Readers respond: Delighted by Lear’s lost in ‘Woodstuck’

Posted 9/28/23

Editor’s note: It appears that we have a celebrity on our hands. These letters are in response to the story of Len Lear’s cat, Blackie.

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Readers respond: Delighted by Lear’s lost in ‘Woodstuck’


Editor’s note: It appears that we have a celebrity on our hands. The following letters are all written in response to the story of Len Lear’s cat, Blackie, who made a cameo appearance in his regular monthly column, A Vintage View.

Another Mt. Airyite's Woodstock adventure

I really enjoyed reading about Len Lear's experiences in August 1969 (“'Woodstuck' in Maine, 1969”). I am SO glad that he and his wife got Blackie back; such a moving story.

My adventures were different. In 1969, I was in college in Iowa and broke up with my fiancé. As soon as the spring semester ended, I needed to get away from him, so I hitchhiked to California. (I’d never done that before but was desperate and had no money.) While living with others on a beach south of Carmel, I met several people from New York City, who spoke of an amazing rock festival that was to take place in August.

I hitchhiked back to Iowa and then went to New York. I rode to the festival in the back of a cargo van with the people I’d met in Carmel. We arrived in Bethel on Thursday. I had no idea where I was until decades later, when I ended up living a few miles away in South Fallsburg, N.Y.

Music started in the afternoon on Friday with “It’s a Beautiful Day” by Joe Cocker. Many people left Friday evening when the rain started. I have fond memories of Joan Baez telling of her husband’s arrest and singing moving songs. I’d been in the honors program in college and ran with a “straight” crowd, so I was not up on all the latest rock musicians.

But I enjoyed listening to the music from a distance and chatting with people; some from New York asked me whether we had TV and toilets in Iowa. I only dropped acid once and listened to music late into the night. There was never a worry about where to sleep or what to eat, as people shared what they had and looked after each other. I enjoyed swimming in the stream – and found it amusing that some airplane pilots charged $20 to people who wanted to watch nude hippies there.

I was thrilled to finally be close to the stage Monday morning when Jimi Hendrix performed. I was perplexed when ShaNaNa appeared around 7 a.m. After Jimi, we picked up trash, and then I hitchhiked back to Iowa. 

I found the experience to be deeply spiritual and felt that it was cheapened later when the movie “Woodstock” became “in.” The movie was not able to convey the wonder of that weekend.

Gloria Rohlfs

Mt. Airy

Loved Len’s article on 'Woodstuck'

Loved loved loved your story on “Woodstuck” (Sept. 14). What an ordeal!

“Cheap Thrills” by Janis Joplin is one of my favorite albums. She should never have left Big Brother and the Holding Company.

I actually looked up Big Brother drummer David Getz about 25 years ago and found his website. He was teaching drums in San Francisco. I emailed him, and we had a number of exchanges. I told him how whenever I heard his drumming on the song “Oh Sweet Mary,” it reminded me of riding in my dad's VW bug with my dad and my sister on Wissahickon Drive.

We would see all of the icicles on the rock formations when I was about six years old on our way to the Art Museum and then his basketball games at Plastaid Hall on Boathouse Row. Getz said he knew that road since he spent a bit of time in Philly when his daughter went to Bryn Mawr College.

I found out he was a golfer, and I invited him to play at LuLu (Country Club) in Glenside the next time he was in town, but it never happened.

In any event, I am glad Len Lear got his kitty back!

Rich McIlhenny

Mt. Airy

To “Blackie,” in care of The Chestnut Hill Local

Dear Blackie,

May I introduce myself? I am an unabashed cat lover and also an aficionado of “song and celebration,” that combination that so wowed the crowds at Woodstock. I trust that Mr. Lear, your alleged keeper and protector, will leave this letter lying around his house, wondering what in the world he should do with it. 

I also am assured that you will at some point see the letter (after all, it’s meant for you), and you will thus know that someone somewhere believes wholeheartedly that you are still alive and well.

My hunch is that anyone who misses a half a million people sitting on a hillside, buoyed up by very loud music, must surely be blind and deaf enough to miss a small black feline prancing and dancing around a yard or living room. Thus, Mr. Lear had to assume your demise.

Yes, I know that you are a very aged pussycat at this point, but miracles do happen occasionally, and in this case, given your ability to withstand the rigors of Maine’s woods for an extended period of time, and to avoid the bad luck normally allotted to black cats, I think it’s safe to say you are getting rather immortal.

So: kudos for surviving 9 times (or more), and please take care of Mr. Lear for us. We need his stories — even if he can’t spell “Woodstock.”

Jenny French


Blackie story 'made my day'

I am writing to tell you how much I enjoyed the story of Blackie and his escapades in the woods of Maine (“'Woodstuck' in Maine, 1969,” Sept. 14). As a confirmed cat lover, I was heartened that Len Lear was able to get Blackie back and that he had four more years with his family.

I recently lost my last cat, and at 81 years of age, I will not be replacing him. Cats make wonderful companions, and I always love to read a story about a cat. Thanks for sharing it. It made my day!

Pat Bennett

Plymouth Meeting