POND BANK, Pa. — Legends are hard to break.
People in the deep South believe eating black-eyed peas, rice and greens on New Year’s Day brings luck and money.
Pennsylvanians of German heritage say eating pork and sauerkraut on the first day of the year means luck for the rest of the year.
On Sunday afternoon, about 250 people, not all of German descent, were not only hoping for a good year, they were also enjoying a fine dinner of pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and applesauce prepared by the members of Pond Bank Mennonite Church, a 120-member congregation on the community’s main street.
The dinner was free to anyone who walked in. They wouldn’t even accept donations.
“It’s Sunday and it doesn’t feel right charging people to eat on Sunday,” said Chad Wadel, a dinner organizer.
This is the first year the church put on the dinner.
For more than 20 years, the Pond Bank Improvement Association put them on in their community hall across the street from the church, said Fred Rock, 89, a Pond Bank native, former Franklin County commissioner and longtime association president.
The association was founded by returning local World War II veterans who saw that their small, unincorporated village had many needs. Rock, an Army veteran, fought in five Pacific War campaigns.
“There was no public water system,” Rock said. “Everybody had cisterns. That was our first project. Then we raised money for a sewer system, streetlights and we built the community center. We were a civic-minded group. We did a lot of good things for this town.”
Time and age caught up with the association members.
“Everybody got old,” Rock said.
The association has unofficially disbanded. The members who were left turned the community center over to the Mennonite church, Rock said.
Church leaders were happy to get the building, but didn’t know what to do with it, Wadel said.
“It’s easier to find a building for a vision than it is to find a vision for a building,” he said. “We fretted over it until John Mowen, a member of the church and a local auctioneer, offered to rent it for his monthly auctions.”
Church members raise money by running the concession stand during auctions and renting out the hall for private events, Wadel said.