For 50 years, Judy and Jerry Griffin have been telling friends and family the fairy tale story of how they met on the way to Woodstock in 1969 and have been together ever since. The only downside to their meet-cute is that they never had any physical proof that they were at Woodstock together — until two months ago.
Judy met Jerry on Aug. 15, 1969 — day one of the iconic Woodstock music festival — when her car broke down on New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge, roughly 90 miles from the concert grounds, and she and the two acquaintances she was traveling with decided to hitchhike.
“I was just thinking, ‘Damn, now we can’t go,’ and we were dying to,” recalls Judy, 71. “Then Jerry and his friends pulled up. I stuck my head in and I saw that there was a woman in the car. I’d never hitchhiked before, but I figured, ‘Well, since there was a woman, it was fairly safe, and I probably should just get in the car.’ “
In that moment Jerry, who was caravanning to the festival with a group of friends in two VW Beetles, thought his luck had definitely changed for the better.
“I thought, ‘Okay, this is definitely unusual. We just picked up this really cute girl. And I’m going to Woodstock and I’ve got a tent and she doesn’t,’ ” says Jerry, 72, with a laugh.
That first ride together in the back seat of Jerry’s pal’s 1967 VW Beetle eventually grew into 50 years of love and marriage, including two sons and five grandchildren.
Incredibly, they’d never seen a photo of themselves from the event that started it all until this summer, thanks to the new PBS documentary Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation, which features a brief bit of footage of a rain-soaked Judy and Jerry huddled together under a blanket.
“We both had cameras, but neither of us took any pictures,” says Jerry.
They first saw the image after a friend texted him and Judy a snapshot from the film’s trailer earlier this summer.
“For 50 years we’ve been looking for a picture of ourselves, and out of the blue one shows up,” he says. “We’d known each other less than 48 hours when that was taken.”
Adds Judy: “By the time we got out of the car and set up camp, we were into each other, and we basically were together from that point on.”
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The native New Yorkers quickly discovered they had a lot in common, like a shared desire to leave the state and start fresh in California. Five months after the festival they packed up a VW bus and drove cross-country to Los Angeles, where Jerry was starting law school. The Griffins eventually settled in Manhattan Beach, where they’ve lived for 40 years, and were married in December 1975, although they never celebrate that anniversary.
“We always celebrate Aug. 15th — which is also my birthday and the day we met as our anniversary,” says Judy, a retired interior design and architecture teacher at Cal State Northridge.
The iconic festival will always hold a special place in their hearts.
“The experience was so unexpected,” says Jerry. “It was breathtaking how enormous the crowds were. It was such a positive thing that the music almost faded into the background.”
Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation is now available to stream or watch on demand via PBS.