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Woodstock Census

Woodstock Census

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Published by Pán Rostlin
A description of a one generation.
A description of a one generation.

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Published by: Pán Rostlin on Jul 06, 2010
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 Page 1Woodstock Census The Nationwide Survey Of The Sixties Generation Authors: Rex Weiner & DeanneStillman Publisher: Viking Press Date: 1979 ISBN: 0-6707-78206-8Page 2Page 3Table of Contents Introduction............................................................................................................1 1Woodstock Nation ................................................................................................4 2 Culture...............................................................................................................14 3 Heros.................................................................................................................38 4 Drugs.................................................................................................................61 5 Politics...............................................................................................................80 6 Sex.....................................................................................................................97 7 TheSeventies...................................................................................................107 8 Looking Back, LookingAhead...........................................................................123 Appendix A: The Questionnaire................................................................................i Appendix B:Methodology................................................................................... xxiiiBibliography....................................................................................................... xxivPage 41 Introduction Once upon a time there was a decade of wide-eyed idealism and youthful dreams called theSixties, which suffered an abrupt reversal, becoming a sadder but much wiser decade called theSeventies (which, as some people tell it, was actually a return to a wasteland called the Fifties). Right? Wehave heard this version of recent history so often that it seems almost to be the truth. We read in a popularnational magazine, for example, a writer's parenthetical remark about the counter-culture of the Sixties,"whose only two enduring contributions appear to be blue jeans and marijuana." Or a book reviewermakes an offhand comment on "the shocking slide of the Seventies when our values changed faster thana bargain basement markdown sale." And one of those celebrity magazines, under the heading "WhereHave All the Radicals Gone?" gives the soothing answer that all the wild idealists of the Sixties are nowsafely parked in offices, peddling insurance. Veterans of the Sixties react variously to this picture. Tosome, mention of the Sixties brings a faraway look to the eyes, a trembling to the lips. Others smile withcynical tolerance, as though hearing a bad joke. And there are those unreconstructed types who can stillbarely muster a "Far Out!" But we liked the Sixties and we still do, not as a flowery fantasy or an LSDflashback, but as an exciting and important time in history, which shaped our lives and the lives of anentire generation. And that's really why we wrote this book. In the post-Sixties period, people haveincreasingly come to view the events of recent times less as history than as a matter of mood, as ifAmerica were alternately greening and browning according to whim. The effect has been to place a deadweight of indecisiveness on the present and to hobble the future with chic cynicism. Certainly there was awelter of folly and silliness in the Sixties, just as in any decade. But what made those years special wasthe extraordinary amount of energy and imagination people invested in attempts at making life better. Todismiss that time with glib comments and superficial sociology is to denigrate the best efforts of the pastand to discourage them in the future. To a large degree, how we see history is also how we make history.Are blue jeans and pot all the Sixties add up to? Did our values really take a nosedive in the Seventies?Are all the hippies safely settled in suburbia and are all the radical protesters bank presidents? Has anentire generation sold out? We decided to find out by asking a few of our friends1005, as it turnedoutwho, like us, were part of what was called the "Now Generation," the "Love Generation," and otherdopey labels the press invented to describe the giant bulge we made in the demographic charts (thepostwar baby boom of 50 million). We felt it was about time that ordinary, everyday people told theirstories about the Sixties and Seventies; social commentators always speak so knowingly about "thepeople," but rarely do "the people" get a chance to speak for themselves. Too often, it is the celebrityversion of the Sixties that we're given, narrations from people who happened to be famous at the time forone thing or another and are therefore considered experts. Though sometimes entertaining, theirviewpoints are far out of the ordinaryif not, on occasion, downright self-serving.Page 52 So we put together a lengthy questionnaire that we hoped would allow people to describe some of theiractivities and feelings during the Sixties and Seventies and to draw comparisons between the two periods.From the fall of 1977 to the spring of 1978, we distributed the questionnaire as widely as possible around
 
the nation, with the aim of collecting at least a thousand responses. The people we were looking for werenot hard to find. In fact, they found us. And this was our very first survey result: Veterans of the Sixties areeager to relate their experiences of that era. We found that we had tapped a huge reservoir of emotion.Other people felt, as we did, that the Sixties had been misrepresented, and they were willing to spend anhour and a half filling out a questionnaire in order to set the record straight. One person wrote: "Everything just gets forgotten or explained away simplisticallyplease don't, in writing your book, explain away whatwe did as passing fancy. I think we all cared so much." How Was This Survey Conducted? With as muchof a sense of humor as possible. While our goal was to amass a pile of solid data upon which we couldbuild accurate conclusions, we also wanted to capture some of the fun, spontaneity, and craziness of theSixties. We don't pretend to have been strictly scientific in our methods, nor are we experts in sociology,polling techniques, or statistical analysis. The truth is that even those who are expertsincluding thebiggest and best-known polling outfits, like Harris, Gallup, and Roperobtain contradictory results, differover correct methodology, and have to allow for biases. Our greatest advantage in conducting this surveyhas been the fact that, having grown up in the Sixties, we know the times and the people well. There arethings that only true veterans of the Sixties understand. Would Lou Harris think to explore the politicalimplications of armpit hair on women? Would George Gallup grok * the significance of love beads? Theyhave enough trouble figuring out Republicans and Democrats. Still, we are writers, not pollsters. In orderto follow the basic requirements of a survey, we employed a professional pollster, Linda Waldman, whohelped us to put all our questions into a form compatible with computer processing, and to devise amethod by which the questionnaire was applied. Some surveys send armies of interviewers to canvassdoor-to-door in communities around the country. Other surveys are done over the telephone byinterviewers who dial numbers at random from directories. These are the most frequently used methods,but for our purposes they were impractical, if not impossible. Our intent was to survey the kind of peoplewe used to see every Saturday night at the Fillmore rock concerts, the ones who showed up at be-ins,antiwar rallies, and campus hootenannies. We wanted to reach ex-SDSers, former freedom riders, andHaight-Ashbury alumni. We were seeking those who had been Clean for Gene and those who had beenLoose for Leary, the kind of people who could recognize the names of the Chicago Eight as well as thenames of the Grateful Dead, who could remember reading the Port Huron Statement, the East VillageOther, and R. Crumb's comics; the commune dwellers, draft-card burners, hippies, yippies, and trippers. *grok (grahk) vt. 1. To understand. 2. To grasp the meaning of. From Robert Heinlein's Stranger in aStrange Land, 1961.Page 63 These people don't have doors, they listen to the Doors. And they are reluctant to dispense intimatedetails about their lives over the telephone to strangers, who could just possibly be minions of the CIA.Therefore, we hit on the idea of making this survey an event in itself, a kind of be-in, which by its verynature would attract the people we were looking for. We accomplished this in two ways. The first involvedpublicizing the survey through the national press so that people all over the country could read about itand mail to us requests for questionnaires, which they would fill out and mail back. In this manner, wewere able to collect more than a third of our sample. The rest we obtained by traveling around the countryholding what we called "census sessions." We did this in order to have as much personal contact with ourrespondents as possible and to guarantee that we received a fair national sampling. The places we choseto >survey in person were New York City, Boston, Madison, Wise., Kansas City, San Francisco, Berkeley,Tucson, Austin, and Atlanta. We picked urban areas because this is where we were most certain to findlarge numbers of the kind of people we wanted to surveywhether they had grown up in Centerville,USA, or Chicago. We didn't visit the Deep South or Des Moines or the backwoods of Vermont or(regrettably) Hawaii. But through the mail we received questionnaires from every one of the states, andone from what was once called the Canal Zone. (For complete demographics, see Chapter One.) Likemost Sixties events, our census sessions attracted mobs of reportersbefore, during, and after eachsession. This was one way we publicized our cross-country canvassing and attracted mail-in as well ason-the-spot questionnaires. We also put up posters in each city to advertise the fact that at a certain time(usually around 7:30 P . M .), at a certain place (most often a rented hall), veterans of the Sixties couldtake part in a survey that was all about them. Anywhere from fifty (Boston) to one hundred and fifty(Kansas City) would show up. We supplied presharpened pencils, questionnaires, and the admonishment,"No cheating!" While they went to work, we played a specially programmed tape of great hits from theSixties: music to reminisce by. Our respondents treated the event like a reunion, saying hello to peoplethey hadn't seen in years, passing joints and wine, giggling whenever "Ballad of the Green Berets" came
 
on the tape, singing along with the Supremes or Country Joe and the Fish. Lou Harris or George Gallupwould have been appalled, but for our purposes it couldn't have been better. When handing in theircompleted questionnaires (some people took hours to finish, painstakingly laboring over their answers),our respondents occasionally complained of the length, or that some of the questions were tricky. Moreoften, they said they were glad for the chance to express their views, and some even reported reachingnew self-realizations ("In the Sixties, I went to demonstrations; in the Seventies, I fill out questionnairesabout why I went to demonstrations"). Just about everybody enjoyed the experience. "It was nice to comehere and remember when. All the people who participated seem to have a happy and powerful commonmemory." (For additional notes on survey methodology, see Appendix B: Methodology.)Page 71 Who Took Part In The Survey? "Dear SurveyorsI would really like to fill out one of yourquestionnaires. I don't consider myself a typical product of the USA "Born and raised in San Francisco, Ibegan to raise my consciousness with beatniks in North Beach at the age of 11. As a junior in high schoolI attended Bill Graham's 3rd rock concert (1965) and dozens more as the 60's passed. I first saw Creamwhen they had second billing. As a graduation treat, my girlfriends and I went to Monterey for the PopFestival (and we lost Janis Joplin to the rest of the world). I attended SF State College. My black Englishteacher didn't receive tenure, subsequently the student body, followed by faculty, went on strike. And werioted. "The longest I have been out of SF is the four months I spent in Europe. "I am now 29 years old. Istill associate with radical artist types. I work as a telephone installer. I have never married. I own my ownhome. I do not dwell on the past but recall the times with much affection and sometimes think myexperiences are unique. "I installed the phone for Patty Hearst's kidnappersthe FBI talked to me aboutit. "So it goes " Diane P., who wrote the above letter, may not be a "typical product of the USA," but sheis in many ways typical of the people we surveyed. Anybody who heard about the questionnaire couldsend away for one or fill one out at one of our census sessions. Age was the only qualification. We werelooking for that "Sixties Generation" that everybody loves to generalize about, the people who receivedTime's Man of the Year designation in 1966 when they were twenty-five and under. Certainly anybodywho was alive and conscious during the Sixties was affected by that era. But we wanted to focus only onthose whose values and goals were shaped by the era. We wanted our survey to include people who wereold enough to have participated in the civil rights struggles of the early Sixties, and those young enough tohave been on campus during the climactic antiwar activities of the late Sixties and early Seventies. So welimited the survey to people between 25 and 37 years old at the time the survey was being takenin otherwords, anybody born between 1940 and 1952. Of course a vast number of people older and younger thanthose included in this survey played significant roles in making the Sixties what they were. Our agelimitation excluded people like Alien Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Gloria Steinem, Ken Kesey, ChubbyChecker, Betty Friedan, Eldridge Cleaver, Andy Warhol, Richard Nixon, Tiny Tim, and perhaps you, thereader. Sorry, but we had to stop somewhere. But Isn't This Survey Biased? Biased in favor of what, orwhom? The question implies a misunderstanding of the survey's purpose. We did not set out to poll allAmericans on their feelings about the Sixties. Or the feelings of Young Republicans. Or the Ku Klux Klan'sview of the Sixties. We were interested in that special group that Abbie Hoffman once referred to as"Woodstock Nation."Page 82 Our sample was self-selected; just as people chose to attend rock festivals, they chose to be surveyed.The response to the survey was intended to be a finding in itself, to help answer the question of who andwhere are the people who identify strongly with the Sixties era. How Do You Turn 1005 QuestionnairesInto A Book? First, get a computer; then find somebody who knows how to operate it. We took ourquestionnaires to a data processing company (where the keypunchers regarded this survey as a welcomechange from the usual surveys on attitudes toward mayonnaise and fabric softener). The computertransformed the questionnaires into a thick sheaf of tables that cross- referenced people's feelings aboutarmpit hair, marijuana, and acid rock, for example, with their degree of political activism in the Sixties andtheir present yearly income. We had a staggering amount of data to decipher. In this book, you'll findwe've used certain terms to help bring the data into focus. Our respondents are divided into age groups:older (born 1940-45); middle (1946- 49); and younger (1950-52). When we refer to activists, we meanpeople who have defined themselves as "totally involved" or "very active" in politics during the Sixties. Byheavy drug users we mean those who have defined their involvement in the Sixties drug scene as "total."And when speaking of the entire group of respondents (and, by extension, those they represent), wefrequently use the term "Woodstock Nation," although this group reveals itself to be less monolithic than

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