Santa Claus Express Owning InstitutionIndiana Historical Society Item IDM0616_BOX44_FOLDER4_SANTA_EXPRESS DescriptionDuring the 1950s, downtown stores, such as L.S. Ayres and Blocks, were the primary destination for Indianapolis shoppers. The stores were especially popular during the holiday season, offering elaborate window displays, visits from Santa, and toylands for wishful children. A visit to L.S. Ayres was a holiday tradition for many. In 1958, the store introduced the Santa Claus Express, an electric train that transported children through the store on their way to Santa. SubjectChristmas
L.S. Ayres and Company
DateCa. 1958 Time Period1950s (1950-1959)
Geographic LocationIndiana–Marion County–Indianapolis
I grew up in Indiana during the 1950s, and one of my happiest memories of those days is of the trips we took every year down to Indianapolis to see the Christmas displays at L.S. Ayers, Naptown’s equivalent of Macy’s.
In those days every major city had its own local department store. In Muncie, it was the Ball Department Store, five floors tall, with the only escalators in town. It also had pneumatic tubes running everywhere that zipped cash and checks (nobody had credit cards in those days) back and forth. The toy department was in the basement. It doubled in size around the holidays, and I can still see the chrome plastic sheen of the Mattel Fanner Fifty cowboy pistol that I wanted more than anything in the world when I was eight years old:
I got it, too. It wasn’t until later that I began to lust after things like chemistry sets, with which I learned how to blow up things.
In my late teens I took a part time job at Ball’s, working in the Santa Shop on the top floor. Santa was jolly enough, given that he took a break every half hour or so to nip at the silver flask he kept off stage in his lunch box. He told me it was colder than shit out there on that sleigh-chair they had him sitting in.
Any Christmas gifts you recall particularly lusting after? Did you get them?