Cleveland Rocks Christmas

As children, we all remember pining for that one special gift that we hoped would end up under the Christmas Tree.

In the film A Christmas Story, Ralphie Parker wishes for an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle “with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”

His humorous recollections of that one momentous holiday resonate with the kid in all of us, especially one fan of the film, Brian Jones, a naval officer from San Diego who purchased the Parker’s house on eBay for $150,000.

Jones, a huge fan of the film who made and sold replica “leg lamps” as a side business, rehabilitated the home, located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, inside and out. He painted the exterior back to the yellow siding and green trim. Because the movie’s interior shots were filmed in a studio in Canada, Jones completely reconstructed the house’s interior to look just like the sets. And yes, the leg lamp is back in the front window.

Jones opened the house to the public in 2006 and drew in fans, as well as the film’s actors, who have since reunited at the house several times. The “Christmas Story house” has become a big destination for fans of the film. You can take a guided tour of the home and cross the street to visit A Christmas Story museum, which is filled with movie memorabilia. In fact, if you visit the house between now and January, Ian Petrella (Ralphie’s kid brother Randy) will be your tour guide. There’s even an annual convention to celebrate this modern Christmas classic.

A Christmas Story is based on the semi-autobiographical short stories of Jean Shepherd, which were first published in Playboy magazine in the 1960s and later in his book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, as well as his book Wanda Hickey’s Night Of Golden Memories and Other Disasters. Shepherd is the film’s narrator and he appears in the film as the bearded gentleman in line waiting for Santa who tells Ralphie where the long line actually begins.

Although the film is set in Indiana, most of the shots were filmed in Cleveland and Toronto. Director Bob Clark chose Cleveland because it resembled a 1940s Indiana town and because the downtown Higbee’s gave the crew permission to film inside the department store.

The film was released just before Thanksgiving in 1983 and it was a hit. Throughout the years, A Christmas Story gained popularity and was frequently featured on cable TV channels. In 1997 cable network TNT began airing a 24-hour marathon,”24 Hours of A Christmas Story.” TBS took over the marathon in 2004 and it remains an annual tradition, starting at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

BB gun historians note that, while Ralphie’s Red Ryder actually existed, the gun he wishes for did not actually come with a compass and sundial, which Ralphie describes as “this thing which tells time.” However, a rival rifle had these features and it’s assumed that the author simply confused his BB guns. A special Red Ryder gun with the compass and sundial had to be specially made for the film.