Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Naperville Area Schools in 1966

With Naperville’s population booming in the 1960’s, it soon became obvious that the current schools would not be sufficient for educating the children of all these new families.

In 1966, the city was educating 6,267 students, but they were already running out of room even though  several new schools and additions to older schools were being built. Voters okayed a $1,049,375 referendum to build Mill Street Elementary School which broke ground in 1966. Mill welcomed its first students in the fall of 1967 even though it wasn’t yet completed.
Mill Street School of course is named after Mill Street which in turn was named after Joseph Naper’s mill on the banks of the DuPage River. It was originally a saw mill to build the city Naper envisioned, but it was later a grist mill for grinding flour.

While the school took the Mill Street name, it was dedicated to Edna C. Wunder who was a student in Naperville as well as a teacher and principal. Her 45 year career started in 1896 when she was hired as a Naperville teacher for $35 per month. Later, she was principal at Naper Academy and Ellsworth school before retiring in 1941.

Local higher education also got a boost in 1966 with both College of DuPage and Waubonsee Community College launching that year.

Neither school held classes until 1967, but they were pulling together staff and resources that first year.

The Waubonsee name was chosen from 600 entries in a “name the school” contest. It means “early day” and was the name of a local Pottawatomie chief.

Rodney K. Berg was the first president of COD, overseeing the early years and the establishment of the Glen Ellyn campus. Before then, classes were held in various rented spaces and students had to run all over town to attend class. Which is why the COD mascot is a roadrunner!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Naperville 50 Years Ago — Joining the Police Force

There were fewer Naperville citizens in 1966 and a much smaller police force of about a dozen, but a very familiar face started his career that year.

While he later he served as our long-time mayor, Arthur George Pradel became a Naperville police officer on June 1, 1966.

He very nearly didn’t make it. At five foot two, George was not tall enough to meet the height requirement. But Harold Moser, who served on the Police Board, made an exception. Moser said:  “If he’s tall enough for the Marine Corp, he’s tall enough for me.”

Already a family man, George and Pat were living in Naperville while George traveled into Chicago to work at a Texaco warehouse every day and then volunteered at night for the Oak Park Terrace police department.

When one night a week became three, Pat told him “If you love this so much, why don’t you apply to the Naperville police department which is closer?” George completed law enforcement classes at College of DuPage and then applied for the job.

The first month was a probationary period so he continued his “day job” while patrolling at night.

At that time, the Police Department was housed in part of the Fire Department building on Jefferson Avenue, where Lou Malnati’s is. It was a fairly new building having been completed in 1957 after three years of construction. There was a gun range in the basement and the Naperville Chamber had offices there at one time as well. 

Like many officers at the time, George worked extra jobs to support his family such as making donuts at Tasty Bakery before his shift and delivering flowers for Trudy’s during the holidays.

George served 29 years as a Naperville Police Officer. When he retired, he asked the man who gave him his start “How’d I do?” Moser replied: “I never had a doubt.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Naperville 50 Years Ago — The Park District


Dr. Robert Steunenberg1966 was also the year our Park District was born. Park districts weren’t a novel idea — Chicago launched it’s first incarnations in the 1850’s. While a little rural town didn’t need a park district in the nineteenth century, as Naperville became more suburban, visionaries started considering ways to preserve parkland for the citizens.

Dr. Robert Steunenberg was one of those visionaries. A WWII vet who was marooned for 30 days after his ship LST 808 sank, he later became  a research chemist at Argonne. After initiating studies in 1964, he was instrumental in forming the Park District and also served as commissioner.

Ernest NanceA referendum passed in December of 1966 to establish a Naperville Park District, but the first 31 programs weren’t offered until 1968. That first year, 3,000 people participated at a time when Naperville’s population was about 18,000.

In 1967, the Park District purchased it’s first property, the Fraley farm, which later became Springbrook Golf Course. Frank Fraley was a long-time Wheatland Township farmer who passed away that same year. He and his wife Jenny were among those who organized the Naperville Rural Life Progress Club in 1917.

Naperville Board of Park CommissionersErnie Nance was our first Director with a newly-minted Masters degree in Park and Recreation Administration and previous experience in the Mundelein Park District. He later moved on to other park districts across the country, winning numerous awards. In his last years, he was Executive Director of the Illinois Conservation, Park and Recreation Foundation.

Dorthea Weigand was the  sole woman on the first Board of Park Commissioners and was re-elected for a second six-year term in 1971. Enthusiastically committed to the Naperville Park District, Weigand has lovely park named after her on south Washington Street near Ring Road.

The Naperville Park District has big plans for their anniversary year from selling wine at the Riverwalk Café to the completion of the Fort Hill Activity Center.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Naperville 50 Years Ago -- The Barn

1966 was a remarkable time — even in our little town. At the beginning of a development explosion,  Naperville’s population grew 75% during that decade, from 12,933 to 22,617.

One of the remarkable things Naperville did was build The Barn. Technically, the project was finished in December of 1965 but it was highlighted in the 1966 high school yearbook, “Arrowhead.”

Today we think of
it as a location for Park District programs, but The Barn was actually developed by “youths of the community” with an adult advisory board.

Instead of tax money, 300 students went door-to-door  to sell $48,000 in general obligation bonds, “the largest sum ever raised in Naperville.”

There were some hiccups during the project, including a couple of location changes when residents protested the barn look and the anticipated loud rock ‘n roll music. At one point, a disgusted Mayor Zaininger walked out of a City Council meeting when he couldn’t get support for The Barn’s lease petition.

Eventually an agreement was reached and Naperville Youth Organization, Inc. was given a 20-year lease at $10 a year.

Teens, both male and “muscle-bound suffragettes,” joined adult volunteers to haul brick and boards and do “anything they can” to raise the shell and finish the inside in time to have their first dance on December 4,1965. It was extremely well-attended.

Teen centers like this were popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s and many towns had a similar venue for kids to hear local bands. The Barn sold memberships, special event tickets and refreshments to pay ongoing expenses.

In 2010, “Barnstock” brought back a bunch of bands from 1965 to 1973 to relive The Barn’s glory days. Perhaps something similar will happen once more before The Barn is torn down after this year’s Last Fling is over.

Throughout this year we’ll look back on how remarkable 1966 was in Naperville’s history.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Old Naperville Gossip about Colorado Beer Baron

If you were a Chicagoan of drinking age in 1980,  you remember how chic it was to drink Coors before it was legally distributed east of the Mississippi.

If you are a Naperville history buff, you’ve heard that Adolph Coors worked in one of our own breweries before he went to Colorado.

But perhaps you haven’t heard the whole story — and maybe none of us ever will.

The Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado takes visitors on a tour that includes an historical museum. You won’t find Naperville named in any of the placards, but if you talk to the tour guides, some of them have heard of our town. And some tell an “off the record” tale. 

Adolph Kohrs, as he was christened, immigrated from Prussia in 1868. Some stories say he was a stowaway, disembarking in Maryland.

Both of his parents died a few years earlier, but he did have siblings. Brother William eventually followed him to Colorado and joined the business.

Americanizing his name to “Coors,” Adolph made his way to Chicago and on to Naperville, which had seen a wave of German settlers in the 1840’s. 

Adolph spent three years at Stenger Brewery as a highly paid brewmaster before quitting. The local story is that while Stenger hoped to add Adolph to the family business, Adolph wasn’t interested in marrying a Stenger daughter. 

In Golden, it’s whispered that Adolph liked the Stenger girls just fine, but he wasn’t marriage-minded. Getting out of town was a decision to preserve his health and pretty face!
Adolph Coors 
Adolph became very successful, but Prohibition nearly wiped him out. The company eked out a living making malted milk and other non-alcoholic items.

Before Prohibition was repealed and even before the stock market crashed, eighty-two year old Adolph went out a sixth-story hotel window in Virginia Beach. Contemporary accounts wouldn’t or couldn’t say whether he fell, jumped or was thrown.

Passing years have shrouded the facts. Now the story of Adolph Coors is a tale to tell the next time you share a beer with friends.