Seven Days Visiting Family & Friends

I’m back in Harlingen after being away for 10 days. Rich and I left for Illinois and spent 7 days full of visiting and attending my Class Reunion. We decided not to drive because Rich was staying to work harvest again this fall. We love the train, so that is what we decided to do. I bought our tickets on line for $107 each one way, from San Antonio to Bloomington Il. Quite a steal. But it only goes south as far as San Antonio which is 4 hours away. Our friends Marge and Gary took us up the day before. We arrived and checked into our motel. Then we went down to River Walk. It is such a beautiful place.

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It should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is a river that meanders through the city, 1 story below the street level. Every block is a bridge overhead where the city streets are bustling with traffic . Walk down the steps and enter another world where the river is lined with little outside cafe’s with colorful umbrellas, restaurants, and shops. The sidewalks are made of many a variety of materials, bricks, cobblestone, or concrete. They follow the river on both sides and have beautiful mature trees, plantings of flowers and tropical foliage lining the river and sidewalks.

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Every few minutes a Tour boat floats by with the Captain telling his Passengers the history of the River Walk. A new company took over the River Walk boats suppling all new designed boats. Their are Tour Boats, Taxis and also Dinner Cruise Boats, that comprise the fleet of 26 in September of 2017, expecting to peak at 44 boats in the fleet. Every block their is a beautiful arched crossover to get to the other side. We walked and found a little piano bar. It had a/c, how wonderful and refreshing as it was soooooo hot outside. I was a great place to just relax and listen to the piano man play his tunes and sing.

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My Favorite Building on the River Walk…Its an Optical Illusion….The building is triangle shape and looks like it would fall over. NIX Health Hospital

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We had dinner before we went back. Rich ordered this Shrimp Fest. It had 4 different types of Shrimp. Finally it was dark and was time to return to the hotel.

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Beautiful old Oak Tree near the Alamo

We actually walked, so by the time we got back, I don’t know who was more tired Marge or Me. lol. In the morning we got up early and Gary and Marge took us to the Historic Sunset Train Depot at 6:30. We boarded the train by 7am and pulled away soon after. Now to settle down for our 28 hour ride to Illinois. Cameron would be picking us up at Bloomington Il Amtrak Station the next day, Wed. around 11 am. The train is a great way to ride. The seats are fairly comfortable and spacious.

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The bathrooms are down stairs on the lower level. They are very tiny but serve the purpose. You can walk to the Observation Car.

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Their, people visit, play cards, read, or just watch the view out the many windows, as you fly by the country side. Down below is the Café’ that has everything you may need or want including alcohol. The next car is the Diner. It is usually fairly expensive but we usually eat one meal their.

We sat across from a family who couldn’t speak English. A lady several rows ahead helped to interpret to the conductor. It turns out they were from El Salvador. They had a new born and a small boy, maybe 4. They were going to Boston. Now this made me think. Their is no security in the train system. I bought the tickets online. You don’t have to check in at the train station. Board the train, and the conductor comes by and scans your phone. …..Hmmmmmm……So as long as you have your tickets on your phone, anyone can get on…….Something to Think About……After an uneventful restful trip, we arrived on time and Cameron picked us up. First stop as usual, of course....”One Paw’z Pub”…..Brandy had Chicken Fried Steak and mashed potatoes and gravy…..yum…..Tina, Ed and the kids were heading to Wisconsin early Saturday morning for the annual family fishing trip that Eds dad always has. They are sportsmans, loving fishing and hunting. Tina and Ed bought a new beautiful Camper. So we went over to see them before they left.

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It is really beautiful. Love the colors and the interior floor plan. It has a private bedroom and the bunks in the rear for the kids.

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Miley gets the top bunk

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Austin wouldn’t cooperate for a picture, so Aunt Beth got him down…..lol….time to tickle

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Austin and Grandpa Dolder doing what he does best…..Sleep….

It has a beautiful kitchen with a table and couch across in the slide. They left on Saturday for a week of camping, boating, fishing and visiting family. While they were their, “DeeDee” had her “First Birthday”.

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Happy Birthday Dee Dee “1”

So of course She had a Party complete with a Doggy Birthday Cake.

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Austin of course did his share of fishing and caught a 21″ Walleye. Tina said he was so proud. Fishing is his favorite thing to do. He is going to be like his Dad and Grandpa. Saturday nite was the Class Reunion, so Sunday Tammy and I took Carly and Cassidy to Peoria. We visited the Riverfront Museum. They had a showing of Unicorns and Mythical Creatures.

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Carly wore her Unicorn outfit….

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She was fascinated by the beautiful Pegasus. Then we went over to the Museum side. They had many activities for the kids. Actually adults too. This one was our favorite. You know those things you put your hand in that have all those pins. It makes the shape of your hand when you press the pins to the other side? Well this was “Body size” lol

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We had such fun with this. We all took turn. Cassidy has her eyes close and Carlys Unicorn on her head shows up. Tammy and I did it also, ours is a little “Wider”……lol...After that we went to Steak and Shake on the River Front in East Peoria.

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Love Steak and Shake food. We sat in a booth looking out at the Illinois River with Peoria across from us. After that Tammy took us by OSF Hospital and took us on a tour through her department. She is now a “Floor Charge Nurse”. It was a long day, time for home and some R & R. The next day is Labor Day and off the Toluca’s Labor Day Parade and Carnival with the girls.

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Carly got plenty of candy with her big bag.

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It was so hot, at the end the tank came through spraying water….Felt sooooo Good

This is one Parade that gives away so much candy. Their is so much that they seem to pick and choose after awhile and some candy is never picked up. Then off to the Carnival after the Parade.

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Of course when your young you ride all the rides. That was Carly, she had a blast. Of course you must have Carnival Food right? So Corn Dogs, Lemonade Shake Ups and more. Another day of fun. We were so hot and tired. The next day was Tuesday and my last day. I had talked with the girls from work and we got together at Cabin Fever in Peru after they got off work.

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It was so good to see them all. We spent over and hour, maybe 2 just visiting and catching up. Listening to their story’s made me realize how lucky I am to be retired living the life we are now. So glad I’m not their anymore. Back at Scotts, Tammy was over one day. He has one of those contraptions that you hang upside down and stretch your back ?

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Tammy strapped in her feet. We were dying with laughter. At first she couldn’t get upside down. Then Dad pushed her over and wouldn’t let her come back up.lol…It was so funny. The next day it was time to get back on the train. I was their 7 days. Rich is staying to work harvest again this year. This year he is hauling corn from the Elevator to the terminals on the Illinois River. This then makes space for the new crop of corn being harvested. He’s also hauling some corn from the field to the elevator. We drove back to Bloomington Normal and he put me on the train for my return trip. It was again a nice relaxing ride. I had both seats as we never were full.”

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I ate 1 meal in the Diner. Steak burger Meal…$18…..It was late the next nite when the train arrived in San Antonio. It was 11:15pm. But that didn’t matter. I took a Taxi to Greyhound. My bus left at 2am. I was really tired by then. Finally I boarded the bus. Lets just say, “I was not impressed with the bus”. I curled up and went to sleep. Thank goodness for GPS. I woke up and the driver spoke only Spanish to everyone. We were going through a town. I realized we were already in Harlingen. It was 6:30 am. I had been watching the GPS on the phone for the whole trip. It is a great way to find out on the train where you are. Ron from the park came and picked me up. So glad to get home....First thing on the Agenda “Shower”…..2 nites without…..Not Good….Then Sleep, So tired…..

So here I am back at the Park…..Working Cinemark on the weekends and starting a new project. Painting bathrooms at the halls...….Fun…Fun…Fun…Soon the New Season shall begin…..I’m already planning activities for all those Winter Texans that soon shall be heading south. One by one they will be hitting the road….Heading South for the Sunshine and warmth of the winter. Escaping the Cold Harsh Winters……Yes ….

This is the Life….going on 5 years with no Snow for Us…….lol…Heaven….

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Class of 1968 ….”50″ Years….

I just returned from a trip back to Illinois. The purpose of the trip was to attend my “50th” Class Reunion from Toluca High School. “50” ??? Really “50” How ever did that happen. I really doesn’t seem that long since we walked out the door for the last time after graduation. When you are a teenager, life is eternal. The thought of aging and growing old, is just never going to happen. That’s not even reality. Your whole future is ahead of you and your anxious to spread your wings and begin. But it does……….All of a sudden your caught up in life, what ever it me be, and you blink your eye…….Here we are “50” years later. Some stayed single, some became Parents, then Grandparents, even Great Grandparents. We have weathered 50 years of living in the adult world. Many of us are now retired. “Our Golden Years Are Here”. We have moved from one coast to another and from the north down to Texas. But we managed to get 18 of us to return to Toluca for this reunion.

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50 Years ago, we graduated from Toluca High School in 1968. We were a class of 35. “The Home of the Wildcats”

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Sitting….Kathy, Row 1….Morene S, Lyla N, Paul H, Sue, Martha B Row 2… Denise C, Cristy A, Me, Mary Virginia E, Karen S, Row 3…..Chuck B, Greg H behind, Don W, Bob B, Steve T, Fred B, Stan G.

And here we are today, 50 years later.

Last year Morine, our Class President emailed the plans for the reunion. Most of the reunions in Toluca take place over Labor Day Holiday. This is the Big Celebration for the town. They host a 3 day carnival, parade, entertainment, food tents, bingo, and many other activities for the town. It is a Holiday the town plans for all year. Of course as a kid, this was the time of the year you waited for. This was the Coolest, Biggest Event of the Year. I lived a block from town. I remember being so excited to see the carnival come in to town. We usually started school around Wednesday before Labor Day. We had 3 days of school. But why did those teachers have to give us homework for the weekend??? I seemed like they did that every year. So Cruel. So as we drove into town. It was actually exciting to see all the activities and the carnival in place. The Reunion was at Mona’s Italian Restaurant.

Mona’s and Capponi’s have been a Legacy in town since the 1930’s. They are family owned restaurants that are famous for miles around, for their fried chicken, spaghetti and ravioli, and their homemade VO salad dressing. As we were growing up, this was always the place to go for nice dinner. It was a place that everyone gathered for any event or party. This same sign has hung since I can remember. It signifies Toluca. I actually lived right behind Mona’s on the next street. Ohhh the aroma’s that would come from the kitchen. It was Wonderful. In the back ground, you can see Capponi’s. It was owned by the Capponi family, but was purchased and now both are owned by the Bernardi Family. Their Grandpa had the nickname “Mona” back in the 30s.

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We were taken back to the private dinning room. On entry, this was the cool sign they made.

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It was so nice to see everyone. We all wore name tags, which were our high school photos, but no names. A couple of people I had to look at their name tag, as I didn’t recognize them. 18 of us showed up. It was a very nice crowd. We did lot of visiting and getting updated on our families and lives.

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They had placed lots of cool props for a Photo Shoot. Boas, hats, masks, etc were on the tables.

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The committee also made a photo frame for us all to take our picture. We had a choice of chicken, steak or cod. After dinner they cut the cake.

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Morene gave us the report on the people who didn’t attend. Some had plans, some just didn’t come. Their is only 1 classmate we don’t know what happened to. We’ve had 3 pass away.

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This table was set up with their pictures and obituaries, and a candle for remembrance.

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Diana was a good friend all through high school. She had went to St. Ann’s grade school, so I didn’t really meet her until we were Freshman. She moved to Texas several years after graduating. I never seen her again. She passed away from Cancer.

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Rick Fleeman moved to Tennessee and passed of Muscular Dystrophy.

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Tom Marchesi only moved to Lacon. Its not far. He passed away from an ice fishing accident.

Finally after eating, and much visiting and picture taking, we all went our ways, but we set the date to do it again in 5 years. Lets hope were still all here.

Toluca had 2 grade schools. St. Ann’s Catholic School, and Toluca Grade School. In grade school we were a very small group. I attended the Public School. Our classes sizes varied between 14 – 20. These pictures were supplied by Don Wettstein. His mom saved many of his things from school. This is why his name is written on the photos.

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3rd Grade Mrs. Kresl? Row 1….Sandra Bisio, Roger Haig, ?, Brenda Runnels, Me, Don Wettstein Row 2….Kathy Imm, Racine Burks, Ron Jenkins, Randy Dalton, Martha Fulks, Vicky Peters (Deceased), Wilma Stutzman, Sue Schumacher

Vicky Peters father passed away, and she moved to Minonk for High School. Later in her early 20’s, she was killed in a car accident on Rt 51 on the way to work in Bloomington.

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4th grade Miss Vespa.Row 1, Wilma Stutzman, Brenda Runnels, Sue Schumacher, Vicky Peters, Martha Fulks, Kathy Imm, Racine Burks Row 2….Don Wettstein, Rich Fleeman, Ron Jenkins, Randy Dalton, Leon (Russ) Myres, Roger Haig

I attended the grade school for all but 4th and 5th. My parents divorced and I went to live with my grandmother in Kewanee. In 6th grade I returned as my mom thought I was then old enough to behave after school until she returned home from work.

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6th Grade Miss Brandt Row 1 ….Don Wettstein, Bruce Middleton, Rick Fleeman, Linda Armstrong, Me, Sandy Bisio, Ron Jenkins Row 2....Dennis Snow, Roger Haig, Randy Dalton, Chuck Bruell, Kathy Imm, Brenda Runnels, ? Row 3…..?, Sue Schumacher, Wilma Stutzman, Martha Fulks, Racine Burks, Vicky Peters

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8th Grade Mr. Don Whitler…. Row 1 Sitting, Ron Jenkins, Rick Fleeman, Chuck Bruell, Kathy Imm Row 2 Standing Bob Mouser, Randy Dalton, Me, Racine Burks, Wilma Stutzman, Linda Armstrong, Martha Fulks, Dennis Snow, Randy Baldwin , Don Wettstein, Mary Crank, Tom Marchesi, Sue Schumacher, Lyla Nixon

Once we graduated 8th grade, St. Anns Catholic Grade School joined together with us for High School. Toluca High School was really a small school at this time, probably with an average enrollment of 130 kids. Everyone new each other. We enjoyed a great Basketball team through the years. It was the #1 sport in school and the whole town joined in supporting and cheering for the “Wildcats”. We were arch rivals of nearby Wenona High School. During our Junior year, our team actually made it to the Super Sectional, Sweet Sixteen, Thanks to the guidance of Coach Chuck Rolinski. We were defeated by a school with a 3000 Enrollment. Basketball was always the highlight of the school season. I can remember so many times the town would rally around the bus’s as the team came back after an important game. The sirens would be blaring and everyone cheering.

In 1887 Toluca was originated originally as a farming community, with the railroad coming through. It became the Santa Fe main line connecting Kansas City and Chicago. Eventually it carried the Passenger trains clear to Los Angeles California. It is now an Amtrak freight line . In 1892 the town became a booming coal mine town. Its population eventually grow to over 6000, settled mainly by Italians. You can still see evidence of this by the 2 coal mine slags piles that we call the Jumbos still to this day. This was the materials discarded after the coal was mined. The mines finally closed in 1924 due to the decreased need for coal. As kids, many of us would climb the Jumbo and look out over Toluca. A sight that is always so inspiring. To be up so high and see the whole town before you.

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In front of you is the main street of town, all the different buildings, then beyond it becomes the farm land dotted with barns and homes. Every mile is a road. It looks like little squares of checkerboards extending to the horizon. Each checkerboard is different depending what stage the field is in. If you stay up their very long, you will hear a train in the distance. Soon, here it comes chugging away, “Toot Toot Toot”, in the distance until it passes the town right before you. As a kid, I crossed over the tracks many times. It was like an adventure to explore. The area was all grown up in weeds. Paths were their to access the Jumbo. Their was a small hay shed that we sometimes played in. The entrance to the mine shaft was still their, but a fence partioned it off. Nobody worried where you were. You were just enjoying the Adventure for the day.

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Today Toluca is a small town of 1500 population and has formed the Toluca Coal Mine Association, preserving the area by developing a park and fishing pond. The history of the coal mines has been preserved for all future generations. The Jumbo is now covered with grass and a picnic table rests on the top. I actually climbed the Jumbo again in June of 2015. It was really a Long…Long…..Exhausting …Walk….lol.Actually almost a crawl…….I had to stop several times to catch my breath…..But was so worth it. Their is nothing like the view of Toluca from on top of the Jumbo….Amazing….

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Finally in 1992, Toluca consolidated their school. The school system is now comprised of Toluca, Wenona, and MDR…(Minonk-Dana-Rutland) The High School is in Minonk and is now Fieldcrest High School. Middle School is in Wenona, and Toluca, Wenona and Minonk each have their own Elementary Schools. So our old Grade school was torn down and was St. Anns Catholic. Our Old High School is now the Elementary School with a new addition on the front.

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This is the future of all the small town schools. One by one they are all consolidating so they can afford to give our children a better education. So many hours and days we spent in this school…

What a Great Labor Day it has been. “50” years since we walked out those doors. We anxiously entered the real adult world. This school prepared us for today. It did a great job. ……So in 2023, we Shall All Do This Again….

2023 Reunion…..”55″ years….

SEE YOU ALL THEN

Heres an interesting fact for you: Did you know most of the Class of “68” was 68 years old on our 50th reunion? Also we were mostly born in the year 1950.