A Christmas Story - movie house

A Christmas Story

A popular local pub.

When I moved back to Ohio a year ago, I spent a weekend in Cleveland, where I grew up and where “A Christmas Story” was filmed. I made the rounds of places from my childhood in the 50s, including the house where this movie was filmed. In case you’ve somehow managed to never see it, the movie tells the story of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker in the 1940s. He needs to convince his parents, teacher, and Santa that he’s old enough to handle a Red Ryder BB gun. During my childhood, my grandmother lived a few blocks over on West 14th Street. The movie was filmed in the 80s.

A Movie Re-vitalized a Neighborhood

The house in which the exterior scenes of the movie were filmed, along with two other houses nearby, is now a museum complex. A man living in the neighborhood told me how much he and his neighbors appreciate the positive impact the movie and museum have had on their community.

THE famous leg lamp.

This West 11th Street neighborhood seems to be thriving. in part thanks to the efforts of entrepreneur Brian Jones who says he’s been “A Christmas Story” fan since his childhood. In 2004 he bought the house on E-Bay for $150,000, paying for it with money he made from the Red Rider Leg Lamp Company. Who could make a living reproducing that iconic plastic leg lamp? Brian Jones could and did.

The people from whom Jones bought the house had remodeled it, and he wanted to restore it to the movie version. He studied it frame by frame, making detailed drawings of the interior and exterior. The producer filmed the interior scenes in a Toronto studio, but they filmed all the exterior scenes in the Tremont neighborhood. Some $240,000 later, Jones had a near-perfect replica of the movie version.

From Short Story to Big Screen

“A Christmas Story” is based on Jean Parker Shepherd’s short story published in In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Shepherd, a writer, humorist, satirist, actor, and radio, television, and film personality, had a gift for telling stories. He mingled memories from his Hammond, Indiana childhood with his adventures in the Army Signal Corps to create nearly three decades worth of radio content that delighted and amused his radio audience. The home in the movie is based on a home in Shepherd’s hometown. Some of Shepherds’ own childhood inspired the Ralphie character.

Director Bob Clark, Shepherd’s wife Leigh Brown, and Shepherd adapted the original short story into the screenplay in 1983. Clark got the idea for a movie version when he heard Shepherd telling the story on the radio on his way to pick up his date. The story so captured his attention that he drove around the block until Shepherd finished the story.  He was nearly an hour late to pick up his date. He chose the Cleveland neighborhood primarily because it is close to the Higbees Department Store on Cleveland’s Public Square, where the store scenes were filmed.

From Near Flop to Resounding Success

The opening weekend for the movie did not go well, and that might have been the end of the movie. Except TNT decided to air it for twenty-four hours over Christmas Eve and Day in 1997. Running the Parker family’s Christmas story non-stop allowed the majority of the station staff to spend the holiday with their own families.

Look carefully to see Shepherd’s cameo role in the movie. He’s the angry man informing Ralphie, “The line ends here! It begins there!” Shepherd’s experience in radio made him the natural choice to narrate the adult Ralphie. Director Clark made a cameo appearance as the Parker family’s next-door neighbor.

Production Challenges

Shepherd challenged Clark when he kept trying to take on the role of director as well as scriptwriter and voice-over narrator. Clark had a budget and a deadline, and Shepherd’s constant interruptions made his job challenging. He eventually had to ban Shepherd from the set to complete the filming.

Clark realized he’d created a hit when he overheard other guests in a restaurant reciting lines from the movie. The restaurant maître d’ told Clark the family had an annual Christmas Eve ritual of dining there and amusing themselves, quoting lines from various movie scenes. Clark said, “That’s when it began to sink in. This low-budget fluke of a movie had become a quintessential Christmas tradition.”

If A Christmas Story can rejuvenate a community, I’m all for it. But I do hope Ralphie will be careful. Guns are dangerous. I triple-dog-dare you to watch the movie and not laugh.

Thank you for taking the time to read about one of my family’s favorite Christmas flicks. Share it with a friend or sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen. I will not sell your information. SPECIAL DECEMBER SALE – BOTH MAYFLOWER HISTORICAL NOVELS FOR $35 OR EITHER ONE FOR $22. EMAIL kathrynhaueisen@gmail.com FOR DETAILS.

Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold. Bookshop.org/Mayflower; Mary BrewsterAmazon.com/Mary Brewster’s Love Life
Autographed copies are available on my website.


  1. Frederick Rogers

    I graduated from CWRU and lived in Cleveland as well 12495 Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights. We have even more stuff in common. Have a blessed Christmas.

  2. This story majestic me think of my neighborhood growing up in Joliet Illinois neighborhood called kerwyn terrace the men in the neighborhood built a type of house. We called it the community house once a month we had pot luck dinners there and anyone who played an instrument would have to take their turn in entertainment we had a community base ball field a community garden a community well and a community phone line where we could sometimes quietly lift up the phone and hear neighbors talking no one locked their doors people sat on the porches and talked to neighbors as they walked their dogs It was a beautiful community

  3. I too grew up in a neighborhood in Cleveland where we were free to roam far and wide and no one seemed the least concerned about where we went or what we were doing. Adults often spent evenings out on front porches watching kids play games in the middle of the street. Good times.

  4. I am grateful for the more or less care free childhood my parents providd for me. We took very few vacations, seldom ate out, and didn’t have piles of toys, but we had plenty of freedom to design our own games and pick our own playmates.

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