The Best Four Days of Her Life by
(13 Stories)

Prompted By Woodstock

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I never attended the original Woodstock festival. At the time, I knew vaguely that it involved hippies, free love, harsh electrified music, public nakedness, and probably marijuana, none of which I was interested in. However, last fall, my daughter’s high school marching band half-time show was “Woodstock: Summer of Love,” and she would be part of an on-the-field rock band while the marchers and the color guard were their fans. As we looked at old photos to figure out her costume (which was a challenge in that few women were onstage, and many of the attendees were naked), I realized that I had overlooked something profound.

A Woodstock participant reflects on the experience.

Synchronistically, my 50th high school reunion occurred during marching band season, and I happened to be in a car with two classmates when I brought up the subject of the half-time show. Immediately, Sally, one of the passengers, handed me her phone and showed me a photo of naked bathers in a lake being photographed by a fully dressed photographer who had waded into the water. “That was me at Woodstock!” she said proudly. “That photo was on the COVER of Life Magazine. Floyd H— and I snuck there without telling our parents, but my mom recognized me and grounded me until I was fifty.” Here is what she wrote for this prompt:

“I remember it being the best 4 days of my life although all the posters say 3 days of peace love and music I was there on Monday morning when Jimi sang the national anthem and the other.memories I have are of course dancing naked in the mud and of course all the wonderful people giving away food to those who would (without them) would have gone hungry the hog farm was responsible for the free food. But my strongest memory is when Country Joe said DO NOT TAKE THE BROWN ACID AND I THOUGHT TO MYSELF OOPS. And of course, with the music, we changed the world as it had been.”

Sally has sent me a number of photos of herself at Woodstock, thanks to Internet searches, and I will submit them to you, as soon as I can figure out how. (So far, I haven’t figure out the link on my own. I need a teenager to walk me through it.) A part of me is sad that I basically missed the Woodstock era altogether, but it has been fun to learn about it from an eyewitness, as well as to see it through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old, who thinks Mom’s generation was bizarre and in some ways naive, since the current high school generation has worries (climate change, mass shooters, the mass extinction of countless species, crushing student loan debit, to name a few) unknown to those young people innocently bathing in the farmer’s pond.


Profile photo of Joan Matthews Joan Matthews

Characterizations: right on!


  1. Suzy says:

    This is a lovely story, thanks for sharing it. Please encourage Sally to register with Retrospect and write her stories. We would love to have her!! I will reach out to her if you think that would help – send a message to with her contact info.

    What did your daughter end up wearing for her band’s half-time show? It would be fun to see a picture of that too.

  2. Thanks! I forwarded your message to Sally. I hope to be able to attach some of her wonderful Woodstock photos, as well as a photo of my daughter’s “hippie” outfit.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. I love to hear from someone who was there.

    My son was in Stanford’s marching band a while ago (he played the tuba). Sometime during his tenure, just before school started, they were the opening act for The Who, who performed in the stadium there. This was about 14 years ago. My son’s comments were: they are SO old and they can’t remember the lyrics to their songs!

  4. John Zussman says:

    I love Sally’s story, and not just because I know her—it’s a perfect pastiche of memories of a life-altering experience. (I especially appreciated the fact that her mom grounded her until she was 50!) It’s been said that if you can remember the ’60s you weren’t there, but this strikes me as a brilliant recall by someone who was definitely there.

    And I love the way you frame the story within your own (and your daughter’s). I was way too laced-up to partake of events like Woodstock—as you may have been as well—but its spirit was infectious and I think we all were affected by it in some way.

    • Thanks, John! I also wondered how Sally’s mother recognized her from that photo, but Sally sent me another photo, in which she is facing the camera, and there is no doubt that it’s her (all of her). I was thinking about submitting that one, too, but I didn’t know how to superimpose fig leaves at the appropriate places. If I sent it in, could you make it more modest (or not)? It’s a great picture, Sally is proud of it, and it captures the innocence of that era—although, like you, I didn’t think it was so innocent at the time.
      When my daughter and her friends were performing their show last fall, I tried to think of Woodstock from their perspective, an event that occurred fifty years ago. When we were in high school, it would have been the equivalent of, what, vaudeville? the Roaring Twenties? There weren’t even talking films fifty years before we were in high school. However, these kids still know and love the music of that era, whereas I don’t think we listened to Victor Herbert when we were teenagers.

      • John Zussman says:

        Thanks, mboone! It wasn’t hard to find the other photo you mean, thanks to The Google. Speaking for myself, I don’t object to tasteful nudity, and it doesn’t violate our site guidelines as long as Sally is okay with it. Suzy and her team are now the arbiters of what’s permissible on Retrospect, so she gets to make that call.

        Ah, for the days when we all looked like that (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).

        I love the music of the Twenties — Ravel, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams et al. Probably not equivalent, though. 😉

      • Suzy says:

        mboone, I would be happy to have you post the other photo, without any fig leaves, as long as Sally is okay with it. It’s a wonderful photo, and certainly captures the spirit of Woodstock.

  5. Message from Sally:
    “When I was still on Facebook, my profile picture was the one in the pond [the one you already have] , and my Facebook account name was Woodstock Sally.”

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I was really struck by your last words in which you shared how your daughter’s generation thought your generation was “bizarre and in some ways naive.” It’s so sad that “the current high school generation has worries (climate change, mass shooters, the mass extinction of countless species, crushing student loan debt, to name a few) unknown to those young people innocently bathing in the farmer’s pond.” It’s no wonder kids are so anxious these days. Sad they they will never fell as free and bonded as generation Woodstock.

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