Don Beckhart proudly played trombone for four years in the Trojan Marching Band. Was among the first to step down the Coliseum peristyle and play “Conquest.” Marched in the front row of the Rose Parade. And performed in Rose Bowl games.
He left USC with a degree in zoology and the TMB with a lifetime of cherished memories, but without the one thing that most longtime band members cherish most. His jock jacket.
That’s because Don played from 1951-1955, long before jock jackets were an institution and given as recognition for years of dedicated service.
Today, nearly 70 years after graduation, Don finally has his coveted personalized jock jacket, along with a TMB shirt and cap, through the efforts of his daughter, Debbie Penderghast and the Trojan Marching Band Alumni Association.
“When I was at USC, these jackets didn’t exist,” Don says. “To get this jacket now, brings me back to a time in my life that I’ve never forgotten and will always cherish with wonderful memories.”
The effort began when Debbie contacted TMBAA Board Member Robert Campos after her father had visited the new band pavilion, saw the memorabilia on display, and explained how much a jock jacket would mean to him.
“The magic of being a part of the TMB never goes away – 30 -70 years later,” Debbie says. “The memories and wonder never fade and are always there.”
Touched by Don’s story, Bob invited Beckhart and his family to an Associates tailgate party before last year’s UCLA game and worked with fellow board member Betsey Dillon to obtain a custom jacket for Don.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to make a dream come true and to provide long-overdue recognition for a proud alum,” says Betsey, who leads the TMBAA’s jock jacket replacement program. “His memories, like so many of our TMB alums, center around the Rose Bowl, the Rose parade and the Coliseum. It’s fun to help keep them alive.”
As he approaches his 89th birthday, Don recalls his TMB days as if they were yesterday.
“I remember marching in the Rose Parade – five-and-one-half miles. Seeing Tommy Walker, the drum major, strut the entire parade. What great memories,” Don says.
He also recalls performing “Conquest” to a packed Coliseum, possibly for the first time.
“Marching down the peristyle steps playing ‘Conquest.’ I was in the front rank, front row, in front of a packed Coliseum. The people in the Coliseum heard ‘Conquest.’ They had never heard that song before! It was an absolute thrill. ‘Conquest’ is a great trombone number!”
The memories and his Trojan Spirit never waned. For decades Don continued attending TMB performances with his family and children, working his way to a front row position as the band played.
“Growing up a USC kid, I was always around USC memorabilia and TMB music,” Debbie says. “Whenever the TMB was performing there was my father, in full view of their performance, dancing and smiling like he was still a member of the band.”
His Trojan ties – with a bit of help from the TMB – even led to his grandson Garrett’s decision to attend USC.
Garrett, who was born on the day of the USC-UCLA football game in 1999, will graduate in May with a degree in international relations. He had once planned to enroll at UCLA, but changed his mind after attending a Welcome Weekend event for prospective students with his mom.
As Garrett stood among prospective students on the steps facing Alumni Park, what appeared to be the entire Trojan Marching Band showed up along with the USC song girls and cheerleaders, Debbie recalls.
“There was Garrett, standing in the front row, watching and listening to the TMB play ‘Tusk,’ ‘Conquest,’ and more. The smile broke out that told me this is the university Garrett would choose.
“I stood there with tears streaming down my face. As I watched the TMB, I looked at the trombone section and I could see my 18-year-old father. The tears kept flowing. I finally understand the joy my father feels in being a TMB alum. I could see and feel how much fun these TMB players were having. The Spirit of Troy is just that magical!”
Flash forward four years to next month, when Don’s grandson Garrett graduates – and attends the Dornsife ceremony on Cromwell Field no less – and you can be sure Don will be wearing that coveted jock jacket,
Debbie hopes that today’s students recognize that today’s TMB experience creates tomorrow’s memories.
“They are making memories that will last a lifetime! Watching my father 67 years after he graduated from USC, as he sees and hears the USC TMB, he’s smiling, remembering, tapping his feet. Thanks for the joy the TMB has brought my father! Thank you, Betsey and Bob for all you have given to my father to honor him! I am profoundly touched and grateful!”
Editor’s note: Have you lost, misplaced or outgrown your jock jacket? The Trojan Marching Band Alumni Association is again planning to make replacement jackets available for purchase to alums who have marched at least three years in the TMB. Interested: Contact [email protected]