Lisle treasure

Who would have imagined the effect a squeaky door would have on one's "psyche." You push the door, you hear the squeaky hinges, and suddenly you find yourself in a place that time and progress has pretty much left behind.

Anyone who grew up in Lisle will probably understand exactly what I'm saying. Walking into the Book Nook on Main Street is by far the best definition of being in a great little town. The Book Nook "is" Lisle.

I had not been in Lisle for years. When I returned, I hugged my Mom hello, listened to a couple hours of her stories, caught up on what my brothers and sisters were up to. Then, after eating a piece of her special "welcome home" cheese cake, she asked what I wanted to do. She knew I had a long flight and figured I'd be hanging out and calling a few of my ol' buds. I'll never forget the look on her face when I told her what I REALLY wanted to do.
" You want to go check out what...?" she asked.
" I want to go up town and check out the Book Nook" I told her.
She gave me that look of "what the...?" but figured I was on some sort of mission. She welcomed me home again.. I grabbed my keys and off I went.
It was like being ten years old all over again.
"Mom! I'm going uptown! I'll be back later!"
Before leaving, I Instinctively looked to where I used to park my bike. But today, I was getting into my rental car.

Driving south down Main and then stopping at Ogden Avenue. The light was red and there I waited.
Looking into town in front of me, I felt like I was getting ready to enter the door at a "20 year reunion." Awaiting my arrival were all these old friends that have been wondering how I've been. And I have been wondering how they've been. Have they changed?
Are they still the old businesses? Could I still race my bike up their sidewalks and feel invincible?
On the right was the old Minuette restaurant. looks pretty much the same. "Cool!" There's Citgo gas station on the left. I wonder what ever happened to Phillips 66? Oh, it's a bank now. Hmm.

As the light turned green, I slowly entered into that charming little arena of memories called Lisle. Just like a reunion, there were so many new faces that have been added to our friends lives over the years. In Lisle, there are buildings that have been added, faces that have changed, and in some cases, some that have been carelessly taken away forever.
But looking closely, you can still see much of the charm in the little brown stoned characters that have been living here for all of our lives. "There's Economy Foods!" "There's the Flower shop!" "There's Adolph's!" "There's Ben Franklin..."

Each one with a long story of it's own.. Each one gently asking.. "Remember me?"

These old buildings were there watching over our childhood "side walk" antics. They were there watching our street fairs. We painted their windows at Halloween and they held our attention while we had to wait for mom to finish her business. Most of the names on the buildings were different but the buildings themselves still stood.. In line.. Still happy to be a part of what makes Lisle feel like a small town.

As I drove ahead, the little building I had come to see appeared. It had gone through some changes on the outside but it was still "The Book Nook."
As I got out of my car, I wondered if it would be the same. I mean, by all odds, this place should have been torn out and replaced by a "StarBucks" or a "Barnes& Noble" a long time ago.

Lisle 1 Lisle Booknook door Lisle Booknook front
The Book Nook 1960s
That wonderful door!
The Book Nook in June, 2004

A man walked out the door in front of me like most people leaving the Book Nook... In a hurry.
It seemed that most "grown ups" came in and out of this place with a singular mission at hand. They weren't there to shop for groceries.. They were there for one item. A dad getting his paper on the way to the train. A mom getting the latest "Home & Garden" magazine. A teenager desperately looking for a card to give his girlfriend. A pack of smokes, batteries, film... Sometimes it seemed like this place moved pretty fast. And now it was my turn.. "My turn to check it out!"

As I walked up to the door, I noticed that it was the same ol' wooden door I had remembered. It always felt gigantic. And thick! I put my hand on the door's brass push plate and slowly pushed it open. And what happened next may seem a little strange.
As I pushed the door open, the door hinges let out a squeak. Oh that "sound!" It was a sound that I had heard a million times. It was a sound that sent me right back to a cold winter's day. On my way to school and stopping in to buy "Jolly Rancher" cinnamon "penney" candy. Or in the fall, just before Halloween, stopping in to buy a caramel apple on a stick.
Or Spring time, to buy a kite! Or Summer time, going in to buy a "drumstick" ice cream! Or baseball cards! Or comic books!
That crazy little "sound" had awakened a time in my heart that had been stored away for years!

Upon entering, there is another old memory that hits you immediately. It's something I never expected.
I've lived just about everywhere but this was something that I've only found at the Book Nook. It's probably been there longer than I've been alive and it's probably been greeting customers for decades. What is it? Ok? You ready??? Alright...
The smell...
Yup...The smell inside the Book Nook is exactly the way I remembered it years ago! And what the heck was it? It's not a bad smell. In fact, it's a wonderful smell! Do newspapers smell like this? Was it all the books?

Well, before I sat down to write this piece, I struggled with this question...
How can I describe the smell of the Book Nook to someone that might actually read this? Was there such a thing as "scratch n sniff" for the computer? Hmm.
But after about four weeks of agonizing, I think I may have nailed it. Now don't laugh... You can even try this yourself. Your friends and family will think your nuts but, for me, that's nothing new!

Ok, it's actually pretty simple.
Start by making some popcorn.. Then find a pack of cigarettes. ("Easy now..")
Now open the top of the cigarette pack and put your nose right on top of the cigarettes. I know it sounds crazy but it is a wonderfully sweet smell! Now, If you can mix the aroma of fresh popcorn with the smell of that raw sweet tobacco, you can almost experience the Book Nook from anywhere in the country. Now admit it. That's kinda cool! Anyway.

Standing there, I looked down and recognized another wonderful feature of the Book Nook.
Looking down onto the floor, you'll see a path. It's a path that literally has been worn into the floor by years of people coming and going from the store. It turns left to the newspapers, then straight up to the counter to check out, then right back to the door. Great stuff!
It's a literal "tattoo" of sorts that's taken decades to create. How many Lisle folks has it taken to create it? I only wonder.
I guess the beauty of it is that no "artificial faux finish" paint was used to get the effect. Nope, this was real.
And it's cool to think that my boyhood sneakers may had played a roll in it.

Looking around the store, I noticed that some things had been rearranged. But the majority of the important items were still in the store. Take a left and you land at the newspaper section.
As a kid, I could never figure out why anyone would be interested in any of these boring publications! Now, I'll read two of them a day. Go figure.

Now turn around and your heading for the main counter. It's a little different. The wonderful ice cream case, that was in there for years, was gone. The counter is still where it belonged. There were more magazines than there used to be. And interestingly enough, the owner put in a display case to show off artifacts from the Lisle area. He even had a couple of old Tonka trucks displayed in it. I even found a little area where he was displaying old pictures of Lisle!
Whoever this guy was, I knew I had to meet him!

And then it happened. Yes... Looking to the right you'll see it. The one place that any kid, who grew up in Lisle, could tell you all about. There it was in all it's glory! It was almost comical the way it sat there before me. If you grew up in Lisle, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Ah yes, the penny candy section at The Book Nook! And it was sitting in the same place that it had for decades!
Think about it. For so many of us, this was the first place we were ever allowed to freely shop! On our own!
It was the first place we were ever allowed to make the really big decisions!
If you had a nichol? That's five items!
A dime? Ten items.
We couldn't do this anywhere else! It was wonderful!
While that door was squeaking, the people were coming and going, you would be standing there, with those cool "kid's size" mini brown shopping bags, contemplating exactly which pieces of candy to buy. Sometimes, I swear, I was in there, for at least a half hour, with my finger on my chin and my eyes fixed on the goods.
We could have stood there an hour.. But we always ended up buying the same type of candy that we had bought the last time we were there. I always ended with the same three... Kraft caramel squares, Jolly Rancher cinnamon and Bazooka Joe bubble gum! Yup! Always those three!

Lisle Booknook store
Lisle Booknook store 2
The Book Nook interior showing the front counter. Notice the worn area on the floor just in front of the counter. (Great stuff!)
This shot also shows the owner's display cabinet, the "penny candy" area and "the door."
Here's a closer shot of the "penny candy" area. To the left is a tobacco cabinet that (I believe) contributes to the unique aroma inside.

One day at school, someone noticed that I always had candy in my locker and asked for a piece. "No problem" I figured.
But for some reason, more and more people started asking. Well, I figured, since I had the goods and they had the cravings, I started charging a nickel a piece. They gladly forked over the cash! Before I knew it, I had my own little "Black Market" going on at Main Street School! "These fools" I thought. They could easily walk across the street to the Book Nook and buy their own! Either way, they were happy to buy and I was happy to sell.
Well like all good things, it had to come to an end.
"No one told me you couldn't bring gum to school!" Again, one of my brilliant, well rehearsed lines to use if I ever got busted. But of course, somebody ratted me out, I got busted, I used the line, it didn't work.. I spent two days after school scraping gum from under desks. "Cursed!"

After leaving the candy section, I turned towards the magazines. This place used to have every cool magazine known to mankind! If you're into trains, boats, beauty, music, airplanes, farm life! You name it, they had it. Well, what do you know! They still do today! Even more than I remember.

Lisle Booknook Close up
Here's a close up look at the counter. This place carries everything! Envelopes, film,
TV Guides, pens, cigars, kid's toys... And gloves?
I even found those classic cinnamon tooth picks!
(Aint it great?)

Now, even in a little town like Lisle, some stores had that little magazine rack that was always well hidden behind the counter. The pictures on the magazines were always covered to not reveal the mysterious content located within their pages. I guess I can talk about this today because what happened to me was a big "first" in my life.And it happened to me at The Book Nook! I was just a kid at the time... But any guy, being from Lisle or not, could relate.

I was probably nine or ten years old. I was in the Book Nook looking at the baseball cards and then... BOOM!
My life changed forever! That's right.
I happened to look over at a small magazine rack behind the counter and focused on a magazine that seemed to have a lady holding some sort of fruit. But wait, that's not fruit. Is it a cookie of some sort? Is it a breakfast roll? I stood there forever, in the middle of this busy store, straining to look towards the magazine that was located in the, still unknown to me, "forbidden zone."
And then you figure it out! "THAT'S not a "cookie" at all!" (Gasp!)
A sudden a flush comes over your face.. The horror hits you like a ton of bricks! And your eyes catch their first gimps.
The first gimps of a woman's boob!
Yup! Your sitting there looking directly at a magazine behind the counter that has a woman showing her boob! I couldn't believe what I was seeing! My eyes couldn't get back to my baseball cards fast enough! Like all guys can attest, I knew I had stumbled onto a major crossroads in my life! I knew it was time to quickly try to evaluate the unfamiliar flush of emotions that I was suddenly experiencing.

A boob?! What do I do now?! I shuttered. What if someone in the Book Nook saw me... see the boob? "Oh no!" I knew I had to pretend that nothing had happened. Should I get out of there now? Should I walk past and vow never to look in that direction again? Should I ask for help?
Nope.. None of the above. I decided to stay cool, tried not to shake, continue to look at my baseball cards.. And every now and then, without moving my head, grab a quick glimpse toward the forbidden"boob rack" just to confirm my observation.
Like always, I had to go tell my friends.. And it had us talking and investigating the rest of that summer. I knew this was serious stuff! I figured if I'd told my mom I would have been grounded for twenty years! So "mum" was the word.

And now here I was, so many years later, walking through the Book Nook with my eyes looking at all the stuff. And for old times sake, I had to sneak a glimpse towards the forbidden zone... Like always, nothing was visible from any of my vantage points.
They must have knew I was coming.

Then, I went and stood towards the back of the store. I stayed there and just watched and listened.
With every person, with every sound, I was reminded of how much this little store reflected what Lisle really was. This place wasn't some "reality" TV show. It wasn't a "formula" created by the village to reflect the Lisle "Image." No, This place was real!
It has always felt like walking into a real life "Norman Rockwell" painting.
Just standing there, you hear the door squeak open... Someone enters, someone leaves. You hear people talking. Asking questions, commenting on the weather, giving their opinions. The door squeaks open again...

Another great feature are those folks that actually work at the Book Nook.
Like Chris Bedore. He's the eldest of eight kids that all grew up in Lisle. I understand he's been working there for close to eight years. I hear that people come to the Book Nook from everywhere just to hang out and talk with him about "the horses" and any other deep philosophical topics that Chris is so great at interpreting.

And look at the guy behind the cash register today. Just watch him! He is such the "patient ringmaster!"
He's having a conversation with an old man about Lisle's trash pick-up. At the same time, he's answering a question for a lady that needs to find a battery for her watch. He's also ringing up a purchase for a business man who's in a hurry. He also finds time to find the right newspaper for someone who couldn't find it. In the other corner, there are three men using the Book Nook as a meeting place. There talking and laughing about something.. Who knows.
And look out side the store.. Someone just ran into someone they hadn't seen in years. This steady pulse continues at the Book Nook throughout the day. It has continued since Lisle first became a town and it still continues today.

On this day, I knew I wanted to visit the Book Nook. A place we've all visited a million times. But if you walk through that door and just open your senses, you'll realize that this place is so much more than just a little store. It's like stepping into both the past and the present. For me, It was like standing directly in the "heart" of what Lisle is.

I waited for a short lull in all the activity and went to say hello to the guy behind the counter. His name was John Reeder.
I found him incredibly friendly and I wasn't surprised to learn that he knew my brother from years ago! Yeah, ya gotta love this town!
I told John that I was looking for old photos of Lisle. He smiled at me and that is when the fun began. John started walking me through the store and up to photos of old Lisle he had on display. After spending just a short time talking, I was so gratified to learn that John, like myself, has an incredible interest in Lisle's past and future. John couldn't wait to show me some more old pictures he had acquired from ol' timers he met at the store. He was like a kid showing me how "cool" they were. In fact, many of John's photos are now many of the photos you see on this web site. Oh, and did I mention that John now owns the Book Nook!
What I loved most about John is his realization of what his store really means to all of us. What it means to the town of Lisle. He is well aware that he is now the caretaker of one of the only "treasures" left in Lisle. He works it as a business and, even more so, feels the meaning of it's history.

When I met John, Lisle's Main Street School was in it's final stages of demolition. John and I sat in front of the Book Nook and looked across the street at what was left of one of the town's real "classics." Both our hearts were a little lower that day as we watched the bull dozers covering up much of the site with gravel. Almost like they were trying to cover the evidence of a terrible crime before anyone had a chance to notice.
That night, I "acquired' a few bricks from the Main Street School demolition site. These were bricks, not just from a building, but from THE Main Street School!
The next day, I went back to the Book Nook and gave John a brick for his display cabinet. I handed the brick to John and what he did next let me know that he truly deserved to have one.

Like a new lotto winner, he took the brick in his hand and started going up to to the customers in his store. He'd hold out the brick and ask,
"Do you know what this is?" "Do you know what this is?" The customers looked puzzled but curious. "THIS is a brick from Main Street School!" "The Main Street School!" he proclaimed!

At that point I thought to myself, this guy get's it! He really gets it! I'm not the only one that feels this way. John really saw the significance of a little red brick! Of a little "book store!" Of a little town. And of spending time with people and listening to their stories. He knew the Book Nook represented more than just a place to buy a paper! He knew the Book Nook was a part of a story. Our story! Lisle's story!

"Yup," I thought. He was perfect for the job of care taking one of Lisle's last treasures.

To this day, I'll always remember the simple pleasure of "hanging out" in front of the Book Nook. We'd ride our bikes "up town," buy some "cards," maybe a "drumstick" and lean up against the window sill and watch the town go by. The feel of "baseball card gum" crumpling in your mouth. The door squeaking open and closing next to us.The train going through town. We thought this place would be here forever. I never thought I'd ever see it as such a "special" place.

Lisle Booknook owners
The Book Nook's original owners in front of the store.

I went to bed that night in the same old bedroom I had when I was growing up. I laid there thinking about the day and how nice it was to go "up town" again. Before she went to bed, my mom opened my door, stuck her head in and said good night. At that point, I thought about all the things in our lives that we take for granted. And how we usually start to truly appreciate them only after they're gone from our lives.
When I finally closed my eyes, I could still hear my own son's voice thanking me. Thanking me for buying him a toy airplane. I had bought him a little toy airplane and a pack of baseball cards..
At the Book Nook.

On a final note to you:
If you ever want to know what Lisle really "feels" like? Forget the Hyatt... Forget the Marriott. Just try stepping into the Book Nook and let your senses do the rest. While it's still there.

A final note to The Village of Lisle:
Please do not destroy, or allow someone to destroy, any more of down town Lisle simply because you lack the creativity to make what you have work. There is a difference between "timeless" charm and temporary "fashion."

A final note to The Book Nook:
Please! Never oil the hinges on that door!


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