More Goose Lake Memories

I can still remember my real estate agent telling me that the house in Hamtramck I’d bought would be “empty and broom-clean.” If by “empty and broom-clean” you mean “jammed with furniture and littered with belongings,” fair enough. A year has gone by and I’m still making discoveries every time I start rooting through the rooms, trying to ascertain where the floor is under decades of old clothes, faded books and other ephemera.

Well, a little bit of gold fell into our laps last night. Jammed inside an old Detroit Free Press announcing MAN WALKS ON MOON, I found this Thursday, Aug. 20, 1970 edition of The Macomb Daily. I’m not all excited about the front-page coverage of the “Michigan Murders,” though I did read up on it.

No, it turns out that August 1970 was notable for more than the conviction of the “Co-Ed Killer.” It so happens that another news item that month was the recent Goose Lake International Music Festival. As Mark Deming described it for Metro Times, in a story that, five years after its publication, still gets several fresh comments each year, Goose Lake “was held in Jackson, Michigan, and attracted over 200,000 fans. Unlike Woodstock, it didn’t rain and most of those folks actually paid to get in. Despite this, Goose Lake remains an obscure footnote in Midwestern rock history, the big show that hardly anyone outside Michigan has heard about.”

At the time, open drug use at the festival caused a great deal of controversy, and politicians and newspaper headlines screamed about “drug pushers” at the concert. Some people called for banning such festivals altogether. It seems like being caught between 18 and 21 in metro Detroit at that time was a real drag, between hoping you wouldn’t be drafted and hoping the cops wouldn’t bust you for smoking weed. And when tens of thousands of completely normal, pot-smoking teenagers convene to hear live music, you know there’s going to be trouble. There was. Goose Lake saw more than 160 arrests for possession or sale of drugs, and the promoter of the event was eventually indicted for promoting drug sales. “No Fun” indeed.

Anyway, it so happens that this old newspaper I found, published less than two weeks after the festival, had a few very interesting letters to the editor. The main one was titled “Rock Festivals Defended.” A letter-writer identified only as “D.A., St. Clair Shores” took aim at the sanctimonious hypocrisy of those who would ban outdoor music festivals in the name of fighting drug use.

I have been reading articles and letters about the Goose Lake rock festival. It’s really funny because these people writing letters go from one extreme to the other.

Authorities are so up-tight about the drug sales. Are they also up-tight about those kids who do it in their own home or on the street every day? These kids are countless thousands. It seems as though authorities “turn their heads the other way” about such usage. ...

You’re blaming all this on the people responsible for the happenings at Goose Lake, but I don’t think the blame is on all of us. Those who called authorities on the outside had a little to do with it, and I’m not talking just about the men in blue.

It seems to me not much harm came from the festival. True, 163 persons have been caught for selling drugs illegally. Would these people have been caught if it were not for this festival? Maybe sooner or later, but they could have done a lot more harm than they already had.

How do you think the kids will react if the festivals are outlawed in Michigan? Where are we supposed to find refuge? I use the word “refuge” because maybe the kids who went there are tired of their surroundings that offer the kids “so much.” We have nothing to do and then you wonder why kids are drawn to these things.

The “adults” of our country think these doings outrageous. Who led us this way? Certainly not ourselves. If they have problems they drown them in booze or take it out on someone. Now that kids are thinking on their own, they don’t like it.

I think the kids of today are on the right track. World peace is needed between the nations, states, and most of all between people. How are we ever going to achieve this if we are always going to be cut down for everything we do? The adults ask us to grow up and realize what life is. We have. Why don’t they?

Another letter, this one from MRS. D.S. of Roseville, seems absolutely decades ahead of its time.

Concerning all this talk about festivals, who is to blame? The people are. When election time comes, why don’t they wake up and go vote, not just talk.

The only thing to do is put the laws back as they were.

Marijuana was perfectly legal up until 1937 when a few states had regulated its use, and we didn’t have half the trouble we do today. Years ago they took away liquor and it only made the underworld rich, and this led to corruption in public office.

Pot is really as American as apple pie. Just where today can the youth go without being run out by police? The youth can go to war, at 18, but they can’t vote or go in bars.

You, the people, are to blame for what is happening today. You didn’t have time to look around, and when you did, it was too late.

Here we are, 43 years later, and jurisdictions around the country are decriminalizing marijuana, just as this Mrs. D.S. suggests. And music festivals? That’s part of our bread and butter in this town, from one-offs like Orion to staples like Movement to our own humble Blowout. It’s quite heartening to find little relics like this that show people were way ahead of the curve.

Sometimes, when you look at history, it seems that the “uptight” people who were in charge really ran the show. Little discoveries like this show that, basically, a few people always had the good sense to question them. So, hey, 43 years later, thanks, D.A. Thanks, Mrs. D.S. You were right. And you made my day on this fine morning in 2013!

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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