Great headlines in history: “Rock festival crowd mushrooming”

Rock Acres article

What a find! An article about Queensborough’s Rock Acres Peace Festival that appeared in the Ottawa Times Aug. 6, 1971. Thanks to Steve Pusiak for unearthing and sharing it!

“New type of grass in pasture” was the headline on a Canadian Press story that appeared in the Ottawa Times on Aug. 6, 1971, about none other than the Rock Acres Peace Festival that happened just outside Queensborough that month. “Rock festival crowd mushrooming” was the smaller “overline,” or “kicker” (as longtime newspaper editors call them) above that headline. As one of those longtime newspaper editors myself, and knowing as I do the kinds of people who write those headlines, and how their minds work, I am pretty sure the editor who wrote them was chortling away about how terribly clever he or she was being in slipping in those not-so-subtle references to illegal substances. Perhaps the editor fancied him/herself quite the hipster. (Note to newspaper editors: no matter what you may think, chances are you’re not a hipster.)

Anyway, I want to thank Steve Pusiak for finding and sending this very entertaining report on Queensborough’s one and (so far) only rock festival. It is an excellent addition to the growing Rock Acres archives here at Meanwhile, at the Manse! (Regular readers will know that I’ve written about that momentous event – which happened when I was 11 years old, growing up at the Manse in Queensborough – several times before. To see previous posts and other Rock Acres-related photos and artifacts, click on the newly created Rock Acres Peace Festival category that you’ll find off to the right of the home page of Meanwhile, at the Manse.)

As I read through this Canadian Press article from the dawn of time – oops, from 1971, I have to suspect that the reporter, and not just his or her editor, was also feeling like a bit of a cool cat in reporting on the happenings down on the Quinlan farm. (I believe the spelling “Quinlin” in the article is incorrect.) There seems to be an eagerness to demonstrate some familiarity with what those long-haired hippies were consuming as they enjoyed their musical weekend in the country, what with the references to drug pedlars and hashish, and maybe even in the grammatically incorrect but possibly written-with-a-wink phrase “an audience estimated as high as 5,000.” And hey, maybe the reporter was really up on (or is that “down with”?) the whole countercultural thing – because he or she certainly has me stumped with this sentence: “Reporters heard drug pedlars softly calling ‘NBA or grass’ to those strolling along the row of tents.”

What the heck is NBA in relation to mind-altering substances (as opposed to professional basketball)? I’ve heard as much drug slang as anyone of my age and background has, I imagine, but that’s a new one on me. This reporter dude was either really in the know or (if he/she mixed up the acronym for acid, i.e. LSD) completely clueless.

Either way, it’s a wonderful piece of vintage reportage, and gives us still more information about Queensborough’s rock festival, which is terrific. My own fairly exhaustive report on Rock Acres here failed, for instance, to mention the appearance of the weird hippie-fundamentalist group the Children of God at the festival, so it’s good to have that brought in (thanks to our roving reporter).

And hey, you just have to love the concluding sentence: “Two general stores in the hamlet of Queensboro [note the spelling!], three miles from the site, are planning to stay open evenings and all day Sunday and have laid in extra supplies for festival fans.” Yup, here in Queensborough we know how to, as the article puts it, “roll with the punch.” The general stores run by Bobbie Sager (later Bobbie Ramsay) and Clayton and Blanche McMurray were often open evenings during my childhood, but on Sunday? Never!

But interesting times – like August 1971 – demand innovation and practicality. And if you’re a storekeeper in a tiny hamlet and thousands of young people have just arrived for some peace, love and music, it only makes sense to keep your store open on Sunday to sell them things to eat and drink.

Because, you know, if they’ve been consuming that NBA, they’re bound to have the munchies.

10 thoughts on “Great headlines in history: “Rock festival crowd mushrooming”

  1. I bet there were a lot of high-fives on the news desk when someone came up with that headline. “You editors!” wife Winnie used to say when I was still in the biz. “You’re only concerned with impressing and outdoing each other.”

  2. Though the reporter may have believed he heard NBA, it was more likely MDA. MDA (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine) was a very popular psychedelic drug in the late 60’s, early 70’s. Not nearly as hallucinogenic as LSD, (which was losing popularity) it came as a pill, lasted for about 4 – 6 hours and cost only a few dollars. It and mescaline were widely available at Rock Acres Peace Festival.

    • Good thought. Raymond wondered if it might be something like that too. But I am currently leaning toward reader Bert’s suggestion that it was “MDA” that the Rock Acres roving reporter heard whispered…

  3. I noticed that urban foxes are posing a concern for central London and that a high school athlete in Morecombe is going to (was) banned from further competition because he’s too good. And, that residents in Hamble celebrated the solo, non-stop 262-day round-the-world voyage by yachtsman Chay Blyth. Very interesting. Nice to catch up on the news!!!

    More seriously, why is an article about Madoc/Queensborough on the foreign news page of the Ottawa Times? Are we that far out in the boonies [aka “sticks”] that we’re considered foreigners?

    The article mentions that the 2 general stores planned extended hours of operation. The post-event rumour was that they managed to sell off a lot of “expired” confectionery, etc.

    • If you look back through many newspapers of that era, GG, you’ll find that the news is a bit of a jumble a lot of the time. Often it was a question of just putting onto a page whatever bits and pieces would fit there. As for the “expired” confectionery, well, I’d never heard that, and hey, so what? Most “expired” items are still perfectly good – and besides, the hippies with the NBA-induced munchies probably couldn’t have cared less! And their money was good for the local economy.

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