UW-Stout News Story

Alumnus chronicles Woodstock memories, impact in film

August 14, 2012

In the summer of 1969, U.S. forces were fighting in Vietnam, two American astronauts walked on the moon for the first time, a rock concert was planned for rural upstate New York and Joe Nolan turned 17 years old.

Nolan, who graduated from UW-Stout five years later in 1974, was a rock and roll fan who lived in Islip, N.Y., 150 miles from Woodstock. When he and his best friend heard about the rock concert Aug. 15-18 that year, they received permission to go from their parents, bought tickets, packed up and headed for adventure.

They were joined by at least another half-million people on the 600-acre farm for what has become an iconic event in American history.

Despite the hot, humid and rainy weather and that they missed hearing some of the biggest names — Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin — the Woodstock experience was unforgettable. Nolan curses himself for not having the foresight to bring a camera.

Joe NolanSince that formative summer, Nolan has made repeated pilgrimages to the site, usually sans camera. But not until he attended the 41st anniversary of the concert in 2010 — with video camera in hand — did he decide to turn his memories and personal milestones into the documentary “A Woodstock Memoir.”

His documentary not only is about the concert — “How it fit into the ’60s and how Woodstock and the ’60s fit into all the time since” — but also about how the events of that decade fit into and affected his life, he said.

The 1½-hour documentary is self-financed and produced and includes some footage of the 1969 concert. It also covers significant social, political, technological and medical developments from the 1960s to the present. To many people, Nolan said, it “carries an antiwar message.”

It includes performances from anniversary concerts at the original site and interviews with Woodstock veterans and those who have adopted the Woodstock spirit, he said.

To learn more about the documentary, go to http://woodstockmemoir.com.

UW-Stout’s Clock Tower makes a cameo appearance in the film.

How did a teenager from New York end up going to school in west-central Wisconsin? Nolan didn’t plan to go to college, but one of his high school teachers, Frank Darzano, a UW-Stout alumnus, made sure he applied. Nolan did, was accepted and “decided to give Stout a try. I’m glad I did. It changed my whole life,” he said.

Wisconsin suited Nolan, as did UW-Stout, he said. He was allowed to “slowly evolve and develop into a respectable student,” and the education he received readied him for a responsible position in industry he said.

Nolan works as a salesman in the plastics packaging industry and lives in Hohokus, N.J.

He also met his wife, Dixie Tolleson Nolan, on campus. She graduated in 1975. They have been married for 36 years.

Nolan’s fond memories of UW-Stout include instructor Lloyd Wydotski who was “old school, an excellent craftsman and just a very nice person who knew what he was talking about.”

Wydotski taught Nolan how to bind books by hand — books that he still has. Ace Matthews, who taught speech, was a “great teacher and an unforgettable character with a kind, genuine soul,” Nolan said.

###

View all news items