Indiana was the 19th state to join the union on December 11, 1816, and is home to more than 6.7 million people today. It’s the birthplace and home of the Indianapolis 500—or Indy 500.
The state has produced six of the United States’ Vice Presidents, yielding it the nickname “The Mother of Vice Presidents.” Indiana is also one of the largest producers of apples and corn in the country. Today, The Saturday Evening Post is published in the city of Indianapolis. But there’s more to Indiana than speedways, vice presidents and corn. How about gangsters, basketball shoes, kooky laws, and the indoor washing machine? And those are just a few of the things that set Indiana apart from the other 49 states. Take a look.
The Slippery Noodle Inn
The Slippery Noodle Inn is housed inside the oldest commercial building still standing in Indianapolis. Established in 1850, it’s the oldest bar in the state, is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and has a long history of serving locals in the Indianapolis area.
The Slippery Noodle is linked to Union Station by way of secret underground tunnels—many that helped to form part of the infamous Underground Railroad. And if that piece of history isn’t impressive enough, you might be interested to know that gangsters used to frequent the bar—specifically the likes of John Dillinger’s Terror Gang and the Brady Gang. The gangsters used the back wall of the building for target practice. To this day, patrons can still see bullets embedded in the walls.
The Slippery Noodle Inn works in conjunction with Indiana’s Blues label, Slippery Noodle Sound. The label currently has 16 releases, including three albums that were recorded inside the bar.
The venue features live, local, regional and national Blues bands at 8:00 p.m. every night of the week. Two bands are featured on separate stages every Friday and Saturday night. The menu includes subs, nachos, burgers, soups, salads, potatoes, fried green beans, jalapeno pickle spears with beer batter, wings, mozzarella chicken, chicken alfredo and more. Stop in anytime Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., on Saturdays from noon to 3:00 a.m. and on Sundays from 4:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Find the Slippery Noodle Inn at 372 South Meridian Street in Indianapolis, or virtually at www.slipperynoodle.com.
A tree covered in footwear
Just outside the town of Milltown, Indiana, near the intersection of Devils Hollow and Knight Road, stand several trees whose blossoms are unconventional, to say the least. These trees aren’t full of magnolia blossoms, and they don’t bear fruit. Instead, the branches of these trees are draped with scores of pairs of shoes—shoes of every size, color, and style. And the funniest thing about the trees is that no one knows exactly when, how or why people began tossing shoes onto the trees.
The original “shoe tree” was a large white oak tree that was struck by lightning. But instead of the traditional ending with the destruction of the original tree, pairs of shoes seemed to migrate to surrounding trees. One local legend says that a giant pair of shoes belonging to basketball legend Larry Bird are hanging from the boughs of one of the trees. Another legend promises good luck to those who hang their shoes on any of the shoe trees.
Everyone and everything is a Hoosier.
The name “Hoosier” is the demonym for anyone who resides in the state of Indiana. It’s not a new name. In fact, the term has been used since the 1840s when it was first popularized in a poem called “The Hoosier’s Nest” by John Finley—an Indiana native. Indiana has been referred to as the Hoosier State for more than 150 years.
“Hoosier” is also part of the names of many businesses and organizations based in Indiana. If you are a part of any athletic team at the University of Indiana, you’re automatically a Hoosier. Even the RCA Dome, which once served as the home of the Indianapolis Colts, was known as the Hoosier Dome. The term even serves a purpose of a higher calling—it’s the United States Secret Service code name for Vice President, former Indiana governor and native Hoosier Mike Pence.
Speaking of Hoosiers, you might not realize it, but there are several famous Hoosiers on the planet—celebrities, actors and the like who took their first breath in the great state of Indiana. Before he became the rebel without a cause, James Dean was a Hoosier. Funny men David Letterman and Red Skelton were born in Indiana, as were previous Vice President Dan Quayle, actress Shelley Long, singer and songwriter Cole Porter, singer John Mellencamp and — of course, as mentioned — current Vice President Mike Pence.
Crazy Hoosier laws
Whether you consider yourself a Hoosier or not, some of the laws on the books in Indiana will have you wondering why anyone would worry about committing any of these “heinous” acts in the first place. For instance, you might become Public Enemy #1 if you pride yourself on catching fish with your bare hands. That’s because it’s entirely illegal to do so. Indiana law has also deemed it illegal for anyone who intends to partake in the activity of kissing to don a mustache (ok, we might see the merit in that one), and it further makes it permissible for the state to fine anyone who charges money for a puppet show.
Worth noting—especially for math teachers and aspiring mathematicians—is the law in Indiana that states that pi equals 3, regardless of the fact that mathematicians in every other place on earth have figured with the understanding that pi equals 3.1415926536 for over 4,000 years.
Indiana has some strict laws for businesses in the state as well. Sheets used on the beds in hotel rooms must measure 99 inches long by 81 inches wide. No exceptions. Also, liquor stores are not permitted to sell cold drinks or milk, and conversely, no grocery store is permitted to sell cold liquor. (So be sure you’ve got that straight when you’re on your next beer run in Indiana!)
The state has quite a few things to say about its government employees and public roads as well. By law, men between the ages of 18 and 50 must work six days per year in some capacity on Indiana’s public roadways. And if you’re an employee of the state and you’re caught privately dueling with anyone else, your behavior is grounds for immediate termination, so watch that, will ya?
It’s the place of many inventions and “firsts”
Those Hoosiers are a creative and assertive bunch. The ideas for many things we take for granted today were originally conceived in the state of Indiana. The rapid-fire machine gun was invented in 1862 by Richard Gatling of Indianapolis, and nine years later, the first-ever professional baseball game was played in Fort Wayne. In 1874, as a gift to his wife, William Blackstone—an Indiana merchant—invented the first indoor washing machine. The AFL (American Federation of Labor) was organized in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1881, and four years later, a man in Fort Wayne named Syvanus Freelove Bower invented the first practical gas pump, which may have helped Elwood Haynes to develop the first gasoline-powered vehicle in 1894. In 1920, John Powell of Kokomo invented the first mechanical corn picker. And nine years before Mr. Disney would open Disneyland in Anaheim, California, the first theme park in the country opened in the Hoosier State. Santa Claus Land welcomed guests through its gates for the very first time on August 31, 1946.