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…….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…


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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… 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……


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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