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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Growing up in Naperville – Memories of Municipal Band, movies and malts


I know I’ve mentioned it in the past, but my mom and dad both played in the Naperville Municipal Band. Mom loved the classic overtures while Dad liked marches and polkas.

One day my mom saw me keeping time with a march that my dad had put on the record player (78 rpm). It was the Goldman Band from New York City playing the “Thunderer March” by John Philip Sousa. Mom thought it was cute and eventually bought a toy bass drum and lettered it “Municipal Band”!

That fond memory was in 1943 when I was four years old. I could keep the beat with the record and she mentioned this to Elmer Koerner, director of the school bands as well as the Naperville Municipal Band.

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Mr. Koerner thought it would be a novelty to have me stand with him on the stage of the band shell and drum along with the municipal band during one of the summer concerts.

Well, everything went fine during the Monday night rehearsal, but when I got to Central Park on Thursday evening with the band in uniform and all the park benches filled with people, I balked!

Mom tried to put me at ease to no avail until she said if I went up on stage to Mr. Koerner and drummed with the band, she’d take me to the hobby store which was next to Naper Theater. She said she’d buy me a model airplane that was in the window.

Of course, that did it! I went right up there and drummed to the march, “Men of Ohio.”

As soon as I finished, we ran to the store and it was closed! Mom said not to worry and that we’d return on Friday morning to get it.

The mention Naper Theater reminds me that the first time I saw a movie there was to see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The following year I saw “Pinocchio,” then a year later, I saw “Dumbo,” and in 1945, “Bambi.”

Back then, our family lived on Ellsworth Street about one and half blocks north of the tracks. My dad worked at Kroehler Manufacturing as did most of the people on our block.

Whenever we went to downtown Naperville, we walked down Ellsworth under the tracks across Burlington Park, down Center Street to Jefferson. We passed Kroehler’s, Boecker Coal and Grain Elevator as well as the train station.

Downtown always was a fun destination because there was Broecker’s Department Store, Ben Franklin, The Candy Kitchen and Oswald’s Pharmacy. Oswald’s had a soda fountain that made the best chocolate sodas and malted milk in town!

In fact, whenever we went to the movies at Naper Theater, we’d just walk across Jefferson Avenue after the movie and grab a soda or malt at Oswald’s. Great memories!

Editor’s Note / Naperville Municipal Band Conductor and Music Director Ron Keller also notes the annual Holiday Concert is set to begin at 3PM Sun., Dec. 19, on stage at the Wentz Concert Hall. Open to the public, the concert is free of admission charge.

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Ron Keller
Ron Keller
Ron Keller is a lifelong Naperville resident, tuba enthusiast and has been conducting the Naperville Municipal Band for over 50 years.


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