Fifty years ago, Judy and Jerry Griffin met on their way to Woodstock (1969). They have been together ever since and have been telling their family and friends about their amazing story. Their romantic meet-cute never had any physical proof, until two months ago.
On day one of Woodstock, August 15, 1969, Judy was on her way to the festival when her car broke down on New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge. She was still 90 miles from the festival when she and her two friends decided to hitchhike.
“I was just thinking, ‘Damn, now we can’t go,’ and we were dying to,” Judy, 71, remembers. “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.’ “
Jerry and a group of his friends were driving in the VW Beetle that picked Judy and her friends up. He felt like his luck 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, laughing.
That was the beginning of a 50 years long relationship of love and marriage, including two sons and five grandchildren.
The couple never had a picture of them together at the festival, until last summer. The PBS documentary Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation showed a picture of Judy and Jerry both soaked from the rain and under a blanket.
They first became aware of the picture earlier last summer when a friend texted them a snapshot from the film’s trailer. “For 50 years we’ve been looking for a picture of ourselves, and out of the blue one shows up,” Jerry says. “We’d known each other less than 48 hours when that was taken.”
“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,” Judy adds.
Both native New Yorkers, the couple quickly discovered they had a lot of things in common. For instance, they both wanted to leave New York and move out to California. Just 5 months after Woodstock they drove their VW van to Los Angeles, where Jerry was going to start law school. Eventually, they settled in Manhattan Beach, where they have lived for 40 years now. They got married in December 1975, however, they do not celebrate that anniversary date.
“We always celebrate Aug. 15th — which is also my birthday and the day we met as our anniversary,” Judy, a retired interior design and architecture teacher at Cal State Northridge, says.
The incredible festival of 1969 will always have a special meaning to them. “The experience was so unexpected,” Jerry says. “It was breathtaking how enormous the crowds were. It was such a positive thing that the music almost faded into the background.”