Briefly from Around the State

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Naperville's #1 Cheerleader: Mayor Pradel

 A. George Pradel has been Naperville’s Mayor for twenty years and the city’s biggest cheerleader for even longer.
Most Chamber of Commerce members know that, before becoming Mayor, he served on our police force. There’s even a statue of him as “Officer Friendly” on the grounds of Washington Junior High. But did you know that once upon a time he also was a business owner himself ?

In the 1960’s, a young couple named George and Pat ran a little hot dog stand on Main Street in the space currently occupied by Lil’ J’s Bohemia. The Pow Wow had two small booths and a stand-up counter, providing hungry patrons with steamed hot dogs, chili dogs and fries.

In addition to running the Pow Wow, they were raising three young children and George was attending the College of DuPage to further his police career. After a few years, Pat and George decided that being in the restaurant business was not their passion and they sold it to one of their employees. Pat went on to an office career that included a stint with Service Master and George continued with the police department.
Through the years that  Mayor Pradel has presided over ribbon cuttings, he has sported a variety of fashions including:  a Marine Corp sweatshirt, a fresh St. Baldrick’s shave, a crazy tie from his extensive collection and, of course, his Chamber Ambassador jackets. (He’s been through a few logo changes!)
Mayor Pradel always loves to include any available children in a ribbon cutting and he makes everyone giggle when he boasts that, while Chicago is also a Five Star Chamber, “we were here first!”

For years, the Mayor “cut” ribbons with a giant pair of purely ornamental wooden scissors which were kept painted and repaired by our Ambassador Emeritus Dale Yamauchi, but in recent years, he’s used a metal pair that actually does cut.  He’s also cut other things in lieu of a ribbon including a two by four and a loaf of bread!

Opening a new business will always be exciting and Ambassdors look forward to learning the new routine. But you have to admit, we’re going to miss hearing that familiar voice gleefully booming:

“WEL-come to NA-perville!”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Naperville and Mr. Lincoln

On Monday, President’s Day, the Naper Settlement tweeted about the “urban legend” of Abraham Lincoln speaking from the roof of the Pre-Emption House. The story is an old favorite, but sadly, it may not be true.

If you have been to the “Brushstrokes of the Past” exhibit at the Settlement, you have seen the event as depicted by artist Les Schrader. This oral history tale has been repeated for generations, but no corroborating evidence has ever been discovered.

In 1858, Lincoln ran for Senate against Stephen Douglas. Naperville strongly supported Douglas and his party. In fate, Joe Naper’s nephew, R.N. Murray, was a close friend of Douglas’s. Chances are slim that Lincoln would have bothered to make a campaign stop in opposition territory.

But Lincoln did work with Joseph Naper when both were elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1836, so certainly Lincoln knew about Naperville.

Both Lincoln and Naper started their terms of office with specific agendas:  Lincoln wanted the state capitol moved from Vandalia to Springfield and Naper wanted to create DuPage County separate from Cook. In order to get the votes they each needed, there’s some evidence that they men did a little “log-rolling.” Just as neighbors help each other roll logs to build each other’s cabins, the statesmen helped each other build support for the vote.

Lincoln also may have been in Aurora. It’s definite that he was a circuit court lawyer in this area and he was hired by Charles Hoyt, an Aurora businessman, to defend a millworks patent lawsuit. They wrote to each other and another oral history says that he visited Hoyt’s store in the 1850’s.

Ten-year-old Isabelle Landry recalled being sent to the store by her mother where she met a tall man with a tall hat visiting with Judge Pinney. Hoyt asked her to sing a French song for the stranger who bought her a pennyworth of candy as a reward. Not to be outdone, the Judge bought her another pennyworth, a memorable event that she enjoyed talking about for the next 76 years!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

State of the City a Major Mayor Milestone

In honor of Mayor A. George Pradel’s final State of the City address, let’s take a look back at the history of Naperville’s mayors.

You might think that Joseph Naper was our first mayor — but you’d only be sort of right. Although founded in 1831, Naperville wasn’t incorporated as a village until 1857 when the first government was formed. Joseph Naper was elected, but as President, not Mayor, and he served for one year with the assistance of city trustees.

Every year that followed, a new man was elected to the Presidency, including such local notables as Merrit S. Hobson, Morris Sleight, Robert Naper and R.N. Murray.

Judge Myron C. Dudley held the position most often and was mayor for four consecutive terms from 1869 until 1872. 

Naperville incorporated as a city in 1890 which was when we elected our first mayor — James J. Hunt. Hunt had also served as President a couple of times and as a trustee so he was a natural selection.

The mayoral position continued to be elected on an annual basis until 1913 which was when the Chamber of Commerce was founded. Francis Kendall was elected that year and was re-elected in 1915.

Our Mayor Pradel holds the record as the longest-serving mayor and he’ll likely hold on to his title as voters approved term limits in 2010.

Pradel was first elected in 1995 and has served five terms for a total of twenty years in office. The next closest mayoral stint was James L. Nichols (son of the library patron James Nichols) who served for three terms and a total of sixteen years.

So far, Naperville has only had one female mayor, Peg Price. She was elected in 1983 and served two terms for our city.

Mayor Pradel was introduced by then NACC Chairman Brad McGuire at the 2005 State of the City luncheon as “His Hotness” and certainly he has left an indelible mark on our city. No one else will be like Mayor Pradel — as it should be — and we will soon have the opportunity to choose his successor.

At a networking event many years ago, a short, older man  introduced himself to people with “Hi, I’m George. I work for the city.” That sort of sums it all up, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

50th Anniversary Only the Beginning of the Story

Anderson’s Bookshop recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary. But the shop’s Naperville roots actually go back much farther.

Dr. Hamilton Daniels operated a pharmacy in the building that now houses Ted’s Montana Grill. In 1875, William Wallace Wickel purchased the store from Dr. Daniels and started a family dynasty.

W.W. Wickel and his wife, Sarah, had a daughter named Susanna. Susanna graduated from North Central College and was later a member of the music faculty.

She met another North Central student who worked in her father’s drugstore, William Oswald, and married him in 1907. By 1915, W.W. sold the pharmacy to his son-in-law, who renamed it Oswald’s.

The Oswalds had a daughter of their own, Helen. Like her mother, Helen met a young man who worked in the pharmacy, Harold Kester. They were married in 1931. 

Harold in his turn bought the pharmacy from his father-in-law in 1953. While the store had always sold books, in 1964, Harold opened a separate shop, Paperback Paradise, above the drugstore. In 1971, Harold moved the bookstore into an old Woolworth’s building down the street. The store has been remodeled several times, but it’s still in the same location.

Helen and Harold raised two daughters, Jean and Anita. Jean carried on the family tradition by marrying pharmacist Robert Anderson who took over the business.

In 1991, Robert turned the family businesses over to the current generation: Bill, Becky, Tres and Peter. Bill runs Oswald’s Pharmacy, Becky and Tres run Anderson’s Bookshop and Pete runs Anderson’s Bookfair.

Fittingly, the Anderson family received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chamber in 2013 for their “long-time contributions to the Naperville community.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Someone Who Should Haunt Naperville

Last year we wrote about Edward Sanitarium, the precursor to our current Edward Hospital complex. What we didn’t tell you is that Dr. Theodore Sachs, the tuberculosis expert who conceived and ran the Sanitarium, committed suicide on the grounds and was buried on the property.

Dr. Sachs was a Russian immigrant of Jewish descent who arrived in America in 1891. Already armed with a law degree earned in Oddessa, Ukraine, Sachs studied medicine at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1895. He specialized in diseases of the lungs, becoming extremely influential in the Chicago Tuberculosis Institute. With the financial backing of Eudora Hull Gaylord Spaulding, he opened the Edward Sanitarium for tubercular patients in 1907.

But in 1913, Sachs clashed with Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson over political appointees
on the Chicago Sanitarium board. Thompson’s camp responded with accusations of financial mismanagement. Sachs resigned from the Chicago board in March, but became overwhelmingly despondent.

On April 1, he told the nurse on duty he would rest in his library where they found him the following morning, dead of a morphine overdose. He left two suicide notes protesting his innocence, one to his wife and one to the city of Chicago.

An enormous crowd attended Dr. Sachs’ funeral on that cold day and he was buried on Sanitarium property under a large bronze and stone monument. The grave was moved more than once due to Edward’s expansion, most recently in 1989.

Poor Dr. Sachs! If anyone has a reason to haunt Naperville, the good doctor does!