….we did complete The Great American “Summer of ’69” Road Trip with stories to tell.  This fact, of course, does beg some details.  They are as follows:

It started in July of 1969 in a northern suburb of Minneapolis.  Having graduated from college in 1968 and having completed my first year of teaching biology and coaching the varsity baseball team in Madison, Minnesota…I was spending the summer just outside of the Twin Cities, in Fridley, with two college friends, Howie and Paul.  They both had teaching jobs as well, and were sharing an apartment near the schools in which they taught.

You see, the Vietnam War was raging on at the time, and like many other young male contemporaries at that time, we were all likely candidates for the military draft.

And, like most other male and female contemporaries at the time, we weren’t very supportive of the politicians who got us into that controversial conflict.  We had enough friends already who had been drafted, inducted, and were serving in some capacity in the U.S. military.  Their stories weren’t very encouraging.

We did have one good option, however, and that was to teach science or mathematics in Minnesota high schools.  There was a shortage of math and science teachers at the time, and a job in those fields were deferrable.  Hence, that is what we did.

I think it was shortly after the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20th whereby we watched it on our black and white TV and promptly went outside to gaze at the full moon to continue marveling at that incredible accomplishment.  We had, at the time, about a month before our respective teaching responsibilities were to begin again.  We too, needed to do something significant before returning to the classroom (that’s not to say that the teaching profession wasn’t significant, of course….but we did feel compelled to do something memorable, at least).

The Green Hornet, Paul’s 1966 Volkswagen Beetle, somewhere on a gravel road in Delaware during our “Summer of ’69” Road Trip. Full moon, approximately 11 p.m.- 1 a.m.

A serious road trip came to mind!  We had the time, and Paul had an economical vehicle with which to make the trip….a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle!   Granted, three guys in a VW “Bug” (affectionately named The Green Hornet) on a long road trip probably doesn’t sound very appealing to most, but it seemed like a grand idea to us.  Before you knew it, we were on the road traveling in an easterly direction with the most basic of necessities packed in stuff sacks in the tiny front trunk and half of the back seat.

We did have one valuable item with us, that sort of dictated the direction of our trip.  Howie’s older brother by three years, was already in the military, and in the thick of it as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.  He very thoughtfully loaned Howie his membership card to the well known, in the ‘60s at least, Playboy Clubs while he was preoccupied with his helicopter-flying duties and the safety of all those who were aboard going to and from some very intense assignments in the Central Highlands.  We knew that a number of Hugh Hefner’s popular clubs were located in the middle of some large cities in the east….hence our first two hundred miles or so was traveling southeast across the lovely state of Wisconsin.

We saw no reason to stop in Wisconsin, or Illinois (saving Chicago for the return trip) nor Indiana, Ohio, or Pennsylvania for that matter.  We set our sights on Washington DC to start our inspection of the east coast and what the colonies had to offer.  There was no Playboy Club in Washington DC, but there were a number of other interesting monuments and agencies of national significance to explore.  President Nixon was out of town, so our hoped for meeting with him to discuss his handling of the war was deferred (no pun intended).

We then headed further southeast to Virginia Beach, by way of Richmond, VA.  I insisted on a stop in Richmond to visit briefly with my student teaching supervisor, Ms. Hattie Gadsden, at the all-black Armstrong high school in Richmond where I did my student teaching a year and a half earlier as part of a groundbreaking exchange program between all-white Concordia College in Moorhead, MN where I graduated with a biology degree, and Virginia Union University, the all-black college in the middle of Richmond.

It was a great experience on all accounts for me…and I loved Ms. Gadsden and her very kind guidance on many levels in this radically different cultural and educational experience.  I called ahead, and she said she would be home as we passed through Richmond.  After a heartfelt and warm hug followed by a 15 minute conversation updating each other on our lives for the past 18 months…I climbed back into The Green Hornet and we were off to the coast via Norfolk to Virginia Beach.

After a day or two of what the city and the sunny beach had to offer, we headed due north in the direction of New York City via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Delmarva (made up of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) Peninsula.  Not wanting to spring for an expensive car ferry fare across the Delaware Bay to New Jersey, we decided to take some back roads towards I-95 and Philadelphia.  Besides, we saw no merit in driving through New Jersey from bottom to top.

Driving late into the night through Delaware on secondary roads we, in this pre-GPS world, managed to get lost for a while…*Please note the grainy black-and white moonlit photo of the The Green Hornet on a gravel road somewhere in rural Delaware).  After finally finding I-95 (as you all know, it is hard to miss all along the east coast if you drive far enough either east or west) we took the Jersey Turnpike portion on to New York City.

Arriving exhausted in the pre-dawn (and fortunately, pre-rush hour) early morning, we headed for midtown Manhattan and checked into a sketchy, but cheap, hotel.  A good day’s sleep and we were ready for our first Playboy Club inspection.

Please note, that the year was 1969.  The popular Playboy magazines (or at least the centerfold pictures) were found everywhere in college dorms across the country at the time…and the #MeToo movement didn’t happen for another 45 years, or so.  We were in the middle of the Neanderthal Era, and we three 22 and 23-year old guys from Minnesota were card-carrying members of those testosterone times.

The Playboy Clubs had a strict hands-off policy insofar as the table-waiting Playboy Bunnies were concerned.  However, we managed to stay adequately occupied while nursing an expensive beer or two, as we tried to see if we recognized any prior centerfold stars strutting their stuff about club.

Manhattan offered a number of other interesting distractions as well.  We filled two or three days moseying about soaking it all in…capped by a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.  They weren’t playing my team-to-be a few years later, the Red Sox, so I beg your forgiveness.  Paul and I played on the baseball team at Concordia, thus we love the game, hence an afternoon at the iconic old stadium was on our to-do list.

The timing of our road trip itinerary did not allow for a trip to Bethel, NY, therefore four days of music, mud, and peace at Woodstock was not in the cards for us.  We were in the city three or four days before the festival, as I recall….but we did briefly consider it as our on-the-road planning while driving across the lovely state of Wisconsin progressed.  In retrospect, of course, it would have been an experience to remember, although I am not sure if we would have ever made it back to our Minnesota teaching duties had we aimed The Green Hornet in the direction of Woodstock.

Time, and column space, does not allow for many further details at this time.  As an overview, we continued on to Cape Cod, through Boston to New Hampshire (my first time in Maine was to happen two years later) on to Vermont, where we rode a gondola to the to the top of a mountain at Stowe Ski Resort, thus gaining my first enticing birds-eye view of the beautiful and verdant mountains of northern New England as we headed on to Montreal.

To summarize, Montreal was very hospitable to we three Minnesotans in many ways.  Included was a night game at the Montreal Expos’ small stadium at the time, our second Playboy Club inspection, and much, much more.

Setting a course home in a westerly direction, we headed straight towards the downtown loop of Chicago.  A final evening at the first, and largest, Playboy Club establishment was extremely memorable.  You will have to ask me the details when we run into each other in the Rangeley Post Office.

 

Howie, Paul and I did make it back to Minnesota and our teaching jobs on time.  My invitation to join the U.S. Army from the Douglas County (MN) Draft Board was another year away.  It would prove to be life-changing in many positive New England ways (after the silliness of basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, that is….).

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

Garrison Keillor

I’ll be ridin’ shotgun, underneath the hot sun, thinkin’ I’m a someone…

Pomplamoose

Per usual, your thoughts and comments are always welcome.  Jot them down on a 3”x5” card, attach it to an original poster of the Woodstock Music Festival, and gently set them inside the log door on our mudroom on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond…or simply fire off an email to [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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