Thursday, July 10, 2008

California Girls Come to Small Town America

Although I've lived here most of my life, most of you probably don't know that I was born in San Diego, California. Yup, Mom grew up in sunny California, married a sailor from Central Illinois (our Dad), and moved back to Urbana when his Navy stint was done. Still, my mother's parents were both originally from Illinois, and this weekend our California family flew in for a reunion. Despite 3000 miles between us, and not corresponding as much as we should, we remain close and are always happy to see them.

Here's my mother, her sister Karla, My cousin Kim, and me. Oddly enough we'd all been having a goodbye boo-hoo just before this picture was taken, but it was still the best group shot I ended up with.

We had all of 24 hours with them before they had to return home, but we still managed to laugh. A lot.

Here's the clan:

The matriarch of the bunch, my great Aunt Dorothy, is 84 years old, and works as a bookkeeper at a small sporting goods store. She runs the local PNA (Polish National Alliance), drinks her beer on ice, and will kick your ass, if need be. When one of her nephews didn't quiet down properly while she was giving a speech, she interrupted herself to yell, "Larry, shut the hell up!" before turning back and graciously thanking us all for coming.

She has more energy than all of us put together; you just try to keep up with her. You can't. I promise you, you can't.

Here's Clint, and Kim's girlfriend Karen, standing back in the corner together, trying to stay out of photos, and pretending they aren't affiliated with this family whatsoever. We thought it a good sign that they didn't just jump in the car and hightail it out of there.

One of Kim's favorite past-times is jumping into other people's photos. Don't you love that? She's been known to just saunter into a group picture and smile along with the rest of the family. Living in touristy San Diego, and working on Coronado Island, she has plenty of opportunities to do so—if you've visited either of those places, I'd recommend checking the frame on your mantle, to make sure that you really do know everyone in that picture.

After stuffing our faces with all sorts of picnic food, we retired to Aunt D's house for the afternoon. While everyone found a chair on the deck, Clint, Kim, Karen and I decided to walk off our lunch. We grabbed our cameras and set out in this small town Streator, IL (pop. 13,899).

Nice view from this bench, don't you think?

Click to enlarge. You can't get out on Out Street.

I took this picture just in case I ever meet someone named Tony that needs a graphic. Tony's is a meat market. Not a pick up bar, a real, old-timey meat market, with a butcher case and a scale up top.

This track runs through my Aunt's back yard. I hear that you get used to the sound of the trains, and can eventually sleep right through them.

What a beer costs at the PNA.


King of Beers and Catholic Schools.

Don't all churches open their bibles?

This was in the parking lot of the Church of the Open Bible.

Clint and I are planning to garden next year, so we've taken to stopping and admiring other gorgeous gardens, looking for tips. The picture doesn't do this one any justice; it was at the end of the day, and needed some watering. It was located next to a floral haven that the same owners had set up around their house. I wish I'd have taken a picture of that also.

While we were taking pictures, an older couple stepped out onto the porch. We told them that we were admiring their garden, and chatted for a few minutes about all that was planted there. I asked them if they would can their harvest. "No, no, we just give away what we can't use," they told us. "Come back in a few weeks, and get some vegetables. We'll have way more than we can use, just the two of us."

A typical, small town conversation, yes? We bid them goodbye, and headed on. I looked over to see Kim and Karen with dumbstruck looks on their faces. "That would NEVER have happened in San Diego!" It would have been more along the lines of "Hey, what are you doing? Why are you taking pictures? Give me that film! [Punch to your face]."

Ha! I felt so smug. HA!

We might not have mountains and oceans here in Central Illinois, but a girl can still get a free tomato.

That's something.


  1. LOL! Looking at the "clan" image - one of them has one hell of a suntan. ;)

    Thanks for sharing the pics.

  2. True dat, Wil. Everyone's welcome in our family!

  3. Great photos. Looks like a party group for sure. Can't trust those sailors though, lol That kitty looks like booties. Great post today. I loved it all.

  4. Hey, you sure have an eye for interesting things - Laughed hard for the bench with the superb view ! LOL!

    BTW, that's an adorable looking great aunt you have :-)

  5. Jolley6:08 PM

    75 cent, 12 ounce drafts? holy hell, im moving to streator. love ya. Me

  6. marinemom8:22 PM


    I should have know you were of Polish ancestry or associated with it! No wonder we became fast friends. Does your Aunt make homemade polish sausage and noodles? If so I'm going to look her up. Beer for $.75, how great is that, I'm with Brian. I thought a buck a beer was a deal the last time I was back home at the Polish Knights of Columbus in my home town. By the way, I have relatives in San Diego too. Are we related? What a great family reunion.

  7. Woweeeeee! Karla and Kim look sooooooo similar - and almost like sisters (instead of mother/daughter)!! Beautimous!

    Love all the pics! And I'm with Brian...I'd love to cozy up to that bar!

  8. Your Aunt Dorothy reminds me of my grandmother. When all the family is together as you know, it can be quite loud. She refused to compete with the noise, so she would just stand up and say "everyone shut, I have something to say".

    My husband loved it when that happened.

  9. Check out the young guy in the background of the photo with Aunt Dorothy. Is he sucking up the spaghetti or throwing it up!

    Great day had by all.

  10. You're Mid-Westerner all the way! And that's a good thing....We're the only people who speaks the King's English so everyone can understand it...

  11. What a fun post! I SO enjoyed this peek into your life!!!!


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  13. Anonymous12:43 AM

    Did you read Momo's comment, Mom? Another one we can laugh about.

    Hey Lori, you may have free tomatoes, cool fire flies, and trains serenading you to sleep, but just remember, we have salmonella, raging wild fires, and jam packed freeways... are you sure you don't want to give it a try?

    I had a great time visiting with you, even for such a short time. Although I am a city girl, I feel small town USA in my blood.

  14. Hi Scott! Do you know my Aunt?!!


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