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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Growing up in Naperville – Lessons learned from haircuts to fishing


Above / Though Lake Osborne just west of the Naperville Public Safety Center on Aurora Avenue was not there when Ron Keller was a kid, fishing for bass is reported to be good there early in the morning or evening.

When I was about three years, I had blonde curly hair. One day I was in downtown with my parents when they were shopping at Broekers’s (a department store) looking for a new jacket for me. It would have been 1942. When we came out of the store, a woman coming toward us exclaimed, “What a cute little girl!”

My dad immediately took me to Henczel’s Barber Shop and the curls were gone!

Back then I believe Naperville had four barbershops. I’ve lost count of how many today. But I still go to Henczel’s.

Find Henczel’s along Jackson Avenue across from the parking lot along the Naperville Riverwalk. PN recently found Ron Keller in there in the barber’s chair getting his hair cut by Sue Marks. We snapped a photo. We regret it didn’t take. Go figure. (PN File Photo)

When I turned five, my dad said it was time I learned to fish. My introduction to fishing was at the DuPage River at Eagle Street. There was a 4-foot dam just west of the Eagle Street drive-thru. Yes, there was no road over the river. You drove through it! People would drive into the river and wash their cars!

The DuPage River wasn’t very deep below the dam. Above the dam toward Centennial Beach, the river was about 3 or 4 feet deep. That’s where bass, chub, shiners and rock bass were.

East of the Eagle Street drive-thru were deep holes about 3-feet deep. One really good hole was behind Zainenger’s Coal & Oil which was on the south side of Jackson Avenue, about where the Dandelion Fountain is today. You could always catch a bass or an occasional northern pike there.

My dad was determined that I was going to learn to fish. So that’s when the lessons began.

A few years later when I was eight, I went with Dad to the Chain-of-Lakes where he began teaching me about bluegill and crappie fishing.

“Watch the bopper. Don’t pull too hard!” he’d say.

Well, when I caught my first nice-sized bluegill, I was hooked as hard as the fish was.
That was in 1946. Since then I’ve taught my sons to fish, then my grandson. He’s a really fine fisherman—much better than I am!

I just got back from Northern Wisconsin fishing for walleye, bass and crappies. It’s great recreation and good for your down time. I’ve fished in Canada, the western lakes of Wyoming and for swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean.

I don’t always catch much, but fishing always is a great way to relax.

June is busting out all over! Well, it can’t bust out when it’s still May as I’m finishing this story, getting ready for Memorial Day weekend with the parade, services at the cemeteries and the observance at the band shell.

It’s always bothered me that many people seem to think Memorial Day is for mattress sales and other store promotions.

In our family, the day was very important. My mom and dad both marched in the parade and when I was old enough, I did, too.

We kids decorated our bicycles and put out flags. It was a day for families to be together and remember Veterans who served and those who did not come back.

June is about the end of school, graduations, warmer weather, the Beach opening, summer jobs and weddings. Municipal Band concerts begin. And we also should remember Father’s Day.

Hope you all have a great June!

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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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