A few of our favorite things

by Katy Creagh, Art & Culture Program Developer, and Eric Todd, Program Specialist

 Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
brown paper packages tied up with strings,
these are a few of my favorite things.

A very young Katy!

ERIC: I don’t know about you, but that list does not resemble my favorite things.
KATY: What about kittens?
ERIC: I like kittens, but not whiskers, specifically.  I prefer warm woolen mittens, if I had to choose.
KATY: I guess you’re right. And why do they keep playing this song at Christmas anyway? They don’t even talk about Christmas.
ERIC: That’s a valid point. Plus, everyone knows the best Christmas song is “Sleigh Ride.”
KATY: I completely disagree. Everyone knows it’s “Santa Baby.” No, “Carol of the Bells.” No, no, my real favorite is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
ERIC: Counterpoints, in order: Too risqué, too boring, and to use your own criteria from earlier, I’m not sure that song even mentions Christmas.
KATY: Fine. So, what’s your favorite Christmas cookie?
ERIC: That one is easy. My mom makes cookies every year that she, my brother, and I decorate. My designs are so poor that they aren’t allowed to be given to the neighbors. But maybe I’ll bring you one. You?
KATY: Mine are holly cookies. It’s a traditional Borchers family recipe, and it’s really difficult to make — you mix Corn Flakes, marshmallows, butter and green food coloring then add red hots for berries. Sounds difficult doesn’t it?
ERIC: Sounds kind of gross. Corn Flakes and red hots?
KATY: At least my mom can give mine away.
ERIC: Touché. What’s your favorite Christmas present you ever received?
KATY: It was a small, wooden chair and cradle for my baby dolls.

Young Eric

ERIC: That’s the stereotypical girl present. My favorite gift was a basketball goal that, despite what my mother would tell you, was an indoor toy.
KATY: How very male of you. Okay, here’s a big one: favorite Christmas memory?
ERIC: That’s tough because you have so many more Christmases to pull from.
KATY: We’re six months apart.
ERIC: Nevertheless. Favorite Christmas memory … One year my brother, friend and I sat in my room waiting for our parents to give us an early, joint Christmas present. We listened to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something on repeat for an hour — so that will always be a Christmas song to me, returning to our earlier debate. But then we received our gift: sleds. It hadn’t snowed in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in five years, but I can promise you that we were very excited.
KATY: Nice. Here’s mine. We were in Wisconsin, and because of the weather we got stuck at my Aunt and Uncle’s place and went to Christmas Eve service where my cousin performed in a play. There was a nativity scene reenactment as part of the Christmas play. A very young girl playing Mary walked in carrying one baby Jesus. When she got to the manger there was a sleeping baby Jesus already there. She picked up the sleeping baby and asked the crowd which one she should use. My dad and his brother — two grown men — could not stop laughing in the middle of church.

The adult versions of Katy and Eric still love Santa!

ERIC: That’s a good one. Now let’s plug the exhibit. What about your favorite part of Celebration Crossing?
KATY: By far, my favorite thing to do is to write Santa a letter, drop it in his mailbox and wait for a response.
ERIC: That’s nice, but asking for a present is your favorite part? That’s a bit greedy. Lest we forget, Christmas is the season of giving. Personally, my favorite part is riding the train when it’s full of Celebration Crossing visitors. You know, celebrating the season with friends, spreading holiday cheer and other selfless acts.
KATY: Oh, whatever. You’re just trying to suck up to Santa.

Come visit Celebration Crossing to have your picture taken with Santa, write him a letter and ride the Santa Claus Express between now and Dec. 24 and decide on YOUR favorite thing!

From Toyland to Celebration Crossing

by Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker, Curator of Social History

It all started with a train. When L.S. Ayres closed its downtown flagship store in 1990, it donated its iconic Santa Claus Express miniature train to the Indiana State Museum along with the L.S. Ayres animated window and Tea Room memorabilia. The train had been the centerpiece of Ayres’ “Toyland” since 1958, and given holiday joy to generations of Hoosiers. The museum couldn’t let that tradition die! So it opened a new holiday exhibit, “Toy Soldiers’ Playground,” so called because some giant toy soldier figures were available as decorations. The exhibit included a ride on the Santa Claus Express train, a visit to Santa Claus and the L.S. Ayres window, as well as toys and examples from the L.S. Ayres clothing collection in the Victorian setting of the museum’s former home in old City Hall. The recreated L.S. Ayres Tea Room began as a wildly popular program offered in conjunction with this exhibit.

When the new museum opened in 2002, the familiar features continued, but our building isn’t very Victorian! The exhibit needed a new setting; the village of Celebration Crossing. A few years later the original train was reproduced in a larger size to dependably accommodate today’s bigger youngsters. The old train remains a memorable “photo op” in the museum’s lobby, while new memories can be made in the popular exhibit upstairs.

Celebration Crossing opens Nov. 25 and continues through Dec. 31. Santa will be visiting with children in his house through Dec. 24.

What Gift Would You Give?


Nick is serious about giving Santa his pacifiers

This little guy, Nick, pictured on the right, gave what, from a 3-year-old’s perspective, is the ultimate gift. See that Ziploc he’s clutching? It is full of all of his pacifiers … symbols of babyhood, true comfort, and yes, a baby’s oral fixation. To Nick, they were his most prized possessions. And that is what he gave to Santa. It was a trade-off, actually. In return, Nick is to get an extra-special gift on Christmas morning, as a reward for his sacrifice. He also passed a milestone in growing up … and a Christmas at the Indiana State Museum that he will never forget!

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Santa is in the House

Santa Claus arrived yesterday via helicopter to the front lawn of the Indiana State Museum, much to the delight of the hundreds of onlookers who braved the cold temperatures.  All went off without a hitch with the DNR pilot landing the ‘copter safely, off-loading Mr. and Mrs. Claus and Raggedy Ann, and sticking around long enough to allow families the opportunity to check the vehicle out before he flew off to other adventures.

From now through Dec. 24 Santa and the Mrs. will be in their cozy house in Celebration Crossing at the museum, where children can visit with him and also ride the Santa Claus Express, see Peewinkle’s Puppets and enjoy the splendor of the season at the museum.  Be sure to come visit and also make reservations for the Family New Year’s Eve celebration, Tea with Mrs. Claus and Holiday Breakfast with Santa.  Call 317.232.1637 for reservations.

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Fluffing Christmas Trees!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at the Indiana State Museum. Did you know we will soon have 41 Christmas trees in the O’Bannon Great Hall and another 30-something in the Celebration Crossing exhibit? 

Imagine yourself the weekend after Thanksgiving, hauling out the box with your artificial tree, matching up the EE limbs or the blue ones, fitting it all together as you fluff out each and every branch (sneezing from the dust!), and then stringing lights (half of which don’t work … drat!), and THEN trying to make sure the tree is vertically straight … and the ornaments are even on both sides, etc. 

Wellllllll … that’s what our army of volunteers does here at the museum! These wonderful people “fluff” each of those 70+ trees, string them with lights and add realistic snow. Then, our own staffers, using the ReachMaster 95 hydraulic lift, take the trees to the very heights of the Great Hall, and place them carefully amongst dangling snowflakes, skiiers, mountains of snow and the like.

And VOILA! It’s holiday time at the museum! Celebration Crossing starts on Nov. 27 with Santa’s arrival by helicopter! That means just 38 more shopping days until Christmas …

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Becoming Clifford

Clifford at the Indiana State Museum during Celebration Crossing.

Clifford at the Indiana State Museum during Celebration Crossing.

As part of the museum’s 2008 Celebration Crossing exhibit, I was in costume four times roaming the halls as Clifford. Hidden inside a suit where you are completely anonymous, the kid in me was set loose—maybe it was all that adoration coming my way.

At the first sighting for most kids, there was instant recognition and shouts of “Look Mom, it’s Clifford!” Many immediately came running for a hug. Sometimes it was a group-hug of four, five or more and cries of “Take a picture.” Some were shy, but gazed adoringly from a distance. Parents often urged closer contact with talk of watching Clifford on TV and “now he’s right here!” Most could be coaxed closer with the offer of “high-fives” and non-aggressive doggie behavior like happy clapping of paws when a timid one made first touch. If a small child buried his head in Clifford’s chest, the parents cooed with “Oh, that’s so sweet.”

School-age children were the most vocal. Some said, “I have all your books” or “I love you Clifford!” Others caught a glimpse of hairy arm or peered into the big eye peep holes loudly announcing, “I see a face in there.” But many more gleefully ran on yelling, “I got a hug from Clifford.” A frequent question was “Where’s Emily?” to which Clifford could only shrug with upturned paws.

Teen responses ranged from cool aloofness to challenges like “My dog’s bigger than your dog!” A boy playfully invited me outside to settle the score. Girls more often would feign a swoon into Clifford’s arms with “I loved you Clifford.” The grown-up, too cool teens were a challenge to Clifford and his prowess as suitor. If no small ones were present and seeking his attention, he would pursue the cool ones, male or female, tap them on the shoulder and insist on a high-five usually leading to success and even a hug to everyone’s laughter.

Most adult reactions were in response to the children and Clifford, but a few were startling comments directed at his doggishness. Not surprisingly, the most frequent were about fire plugs and directions to the one nearest. One woman spoke of dog breath and another made an indecent proposal of meeting her later!

But the most fun for Clifford were the infants, those old enough to fix a gaze, but not yet speaking. They generally were not frightened. They just watched in fascination often with a puzzled expression. Playing peek-a-boo or blowing kisses would usually bring a smile to the delight of parents and the satisfaction of Clifford. Those were the times the sweat-soaked guy inside the scratchy suit forgot his creature discomforts and reveled in the moment.

Donovan Miller is a volunteer at the Indiana State Museum.