June 12, 1998
On a pleasant evening the other day, we sat in the courthouse park admiring the new lights around the square and thinking what a lovely asset we have in that grassy, well-cared for oasis in the middle of our compact little downtown area. We were relaxing in the vicinity of the bandstand when one of our group remarked that it must have been like that decades ago when Dr. W C. Marshall led the Perry Community Band in one of its weekly concerts. Someone asked if he correctly understood that the band played from the top of the square pump house a few feet southeast of the bandstand, and I had to disagree. My personal memory of the Perry Community Band places them on a small concrete stage that used to be located where the present stage, a much broader one, is located. Does anyone know if the band also used the top of the pump house for those memorable concerts?
Dr. Marshall also came to mind a few days ago when his daughter, Kitty Foster, passed away at the age of 101. Mrs. Foster was one of our last remaining links to the family that provided this community with a great deal of musical pleasure over a period of many years. The Community Band was one example. All the Marshalls were musical and they took part in various local ensembles. One of these was the American Legion post's Dutch Band, a group that I hope to write about in the future. The Dutch Band was more for fun than musical pleasure. They dressed in outlandish costumes, some wore wigs, and I seem to remember that at least one of them wore a clown suit complete with a fire engine wig and a bulbous red nose.
But Dr. Marshall's summer Community Band was more into serious music, most of it martial airs but also a few waltzes and popular tunes of the day. Early each spring Dr. Marshall, who was a dentist in real life, would announce in The Perry Daily Journal that it was time to assemble again and begin rehearsals for the summer concerts. Anyone of any age was welcome to join the band, but they at least had to read music. Quite a few high school musicians always played, but most of them were adults, and seniors at that, just folks who enjoyed tooting their horns for the enjoyment of the local citizenry. Dr. Marshall led the rehearsals and waved the baton for the concerts in a serious, professional manner.
The music floated on the occasional summer breeze that brought relief to the July and August heat in Perry and provided an excuse for families to come downtown for an evening of free entertainment. Youngsters played tag among the gracious old elm trees that had been thoughtfully planted years earlier by Will Little, and adults visited with friends as the evening went on. Some brought cold drinks and light snacks to share with anyone who stopped by their park bench.
Sousa marches and lilting melodies pleased the ears of listeners, and they were always generous with their applause after each number. We knew the band wasn't ready for Carnegie Hall, but no one cared. It was just an altogether happy time with street lights very much like our new ones providing illumination. The Great Depression may have been on people's minds during the week, but when those Friday night concerts filled the air with music, we were transported to a euphoric reverie accompanied by the brass, reeds, rhythm and percussion of Dr. W .C. Marshall's Perry Community Band. It was a time worth remembering.