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Naperville
Sunday, May 22, 2022

Growing up in Naperville – Ramblin’ with Ron

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Uncle Les and Aunt Edna Arnett are pictured at the rock garden at 616 N. Ellsworth Street. (Photo courtesy Ron Keller)

This month I may ramble a bit, but I’ll start with my grandfather’s rock garden. What made me think about it was the article in the Naperville Sun about the cleaning and fixing up of the grotto at Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery.

My Grandpa Goodge bought the house that I grew up in sometime in the early 1920s. His first home was on Center Street about two blocks north of Central Park. He moved to 616 N. Ellsworth in 1928. The only reason I know it is because my mom talked about how the move was for her mother, my Grandma Goodge. She thought we were moving too far from downtown!

Well, Grandpa Goodge built a rock garden on the north side of the yard. It stood about 7 feet high in a semi-circle and had a ground pool in front with goldfish in it. The pool was about 4 feet wide and 6 feet long.

When I was born in 1939, Mom asked Grandpa to fill in the pool. She was afraid I’d fall in the pool and drown.

Rock garden at 616 N. Ellsworth Street. (Photo courtesy Ron Keller)

I don’t remember the pool, but the rock garden lasted until I entered high school.

No. I didn’t walk up hill both ways to school! But most of us did walk to school. My parents didn’t own a car until 1951!

I grew up at the end of the Depression, then World War II hit in 1941. Looking back on my childhood, as a kid, I didn’t know we were poor. There was just saving string and paper. We only ate meat once a week and it was chicken. It did help that my other grandpa, Frank Keller, helped with eggs and milk from his dairy farm.

What got my thinking this far back was a question from a Sun reporter that asked me if I ever thought I would be conductor of the Naperville Municipal Band for 56 years! I thought about that and said, “My mother always reminded me to finish what you start and don’t be known as a quitter.”

Arthur Goodge, Knight Templer (Photo courtesy Ron Keller)

That led me to start checking and I found only one band conductor who had conducted longer. It was Dee Palmer of the DeKalb Municipal Band!

John Philip Sousa led the Marine Band for 12 years and his own band for 40 years. Bert Meyers had 50 years with the Allentown Band and Leonard Smith led the Detroit Concert Band for 37 years.

Elmer Koerner led the Naperville Municipal Band for 37 years. Add my 56 years and in 93 years, there have been only two conductors of this very fine band!

Growing up two blocks north of the railroad, I got used to hearing train whistles. Whenever you heard a new sound of a diesel horn, you went running to see what kind of diesel it was. I guess that’s why I still love to watch trains.

I told you at the beginning of this story that I may ramble, and for sure I did. See you next month!

Editor’s Notes, April 24, 2022 / Naperville Municipal Band fans are encouraged to mark their calendars for the NMB Spring Concert, now scheduled to be performed at 3PM Sun., May 15, on stage at the Community Concert Center in Central Park. Everybody is welcome to become a fan! Usually presented indoors, the spring concert staged outdoors is a first. Note also, this spring concert is weather permitting. 

Marching members of the Naperville Municipal Band will perform during the 2022 Naperville Memorial Day Parade beginning at 10:30AM Mon., May 30, along Jackson Ave. Immediately following the parade, usually about noon, the NMB will participate in the annual 30-minute observance in Central Park.

The community also is reminded that the annual summer concert series is set for 7:30PM every Thursday from June 9 through August 11, also in Central Park. These concerts are rain or shine unless hazardous storm warnings are in effect.

All Naperville Municipal Band concerts are 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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