A Christmas Story

On December 26th we had the opportunity to visit a historic landmark in Cleveland, Ohio – A Christmas Story House.  The original mailbox from the movie still stands proudly in front of the house. 

In 1983, director/producer Bob Clark chose this location in Cleveland to film what ended up being a true holiday classic.  The house has been fully restored and you can walk through the entire house and relive all the memorable scenes from the movie, like hiding under the kitchen sink like Randy did, or run through the backyard in the footsteps of Black Bart, take a picture with the famous leg lamp in the front window, or hold the bar of Lifebouy soap on the shelf in the bathroom.  Yep, it’s all there, all the items can be found just like in the movie!

You can visit the Christmas Story House too and walk away with an incredible experience, not to mention a lot of photographs!  (we walked away with 149 photographs) And, if you are lucky like we were, you will be able to actually meet “Randy” (Ian Petrella) and snag an autograph!  It was the neatest experience actually getting the chance to meet Ian, something that we will never forget!  (Thanks Ian!)  This is a photo of our autographed poster that Ian signed for us!

The Christmas Story House is located at 3159 W. 11th Street, Cleveland, OH  44109 and you can reach them by phone at (216) 298-4919 or by visiting the website at www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com   It’s open year round, so head on over when you can so you too can experience this holiday classic for yourself!

Here are some fun facts that you may not know:
The film makers came to Cleveland so that they could shoot the department store scenes at Higbee’s.  After scouting around the mid-west, they found a store that was willing to go through the commotion of a production.  Most significantly, Higbee’s was willing to leave their Christmas decorations up well past the holiday.  Higbee’s also kept the Santa slide that was made for the movie and used it for several years after the movie’s release in 1983. 

Bob Clark appeared in the movie as the neighbor, Swede, who admires the Old Man’s leg lamp from the sidewalk.  (click on photo to read the Old Man’s lines)

Jean Shepherd appears in the movie as the grumpy man at Higbees who tells Ralphie where the line starts….and ends.  Jean is also a writer and a radio talk show host, a native of Hammond, IN, enchanted audiences with his adventures of Ralphie and the fictional town of Hohman.  Most of the stories in the movie were adapted from his book, “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash”.  Shepherd, who is also the narrator of the movie, worked closely with the production.

The film makers sent scouts throughout the urban neighborhoods to find the perfect Ralphie house.  This house was chosen because it had three primary attributes that were needed:  1) The house sits at a T-Intersection and these are often used in movies as they allow for a greater scope and mobility for the cameras, 2) The double wide lot next door at the “Bumpus House” gave the crew space for their trucks and equipment, along with room to see Raphie’s house clearly, and 3) The steel mills are clearly visible in the distance and serve as a perfect backdrop to tell an urban industrial tale.

The film makers rented out the house for the production, but actually did very little filming on the inside.  The on location scenes were edited together with what was done on the soundstage in Toronto.

In 2005, the previous owners put the house for sale on eBay.  Once he saw it, Leg Lamp lover, Brian Jones, knew this gem had to be shared.  Brian purchased the home for $150,000 and spent nearly a quarter million more to create a destination location for fans of this holiday classic movie.  The familiar green and gold exterior was brought back to its movie glory while the inside of the home was completely renovated to replicate the original set.

A Walk Through The Christmas Story House – What we saw
Upon entering the house, the first item we saw was the Fragile (FRA-GEE-LAY “It must be Italian”) crate with a leg lamp next to it.  After watching the movie hundreds of times throughout the years, it is hard to say the word “fragile” the way it should be pronounced, as this phrase from the movie is definitely a classic.

We headed into the living room where the famous leg lamp was on display in the front window, that shined into the night on Cleveland Street like the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.  The old floor model radio was standing proudly against the wall where Ralphie & Randy used to sit on the floor and listened to the Little Orphan Annie Show.  (Stay tuned for Annie’s next secret message…)  Proudly standing in the corner of the room was the Parker’s family Christmas tree where you can find the Old Man’s blue bowling ball and Ralphie’s Red Rider BB Gun leaning against the wall.

Lying on the floor by the tree was a huge pile of extension cords that the Old Man always seemed to plug in one too many.

As we turned around, we were happily surprised as Randy (Ian Petrella) walked into the living room!  WOW, we’re going to actually get to meet Randy from the movie, how cool is that!  We waited for our turn and snapped some quick photographs of Ian as he signed autographs “Oink Oink”.  He looked definitely different from what we remembered the younger Randy looked like, but heck, we all have to grow up sooner or later, right?  I did ask Ian if he still hid under sinks, and he said “not any more“.

The Kitchen:
Before we headed upstairs, we checked out the kitchen and the first thing we saw was Randy’s pink bib sitting on the dinner table.  Standing there, you started reliving the kitchen scenes in your head where Randy would not eat and his Mom encouraged him to eat like a little piggy, Oink Oink, and when you turned around you saw the kitchen sink.  That is where Randy hid crying because he thought “Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie“.

 

Your first instinct was to crawl under the kitchen sink to see if you could fit where Randy hid, and I did just that!  (I fit!)  I still could not believe that we were actually in a house where a movie was shot, that was so unbelievable and the neatest experience.  While in the kitchen, you will find the Old Man’s newspaper folded at his prominent spot at the dinner table, with a pile of his puzzles that he always tried to figure out.   The one thing that we were looking for in the kitchen and did not find, was the thermostat nob that the Mom always turned down, but it was not in kitchen as this shot was done on location in Ontario, not at this house.

 

The Upstairs: Ralphie & Randy’s Room & the Bathroom
Upon heading up the stairs, your first thought from the movie was when Ralphie was standing at the top of the stairs in the bunny suit that Aunt Clara made for him. (she always makes him the cutest things, but he was a pink nightmare for sure)  On your walk up the stairs hung so proudly photographs of Ralphie, Randy, Mom and the Old Man.  When you reached the top of the stairs, the first item you saw was the old black phone that the Mom used to phone Mrs. Schwartz to tell her what her son had taught Ralphie to say (Schwartz definitely got his that night, but Ralphie learned all of his bad words from his Old Man). 

We entered the bathroom and the first item we noticed was the Lifebouy soap sitting on the shelf, and it definitely looked a little used from all the times Ralphie got his mouth washed out. LOL  When you turned around, you saw the laundry hamper pulled in front of the toilet where Randy sat while using his secret decoder pen – only to find out that what he would reveal was actually “a crummy commercial for Ovaltine!”


The room next to the bathroom looked like the Mom’s sewing/ironing room.  It was decorated with some really nice old wallpaper and furniture and while we were looking around the room we noticed an old LOOK Magazine.  This magazine is where Ralphie hid his ad for the Red Rider BB Gun in hopes she would come across it while reading.

Upon entering Ralphie & Randy’s room, the first thing we noticed was a huge pile of pink bunny outfits laying at the foot of Randy’s bed.  Their bedroom was decorated with sailboat wallpaper and they had light blue bedspreads where they laid dreaming of what they wanted for Christmas.

Their bookshelfs were decorated with old wood blocks that you just had to laugh at because you saw written out in these blocks – Ralphie, Randy, Old Man, Bumpus, and of course, Oh Fudge.  Ralphie’s desk was placed in front of one of the front windows as it was in the movie where he crawled over his desk to see his Old Man’s arrival home and watched the Bumpus’s dogs chase him to the front door.

Ralphie also sat at his desk when he had to do his homework assignment and write a theme – “What I Want for Christmas“.  He feverishly wrote as the words flew onto the page of why he should get a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas, but all he got from everyone is… “You’ll shoot your eyes out!” – A classic BB Gun denial comment from adults.

The last part of the tour was the backyard where Ralphie engulfed in play with his new BB gun and pretended to protect his family from Black Bart.  Their old shed in the backyard was renovated back to its original glory as you can recall when Black Bart and his croanies crawled all over it as well as the back fence.  While standing in the backyard, all I was waiting for was Black Bart’s horse to come riding up from behind the fence to carry him away as Ralphie yells to him “The next time I see you, you’ll be pushing up daisies!”

Visiting the Christmas Story House was truly a great experience and we hope that you have enjoyed our post of what we saw and hope that you too can visit this historical home one day and relive the classic moments from the movie for yourself.