Why are Santalands becoming extinct?
As a kid, the highlight of the Christmas season was venturing to downtown Indianapolis to visit the Santaland at L.S. Ayres department store.
My mother meticulously dressed us up, literally from head to toe. I still have the dents in my head from sleeping in rollers to attain those Shirley Temple-like curls.
Many department stores decorated their store windows with life-like mechanical dolls acting out scenes of Christmas but the ones at Ayres were the absolute best.
As part of our yearly ritual, we dinned in the Tea Room of L.S. Ayres, which was actually very expansive and elegantly decorated full-service restaurant. The kid’s food specialty was The Hobo, a hot dog wrapped in a bandanna hanging from a stick. After the meal, all the kids could pick a prize from the Treasure Chest – another popular treat for children in that era.
Now with bellies full, it was finally time to see the big guy who lived in Santaland while he was in town.
Santaland visitors didn’t just walk up to see Santa, they actually took a train ride through a magical recreation of The North Pole. Man, was that cool!
For whatever reason, Santalands seem to have disappeared from major department stores. Maybe it’s a result of cost-cutting, needing more space to sell widgets or the pressure to be “politically correct”. It’s really a shame.
Fortunately, the folks at The Indiana State Museum have recreated the Tea Room, window displays and Santaland under the umbrella of Celebration Crossing. What a treat to be able to relive this special holiday adventure and share it with my own child.