On New Year’s Day, I always think about Norman and June Schlemmer. For years, Norman and I argued about black-eyed-peas. We both had southern roots and, in the South, you must eat black-eyed-peas in order to have good luck during the coming year. I personally thought, and still do think, that black-eyed-peas should never be cooked for eating purposes under any circumstances. Norm disagreed.

For years, my first column after New Year’s Day was about my dislike for black-eyed-peas and Norm’s telling how good they were. One year he included a recipe that actually looked pretty good. I didn’t bother trying it, though. It’s true that my southern-born mother was a fabulous cook, but even she never made those peas taste good to me. The rest of the family ate them and insisted they were good. Even worse, she cooked them with “hog jowls,” which turned my stomach big time.

It’s odd how such beliefs crop up in certain regions of countries all over the world. In the North, including Indiana, for example, people eat cabbage for good luck. I welcome cabbage and even my dog Buddy ate a bit this year. That may have been because one of his best friends, Nancy Grimes, brought it. Eating cabbage on New Year’s Day was a pleasant surprise when moving to the Hoosier State. I must remember to ask Kyle if he likes black-eyed peas.

Apparently, most areas in the world have ideas or traditions about how to guarantee a good year. In some Asian countries they believe that one should eat fish for good luck during the coming year. I’m not sure if it’s a certain kind of fish, but it sounds pretty good (probably depending on how it’s cooked).

It’s my understanding that some people all over the world eat pork for New Year luck, supposedly because pigs root around in a forward motion, so eating pork is supposed to symbolize progress. Seems that some animals, or maybe it’s only chickens, eat while going backwards.

This was something a friend told me last year, in some countries (Mexico and Spain, for example), you should eat grapes for good luck. And in Greece it is the pomegranates seeds that are said to be lucky when one throws them down and the seeds emerge.

Now I want to tell you a bit about Norman and June Schlemmer. June was the daughter of Margaret and Art Lynch. A DePauw graduate, she taught the first kindergarten here. She and Norm had three sons, Norman III, Arthur and David. June was gracious, kind and quite beautiful.

During the 1959 Greensburg Community Centennial Norman served on the Centennial Executive Committee as the Headquarters Chairman. The celebration 63 years ago was a tremendous success. I knew he had been in World War II, but like most veterans he choose not to talk about it. Not long before he died, he shared only a little.

He fought in the Battle of the Bulge when Americans suffered 76,890 casualties, including 19,000 killed and 23,554 captured or missing. Germans suffered about 100,000 casualties, killed, wounded or captured. Each side lost more than 800 tanks, and the Germans lost 1,000 aircraft.

On Christmas Eve, 1944, Norm was in a foxhole with another man with enemy tanks rolling over them. A Nazi threw a grenade in the foxhole. Norm was blown out and the other man was killed. Norm spent the next week in the hospital, then was sent to Paris. Later, he was taken to England where he underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from his brain. He was paralyzed on his right side. Doctors put a plate over the area where they removed the shrapnel. Norm received the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Award and Bronze Star.

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