Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Random Last Round-Up of 1966

Before we bid farewell to our look at 1966, here are a few random things that happened that year. It was a weird and wonderful time!

The National Historic Preservation Act became law when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed off on it in October of 1966. While there were some similar actions taken before this — for instance, Teddy Roosevelt’s commitment to preserving our nation’s natural resources and archeological sites — this law encompassed a wide-range of things to be preserved. It established institutions like the National Register of Historic Places, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Earlier in the year, Jacqueline Susann released her blockbuster book “Valley of the Dolls.” The movie appeared already by the following year because “Dolls” was such a huge hit. While not very PC by today’s standards, it dished on sensational subjects like fame, drugs and sex that were a revelation to mid-sixties America and still relevant today.

This year Brookfield Zoo celebrated their 50th year of offering Mold-A-Rama figures. If you’re from Chicago, you probably made one in your youth and know that hot, waxy smell. “Miniature plastic factories” really took off at the New York City World’s Fair a few years before, but Chicago has the closest relationship. There are only a few places left that feature these antique machines. Brookfield offered special edition figures throughout the anniversary year, including the 1966 Walrus.

Peppermint Patty also made her debut during the summer of 1966. She was the first female Peanuts character to not wear a dress — a nod to the growing women’s movement. Patty was unconventional in many ways, including having a particular close relationship with her single-parent dad.

2016 comes to a close soon and no one knows what 2017 has in store, let alone what 2066 will be like. It’s amazing the things that seem odd and the things that remain familiar over a fifty year period. Can’t wait to see what unfolds!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Another Look at Naperville in 1966

We’ve been talking about how Naperville looked fifty years ago. Here are a few more notes about 1966:

  • Bev Patterson Frier received the Naperville Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement recognition at the Small Business of the Year Awards in 2011. Bev has run several businesses, but her first was the Fabric Inn which opened in 1966 in the space on Washington Street where Room 363 currently operates.

  • While they trace their history back to 1890, it was in 1966 that the Phoenix Metal Cap Company changed their name to Phoenix Closures. Phoenix Closures is a current NACC member.Edward Hospital completed a new addition in 1966 — and have been adding ever since. During that summer, the hospital treated Lillian Grace Avery, the country’s first Medicare recipient.
  • A Bavarian family named Keller started farming here in 1852 and had a farm on Ogden Avenue where they sold produce from a roadside table. They sold that land in 1966, but continue to farm in the area and now sell their produce at several Keller Farmstands.

While there were certainly growing pains fifty years ago — it was the ‘60s, after all — Naperville worked through the issues to move ahead. 1966 was an especially exciting year in the city’s history and a launchpad for much of the growth we continue to enjoy today. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Naperville’s 1966 Population Boom

Naperville had already started its growth spurt, but 1966 certainly accelerated the boom. 

In August, 700 employees started work at Indian Hill Bell Labs, known more recently as Lucent. Later in the year, Amoco Chemicals asked the city to annex160 acres for them to build a research facility. 

The city also annexed 210 acres that were owned by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Immediately, Nabisco purchased some of that land although the plant wouldn’t be completed until 1968. There are car dealerships and light industry in that section as well as the new Fort Hill Activity Center. 

Naperville certainly didn’t have enough housing for the employees who were working all these new jobs. Harold Moser had already been developing subdivisions like Aero Estates, Maplebrook and Cress Creek since the mid-1950s, but 1966 was better than ever for Moser and his competitors. 

Naperville beat neighboring suburbs in the number of  building permits issued for several months in a row that year. New homes were built in Saybrook, Maplebrook, Longwood and Century Hill. 

“New England” styles were popular — and for a good reason. Many of Bell Lab’s transferees were from the east coast.

Ken Small was Bell’s public relations supervisor at the time. He took city and school officials out to New Jersey to help families get comfortable with the move. Small himself fell in love with Naperville and served as mayor from 1971 until 1975.

In one article about new homes in Century Hill, the reporter wrote that “Naperville retains many small town customs, such as summer band concerts in the park and ice cream socials.” 

While the price of homes here have certainly changed, it’s nice to know some things stayed the same.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Naperville Folks Watched on TV 50 Years Ago

I've been writing about the remarkable number of events that happened in the Naperville area in 1966, including the inception of the Park District, Summer Place Theatre and the new municipal band shell. With the start of the fall television season, I got to wondering what shows folks watched on their console television sets 50 years ago. 

The 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek” series, which first aired on September 8, 1966, has been getting a lot of media attention, but there were plenty of other shows that debuted during that same season. Many of them you may remember watching, but there are a few that have completely fallen out our collective memory.

“The Monkees” and “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” were both new that year. The spin-off “Girl” only lasted one season. While they certainly stayed popular, “The Monkees” TV show was only on the air until 1968. Two other shows that debuted in 1966 were “That Girl” and “Family Affair,” both of which stayed on the schedule until 1971. 

This was the era of goofy comedies. The creators of “Gilligan’s Island” reused props, sets and music for a new show in 1966 that was called “It’s About Time.” It starred Imogene Coca as a cavewoman named Shag who welcomed a couple of astronauts who accidentally went back in time. A second time-travel show, “The Time Tunnel,” also started that fall, although it wasn't a comedy. Neither one made it past the first season. 

“Mission: Impossible” was also a new 1966 show, long before it was rebooted as a movie. It wound up self-destructing messages until 1973.

Other TV shows you may remember from that season were:

  • The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
  • The Rat Patrol
  • The Green Hornet
  • The Phyllis Diller Show

In addition to goofy comedies, time travel and space fantasy, westerns were still popular. “Pistols ’n’ Petticoats” is a show most people won’t remember. “Rango,” about an inept sheriff, starred Tim Conway. It sounds like it should have been fun, but it was once ranked among the 50 Worst Shows of All Time by TV Guide

1966 was the first season to show nearly all the prime time programs in "living" color. Earlier in the year, “Dark Shadows” began, but since “Shadows” was a daytime soap opera, it was filmed in black and white for another year. 

Since there was no way to record TV shows, folks would have to miss their favorite to go out at night and many of us never saw these shows the first time around. Instead, we became familiar with them through endless reruns. It's kind of fun to think of what Naperville folks were watching during this extraordinary time in our history.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Naperville's First Last Fling

The Barbershoppers float
We’ve been looking at what happened in Naperville 50 years ago in 1966. Yet another great local tradition that started in that year was summer’s Last Fling celebration.

Rick Motta, who owned a barbershop and was involved with the Chamber of Commerce, led the Chamber in organizing a community-wide parade and party, inspired by the movie “Picnic.”

After a parade complete with floats, they held a picnic with a few carnival-type activities in the parking lot at Centennial Beach. 

Motta headed the Chamber’s Last Fling committee for six years and helped the event grow into a four-day-long festival. 

The Chamber of Commerce passed the organization of the Last Fling on to the Jaycees in 1981 and they have been throwing Naperville’s end-of-summer party ever since. 

The Lions Club Float
Rick Motta still runs a barbershop in town and is still a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was chosen to be the Grand Marshall of the 2015 Labor Day Parade in honor of his earlier service. 

Last Fling 2016 will be held from Friday, September 2 through Monday, September 5. This year’s Labor Day parade starts at 10:00am on September 2. 

The Grand Marshall chosen for 2016 is the Naperville Park District, which is also celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. 

While the Fling has grown into a huge event, there are still many home-town activities to enjoy such as the Diaper Derby and the Spaghetti-eating contest. Check out their website for details and enjoy summer’s Last Fling!
Bev Frier accepts 1967 trophy for the Fabric Inn float from Rick Motta.