The Old Hippie: Atlanta Pop Fest 1970

By Rosie Shores
Waiting for the gates to open//

If you were born after 1960, then you haven’t had a real music festival experience.

Most people write about Woodstock from the Hippie-era, but most of us don’t really remember that much about the festival, or in my case, it has melded with the other large music festivals I attended. Thanks to Earl McGehee for the images throughout this piece.

Atlanta stands out more, so here’s what I remember:

Day 1: Friday July 3, 1970

It was hot, humid and we were headed out of the city to, what we thought, was a little outdoor concert (actually numbering between 100,000 – 400,000). The temperature was reported to be 100 degrees for the weekend.

We had no ride, no tickets and no money, but that was par for the course in those days. Our beaus were in an Atlanta band called The Brick Wall and had a gig scheduled for the next day.

“We’ll meet you stage left before Jimi plays.” We were on our own.

These were ‘clothes on your back’ events, so no packing or purses. My ‘ensemble’ included burnt orange cords, a threadbare navy tee shirt and hand-made leather sandals (each made of leather scraps).

Grace and I were natural-styled hippies, so hairy — legs and pits, no make-up and with natural hair. We weren’t patchouli types either. We were clean for “dirty hippies.”

I liked patchouli until I had a bad trip (LSD) and to present day it still makes me ill. I carried two baggies along the side of my underwear. One contained joints and acid to sell. The other contained my strawberry soap.

We walked to the interstate and stuck out our thumbs. The steam of the highway, coupled with auto exhaust, was horrible, but we soon had a ride. Hitchhiking was very dangerous, and illegal, but we had overcome every bad situation, so far.

We climbed into the semi and were blasted by wonderful air conditioning. The driver, a fiftyish redneck, seemed like a nice old guy, but he kept turning the air colder and colder. We wore no bras and caught onto his trick.

He let us off when the traffic came to a dead stop near the exit ramp to the festival. The return to toxic air wasn’t pleasant.

We walked slowly and close to the tree line for some relief. Talking to those we knew made the walk easier and we were making progress. Offers of water and beer were accepted, but Kool-aid was declined. It was too hot to start “trippin'” off whatever was added to the mix.


Arriving early Friday morning//

As we approached the site, we crossed the road to the woods, having heard our friends say, “free stage to the left.” We followed a well-trodden path through the woods and met more friends, many were naked, sunburned and lost inside their heads and the strains of music.

We found a large restroom with a line, but waited anyway. It wouldn’t function for long and it could be our last chance to wash up or even use a toilet. I took a ‘whore’s’ bath at the sink with my strawberry soap after using a real working toilet. I felt fresh and clean, though my clothes were already filthy.

Dusk called us out of the woods, as did smells of grilled foods and music.

Our first stop was to a fire pit in the ground loaded with ears of corn. The aroma was new and intoxicating. My offers of trade for pot or acid went nowhere though, for it was an old farmer and he wanted fifty cents for each ear.

“How about those burned ones in that pile?” I asked.

“Twenty five cents or my hogs get them.” We moved on.

Snow cones were next, but again, no money meant no snow cone.

We crossed the road to the concert and it was wide open, so we strolled in. The medical tent meant water and we drank our fill and headed to the stage.

I can’t tell you who was playing at the time, for I truly just remember the time Jimi Hendrix played; but more about that later.

We knew The Allman Brothers, they played often at a bar on The Strip called The Bowery. We cleaned up every night for food and to hang with the band.

I spoke in a low voice as we wandered through the sea of people, “Purple microdot, gold nugget, joints.”

Purple microdot was a quick-acting, fairly short-lasting LSD and gold nugget was his big brother. They were both clean and purple was $1 each, whereas gold was $3-4. Joints were $1 each. I think it was Jamaican.

We made money; bought food and drinks, listened to great music and the rest of the night is a blur.

Day 2 July 4, 1970

I awakened to music and then discomfort and then actual pain.

“Grace!” She bolted up.

“My foot!” I had severe pain in the outside of my left heel. There was part of a stick in my foot. I didn’t know how deep, but it was half an inch thick.

Grace started yelling for help, but we were off the path in the woods. She broke off tree limb with a good ‘Y’ end for a crutch and folks started showing up.

“What…what…what?” They asked, for ‘hippie chicks’ could be vulnerable. Hippies were/are peaceful, but will do all they can to protect their own.

Two helped me up and grabbed me as I tried to put weight on the bad foot.

“Okay, use the branch and we will help you to the med tent.” Someone instructed.

The ground was black with dried blood and my foot was still bleeding.

“My sandals are gone!” I couldn’t walk through the woods with a bare foot.

Someone donated a sneaker and we headed to the path. It’s hard to hop with a limb in your armpit, by the way.

Finally arriving at the med tent, I hopped on the gurney.

The Group//

“Water?” I was given a cup and then another. I then laid down on my right side.

“How the hell did this happen?” Asked the doctor.

I shrugged. “I have no idea.”

He decided it was okay to pull it out; and he did. It bled freely and then a nurse cleaned it as best she could and bandaged it heavily.

“Where are your shoes?”

“Lost or stolen.” I said.

“Crap! You have to protect this. We gotta get this kid some shoes!” She yelled to the tent staff.

A nurse who was leaving to go home gave me hers and I was all set. I had to go to the Free Clinic when we got home and we were done.

I thanked everyone and we were off to work the crowd so we could eat.

“Are we all set?” I asked about the drug/pot supply. “How much is left?”

“It’s sold.” She showed me her pocket full of money.

“Let’s get drinks and food.” My real crutches, two of them with padding, were great.

The corn guy was gone, so we started with two snow cones each and looked for food. We ended up at some Jesus freak’s tent where we got bowls of brown rice and beans for free and we pretended to “praise the Lord” with mouthfuls of food. We ate and left.

The heat of the day is lost in my head somewhere, but we came back to life at dark.

I remember It’s A Beautiful Day playing “White Bird” or it was just in my head?

We decided to stake a place stage left, so we would be ready for Jimi and in case our guys arrived early.

Stage left was a parking lot, basically and there were many cars and vans ‘a rockin’.

We didn’t have to wait long and our guys were there. We all discussed my foot and crutches and each took a microdot before Jimi.

We made love listening to Jimi; danced to Jimi and sang with him.

(We had no idea Jimi would soon be dead and we had just experienced his last great performance.)

Day 3 July 5, 1970

We left in the band van while most slept around daybreak and made good time home; to the shower, to peanut butter and cherry preserve sandwiches with Kool-aid and then to bed.

I have great memories of those three days, forty-five years ago, July fourth weekend, like it was yesterday.

Self Portrait//
Check it out! An old-school TwitFromThePit!

For more images from this event, check out Messy Optics’ footage.


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