Before we get into this post, I must make a confession. I have never watched “A Christmas Story”. Yes, it’s on 24/7 during the way-too-long holiday season. As an aside, The Hallmark Channel is killing Christmas, as well as local radio stations going all Christmas music BEFORE Thanksgiving. Let’s use an analogy, I LOVE a Manhattan. But if I drink them all the time, all day long, they go from special to overkill, to probably kill……
“A Christmas Story” was filmed in my beautiful Cleveland. The director reportedly sent scouts to twenty cities before selecting Cleveland for exterior filming. Cleveland was chosen because of Higbee’s Department Store in downtown Cleveland. Until they connected with Higbee’s, location scouts had been unsuccessful in finding a department store that was willing to be part of the film. Higbee’s vice president agreed to take part in the project on the condition he was allowed to edit the script for cursing. Ultimately, Higbee’s was the stage for three scenes in the film:
- The opening scene in which Ralphie first spies the Red Ryder BB Gun in the store’s Christmas window display. Higbee’s was known for its elaborate, child-centered Christmas themes and decorations, with Santa as the centerpiece.
- The parade scene, filmed just outside Higbee’s on Public Square at 3 AM. The parade was filmed at night because during the daytime the 1960s Erieview Tower and Federal Building was visible from the Public Square, as was the BP Tower, which was under construction at the time.
- Ralphie and Randy’s visit to see Santa, which was filmed inside Higbee’s. The store kept the Santa slide that was made for the film and used it for several years after the film’s release. Higbee’s became Dillard’s in 1992 and closed permanently in 2002.
In addition to the scenes involving Higbee’s, the exterior shots (and select interior shots where Ralphie lived, including the opening of the leg lamp) of the house and neighborhood, were filmed in the Tremont section of Cleveland’s West Side. The house used as the Parker home in these scenes has been restored, reconfigured inside to match the soundstage interiors, and opened to the public as “A Christmas Story House”. Appropriately, the fictional boyhood home of Ralphie Parker is on Cleveland Street.
So why am I spinning this tale? November 11, 2023 I volunteered to help at the Ralphie Comes Home event held at our Public Hall, where I have worked two Rock Hall Induction Ceremonies and a little band from Liverpool, The Beatles, played in 1964. Let me get a workout in first.
Whew….time to get to “work”!
The outfit was selected because as you will see below, I had to wear my volunteer t-shirt, which I did not yet have. So I went with a comfortable outfit to slip the shirt over.
The entire cast of children was there. People came from well outside of Cleveland for this event. One woman and her friend I spoke with came from Connecticut. Remember, I never saw the movie, to which EVERYONE said “You have to watch it!”. Nah.. I worked the booth for this gentleman, who apparently played the role of Grover Dill. Yano was a very good guy.
I was there for four hours and had a ball when engaged with visitors. Things died down dramatically with about an hour and a half left, so that was pretty boring, including my taking a brief nap (long night at Depeche Mode concert the previous evening). All in all, a wonderful event and a great afternoon for me!