For all of you who believe not much ever happens in Indiana, I offer the following litany of Hoosier trivial facts and fancy.

Tomato juice was served for the first time anywhere in 1917 at the French Lick Resort and Spa. Indianapolis Mayor James Taggart, who owned the resort, brought world famous chef Louis Perrin in to spice up the menu for his powerful and influential guests from Chicago. One morning the chef ran out of oranges to make orange juice and squeezed tomatoes instead. Of course, they didn’t make Bloody Marys back then since Taggart never allowed liquor on the premises. And the new juice must have been okay with “the guys,” because nobody shot the chef.

Likewise, the first tomato juice canning factory was also a Hoosier establishment. It opened in Kokomo in 1928 by Kemp Brothers who later sold it to Libby Foods.

As a personal aside, my grandparents lived just around the corner from this factory during World War II, and one summer when I was visiting I made friends with one of the cannery workers who would toss hot cans of juice over the fence for me. I didn ‘t learn to make Bloody Marys until much later.

Another biggie for Kokomo was the automobile. Haynes-Apperson cars were putt-putting the streets of Kokomo in 1894, years before Henry Ford drove his first Tin Lizzie off the assembly line. Actually, the whole automotive industry was born in Kokomo, which also boasted the first pneumatic tires, the first shock absorbers, the first safety glass windshields and the first sealed-beam headlights. Eat your heart out, Detroit.

The first speed limit on Indiana roads was set at 20 mph in 1921. This was faster than most speed limits elsewhere which was usually 10 to15 mph, set primarily to keep the cars from scaring the horses.

Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis claims to be the largest hospital in the Midwest. Eagle Creek Park is the largest city park in the United States. Crown Hill Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the U.S. And the city of Gary, Ind. while not especially large, was built almost entirely on fill dredged from the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Some people claim Indiana Gov. Robert Orr’s wife Josie was a ferry pilot during World War II, although I haven’t been able to verify it. It is true, however, that Amelia Erhardt taught at Purdue in 1935, offering a course in careers for women. Flying, anyone? A Purdue alum, Earl Butz, became Secretary of Agriculture during the Nixon Administration. Unfortunately, his penchant for off-color jokes headed him toward early retirement.

State Road 231 is the longest highway in the state, ironically 231 miles long. Did they build it first and then decide what to call it? Or did they name it 231 and then made sure it stretched out that long?

Johnny Appleseed is buried near Fort Wayne. He was a real person who really wandered across the country planting apple orchards. His real name was John Chapman and many of the state’s orchards still have trees he planted.

Crawfordsville is famous for its collection of crinoid fossils. Crinoids are fan-shaped organisms that live in deep ocean water. There are about 550 species in the world today, many of which have ancestors in the Crawfordsville collection. Apparently at one time at least part of Crawfordsville was under a lot of water.

Florence Henderson, May West, Red Skelton, Michael Jackson and actor Forest Tucker all came from Indiana. So too does 90 percent of all the popcorn in the world, thanks in large part to Orville Redenbacher who pioneered hybrid popcorn on his Indiana family farm.

And, believe it or not, The Project, a.k.a., that never-to-be-finished addition to my home is now 99.9 percent finished.

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