There are some sure signs that you were born and raised in Wheaton, Illinois. Here is a list of 15 of those definite signs!
1. The Popcorn Shop was Your Candy Spot of Choice
The epic address shows just how cool this spot is for locals and visitors. 111 ¼ Front St. You never forget how excited you were to walk in this hallway of a spot, grab a white paper bag and using the tongs you fill it with candies in glass containers on the side of a shelved wall. And at the end, some guy dumped out the bag and counted it, charging you piece by piece with his bare fingers, like it was completely normal. And it was. All in the old school candy shop style. Classic Wheaton.
2. There Was More Traffic on a Sunday Morning than on a Friday Afternoon
Churches were a real thing and still are! Wheaton, Illinois has the second most churches per capita according to the Genius Edition of Trivial Pursuit and it is obvious. The kindness, the invitations to church events by fellow neighbors and the “Christian” mindset takes many people aback who have not visited before. And that traffic–we even needed parking attendants for our church so that everyone’s car’s could fit in the small parking lot!
3. Friday Night Car Shows Were The Thing for Old People (Parents) To Do
Groan! When the parents took you with them to this “lame” event, you knew that you had to get away from them. Well, that’s what I did in middle school when my friend’s parents would go consistently. In this dry town (1985 was actually the controversial voted decision to be “wet”- which still didn’t have its first Ale Fest until 2011), there wasn’t much else to do except avoid talking to people you didn’t want to and stay away from the old people who wanted to suck you into conversation. Or maybe that was just me!
4. You Knew Which Team You Were Rooting For, North or South.
High School teams were not a thing to joke around with. Until they messed with the borders recently, changed around zip codes and moved Hubble Middle School, you knew which side of the tracks you were on. The rivalry was intense for athletes like myself who hated South with a passion on the cross country and track field. We always wanted to beat them until it came to Sunday when I was friends with them at church. Smack talking was the fun of the town and when it came to Friday night football games, you better believe we brought our school colors!
5. Rice or Northside was Always the Question for Summer Pool Spots
I remember the biggest question we had was whether you wanted to go to the “cool pool” at Northside or the “kiddy pool” at Rice. Obviously, that was when I was old enough to have Mom drive me to one or the other. The benefits are endless at either one: more slides at Rice, less people at Northside and the debate could go on. Good thing our park district had options!
6. The Prairie Path Guided Your Bike Rides
I used to bike everywhere when I was a kid. My brother used to ride “The Triangle” on a portion of the 61-mile stretch of the Prairie Path with his ambitious friends, going all the way out to the dreaded Wheaton Warrenville South High School and then out toward another suburb, Elmhurst and then back around to Wheaton. Me, I would stay a little closer to home and go visit my friends at their houses, usually taking a route along the Path. Beautiful covered pathways made it for a nice shaded opportunity to get some exercise. If you don’t know the Prairie Path, you don’t know Wheaton.
7. You Never Feared Biking or Driving Until You Grew Up and Left Town
Safe neighborhoods and clear sidewalks made it easy to bike, turn the corners and learn how to drive, or even rollerblade (if you were a nerd like me!). Once I left Wheaton, I didn’t realize how different other cities were. Getting “doored” (hit by a car on a bike by their car door) is a thing in other cities and I never realized it until I left. Or being followed back to your dorm room. Or, having to be careful walking around at night. I never really considered it until I left and started traveling. My naiveness left as soon as I did.
8. You Can Never Forget When the Fourth of July Parade is Coming Because Chairs Are Set Up Along Main Street Two Days Before
Besides the obvious July 2 on the calendar, the Fourth of July Parade was marked by chairs set up along the famous Main Street. I was luckily and my aunt lived along Main Street and would have a party every year, but others, not so much. People would have to walk forever to find a place for your lawn chair, missing out on the candy being thrown. One year, they had an elephant walk down the streets of the Wheaton Parade. Insane!
9. You Probably Were Only In Wheaton for the School Year
Wheaton was a bit more well-off than other communities. Many families had homes away from home in nearby Wisconsin or Michigan. We were lucky enough to have a lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin where we would go at least a couple times a year. Other families went on vacations during summer break, Christmas break or just at random times. Certain areas of Wheaton might be less fortunate, but most people from Wheaton know that they can afford some expensive things.
10. You Had Your Fair Share of the Cosley Zoo’s Antique Train Pictures
A visit to the zoo marked our childhood memories as we would take pictures with the old Caboose while wandering the tiny zoo. Perfect for kids who want to interact with animals close up! I’ve been there so many times that I don’t have to go back unless I have kids visiting. I even forget that Cosley even exists half the time because it’s so small!
11. Adams Park was the Make-out Spot for Conservative Wheaton College students
Right next to the library, under the boardwalk (I mean, the foundation), you could always find Wheaton College students here enjoying the day, studying or making out completely. I wandered many a times through this park with friends, have played in the fountain and enjoyed afternoons there. A great spot that’s free from the judgment of Wheaton College (conservative college with no dancing allowed until recently). Adams Park was a nice meeting spot for a first date (or smooch!).
12. The Town Carnival (The Taste of Wheaton) of is the Highlight of Everyone’s Summer
The Taste of Wheaton offered all the local shops in tents! Everyone athletic got involved and showed up for the run in the morning. Then you had a couple days to wander Memorial Park and Downtown. Good food, good safe place to explore and fun all wrapped into one at the beginning of the summer.
13. Zero Gravity Was the Only High School Spot Where You Could Dance or Party Unless You Were in the Cool Crowd
I didn’t really know this one because I wasn’t “cool”, but the place to dance was Zero Gravity. Underage dancing with a bunch of adolescents got pretty funky. It was a fun way to let off steam and unfortunately it closed after 21 years of being open. But if you were in middle or high school in the early 2000s, you knew it existed. Dance All Night!
14. You Always Wished You Added 10 Minutes Extra To Get Somewhere When You Are Staring at the Slowest Train In the Country
The train to downtown Chicago was fun to go on, but driving in it was INSANE! There would always be the slowest freight train followed by another SLOW train so you’d be waiting at least 10 minutes to cross the train tracks. You can see why we would stay on our North/South boundaries. And, we would have such road rage about the train with our family always running late, that we would drive way out of our way to beat the train. Crossing our fingers it works again. Maybe we should just plan an extra 20 minutes.
15. You Didn’t Realize How Sheltered You Lived Until You Left And Started Living A Different Life
Sheltered isn’t completely the case for everyone in Wheaton. But, there was a drastic difference in the way that Wheaton handles things versus the rest of the world. When exposed to more crime, traffic, pollution, social norms and religions, you can see what there are things that only usually happen in Wheaton. Once we get used to that, we can do more than what we originally bargained for.