Home Videos FAQ Meetings Join Radio
Library Links

This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

Click here to return to the index of selected articles.

By Jack French © 2012
(From Radio Recall, June 2012)

It only happened once and probably won't happen again. It was a tale told on a radio program that later became a published short story. From there it was transformed into a mildly successful motion picture which became a classic film only after numerous reruns on television. And this, in turn, led to the opening of a museum that is closely tied to the movie.
"A Christmas Story" began as one of those semi-autobiographical childhood tales that Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) told his WOR radio listeners during his stint there in the late 1960s. He told of the Christmas in Hammond, IN when all he wanted from Santa was a Red Ryder BB gun, but was repeatedly told "You'll shoot your eye out."

This radio program was just one of several fairly popular ones Shepherd aired in those days. And that may have been the end of it, had he not incorporated this Christmas tale into a collection of short stories Shepherd published a decade later.

One of the readers who loved the story was Bob Clark, a medium level Hollywood director, who
thought it would make a great movie. He tried for years to get financial backing b ut had no luck until he finally talked MGM into filming it in 1982. It was a fairly low budget film: MGM wanted Jack Nicholson for the grumpy father but his salary demands were too high so (fortunately) Darren McGavin got the role. Peter Billingsley portrayed young Ralphie and Melinda Dillon was his mother. Several exterior scenes were shot in Cleveland, OH (not in Hammond, IN where the story was based.)

Shepherd was an integral part of the movie. His story was the basis of the screen play, he narrated the entire film, and he even had a bit role as a disgruntled shopper in the Higbee's Department store scene. The film was released in 1983 and made a modest profit but attracted little attention. MGM sold the rights to Warner Brothers who in turn marketed it to TNT Cable. And it was here that the movie captured audiences by the thousands.

The motion picture has been seen by so many people now that many scenes have become well-known classics, including the lady's leg lamp getting broken, Ralphie and his brother in pink bunny pajamas, using the Little Orphan Annie decoder in the bathroom, and Ralphie dropping the F-bomb during the tire change scene.

In 2005 the house in Cleveland that was "Ralphie's house" came on the market and an imaginative fellow, Brian Jones, who was a big fan of the movie, bought the place. He restored it to the way it was in the movie and then opened a museum and gift shop across the street.
This "Christmas Story" complex is located at 3159 West 11th Street in Cleveland, OH and is open four days a week for modest admission charges (Thur to Sat 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays noon to 5 pm.) In the gift shop, you can purchase a lady's leg lamp, a pink bunny pajama set, a Red Ryder BB gun, a Little Orphan Annie decoder, and even a bar of Lava soap for cleaning bad words out of children's mouths.

Complete details on the house and museum can be found on-line by pointing your mouse at: