History-making summer of ‘69 was still potatoes and pitching in Northeast Michigan

While the world changed ... Alpena just moved along

At right, Hart is seen in a recent photo.

ALPENA — For those who lived it, the summer of 1969 was one for the books.

History was being made at a quickening pace across the nation, but life in Alpena moved along as usual.

That summer, as man first walked on the surface of the moon and hundreds of thousands danced at Woodstock and Mary Jo Kopechne died in a car crash at Chappaquiddick, 485 students graduated from Alpena High School, 96 students graduated from Catholic Central, Paula Maxwell was crowned Miss Alpena and Mary Rouleau was named the Boys’ Club’s strawberry dessert contest winner for the second time, according The News’ archives.

Dale Hart, who currently serves as Sanborn Township’s fire chief, was pitching at a Huron Shores Little League game the weekend of the moon landing, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969.

According to The News’ archives, Hart, who “had been taking his knocks up until that time suddenly settled down to slam the door on West Branch’s late blooming rally.” Hart played a key role in helping his team win that game, and subsequently win the area Little League Championship for the third time.

Courtesy Photos Above, Dale Hart provided this photo of the Huron Shores Little League team he played with in 1969, at age 13. Hart now serves as the Sanborn Township fire chief.

Hart said he would have been 13 years old at the time. He remembers playing baseball for Huron Shores, but doesn’t remember that particular game.

However, he remembers the moon landing “was just a great day for the world.”

Alpena resident Richard Clute was one of 400,000 people to attend Woodstock, a first-of-its-kind music festival held in Bethel, New York. Clute attended the massive festival with his friend, Bill Gnodtke, who had purchased the tickets.

He said he remembers hearing Joan Biaz and Ravi Shankar and he remembers the size of the crowd at the festival.

“It was an amazing time,” he recently told The News. “I remember being handed a hotdog, of which I took a bite and passed it on, and a Budweiser beer, which I took a drink of and passed it on, because we shared. That was the ethos of the days there. It was amazing and uncomfortable and hot and challenging, and I remember so fondly the people. The local people were so good.”

At right, Clute is seen in a recent photo.

Clute said residents of a farmhouse had hooked a hose from their laundry room and put it out the basement window so people could drink water as they walked by. He said he also slept one night in a barn, which he doesn’t remember how he found.

“I remember leaving, saying, ‘What did we just do?'” he said.

That summer, around 20,000 people made their way to the Posen Potato Festival, which was the largest crowd ever drawn to the festival at that time.

The number of entries in the festival’s parade also peaked that year, at 47 units, which spanned one-and-a-half miles at its full length.

Posen resident Nancy Green remembers the health inspector had been to the township hall and had condemned the cookware. She said the cookware needed to be stainless steel, but it was so close to the festival, it would have been impossible to replace.

Courtesy Photo The inset photo above, provided by Alpena Resident Richard Clute, depicts a ticket from the first Woodstock music festival in 1969.

“Someone commented, ‘Where can we get enough cookware to feed an army?'” she remembered.

Green said they thought they were going to have to cancel the pancake breakfast. But, then, Green’s friend, Dan Jore, who was in charge of the armory in Alpena at the time, allowed them to borrow enough cookware

“Irwin Styma drove his potato truck to the armory and brought them back,” she said. “The pancake breakfast went ahead as scheduled.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.


Courtesy Photos Above, this photo provided by Richard Clute shows Clute’s friend, William Gnodkte, while attending the Woodstock music festival in 1969. Gnodkte bought the tickets for the both of them to go.

The Apollo 10 mission, a dress rehearsal for the moon landing, takes place and transmits the first color pictures from space.

In Alpena: City police were called to investigate a breaking-and-entering on First Avenue, where an estimated $500 and an undetermined number of silver dollars were stolen. The culprit had also consumed a quantity of beer while at the home. Police had little information to go on.


President Richard Nixon announces the withdrawal of 25,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam.

In Alpena: Mill workers and laboratory employees with Huron Cement Co. ratify a two-year work contract through which union members received a raise of 95 cents per hour.


Niel Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The mission also included astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

In Alpena: Huron Shores wins its third area Little League Championship with a “heart-stopping 12-11 victory over West Branch.”


Nearly 400,000 people attend the first Woodstock music festival held at a farm in Bethel, New York.

In Alpena: The Alpena County Fair gets underway. Also, the Alcona County Sheriff’s Office begins investigating a rash of malicious destruction incidents that occured between Lincoln and Hubbard Lake.