Visiting the ‘A Christmas Story’ House: Nostalgia, Ad Nauseam
I love ‘A Christmas Story’.
During a visit to Cleveland, I discovered some people LOVE the 1983 film.
I thought about running this story a few months ago, but then everyone was running a story or seven on the seminal holiday film. I put it on the back burner. Now the weather’s warm, my lawn needs mowing and my kids constantly beg to play outside. A perfect time for writing about my visit to the house in ‘A Christmas Story’.
Hoosiers are equal parts amazed and insulted to discover that although the events of the film take place in Hammond, Indiana, the actual house used in the film actually exists in a suburb of Cleveland.
The film’s producers had good reason.Hammond of the 1980s did not look like Hammond of the 1940s. The quaint suburbs had vanished, and the atmosphere would have put the film vastly of place. Instead, they discovered a small suburb of Cleveland that, without GPS, you’d swear was one of the narrow, twisting streets off Calumet Avenue, circa 1948(ish).Last year, on my once-every-seven-year pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, friends asked if I wanted to visit Ralphie’s house, which was open for tours. I loved the film, watched it every holiday season, and know the thrill of receiving the Christmas present you wanted so badly you dreamed about it (for me, it was the original Game Boy).But reality and nostalgia rarely mesh.
First, without GPS, about 75% of ‘Story’ pilgrims would lose their way through the sadistically-winding streets of Cleveland’s residential neighborhoods, compounded by residents parking on the street itself, which made for some claustrophobic navigation. After finally finding the house, we spent another ten minutes finding parking, settling on a lawn that advertised PARKING-$20.
We discovered later the ‘Story’ house had free parking, but we never saw it. We reluctantly paid the extortion fee and then walked a block up to the ‘A Christmas Story’ house, which was a renovated Craftsman-style house from the 1920s or 30s, complete with the monolithic porch pillars.
Not a pretty house. Seeing it in the middle of a hot July day felt disorienting. To the landmark’s credit, they had recently completed a massive renovation of the house, and I recognized the time and care put into recreating the movie memory. But an ugly house is still an ugly house.
On the plus side, shining oh-so-brightly in the front window, was the leg lamp.