People going to San Francisco in 1967 were sure to wear some flowers in their hair.
If they were traveling to Bethel, Ulster County during the summer of 1969, they dressed in love beads, torn jeans and psychedelically-colored tie-dye shirts.
Alan Mundy buttoned and zippered more conservative clothes for his trip to Bethel. He wore the gray shirt, slacks and Stetson hat of the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department; he became part of the security force at the ambitious “Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music.”
The famous music festival now commonly known as Woodstock started Aug. 15, 1969 — 50 years ago today. The pop culture phenomenon attracted major acts from the era and more than 400,000 young music fans.
The Ulster County Sheriff’s Department knew people were coming and asked for mutual aid support from other police agencies in the state. Schenectady County Sheriff Harold Calkins assigned Mundy and deputies Phil Ligato and Doug Alois for the road trip south.
“Phil didn’t even want to go, he was old then,” joked Mundy of his former colleague.
Mundy, now 74, was born and raised in Warrensburg. He moved to Schenectady and graduated from Mont Pleasant High School in 1964. He joined the sheriff’s department in 1967, after a few years in the U.S. Air Force.
Mundy remembers leaving on Aug. 15, traveling to Ulster County in a marked Schenectady County cruiser. The local officers parked at the Ulster sheriff’s department and were driven to their crowd-control posts.
Mundy, then 24, remembers White Lake. He received the revelation that the “exposition” did not just mean music.
“There were people all over the place, swimming, bathing, no clothes on — I hadn’t seen anything like that before,” he said in a phone conversation from home in Athol, Warren County. “There were cars off the side of the road, cars in ditches. The first job we had was traffic control, but there was no such thing.”
Mundy and other law enforcement officers were far away from the main stage, and the massive crowd that assembled near the performance space. Some police officers may not have appreciated the efforts of Janis Joplin, Canned Heat and Joan Baez, but Mundy was into the music scene of the times.
“I liked Sly and the Family Stone, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Santana and The Who,” he said.
Mundy walked the crowd, just making sure people kept the peace in his immediate vicinity.
“You talked to everybody and girls came up and gave you love beads,” Mundy said. “We ate a lot of brownies. Believe it or not, it was a nice time … a lot better than the times are today. It was all peace and love back then.”
The brownies apparently were all chocolate, without any special, drug-related additives. Mundy said he learned about the existence of mind-altering brownies after the concert detail.
Music fans didn’t get any sleep. Neither did the police.
“We stayed up the first night,” Mundy said. “Nobody ever came to check on you.”
Mundy also remembers a small grocery store near the concert grounds. Supply and demand meant higher prices during the festival; milk was selling for about $3 or $4 a quart.
The Schenectady officers didn’t have any major trouble. The hippie culture was fine camping out with the establishment, at least for a few days.
“They respected us, they were good to us,” Mundy said. “The music was good, everybody had fun, nobody worried about the crap that goes on nowadays.”
Mundy and his friends left after the second day of work.
Mundy left the sheriff’s job during the early 1970s and worked on heavy equipment for the rest of his career. He retired from the Watervliet Arsenal in 2002.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]