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Monday, December 4, 2023

Growing up in Naperville – Grateful for great memories


One of my first memories as a five-year-old boy was November 11. It used to be called Armistice Day and at exactly 11 o’clock the Kroehler Factory whistle would blow for a minute and the fire station downtown would blow the siren for a minute. I had to stand and face the east and put my hand over my heart. My mother tried to explain to me the meaning of the time when the first World War ended.

And today my thoughts also turn to music in November.

Ron Keller began playing his tuba in the Naperville Municipal Band in 1954. Little did he know that in 1966 he’d become director of the band with roots that date back to 1859. Keller has fond memories of annual Veterans Day observances when he conducted the band at Veterans Park. Keller recently retired and is now Director Emeritus of the band he led for 57 years. March on! (PN File Photo)

For instance, the Municipal Band’s Fall concert begins at 4PM on Sun., Nov. 5, at Wentz Hall. It will be the first concert conducted by the new Municipal Band Director, Emily Binder. She’s an outstanding musician and dedicated band director, and she was one of my students when she was in high school!

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Bill Jastrow is the new assistant conductor and he will direct several numbers on the concert as well.

November 6 is John Philip Sousa’s birthday! It is interesting to note that Sousa died 91 years ago and his name is still magic! Every year people would ask me, “When is the next Sousa concert?”

In 1990, Norman Smith, band historian and retired music educator, compiled a survey of 700 band directors to name their top 10 marches and in the top ten were five Sousa marches!

This year Thanksgiving comes on Thurs., Nov. 23, and growing up in our family, it was always a big day. Grandpa Keller wanted all his kids and grandkids to come for dinner. There were 12 aunts and uncles and 12 grand kids! There was turkey and goose, two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, gravy and corn and beans as the vegetable. There was always a fruit dish and pumpkin and apple pie.

Thanksgiving was the only time I got to see all my cousins!

The next day, my mom, Aunt Pearl and my sister, Julie, and I would take the train into Chicago. We’d look at all the decorated windows of Sears, Montgomery Ward, the Fair Store and Marshall Field’s.

The fourth floor of Marshall Field’s was the toy floor with lots of electric trains running, both toy trains and a bigger train. The bigger train was powered by a small diesel engine and carried passenger cars that children up to 10 years old could ride.

It was a sad day for me when I could no longer ride the children’s train.

I’ve been on several really nice train trips over the years and even now I like to go to the Train Depot parking lot in Naperville and watch the trains, coming and going, with my train buddies who love trains as much as I do.

What great memories!

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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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