Written by Jourdan Struck, sales associate with the Indiana Store
The L.S. Ayres Tea Room Cookbook project was mentioned to me the day I was hired. I tend to volunteer for things fairly readily, so I am not surprised that the words “I can do that” came tumbling out of my mouth. What did surprise me was the response from my boss, “Well, ok! Great!” I was a little startled that my boss would let the “new girl” tackle such an auspicious project, but I am excited to tackle it.
In the past month, as I have contemplated and discussed with others ideas for where this cookbook will go, I have become very excited about all the possibilities. I have begun to do research on the L.S. Ayres Department Store along with the L.S. Ayres Tea Room. I have asked my grandparents, parents and friends to tell me what they remember about their own journeys to The L.S. Ayres Tea Room and the Department Store. With the help of Katherine Gould, assistant curator of cultural history for the Indiana State Museum, I have begun looking through the museum archives at old Ayrogram Magazines and Ayrespeople (monthly store publications) that date back to 1944, in search of recipes and the occasional blurb about The L.S. Ayres Tea Room.
I was expecting to find those things and I have, but what I wasn’t expecting was to be completely amazed at how different society was in the heyday of the L.S. Ayres Department Store and The L.S. Ayres Tea Room. I am 26. I have no clue what it was like to be alive in the post WWII era or in the 1960s, but this project is forcing me to think about what it would have been like to be a little girl, all dressed up in my Sunday best, to go shopping and eat lunch at L.S. Ayres. Gone are the days of dressing up to go shopping and gone are the days of shopping being a special thing. Gone are the days of going to a special restaurant to practice manners and eating with your elbows off the table. As I think about this different time period, I can’t help but compare it to now. It seems to me that there was an innocence and youthful hopefulness that I think we have lost. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that we have today that I would miss if I was somehow transported back to the 1950s, but just think what our society would be like without so much T.V., a few more manners and a little less cynicism.