Encased in glass is a photo of actor Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker along with a page from the script of “A Christmas Story” and a copy of a Red Ryder novel at the museum for the 1983 film.
The movie starred Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, Darren McGavin as his dad (known as “The Old Man”), Melinda Dillon as his mother, and Ian Petrella as his pig-of-an-eater brother, Randy.
Jim Moralevitz, one of the men who delivered
Patty Lafontaine, the
The Parker House
For fans of the movie, not to mention the Bumpus hounds, the house is a magnet.
Dubbed the A Christmas Story House, it has been fully restored on the outside to look just like it did when the crews filmed the classic movie 30 years ago. Inside, it’s a bit of a different story. While many of the rooms look just like the rooms in the movie, the interiors were not shot in the house, but on a soundstage.
Only a little more than two weeks of the nine-week shooting schedule was spent in Cleveland. The rest was done on the soundstage in Toronto and also at the Victoria School in St. Catharines, Ontario.
The line of people waiting to tour the
The Parker family car, a 1937
According to Jones’ official recounting of how he came to own the house, his wife saw it for sale on eBay, and he bought it.
Jones had wanted to join the Navy and become a pilot, unfortunately his eyesight wasn’t good enough and his aviation dream was scrubbed.
His parents, wanting to cheer him up, decided to make him a gift.
A couple of weeks later he received a large wooden crate marked “Fragile.” Inside was the same “Major Award” that The Old Man from the film received. Jones now had his very own handmade leg lamp, complete with fishnet stocking and a black-fringed lampshade.
The film was a family favorite and Jones’ parents had such a good recollection of the lamp that they actually recreated one. While it was a difficult and time-consuming task, it also was one the Jones’ thoroughly enjoyed. After sending it to their son, they told him of the significant interest the lamp received and that many people requested one for themselves.
And therein was Jones’ “Eureka!” moment. Thinking there was money to be made, and needing a new job after leaving the Navy, Jones decided to go into the business of making leg lamps for anyone who wanted one. At the very least, it sure beat moving from San Diego to the east coast for a corporate job.
On April 9, 2003, RedRiderLegLamps.com — a largely online venture that sells replica leg lamps — was launched.
Rather than take a chance at auction, Jones offered the owner $150,000 for the house if the auction were canceled immediately. Within 24 hours Jones was in Cleveland signing the papers to buy the house.
After buying the house, Jones had to spend tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours fixing up the house to return it to the exact look it had on the screen. That required quite a bit of remodeling on the inside, since most of the interiors were shot elsewhere.
By Thanksgiving 2006, the house was ready to open to the public for tours and a bit of nostalgia. Eventually, Jones purchased two more pieces of property in the neighborhood; one became a museum dedicated to the movie while the other a large gift shop, which opened this year. Both are located across the street from the
The original shed shown in the film — which was target practice for Ralphie — is also still on the property, though it had to be heavily restored after storms damaged it a couple of years ago.
The gift shop offers everything from replica props, including the leg lamp and bunny suit, to keychains, DVDs, board games and just about anything else a fan would want that has to do with the movie.
As you would expect, the museum is packed full of memorabilia from the movie, from many original costumes to behind-the-scenes photos. Also on display are call sheets, props and dozens of other items taken not just from the house, but from other locations that were used for filming too.
The Olds is there, too
In the movie the Old Man’s relationship with his car is revealed to be somewhat tumultuous: “Some men are Baptist, others Catholic; my father was an Oldsmobile man;” “That hot damn Olds has froze up again;” and “That son of a bitch would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator!” And those are just some of the lines that McGavin uttered in his memorable portrayal of The Old Man Parker.
Fans pack the house
Fans have flocked to the house since it opened to the public. In the first two years of operation, the house saw more than 60,000 visitors, but those numbers pale in comparison to more recent totals
On Dec. 7, the house hosted the first ever “A Christmas Story 5k/10k,” which brought in as many as 10,000 runners and spectators who flocked to Cleveland to watch fans run from the old Higbee’s Department store to the house.
Patty Lafontaine, who played the head elf, and Jim Moralevitz, one of the men who delivered the leg lamp to the house, were in the museum signing autographs and talking to fans who came through.
Lafontaine, who was known as Patty Johnson when the film was made, recounted memories of working with children and how grueling it was to shoot at night.
“We shot for six nights,” she said. “The store was open during the day so we could only shoot at night. Our call was from six at night until six in the morning for all consecutive nights for just that one little scene.”
She said that it was not easy to work with the child actors at the time.
“We had a very difficult time getting through that week, shooting all nighters,” she said. “I was working during the day as well.”
Her best experience on the movie though came when the cameras weren’t rolling.
“The other elf (Drew Hocevar) and Santa (Jeff Gillen) and I, between takes, were cracking jokes all night long and just howling.”
Moralevitz stood in a room with several versions of the crate that he and Jim Hunter delivered in one of the more memorable scenes in the movie.
“I had the pleasure of delivering the major award 30 years ago,” he said. “Unfortunately, the crate was so wide that it wouldn’t fit through the door. So they called in the carpenters and they took four inches off.”
It was during that modification that the crate became an iconic piece of film history. Rather than just being a simple crate that said “This end up,” and “Fragile,” the final film version said “his end up,” with the “T” having been removed. Of course, the crate had the leg lamp in it, making the “his end up” remark seem like a hidden joke rather than a simple production miscue.
“They made a mess of it and then gave it back to me,” Moralevitz said. “It worked fine but it changed the looks of the crate.”
Moralevitz also had the distinction of playing “the boys.” When Hunter’s character uttered “Boys bring the crate in,” he was the only one to bring the crate inside.
Costumes from a deleted scene.
“I’m the ‘boys;’ there’s only one,” he said with a smile. “I still kept it at two for payroll reasons. I get two checks that way.”
Earlier this month, a convention in downtown Cleveland brought the movie’s original cast to town, and another 5,000 fans toured the house.
30 years later
Nov. 18, 2013 marked the exact 30-year anniversary of the movie’s release.
The movie is based on the novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd, who wrote the screenplay and was the voice of the narrator.
The character of Ralphie is the stand-in for Shepherd himself. The series of vignettes in the movie are based on his memories of growing up in Indiana in the 1940s.
Initially, the movie was not a huge success.
A sequel simple called “A Christmas Story 2,” was eventually made and released direct to DVD last year; the movie was critically panned. All of the original characters are in the movie, but none of the actors returned. That film is set five years later and recounts how Ralphie tried to get his first car.
Check out more photos of the house and museum here.