British Columbia

Vancouver Island woman says she's the woman in classic Woodstock photo

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Many will remember the iconic photo of a couple embracing in the crowds. Comox, B.C. resident Jessie Kerr says she's the woman in the photo.

Jessie Kerr said she didn't know she was in the picture until friends contacted her

Comox, B.C. resident Jessie Kerr says she's the woman in this classic Woodstock photo, which was taken by Burk Uzzle. It appeared on the cover of the album, 'Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More.' (Burk Uzzle)

In some ways, Woodstock defined a generation — the festival embraced peace, love and rock n' roll.

The upstate New York music festival celebrates 50 years this week, and its connection to B.C. might be stronger than you think.

For years, an American couple, Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, have said they are the pair pictured on the legendary album cover Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More.

The Ercolines, who married after Woodstock, are even volunteer guides at the Bethel Woods museum, part of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which owns the Woodstock festival site.

Now, a Comox, B.C., woman, Jessie Kerr, says she's the woman in the photo from all those years ago.

"I had no desire to let people know that I was [in the photo] ... I wanted it to stay an iconic photo, and I was a teacher and I didn't want anyone to know that I had been to Woodstock," said Kerr.

Woodstock was expected to draw 50,000 people — but in a single weekend, the festival attracted more than 400,000 people. (Submitted by Linda Goldman)

Kerr said she hitchhiked from Montreal to Bethel, N.Y., to attend the festival in August 1969, when she was 20. She said she didn't actually know she was in the picture until friends started to contact her about it.

"When the picture came out, my mother actually was [walking] by a marquee and saw this picture and thought ... that's my daughter," said Kerr.

Her mother recognized the dress she was wearing, which, she said, they made together.

The man she's embracing was from Boston, she said. They were hugging because it was chilly and had just rained. She said she met the man, named John, in Montreal and he suggested going to Woodstock.

"I said, what's a music festival?" Kerr recalled.

By the time they arrived, she said there was no gate, so they just walked in and there were thousands of people there.

"People were friendly, warm, funny ... it felt safe ... I felt in the midst of a lot of idealists like me," Kerr said.

Setting the record straight

Victoria, B.C., author Jerry Kruz, who wrote the 2014 book The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters & Recollections, believes it is Kerr, not the American couple in the classic photo.

"I met Jessie when I was 15 years old ... she took off to Montreal, and then to Woodstock ... I wanted to set the history right, by putting that [in the book]," said Kruz.

Some of Kerr's most vivid memories are of watching Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix.

"It was exciting, fun and I love music," Kerr said as she laughed. "They were my heroes, all revolutionaries."

With files from The Early Edition

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.