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.

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First Day of School / Emp. of The Month….

So here it is already, August 16th and the first day of school for the grandkids….I can’t believe they are starting so soon.  The summer is flying by.  When I was a kid in Toluca, we didn’t start until just before Labor Day Toluca had one celebration a year.  It was the Labor Day Celebration Carnival rides, games, yummy food, and of course the Parade.  Now that was the ultimate time of the year.  The suspense and excitement would build all summer.  We all couldn’t wait for it to come.  But it always seemed like school started on Wed. or Thur.   You would see the trucks come in all week bringing the rides and foods. The carnival started on Friday and lasted till Monday.  They set it up down town on the streets.    I hated that we had to go to school several days, and the teachers even gave us homework….How could they be so mean to us…..lol….All weekend it was an exciting time.   The town was full of people, the rides were running and kids screaming in delight.  We walked up and down the carnival midway and looked at all the games and the food.  I would have to spend my money wisely, because my mom only gave me so much.  When it was gone, it was gone.  The food was Awesome, Corn Dogs, Lemonade Shake Ups, and Cotton Candy.  Then we had the Parade on Monday.  Floats representing all of Toluca and surrounding areas, business and church’s,  and of course always the politicians riding in fancy new convertibles…..Just waving their hands at everyone….Everyone couldn’t wait for the Marching Bands from through out the area.  In high school, I was in FHA.  We always made a float.  We earned points for doing things so we could go on a trip at the end of the school year.  We used chicken wire to mold our design on a hayrack.  Then we were supplied with tissue paper to stuff in the holes.  They don’t do it that way anymore.  Finally the parade would be over, the carnival would shut down early cause they had to pack up and have the streets open by Tuesday morning.  I lived about a block from town, and that whole nite you could hear them hammering and noises of tearing down.  Tue. morning was school.  Downtown was bustling with the usual traffic again.  Sometimes the streets still needed to be swept, sometimes it was done.  Some of the rides might be parked somewhere all packed up in their trucks, but most were gone.  Everything was back in order…..Another year was gone………..Then, time to get back to serious school time….yuck…

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The grandkids are growing fast.  This year Cassidy is in 8th grade.  She is living with her dad going to school in Spring Valley.  The 3 little ones are all in Putnam County Primary.  Miley is in 3rd grade, and Austin is in 1st.  They are Tina and Eds kids.  They live in Granville where the Primary School is.  It contains Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  FB_IMG_1502996214751Here is Carly.  She is in Kindergarten this year.  Her first year of all day school.  Carly and Cassidy are Tammy’s kids.  Tammy lives in McNabb.  She is a RN so she must have been working and Tina took all 3 kids to school the first day.

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This is Carlys 2nd day.  She has curly wild hair.  It is hard to control unless in a ponytail or pigtail.   She is a cutie pie.

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And of course we must have the bus pictures.  I believe the driver is good friend Kathy.  She has been driving for so many years.  Maybe even when the kids were in school.  She loves her job and her kids.  The perfect person you want for a bus driver.  Her sister Mary Jane drives also and has for many years.  Now that Kathy’s husband retired from Cat., he drives also…….It really takes special people to do this job. This is what Tammy was doing before she became a nurse.  She loved her job and all her bus driving friends.  Rich also drove part time for many years…..They asked me,  …..NO WAY….  no patience.

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The other day, I found out some news.  I was voted Employee of the Month…..Wow…now that’s another first in my life.  I was so surprised.  I received a $50 gift card and my name on a plaque.  I want to THANK THE AWESOME MANAGERS, for voting for me.  They are a GREAT BUNCH.  This is sure a morale booster.  

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I am probably the oldest employee here.  Since school will be starting soon, the Box Office will close outside during the week.  Tickets will be sold at the Concession Counter.  I only work Box Office.  So I decided to add more hours during the week, I would try UsherNow how hard can that be!!!  …..Cleaning out the theaters after each show….Stand at Podium, Greet, take tickets and direct them to the right theater.  So Ok.

Last Saturday was training …..2-10….8 hrs…..  IT WAS AWFUL…..Now keep in mind, we are Cinemark 10…..So each show is shown 3 to 4 times a day…..so 10 theaters x 4 showings?????  40 cleanings……On my shift it would be 31 of those…..”PEOPLE ARE PIGS”….They leave their popcorn bags and buckets.  Its spilled all over the floor.  Soda cups everywhere.  Candy wrappers…..3 D glasses and wrappers.  They sneak in Soda in bottles, and candy.  They go get booster seats and leave them in the theater when they leave.  First you go through and pick up big items.  Then with the dust pan and broom you sweep up all the rows.  You only have 5 to 10 minutes and sometimes not even that.  Other theaters are leaving out.  People sit in their seats till the last credits are run.  Everything is timed.  You only have so much time and everything starts over.  It has to be ready for seating for the next show.  The bathrooms have to be checked every hour.  That means clean sink area.  Check and fill soaps, toilet paper in each stall.  Flush if needed and sweep up the floor of all the toilet paper that everyone drops…..”Do they do that at Home?????”…..I bet not.  Next it is also your responsibility to keep the lobby clean.  The popcorn buckets are filled to the max and you can watch them spill as they walk….Its like a trail….Keep the lobby swept and use the push vac on the carpet in the hallways…..It constantly has popcorn spilled on it.  Now about 3 hours in to your shift, your big garbage bins are filled.  So what ever theater is empty, go out the back exit door and empty your garbage.  Just hope its a close theater to the dumpster…..It sure wasn’t last Saturday….The farthest one possible….lol….Now do you still have free time????  Oh yes, so now take your big garbage cans to behind the Concession stand.  Their is a sink area to clean the cans.  Put on your gloves….Put disinfectant soap and water in the barrels….bend down into them and scrub with a sponge with a scratch pad on one side.  The girl who was showing me was down on her hands and knees with her body inside…..OMG…I Tried….Rinse….scrub again and Dry them…….

Now if your closing usher, these are your duties….Go upstairs to the offices and break room.  Take out garbage, vacuum the break room, sweep the stairs….It has a stairs, landing and another set of stairs….Then get the mop and bucket and mop all the stairway……Ohhhhh, I was so sore and stiff.  My knees were shaking and feet down to my toes hurt.  I was suppose to do this myself on Monday.  It was going to be really slow but still….That is a lot of activity.  I went home and told Rich….I can’t do this…I’m to old.…lol…I fully was going to go ahead and work Monday, but I got up Sunday and decided….NO WAY….I Don’t Have Too…So I talked to the GM and he totally understood.  I had to go in and find someone to replace me…..No Problem…On the bottom of my paper for reasoning to not do my shift, I wrote……”TOO OLD”…..They laughed….I Now have a new respect for Ushers.  You kids have so much energy and you work circles around me….But I will say,….in all of this, these kids are so nice.  They do great training and they are very kind.  They knew I was tired, so 2 of the kids let me stand at the Podium for the last part of the evening.   They make it all look so EASY….

received_10155225523583594Its, Not For Me….To Late to Take My Award Away….Back to the Box Office for me on Weekends……