We waited in line on the front porch for the tour to begin. The guide opened the door and welcomed us into the house/movie set. We sat on old-fashioned, overstuffed couches and chairs in the living room while he shared informational tidbits:
· The movie cost about $5 million to make. McGavin received $2 million of it.
· Oddly enough, there was no January snow in Cleveland during filming that year. Snow was trucked in from local ski resorts. Fire hoses sprayed foam and soap bubbles to keep the winter scenes realistic. If you look closely, you may be able to tell that snowflakes falling at the end of the movie are actually potato flakes.
· Flick’s tongue getting stuck on the icy pole was an illusion. They painted a PVC pipe to look like a pole, drilled a hole at mouth level and inserted a dental vacuum. When Flick stuck his tongue out, it was sucked inside the hole and appeared to be stuck to the pole. Clever, eh?
· All outdoor scenes and any indoor scenes with natural light were filmed in Cleveland. Indoor scenes that required lighting were filmed on a soundstage in Canada since the house was not big enough to accommodate all the necessary lighting equipment.
Following the presentation, we were allowed to roam freely throughout the house, sit at the kitchen table, climb under the sink, etc. Jaden and Jake admired the leg lamp and held the BB gun that was under the Christmas tree. While taking their pictures, I thought about Ralphie’s wish for a Red Ryder BB gun. Responsible adults told him, You’ll shoot your eye out. How sad that today’s children can play video games simulating machine gun fire, and mow down crowds of people without any consequence.
Our grandsons especially liked the boys’ room where they could lay on Ralphie’s and Randy’s beds. They noticed a bar of Lifebuoy soap on the sink in the bathroom and the decoder pin with Ralphie’s message, Remember to drink your Ovaltine, sitting on the hamper by the toilet.
A Christmas Story is my favorite Christmas movie for several reasons. Our son, Justin, was the spitting image of Ralphie as a child … blonde hair, big blue eyes, glasses, and a mischievous grin. Having grown up in the 1950’s, my friends and I walked to school bundled up in heavy snowsuits like Randy. Our family often ate meatloaf and mashed potatoes at a similar, small, porcelain enamel kitchen table. Like Ralphie, I was a connoisseur of soap … from the light-bodied, sour flavor of Ivory face soap (99-44/100% pure) to the hot, acrid, lingering aftertaste of Fels Naptha laundry soap. Mom meted out the dreaded soap punishment according to my level of mouthiness.
A Christmas Story Museum, located across the street from the House, is full of memorabilia from this same era. Our grandsons were excited to see the actual clothing worn by the movie actors. They pointed out the fox hat Scutt Farkus wore when Ralphie beat him up and Flick’s aviator cap. They were surprised to see glass milk bottles and to learn that milkmen delivered them to homes.
The Museum reminded us how times have changed. Most parents nowadays would not allow their children to play with the sharp metal toys, cars, and animals that are on display. A wall telephone hearkens back to operators placing long distance calls and party lines shared by several families at once. Phones are practically a part of people’s anatomy now. They wouldn’t think of leaving them at home.
The Christmas Story Gift Shop was another highlight, selling memorabilia not only from A Christmas Story, but also from the movies Christmas Vacation and Elf. The Christmas Story House, Museum, and Gift Shop evoked wonderful memories (minus Fels Naptha soap).
As much as times have changed, some things stay the same. Unfortunately, there will always be bullies like Scutt. But fortunately, there will also be children with parents who do their best to love and protect them from danger. My family wishes you and yours an abundance of peace, love and joy this Christmas. Embrace the spirit. Make memories for your children and grandchildren to recall when writing their own Christmas stories.
(Go to: www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com to learn more.)