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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

1966 and Naperville’s Municipal Band

So much happened in Naperville fifty years ago! One of those happenings was the dedication of a brand new band shell for the Municipal Band.

The band itself is far from new as it was established in 1859 as the Naperville Brass Band. After the end of the Civil War, the group became known as the Naperville Light Guard Band and was chartered under the current name in 1928. 

The band first played downtown, preferably under a street light so they could read their music, then in a series of wooden band stands. A replica of the 1885 band stand is at the Naper Settlement. The original was torn down in the 1920’s to build a wooden band shell.

By 1963, the wooden band shell had to go. Band members started demolishing it during their final concert while playing “Anvil Chorus.”

1966 saw the band’s first season in the new cement band shell. Unfortunately, Elmer Koerner, who had led the band since it’s 1928 charter, suffered a fatal heart attack in November of ’65. A very young band teacher who had been one of Koerner’s students took over as leader:  Ron Keller. 

The new band shell was dedicated in June of 1966 as the Elmer Koerner Band Shell. In the year 2000, that structure was condemned and the current facility with mural-painted door was built in its place. 

Keller still leads the band and tenor sax player Robert Morris, who joined the band in 1966, is still playing in it. Be sure to catch a performance this summer!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Joe!

On or around July 15, 1831, Joseph Naper and a bunch of other folks started a little community on the banks of the DuPage River. I always take a moment to stand outside and imagine what it might have been like.

Was it hot, especially with long dresses and woolen trousers? What if there were thunderstorms like we had the other day? From what we can tell, there was one log house here, but most folks must have slept under their wagons or simply under the stars.

I look at the restored prairies, like the one at the College of DuPage, to get an idea of what it must have looked like when they arrived. What flowers were blooming? How tall were the wild grasses? Were there any fruits ripe enough to enjoy?

Joe's group always intended to build a community. They brought their families, their livestock and the iron works to build proper houses -- not log cabins -- from the very beginning. And this land wasn't exactly wilderness. There were several homesteaders in the general vicinity as well as the native people who regularly moved through the area.

They were probably excited and a little nervous. Happy to be on land after nearly a month of sailing on the Great Lakes. Apprehensive to be so far from the comparative civilization of Chicago. Sentimental, perhaps, over the homes they left behind in Ohio and New York. Worried about being ready for the coming winter.

But they pulled together and made it happen. And Naperville folks have been doing the same every since. I believe Joe was more of a whiskey kind of guy, but we're toasting with a cold beer because the Naperville Ale Fest happens to be this weekend. Happy Anniversary, Joe! Here's to many more!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

50 Years Ago — Summer Place Theatre

In 1966, North Central College started a  community theatre tradition. Enthusiastic drama students appealed to professor Don Shanower for opportunities beyond the school year. Shanower enlisted the help of part-time faculty member Don Jamison and together they launched Summer Place Theatre. 

Jamison’s career was at Western Electric Co. but he also founded amateur drama clubs and appeared in live WMAQ-TV productions. Teacher Shanower worked with student John Belushi at NCC and cast him in "A Thousand Clowns" in 1969, but Belushi was fired from his during rehearsals for chronic absenteeism.

Shanower got permission to use a storefront on Washington and Porter that once housed a Chevy dealer and SPT performed five shows that first season. 

For the next several years, productions were held under tents that were erected on the NCC campus. Torrential rainstorms in 1969 and again in 1973 destroyed the tents, as well as the shows being performed there.

Around the same time, the barn where props were stored was burned to the ground, but SPT still didn’t give up. 
A metal-roofed pavilion was built to replace the tent. Unfortunately, it was soon crushed by the Great Blizzard of 1979, but a second pavilion lasted for a decade. For many years, SPT hoped to raise enough money to erect a permanent home, but shows instead have been held at North Central High School.  

Competition is fierce today for people’s time and it’s hard to find both volunteers to prepare the shows and an audience to watch them, but tough little Summer Place Theatre is already looking forward to the next 50 years. See to learn more about this season’s  shows. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Naperville's Lantern Bar and Grill Celebrates 50 Years

The Lantern Bar and Grill in downtown Naperville is also celebrating a 50th anniversary this year.

Originally it was known as the Rainbow Café, established by Amanda Webb in 1940 and later purchased by Joe and Jenny Fessler. Following Joe’s death, Bob Marwitz bought the tavern. He updated the décor with some antique lanterns and changed the name to reflect the new look.

The father of a young family in the early 1960s, Don Feldott was an employee of Moser Lumber but picked up extra cash working for Marwitz. In 1966, Don and his wife Pat decided to buy The Lantern and started a 50 year family tradition.

Don and Pat’s children grew up at The Lantern, helping sweep the floor before school in the morning and walking back from SS. Peter & Paul to eat lunch there.

The Lantern was also a popular lunch spot in the 1970s for Bell Labs and Amoco employees since there were far fewer restaurant options then.

The Lantern has been remodeled over the past 50 years. The old horseshoe-shaped bar is gone and a back room was enclosed to make space for a few more tables. The façade has been updated, too, including the Century Walk mural, “A City in Transit” on the Washington Street wall.

Pat passed on in 2007 and Don has let the next generation take charge. If you stop in for a beer or a bowl of their famous chili, you may run into son Bill, daughter-in-law Teri or grand-daughter Kalie.

Some regulars have been hanging around the entire 50 years, too. “So many people tell me they met their husband or wife here,” Teri said. “This place is important to people.” The Lantern has even hosted a few engagement and wedding photo sessions.

The Lantern is planning a 50th anniversary bash for later in the summer so watch for details and help them celebrate!

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.