibit, which opened on Saturday, mainly because the plywood he saw at the storage unit was in poor condition. But Mr. Gold insisted that there was wood that was better looking, and he sent photos of several pieces. “They have water stains all over them,” Mr. Lawrence said, “but hey, it rained at Woodstock.” So he decided to use them in the exhibit.
Now Mr. Gold is cutting the wood into small pieces and selling them online. He even plans to save the sawdust, and sell that.
(Mr. Lawrence, the curator, distanced himself from Mr. Gold’s commercialization, noting that Mr. Gold’s items are not being sold at the museum. Cutting the wood and selling it is “not something a museum would condone or do,” Mr. Lawrence said.)
Is there an appetite for that kind of memorabilia? Should what was left of the stage be cut into circles (for pendants with peace symbols, which Mr. Gold is selling for $99 apiece), into 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.
One more question: What happened to him and Robin?
“I think she started seeing somebody from her parents’ bungalow colony,” Mr. Gold said. “I think she showed him the paddleball court and said, ‘This is the Woodstock stage,’ and he fell in love with her.”
A version of this article appears in print on April 1, 2019, on Page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: A Summer of ’69 Romance and the Stage From Woodstock. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
 
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