Category Archives: United States

Winter in the Midwest

I grew up in the midwest, in the big city of Chicago, and boy do we have winter!

The winter of 1979 we had a blizzard. I remember not being able to see over the fence in our yard because it was covered with snow. We could not drive because the cars were all covered with wet, heavy snow.  One night, our family went to a freinds house and we walked. My Dad told me and my sister to lay down in the snow ( we were super bendled up in our one pice snow suits that went from head to foot) and he grabbed the hood of the snowsuits and pulled us most of the way there. It was fun.

I remember one winter that my brother, sister and I were outside playing in the snow. We had these igloo makers, it was a red plastic, brick-like item with a small shovel. We would pack the snow in, and contiinue to do so until we created our “igloo”.  This one winter we were outside building our igloo’s and my brother threw the shovel at me and hit my straight in the bridge of my nose. He did not cause any real damage, but left a dent in the place the shovel hit.

When we were young we would often go tobagoning at Caldwell Woods and when we got older it was cross country skiing, wherever Dad felt like driving too.

This article was written for 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy, (hosted by Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog), for week 2 promt that asks these questions. What was winter like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc…


Reflections of Camp Hope

The past week our news has been filled with stories of the Chilean miners who had been stuck 2,000 miles underground from 5 Aug 2010 until 13 Oct 2010. For most, 13 is an unlucky number, for these miners I am sure it will forever be a lucky number. I find it unreal that if you add up the digits of the date (10+13+10), you get 33, the number of miners that had been trapped in the mine. I sat and watched hours of the BBC coverage of this on Tuesday Oct 12, waiting for them to pull the first miner to safety and watch as he reunited back into the arms of his family members. At about 12:05am (roughly) on Wednesday the 13th, I was happy to have witnessed this event. I knew to bring all of the miners up it was going to take hours, maybe even another day or so. Knowing that, I headed to bed for the evening.

When I woke the next morning, I made sure that the news was on. So that as my day progressed I could still keep an eye on what was going on at Camp Hope. My heart was breaking for all these families. I could not imagine what it would be like for a family not to see their son, husband, father or brother for over 2 months. It is different if your family has moved away, it is expected that you will not see them for a while. But, to have a loved one go off to work and expect that you will see them later in the day, and then that day a tragedy hits. You do not know if your loved one is alive, then after 17 agonizing days you get words that all 33 men are alive, and together! What wonderful news.

That great news is followed by words that any family member would dread to hear, it could be Christmas before we get them out.

To everyone that has helped with the rescue of miners, you are all heroes! Be proud of what you have done, the families of these men are forever grateful for all you have done to reunite their families.

I am sure some of you are wondering why I would write about this here. The answer is simple, I come from a family of coal miners. I am lucky enough that my family moved away from the coal mines in the late 1950’s and settled in Chicago, IL. If that had not happened, I would not be here to reflect on all of this.

My maternal grandfather, William H Richmond was a coal miner in West Virginia, as well as his dad, his grandfather and his father-in-law. Since I do not know much about their times as miners, I can only write about things I have been told by my grandma and mom.

Simply put, coal mining is a very dangerous job. The reason my family moved from WV to IL is because the mine superintendent told Bill (my grandfather) that he needed to look for a different job. Bill was accident prone and they were afraid the mines would kill him. This is something I learned as an adult, so I never got to talk with my grandfather about this.

My grandmother told me that he had many severe accidents in the mine, one of them broke his pelvis and he was not supposed to walk again. I have not found any newspaper articles to support this story so far, but I have not put much effort into looking either.

As for my grandma’s dad, Joe Lachney, he was a miner in IN and then WV. Joe was in a mine explosion and was badly burned from it. He had lost part of his ear and had bad scars under his arms. The scarring was so bad that it appeared he became webbed under his arms. One cousin made the comment that “he was the original bat man,” no cape needed. Joe died when I was about four, so I really do not remember any of this. What I share is stories I have from others.

So, I as I reflect on all that has happened for these 33 families I am thankful my immediate family has moved away from this hard life. I do have distant relatives still in WV and I am sure there are still family members in the mines. I pray that they are all safe as they work. I could not imagine the thought of this happening in my family.

Treasure Chest Thursday – 1917 Draft Card

For the past few months, I have been posting documents that belonged to my paternal great-grandfather Dennis O’Connell. This week, I continue with Dennis’s records.

His 1917 Draft Card gives his current address as 29 Main St., Glens Falls, NY. It was signed either Jan or June of 1917, it is a bit hard to decipher. Months after he signed his draft card, Dennis moved to Thorold, Canada.

I am so thankful to have these records and Dennis’s handwriting on each of them.

Spending Sentimental Sundays With Family Recipes

Though I grew up in the big city of Chicago, my maternal relatives are from West Virginia and that means eating good! My maternal Grandma was always in the kitchen cooking, and the food was spectacular! Grandma had a few recipes that I would never taste, no matter if she made them, or if her Mom did. When I think back about it, I get a god chuckle because the recipes for things that everyone in their family loved. Two of the recipes that I refused to taste as a child are  Johnny Bowl Pudding and Milk Pie.

I tried Johnny Bowl Pudding about 5 years ago when I was in Ohio. I was pretty much forced to try it. I am a very picky eater and definitely was not happy. But, I tried it to make everyone happy. In the end, I loved it! Johnny Bowl Pudding is a bread pudding and I will never pass up a bread pudding again.

Finally lets talk about the Milk Pie! You can hardly get me to drink a glass of milk, let alone eat at as a pie. The only milk I like is drenched with chocolate sauce as well. Well, let me tell you how silly I have been! Milk Pie is super sweet, you only need one piece and your sweet tooth will be more than satisfied! I finally tasted this on New Years Eve of 2009. Grandma had passed away early that evening and as a family we decided to make a Milk Pie. I was not wanting to taste it, but I was urged by my family to at least try it, because I would not be disappointed. They were right and my kids loved it as well.

So, in honor of my Grandma, I am going to share her recipe for Milk Pie!



1 frozen pie crust

1 cup sugar

3 TBSP flour

pinch of salt

1.5 cans of evaporated milk

Cinnamon to taste

4 pats of butter


Heat oven to 350º. Place pie crust on a cookie sheet (just in case of spills, this pie is liquid and spills will happen). In pie crust, mix by hand all dry ingredients, making sure there are no lumps left. Once complete, pour in the evaporated milk. Place pats of butter on top of pie, then sprinkle with cinnamon (I prefer to cover the top of the pie with cinnamon). Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes. Pie is complete when you insert a knife in center and get a custard like substance.

Sentimental Sunday – The Aroma of Grandma’s House

As a child Grandma Ida, (born Margaret Jaeger on 1 Jan 1919 in IL and died 15 Apr 1980, Chicago, IL)  would make her homemade jellies for the winter. There was always a jar in the fridge and a few more in the pantry. This was a day that would be spent entirely in the kitchen. The boiling of fruits left a more than pleasant aroma. I remember standing on a chair so I was able to look into the colossal pots filled with strawberry’s,  plums or whatever other fruit she used. I can still see the way her kitchen was set up and where each of the appliances belonged. I remember this being a day long project with benefits that would last for months to come. 


Ida M. Jaeger, digital copy provided by T. Foote ©2010 Terri O’Connell



As an adult, I wish that Grandma had lived well beyond 1980. I was 8 when she passed away and never really learned to make jelly like she did. I can make freezer jelly and that is really quick to make. Nothing like Grandma did when I was a child. No mason jars or wax needed. Just a plastic container that can be stored in the freezer. Luckily, I have an aunt who learned how to do this last summer and I hope I am  able to spend a day with her over summer to learn from her. 

My favorite jelly that Grandma made was plum. It is not the same as buying a jar of Smuckers or any other brand. I have purchased a few in the past and they never taste the same.

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