Friday, January 6, 2023
Locals Look Back to Days of L.S. Ayres
A local book group’s discussion of the old L.S. Ayres store turned into an extensive discourse on memories of downtown Indianapolis and customers’ changing expectations. The Indiana History Book Group, part of the Shelby County Public Library’s Genealogy Department, met this week to discuss Kenneth Turchi’s L.S. Ayres & Co.: The Store at the Crossroads of America. Most attendees had personal recollections of that era.
Jane Huber and Jenny McKinney recalled taking public transportation from Shelbyville.
“Back when I was a teenager, it was a big thing to dress up, go to the bus station on Harrison Street and go to Indianapolis,” McKinney remembered. Her clothing selection was not incidental. “We didn’t go in jeans and sweatshirts; we dressed up to spend the day at Block’s and Ayres and Wasson’s,” she said. “Before going back to Shelbyville, we would eat at the (L.S. Ayres) Tea Room.”
McKinney later worked downtown Indianapolis, where she spent lunch hours browsing those same giant department stores. “I still remember the feeling of feeling so grown-up, like I had arrived.”
Business dress for downtown employees was, of course, expected. “Your purse and your shoes matched, and you didn’t dare kick those shoes off and put your tennis shoes on to go out for lunch hour. You walked in your heels wherever you went,” McKinney said.
Kathleen Yeager also worked downtown, in the 1950s, during which she visited the Tea Room and L.S. Ayres several times. “I liked the nice variety of the items they carried, and everybody was friendly.”
After work, Yeager stood under the Ayres clock with the famed cherub sculpture atop waiting for her bus. “I loved that,” she said.
One participant’s memory led to another: Wasson’s Bargain Basement, Hoosier Bargain Days, the Ayers guest book allowing missed connections to know where the other party went, the elevators (and operators), charge accounts, the Christmas windows and decorations.
“There was a certain feeling back then about those stores that I can’t explain,” McKinney said. “There’s really nothing to compare to them now.”
And there was, of course, the quality, Kathy Nolting recalled.
But Ayres ventured into the Ayr-Way brand in the 1960s and then into malls. The company was purchased by the May Company in 1986, and by the early 1990s, the downtown location was closed.
“I wonder if Ayres tried to be too much,” Steve Elder noted. ““It was sad because in September 2006, the Ayres name just simply disappeared.”
But back when customer service was king, Ayres thrived. Group members noted that local stores - Jester’s, Todd-Bennett, the Mary Lou Shoppe, Lord’s - ascribed to similar philosophies.
Although members lauded local Cato Fashions employees for their attention to customers, most lamented the changing times, the literal dressing-down of the culture.
“We don’t dress for the occasion anymore,” McKinney said. “You can go to a wedding and a funeral and mow your backyard all in the same outfit.”
The Indiana History Book Group typically meets on the first Wednesday of most months.
Waldron and Triton Central will meet for the girls Shelby County Tourney championship on Saturday. Waldron defeated Southwestern last night, 41-35. Triton Central beat Morristown, 45-32.
A state program to promote and encourage recycling has awarded the Shelby County Recycling District $35,531. The award was part of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Community Recycling Grant Program. Applicants must show a positive environmental impact within the project service area, an increase in waste diversion because of the project and show the sustainability of the project, according to the Indiana Environmental Reporter.
HOOSIER NEWS: A police investigation into dozens of fuel thefts at Evansville gas stations led to the arrest of a Louisville, Kentucky, man Sunday, and detectives said the series of thefts could be connected to organized crime groups that specialize in credit card fraud. Diesel fuel thefts have netted thousands of dollars in losses for multiple Evansville-area gas stations in recent months, police reports show. The EPD believes the suspects behind the Evansville thefts use so-called “skimming devices” to steal credit card information from unsuspecting customers when they make a purchase. The devices can be fitted onto gas pumps, ATMs and point-of-sale terminals. Management at one Casey’s reportedly told police it believed the theft was connected to a group that had stolen more than 22,000 gallons of fuel from multiple Casey's locations. (Evansvile Courier & Press)
NATIONAL NEWS: In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, New York City’s Broadway saw a normal holiday week for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, with the 33 running Broadway shows bringing in a collective $51.9 million with a capacity of 92 percent, the highest gross of the season. That’s a massive improvement on the same week last year when 31 shows brought in $26.3 million. The Lion King, which has run since 1997, posted its best week ever, making $4.3 million across nine performances. (The Hollywood Reporter/Numlock)
This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.
THIS DAY IN SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY
News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.
20 YEARS AGO: 2003
With little fanfare, the city of Shelbyville expanded its borders. The Common Council unanimously approved the annexation of Indiana Downs’ 152 acres at 4200 N. Michigan Road. In other business, Third Ward Council member Orville Branson was elected council president. Fourth Ward Council member Tony Sipes was named reader with Fifth Ward Council member Jim Sleeth chosen as alternate reader.
30 YEARS AGO: 1993
The Dollar General Store building at 821 E. State Road 44 was demolished. The store had been destroyed by fire in December 1992.
40 YEARS AGO: 1983
Sheriff Rick Isgrigg proposed promoting a deputy to lieutenant and name him jail commander. A lieutenant’s position had been vacant since Tom Debaun was promoted to captain. The new lieutenant would likely be one of the three sergeants, Bob Belles, Scott Alvis or Mike Shaw, Isrigg said. Members of the Merit Board making the decision were Norm Barnett, Paul Swafford, Rev. James Horner, Harry Everhart and Russ Sanders.
50 YEARS AGO: 1973
“The Limousine” band, formerly the “Chosen Few,” performed at Holliday’s in Kennedy Park.
Suzanne Findley was appointed executive director of the Girls Club of Shelbyville.
Morristown co-captains Phil Stout and Richard Morris accepted the county tourney team championship trophy from Waldron Principal Tom McCracken. Stout was named the tourney’s “most valuable player” for the second straight year.
60 YEARS AGO: 1963
Glenn Montgomery, 42, announced plans to run for mayor of Shelbyville. Glenn and Evelyn (Hoban) had a daughter, Nancy Ann, 18. Montgomery was a graduate of Waldron High School. Five others had already announced plans to run, including Mayor Elmer McNay, John Cunningham, Ross Snyder, Oscar Fisher, and Ralph VanNatta, and Donald Sexton had also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
70 YEARS AGO: 1953
A mammoth chunk of yellow Wisconsin Cheddar cheese, weighing well over half a ton and so big it couldn’t be moved into the store until the front door was taken off, arrived at the Ross’ Supermarket. The medium sharp “giant” came via a trucking company. Standing about four feet tall and weighing 1,149 pounds, the cheese was moved through the front entrance by a hoist from one of Jack Robinson’s wreckers operated by Tommy Robins. A similar huge cheese had been purchased by the local store, operated by Ross Hatch, a year before, although it wasn’t quite as big as this one.
80 YEARS AGO: 1943
One hundred people attended the dedication of a service flag for the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. Mothers of men in service pinned service stars on the flag during a program which followed a pitch-in supper. Chaplain V.M. Hailey, of Camp Atterbury, was the speaker for the evening. He was introduced by Rev. James Paddock, pastor of the church. On behalf of the Monte Merry Maids Club of Shelbyville, Mrs. Willard Chesser presented an afghan to Chaplain Hailey, which would be given to the Camp Atterbury Hospital. George Chesser performed an instrumental selection. The following mothers pinned stars on the flag: Mrs. John Kepple, Mrs. Louisa Metz, Mrs. James Paddock, Mrs. Florence Coers, Mrs. Fred Perry, for their children, and Mrs. Robert Hurst for Ralph Jeffries, whose mother was deceased. Mrs. Kepple had three sons and a daughter in the service and Mrs. Metz, three sons. Mrs. Perry’s son, Frederick Perry, had been reported missing.
90 YEARS AGO: 1933
Rev. Mrs. Josephine Huffer, pastor of the Trinity M.E. Church, hosted a revival series at the church, with services in the mornings and evenings.
100 YEARS AGO: 1923
Shelbyville had experienced 103 fires in 1922, the most in any year in city history, Fire Chief William Briggs reported. Fifteen fires had been caused by bad chimneys, 22 due to sparks, three due to lightning, one caused by sparks from a train, one from the sun igniting a comb, three from “boys with matches” and various other causes.
Burglary was reported in the 600 block of 4th Street, Shelbyville.
Theft was reported in the 400 block of Colescott Street, Shelbyville.
JAIL BOOK-INS: Anthony W. Elamon, 50, OVWI; Dalton D. Patterson, 23, residential entry, possession of meth; Jaron D. Rogers, 24, failure to appear, hold for another jurisdiction.
Andrew H. Runnebohm, 75, of Sugar Hill, GA passed away on January 3, 2023, surrounded by his loved ones. He was preceded in death by his parents, Carl, and Ruth Runnebohm. He is survived by his wife, Dianne Runnebohm, his siblings Sue Henson of Louisville, KY, Stephen Runnebohm of Los Angeles, CA, Robert Runnebohm of Metcalf, IL and Mary Nell Gates of Indianapolis, IN and his brother-in-law Tim Burch of Deltona, FL and sisters-in-law Pat Burch and Ellen Burch of Sanford, FL along with several nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.
He was a graduate of Shelbyville High School in 1965 and also attended Ball State University. Andy spent two years in the U. S. Army where he was stationed in Germany and concentrated his efforts in the telecommunications field. Andy spent the majority of his career in the telecommunications industry for a variety of organizations. Andrew was a sports enthusiast, an avid tennis and pickleball player and also enjoyed euchre, bowling, biking, golf, and trivia. Andy's family and friends will forever miss his good humor, smile, unconditional acceptance of all people and love of life.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the American Heart Association or the Veterans Association of America. A Celebration of Life will be scheduled at a later date. To express condolences, please sign our online guest book at www.flaniganfuneralhome.com.