Above / The four Anderson siblings—Alison and Mitch, front, with Wil and Alex—prepared to follow a family tradition by entering Ellsworth Elementary School on the first day of school. (Photo circa 1990s courtesy Alex Anderson, son of Nicki and Bill Anderson.) 


As you’re reading this column, another year of school is back in session. I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the last three generations of my family getting ready for grade school at Ellsworth Elementary.

My grandmother, Jean Anderson, went to Ellsworth in the 1930s. Her new shoes had to be purchased in Aurora – there were no children’s shoe stores in Naperville! The echoes of the Great Depression were still ringing, so new clothes were out of the picture. All work was done on a paper tablet in pencil or crayon. Her books and textbooks were all rented.

The 1960s saw my dad, Bill Anderson, start school at Ellsworth. Believe it or not, there was still nowhere to buy children’s shoes in town during the 60s, so Aurora was still the place to go for kid’s footwear. My dad’s school clothes were purchased at Dean’s Clothing in downtown Naperville. Paper tablets and pencils were still the norm, although ballpoint pens were affordable by this time.

For after school refreshments, my dad would go to the East Side Store, a small grocery on the first floor of a house behind Ellsworth. His favorite candy was ‘candy tabs,’ which is basically generic Pez.

In the 1990s I was in grade school with my three siblings. New clothes were purchased at Kohl’s or the Fox Valley Mall. Instead of going to Aurora, we would get new shoes shipped to us from my maternal grandmother who worked at Dillard’s department store in Texas.

East Side Store turned into Bizzy Bee, a punk rock record shop, by the time I was in grade school. The owner normally didn’t allow Ellsworth kids in the store, but my brother, Alex, and I would use our allowance money to buy CDs – exceptions were made for paying customers!

It almost goes without saying that all three generations bought all their daily school supplies from Oswald’s. Almost.