Those were the days!

Written by Jourdan Struck, sales associate with the Indiana Store

Digging deep to find the treasures in the archives!

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.

Luncheon fare from the tea room during the 1950s.

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.

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Looking for memories of the L.S. Ayres Tea Room

Written by Susan Johnson, Retail Operations Manager at the Indiana State Museum

One of the most interesting parts of my job handling retail operations for the museum is the opportunity to work with our curators and staff to develop new things to sell in the museum store. Along that line, I realized when I took over this position a few months back, that our ever popular L.S. Ayres Tea Room Cookbook is now 12 years old. Seems to me like this is a good time to put together a second edition. L.S. Ayres published hundreds of recipes in the old employee publications and newspapers through the years and I’ve had so many people ask me why certain recipes were left out of the cookbook. Cuts had to be made somewhere, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to locate more of those old recipes to share.

This will not be a small project and it’s going to take a little time. Right now I’m shooting to have this second edition published for Mother’s Day of 2011. We’ll see if we can make that self-imposed deadline. I’ve asked a small group of people to help me out with this project so I can ensure that we move forward. Jourdan Struck, one of our new staff members with the museum store, will be helping me research and test recipes. I’ve also asked her to write about her journey for our museum blog. Jourdan is enthusiastic, loves to cook and has a journalism degree from Ball State so I’m excited to have her on board. Katherine Gould, the Assistant Curator of Cultural History for the Indiana State Museum, is helping us wade through several boxes of old Ayres documents and photographs from the archives to help us in our search for unpublished recipes. Along the way she will be scanning recipes and old menus for our digital archives. I’m also happy to say that Head Chef Jon Michael Gioe, with the L.S. Ayres Tea Room at the museum, has volunteered to help us out along the way with testing and interpreting the recipes we find. He’ll give this second edition some cooking credibility.

Along with collecting recipes and articles about the Tea Room for our second edition, we’re also going to take this opportunity to collect some Tea Room memories from our visitors that we might add to the book. So please, if you have any old recipes from the Tea Room or a memory you’d like to share, please let us know. I’m sure we can use all the help we can get.

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