When the Parris Island Marine Band played at Hopelands Gardens on Monday night, some people in the large audience that turned out got to go on a march down memory lane.
Parris Island, where the band is based, is a military installation located on the South Carolina coast that is used for the training of enlisted Marines.
Phil Novotny and Len Palguta were at Parris Island during the 1950s, and they talked about their experiences there while waiting for the concert to start.
Novotny is a member of the Marine Corps League's James L. Hammons Detachment No. 939 in Aiken, and Palguta is a member and former commandant of the Marine Corps League's Riverfront Marines Detachment No. 1132 in North Augusta.
“It was tough mentally and physically,” said Novotny of his time at Parris Island. “After we first got there, when we got our uniforms and haircuts, they told us, ‘80 percent of you people will be dead in 90 days. What you learn here may save your life.' That's why you stuck with it, but it wasn't easy.”
Palguta recalled being afraid when he arrived at Parris Island.
“I was scared I wouldn't make it,” he said. “The DI (drill instructor) told us, ‘There are two ways to get off this island: as a Marine or in a pine box.'”
More than 50 years later, both Novotny and Palguta both said they had no regrets about becoming Marines and going to Parris Island.
They also were looking forward to hearing the Parris Island Marine Band.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” said Novotny, who helped guard the instruments played by the band's members while they ate a meal prior to the concert.
Added Palguta: “We want to be here. When you get your eagle, globe and anchor at boot camp, it (being a Marine) is indelibly etched on your soul.”
The Parris Island Marine Band's performance was part of the Hopelands Summer Concert Series, which began in May and will run through August.
Songs played by the band included “Amazing Grace,” “You're a Grand Old Flag,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God Bless America.”
Jim and Annie Boyce brought their blue Great Dane Blue Boy with them to Monday's event. They also have attended several other presentations during the concert series this year.
“Blue Boy loves it,” Annie Boyce said. “My husband plays the guitar, and he (Blue Boy) likes to hear it. He enjoys music.”
The next installment of the concert series, featuring Oliver West and 39 Express, will be held on Monday, July 14.
All concerts will begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted and will be held at Hopelands Gardens on the Roland H. Windham Performing Arts Stage.
Hopelands Gardens is located at 135 Dupree Place.
In the event of rain, the concerts will be held at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center, 1700 Whiskey Road.
For more information, call 803-642-7631.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.