It’s holiday time. The streets are busy. There is a buzz in the air.
It is also the time of year that favorite Christmas movies bombard the television airways.
One such movie is A Christmas Story. It is a relatively new movie but has become a classic in a short period of time.
The movie is based on material from author Jean Shepherd’s collection of short stories, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. It follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.
The house, as it is portrayed in the film, is located in Hohman, Indiana, the fictional town modeled after Shepherd’s native Hammond, Indiana.
In reality, the film was shot in Ohio and Canada. Some Canadian scenes were shot in St. Catherines. Others in Toronto.
In the U.S., many scenes were shot in Cleveland. That place was chosen because of the presence of Higbees Department store.
The exterior shots of the house and neighborhood where Ralphie lived were filmed in the Tremont section of Cleveland’s West Side.
In December 2004, Brian Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur and fan of the film since childhood, bought the house on eBay for $150,000. Jones used revenue from his business, The Red Rider Leg Lamp Company, which manufactures replicas of the “major award” Ralphie’s father won in the film, for the down payment. The previous owners had reconfigured installing modern windows, and covered the original wood siding with blue vinyl. Watching the movie frame by frame, Jones drew detailed plans of the interiors, which had been filmed on a Toronto sound stage, and spent $240,000 to gut the structure, reconfigure it to a single-family dwelling, transform it into a near-replica of the movie set, and restore the exterior to its appearance in the film.
Across the street from the house, A Christmas Story House Museum has been established. The Museum features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos. Among the props and costumes are the toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car.
Tours run every half hour starting at 10:15 am. The last guided tour is an hour before closing. Self-guided tours continue to run through 30 minutes before closing. Tour times may vary slightly. Tickets must be purchased prior to the last tour. Tickets can be purchased at the gift shop located diagonally across the street from the house.