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Once upon a time ... an idyllic island


Once upon a time in America, in Bucks County not long ago, there existed a social and cultural phenomenon akin to the historic event, the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 that defined a generation.

What characterized this time (of perhaps a 30-year duration extended another 10 years by the disco period of the 1990s) was the desire and the natural ease of freedom to enjoy social interaction. The social interactions of laughter, dancing, dressing up, experimenting, philosophizing and grooving with the original authentic music of Pink Floyd, Credence and Sergeant Pepper.

This “once in the world” grew from that mysterious ether in the air that rarely comes along to saturate, envelope entire peoples’ minds and spirit – that mysteries are real, that creative fantasies enrich the spirit, that anything was possible, that to be a ‘character’ was expected.

In 1972, my Delaware River roaming led me to discover Hendricks Island, at the time owned by PECO, situated must north of Centre Bridge. It’s a beautiful large island, a quiet paradise of natural ways, soft leaves and piles of deposited debris. The island is a quarter mile wide by three-quarter mile north and south. There is a grove of 7-foot diameter tulip poplar, a farm ruins and impenetrable thickets, the domain of deer that snort when you come upon them.

I decided in 1972 to share this island by giving an island party. The party became famous for over a 10-year period – a following emerged.

This party was my and the following’s Woodstock happening. All that I could physically provide with help of volunteers – torches to light the path, a generator to run the overhead Christmas lights, to power the musical sounds with speakers strapped to the trees and the 16mm movies (art films) projected against a bed sheet. There’s a memory of the faint bell-like metallic rustle of beer kegs rolled down the riverbank.

These parties were expression of the existence of an elevated native mind/body desire. The joy of felt consciousness that was not “tried” or orchestrated but an organic natural human need to experience to enjoy, to unify, and participate – was unanimous. There were moments observing what the crowd vibrated as a single being as one sees in nature’s creatures. The ether of the air.

I never once had problems for, as at Woodstock, the human spirit shook hands with the ether of the moment and of the times.

The police would come by every year, talk to volunteers who knew them, warning that there were copperhead snakes on the island and then leave. For they too were under the all-powerful benevolent influence of the good ether in the air of those times.

John Brown lives in Point Pleasant.

Editor’s note: The farm that thrived on Hendricks Island was destroyed in the flood of 1955. At the time, it was owned by author Arthur Koestler whose novel “Darkness at Noon” was a best seller in the 1940s. The book focused on the negative influence of authoritarian governments.