My Brother From New Mexico/Our First Adventure

My brother from Albuquerque  New Mexico, arrived last Wed. on Amtrak.  This is his first visit and his first time east of Texas.  Amazing isn’t it.  He grew up on Albuquerque, has visited and lived in California many times, been all over west but never east.   So its Adventure time……..Time to show him how us mid westerners live.


As many of you don’t know, I have an older sister and brother.  My brother lives in Galesburg, and my sister is south of Albuquerque.  My parents split when I was in third grade.  My dad moved to Albuquerque, as his parents lived their.  He grew up around Burlington Ia. area, but his parents moved out west due to health reasons.  My dad met Grace, who was Mexican and already had 3 boys and a girl.  They married and Gino was born.  So Gino is my half brother, and is 13 years younger.  Grace was a wonderful lady, a wonderful wife to my dad, and a wonderful step mom that always made us feel so welcome, when we came to visit.  She was Mexican and cooked all the traditional Mexican foods.  Rich loved it…..I ate KFC……lol…..My dad died around 1991, and Grace died just 5 years ago, a month after her 80th birthday.  We had went down to celebrate her birthday with all her family.  We were so glad we did.

So this week is going to be filled with visiting the past and new adventures for Gino.  Our first trip was to Toluca.  Gino wants to see and find out about our dads life before he went to New Mexico.  We moved to Toluca when I was around 5 from a little town called Cameron.  Our dad worked for O’Dea Cleaners and was transferred to Toluca from Monmouth.  My dad left when I was in 3rd grade.  This was his town for around 3 or 4 years.

We drove all around town explaining where we had lived and the schools we attended.  The restaurants and bars he visited, and the church Rich and I was married in.  I shared the stories I remembered growing up.  Then we drove over to the Jumbo Park.  I explained about the history of the coal mine.

We loved the peacefulness and serenity of the park.  A freight train came by.  This use to be the Santa Fe main passenger line.  You could board the train here and go all the way to Albuquerque.  Now it is the main freight line to Chicago.  We decided to climb up the Jumbo.  I had wanted to climb the Jumbo several weeks ago when I was here with Cassidy, but I only had sandals on.  So now I was prepared with tennis shoes.

It didn’t look far, but we stopped many times………..hufffff    pufffff….we were out of breath…..but we made it……..”WHAT A VIEW”……You could see for miles.   Nothing but farm land dotted with farm buildings.   Every mile was a square section of a different color, depending on what was planted or not planted.  Some land was fresh plowed and black, others were different shades of green for corn as it was just breaking the ground. We sat down on the picnic table that sat on top of the Jumbo, and just enjoyed the site and the gorgeous weather.  It was a Perfect day.  I hadn’t climbed the Jumbo since I was maybe early 20s …..Finally we slowly climbed down, next stop Caseys……Restroom and refreshments…….We headed for Peoria, which  was about 30 to 45 mins.   We eat at Longhorn Steak House.  I think it was a well deserved meal.  Next Stop, Springdale Cemetery in Peoria……

If you like Cemetery’s, this is a must see.  Springdale Cemetery, was originally established in 1854 a mile from Peoria City limits.  It is now in the middle of Peoria.  War Memorial drive, a major road runs over the northern portion of it.  It is nestled in the rolling hills and valleys near the river and hidden from view.

It is now the site of over 70,000 burials with room for more.  It is comprised of 239 acres, and has over 6 miles of winding hilly roads.  It also has many nature trails through the park and is also a wild life preserve.  Last year I rode through near dusk and seen at least 6 deer grazing.  I believe it is one of Peoria’s most hidden historical treasures.  The park is not only used for burial, but also for hiking, and at any time of the day, you will find people walking and jogging on the roads.

It has many small mausoleums situated along the bottom of hillsides in the thick of the trees.  Beautiful, but “erie” at the same time.

Family Plot

Here some really strange stones.

Finally after over 2 hours of driving and roaming the cemetery, and feeling exhausted…..we left……..

But……….Determined to come again…….We didn’t even see it all….


Mothers Day Tea, with Miley at Kindergarten and Prom across the Street

A week ago today, I was invited to attend Mileys Mothers Day Tea at her School. She attends Kindergarten in the Primary Building. Tina and Ed, (parents) were busy and couldn't attend. I arrived at the school around 1:15. The new school was built several years back, due to a tornado that damaged the old one.


The new school was built on the same grounds but placed behind the old one. Across the side street is the High School, where Prom will be on Sat nite. Their was much activity going on in the parking lot.  I will tell you about this later.

This will only be the 2nd time I have been in this school. I entered the first set of 2 double doors after I heard a buzz and had to go to the single door to the left. In this first room on the side was a teacher monitoring the camera. He had to buzz the door for you to enter. The girl at the desk was Angie, an old school friend of Tina’s. Its strange to see these kids now doing jobs of adults. One still thinks of them as kids. lol. Angie had me sign in, Name, Time, Teacher also a place to sign out when leaving. I was escorted down the hall as I didn’t know where to go.  The halls were so bright and full of color.  Each class room area in the hall was decorated with art work of the students.  I was directed to the room with the Purple Umbrella by it.  So cute.  Each classroom door had a different color umbrella.  Makes it so easy for the kids to find their rooms.  All the moms were standing outside the door waiting for the teacher to invite us in.  I was the only Grandmother.  At 1:30 sharp we were all invited in.  Miley took me to her table and showed me the things she made for mom.


An awesome book.  A decorated Flower Pot with some candy and a Card.


Also she put a Name tag on me…..So Cool….

On her table was also a plate with a cookie and M&Ms’.   She was so excited, she couldn’t wait to eat….lol….Finally all the moms had arrived, except for one that came later, so the teacher announced that the students had prepared some songs for us.   They all filed in front of the room and sang some of the cutest songs.


All about Mothers Day.  During the songs the kids would present to the parents the gifts from the table that they made….Very Very Cute.   Finally it was time to eat.  They served punch, made with 7-up and sherbert and cookies and M&Ms’.  As I looked around, I noticed how cute the room was decorated.  So much fun.  I remember when I was in 1st grade, our tables were all in a rows, the blackboard was on 2 walls and above it was the Alphabet picture cards for learning…..a small wall library, and everything was so blahhhh with color.  Everything was so symmetrical.  Now their is color everywhere.  They have different stations.  A big rug to sit on for story time, a table for work time, a library area.  computer area.  Miley said, they even have I Pads to use.  There are colored posters and pictures everywhere….The rooms are full of color and activity and art work. The teachers are even so young and cute and pretty.  I remember teachers being old, fat, crabby, and lets just say…….NOT PRETTY……!!!!! On the wall I found the pictures the kids drew of their moms…….


Funny…..Tina with a Ponytail…..

As I was looking around,  I looked at the curtains.  We never had curtains on our windows.  These were solid drapes, were pretty and had tie backs on them…..Such a Homey feeling.  I told Miley what pretty curtains she had………and then she said….We close them up during    RED DRILL…….??????…...It finally hit me.  All of this security is for protecting the students and faculty from another school shooting.  They have drills on where to go incase of an emergency.  The school will go into lock down.  The classroom doors are locked ,curtains pulled shut, and kids are instructed where to hid.  They have to be hidden from view from the outside.  Such a different world we live in today.  We use to only have drills to protect us from tornadoes and fire.  Now its from each other. Finally the party was over, we ….SIGNED OUT….  and left the building.  I looked across to the high school and all the activity outside was over.

Tina and Ed were over at the high school.  Prom was Saturday nite.  A community organization has been putting on a MOCK CRASH for the last 15 years.  It’s purpose is for the students to visually see what ….CAN…. happen when you are driving drunk.  Tina is a member of Rotary and Ed is on the fire department. They had set up several cars in the parking lot to look like a 2 vehicle crash.  They staged 3 kids in the accident, 1 dead and 2 critically injured.  Then the whole student body came out to witness the extrication and the horrible reality.  When I had just arrived at the Primary building across the street, the fire trucks were just arriving.  Tina and Ed said, it was a very emotional time for the students and also the parents of the injured the kids were cut out with the jaws of life, were hauled away in the ambulance.  The coroner was also present and gave a slide show of accidents.   It really gave the kids something to think about before the Prom.


These were things we never thought about back then.  I think the worst our parents ever thought about was if we were drinking, hoped we wouldn’t come home pregnant.

From one side of the street, we are protecting our children from the outside forces, and across the street at the high school, they are trying to protect the students from themselves.

In 10 years, which will go fast…………..Miley and Austin WILL be across the street at the High School…….

This is really just some FOOD for thought…..

The differences from generation to generation…..The changes from when I was in school in Toluca… when my children were in this same school in Granville….To now that my Grandchildren are in school……Crazy isn’t it…..

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My Day with Cassidy at Toluca…..Visiting the “JUMBO’S” Toluca Coal Mine Park

On Saturday, Tammy text me if I could keep Cassidy over night.  She had to work this weekend.  I said sure of course.  I went out and mowed the grass so it would be done for the weekend.  Tammy dropped her off and OMG.   She was in a BAD MOOD.  Mom was talking about taking her I Pad AWAY…..This this is serious business to an 11 year old.  So now,,,,,what to do….what to do…..We went up to Scott’s bar, and eat sandwiches…..Nobody was in their on Sat. afternoon,  So how about a game of pool.   Well that seemed to cheer her up.   …..Making progress…….So came back home and checked FB.   My friend in Toluca was having a garage sale.   So lets make a short trip and visit.  Its only about a half hour drive.


Toluca is the town where I grew up.  We moved their when I was 5.  I went to school and graduated from Toluca High School.  Graduating class of 35 students…….The High School was a consolidation of 2 grade schools in town, Toluca Public School and St. Ann’s Catholic School.  1992 was the last High School graduating class, and then area schools consolidated to form the Fieldcrest School District.  It comprised the schools of Toluca, Wenona, and Minonk, Dana, Rutland.  It was sad but that is the way it goes these days.  Its all about money and what a small school district can offer for education.

Toluca is also famous for “Mona’s” and “Capponi’s” Italian Restaurants’.  They were both started around 1933 but Capponi’s was bought by the Mona Bernardi Family in 1965.  They still both serve the same traditional recipes of chicken ,Italian pasta of spaghetti, ravioli and Lasagna from when they were owned separately.  They are famous through out the state, also selling their VO salad dressing and pasta products in grocery stores.

We went to Gabi’s and another friend, Janet came over.   We had a nice visit and we were talking about old times.  The subject of the “Jumbo” came up.  As kids we all use to go over and explore.  It was were the old coal mines had been, and when we were kids it was all grown up in weeds and trees.   You had to cross the tracks and then climb over the old fence that was ment to keep people out.  lol…….Fight your way through weeds and trees.


A few buildings were their but falling disarray.  I remember an old shed full of bales of hay.  I would climb and play in them.  The old mine shaft was still their but had wire and some wood post around it.  It was really not safe at all.  You could throw things into the deep dark hole.  Its a wonder no kids ever got hurt or killed their. But the biggest attraction was the 2 “Jumbos”.  Their were 2 mountains made out of slag.  Slag is like a shale rock, which is left after they take out the coal from mining. They ran rail cars and dumped it out to eventually form 2 mountains.  Many small towns in the area have them. You always knew which towns had coal mines in their past.  We would climb the first one closest to town.  The paths were all washed out from years and years of rain, snow and the natural weathering of the elements.  Once you got to the top, you would look around and just be in “AWE”…..It was an Unbelievable sight.   Especially to a kid.



You could see for miles.   Past the edge of town, miles into the country.   You would turn around slowly and see for miles in all directions.  In the distant was all of Toluca, farms in the distant, fields, some planted some not, even the Christian  Church Cemetery that was several miles out of town.  You were even higher than the water tower.  At the base of the jumbo was the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.  It was the main line going from Chicago all the way to Los Angles California.  There was always a freight train or passenger train going by.  It was such an adventure.  Now you had to climb back down and fight to get back through all the trees and weeds and wild brush.  After you got to the edge, you would climb over the fence and cross the tracks and……… back to civilization…….gees, ….did our parents know????,….I’m sure they did….Did they care???…..I don’t ever remember getting into trouble….lol……It was the ” Fun” things we did as kids… cell phones, no I pads, No computers……really, we barely had TV……

I drove over to the Jumbo crossing over the tracks at the east end of town and down the road paralleling the tracks.  The tracks are now owned by BNSF Railway.  It is not the main passenger line anymore but it is still the main freight line to Chicago.  We pulled up to the parking area.  It is now a park.  “Toluca Coal Mine Park”.  Around the year 2000, the town formed an Association for the clean up and preservation of the property.  It is now a park to be use for hiking, picnicking and a pond for fishing.  They also hold some other town events in the park.


A nice fence surrounds the edge and a plaque about the coal mines is posted as well as a refurbished coal car sitting on a rail.


It was used to extract coal from the coal mines.  As we walked through the gate I noticed it has a beautiful natural park like atmosphere.  Trees, blowing grasses in the breeze and that wonderful feeling of nature.  Over to the side was a huge concrete circle.

This was the opening to one of the mine shafts.  It is now filled in and no longer a danger.  A huge pulley was housed inside this concrete.  It would turn and pull the buckets or maybe even people up the shaft.  Cassidy was actually starting to have fun.  Next we walked further, and seen the nice trail up the Jumbo.  I had sandals on but Cassidy headed up the trail to the top.   lol   and she ran……Great to be a kid……She made it to the top and looked like a little dot.

But acoustics were great, we could still shout to one another and hear our voices.  Gabi and I walked further and found the old pool.

Back in 1924, after the mine had closed, a huge concrete community pool was constructed.  When I was a kid, in the 60s, it was still here, but so broken with age.  The walls were still intact but people were throwing trash in it.  Old car parts….Stove and Refrigerators…..tree and leave debris…..Plus mother nature was allowing trees and bushes to grow up in the cracks.  Now it has been filled in and planted with grass.  But the foundation is still here.


It is so cool to still see it.  After Cassidy came down, we sat and talked abit.   The dandelions were done blooming and had their little feathery heads that blow in the wind.  Cassidy had fun collecting a bouquet  and then blowing them and watching them fly in the wind.



We sat for awhile and talked about the history of the mine.Gabi found a peace of coal and shale for Cassidy to take home.   She was actually very interested.

The Devlin Coal Company opened the mine in 1892, because it was next to the Santa Fe RR.  It eventually had 3 shafts some extending out 1 to 2 miles from the shaft opening.  Its average output was 1,000 tons a day.  In 1905, 771 miners produced 379,000 tons of coal.  The town grew very fast, bringing in Italians, Polish and many other immigrants.  It grew fast to around 3,000 people.  I heard often as a kid, that the town supported over 30 taverns.   Can you even imagine pay day?….lol….Party time…..The closed in 1924, due to rising wages, costs and newer mines elsewhere.  The coal veins were getting to far from the shaft openings.  It just wasn’t efficient anymore. Today the town has a population of between 1400-1500.

Now one of the story’s I heard as a kid was of a missing man.  In 1939, 73 year old former miner, Dominick Valesano had been missing for 2 weeks.  He was thought to have fallen or jumped down the 410 foot vertical shaft.  Due to the presence of “Black Damp” gas.  No one would go down to search.


Two brothers and a friend used their cheap brownie type camera and made a power device to power a flash bulb that had been attached to the brownie camera.  They  lowered it down the 410 foot shaft and took manual flash pictures.   The weight of the camera and light was over 10 lbs. and the addition of over 400 feet of wire brought the weight to over 300 lbs.  It took all the combined strength of the 3 to pull it back up.


When the pictures were developed, their was the view of the lower part of the body.  The top half was hidden by a beam.  There were efforts to bring the body up with a grappling hook, but eventually men had to go down with gas masks.  The story of the boys successful operation with amazing results made the national headlines in 1939.

It was a good and fun day…..We left and dropped off Gabi at home, having had a great visit.  On the way home, Cassidy said……”I really had a good time”…..Wow…..I succeeded……I told her about Cherry Mine disaster of 1909…..around 292 men were killed……Now Cherry is just up the road a half hour north of her house………Another Adventure for another day……I guess its just my small effort at preserving history…..and trying to make an 11 year old happy


Isn’t it amazing the history one finds so close to home……

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Home Again….Spring is Here……Flowers and Trees are Blooming…

We finally returned home over a week ago.  The weather was so chilly, at least for us.  We stopped first at Scotts new Bar he purchased……..”One Paw,z Pub”…..

Scott and Brandy bought the only bar in McNabb, known as Kathys before.   They took over on April 1st.   They will continue to serve lunch Monday-Saturday, with a daily special and have lengthened their hours to 1 or 2 on weekends.   They have added 2 more TVs, and Scott made some new tables.  A new Digital Juke Box and working on Gaming machines.   Yes he wants to serve the summer bikers on their poker runs.  He has some really cool ideas on Advertising……

He has signs painted on his trailors.   lol   On FB, he says where he is working for the day and if anyone takes his picture at the job site, they can redeem it for a …..“FREE BEER”……lol.  Before we left the bar,  Tammy came in with Cassidy and Carly, Ed arrived, but Tina was working, and Scott got off early and came in.   Of course Brandy was bartending.   So after a nice visit, we went the rest of the way home…….2 blocks…. The girls were having a garage sale in Granville on Friday and Saturday.  It was Granville Townwide.   I went over Friday with my winter coat on.  Saturday was so rainy, they closed up early.  So this last Saturday was McNabb Townwide.

I got everything ready with the help of Tammy and Tina, and they brought all their stuff over.  We advertised on Facebook sites and opened on Friday.  The weather was beautiful.  The temperature was in the low 70s and the sun was shinning beautiful.  We made almost $500 between the 3 of us.   A pretty good days haul.  We decided to do it again at Tammys soon.  So we loaded it all back up into the enclosed trailor to take it into Spring Valley.  The little kids had fun.

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Tina was selling this swing at her house, but Austin and cousin Carly had fun for awhile.  Austin loves his dinosaurs, and Carly loves Barbies.  If you notice, look at Austins forehead…….he wrote on it….haha….those 2 can get in so much mischief… 11208768_10203995698560475_1193875662_n Miley was clowning around with a little baby hat.  lol   She’s so cute with her teeth missing. I also met my new Grand Dog. 11216127_10203995565077138_1212409048_n


He was born the end of November.  Tina adopted him up in Jan.  This is his little bed he came home in.   He could lay down and spread out.   lol  Well not no more.   He has sure grown.  He had his appointment that day at the vets….Ouch…No babies for him.   She even ordered him pain pills, but I don’t think he needed them.  He was just as active as before.   He loves to play ….ALL THE TIME…. As we sat their, I realized the yard was becoming full of spring flowers and smells.   Rich had cut the grass already the day after we got home, and Scott had cut it once before.  As you looked around you could see the tulips and daffodils opening.

11210212_10204004406378165_564352646_n The lilacs are opening also.   The aroma of the lilacs is so wonderful and refreshing.  As the wind blew the smells of lilac came floating in the air, along with the little petals of the lilacs came floating to the ground. 11212223_10204007317930952_1703601785_n I have a beautiful redbud tree also, at the corner of our lot.  We planted it many years ago.  We went into the woods and found a little sapling of a tree and brought it home.  Here it is today.  Just gorgeous.  With all the rain we have had the grass is a beautiful green, but it also just keeps growing.   So now we continue to work on this house.  So much more stuff to get rid of.   I was planning on staying in the MH.  I wasn’t thinking of the fact, we couldn’t use the bathroom facilities, cause we aren’t hooked up.  Sure don’t want to fill up the holding tanks.   So we are staying in the house.  The trouble with that, is the kitchen has been totally cleaned out.  Everytime we cook anything, it takes trips out to the MH to get things.   lol.   All our clothes are out their to.  But onward we go…..Our Goal…..Just Get Rid of all the Excess…… 11195410_10203963685360165_602001647_n So here sits the beast…..sitting in the driveway….On May 19th, my half brother from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is coming for the first time ever.   Were going to have him stay in the MH.  Best bed we have….lol…He has always wanted to come east,

 So it will be an exciting 2 weeks for us.