My son wants a pocket knife for Christmas. He’s seven. And while I certainly can’t recall how old I was when I received my first pocket knife I can assure you that I wasn’t seven. “You’ll cut your finger off, kid!” My words hung in the air over the forlorn look of absolute dejection that filled his little face. He’s upset but he’s young. He’ll get over it.
Our exchange reminded me of one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story. Thank God my kid has yet to reveal the dogged persistence of little Ralphie Parker. Remember? All Ralphie wants for Christmas is an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and a sundial to tell time. And all he keeps hearing is, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
The movie is set in the town of Hammond, IN (where incidentally the writer Jean Shepherd grew up) but several of the scenes and locations are actually in Cleveland, Ohio, namely Ralphie’s House and Higbee’s Department Store.
The home was purchased in 2005 by an avid fan of the movie and painstakingly restored. It sits on a quiet street near downtown Cleveland, 3159 W. 11th St, and is open year round for tours. There is even a museum located across the street featuring original props and memorabilia. And of course, a gift shop. You know you want a leg lamp!
A Christmas Story House is open for tours daily Wednesday-Sunday with extended hours through the holiday season. Check their website for specific details and hours or call (216) 298-4919 for more information.
The Higbee Building is located in downtown Cleveland at 100 Public Square. This building is the department store where Ralphie first spies the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and a sundial to tell time. It’s in the background of the Christmas parade scene and it’s where Ralphie makes his request to Santa and is told once again, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
Higbee’s no longer operates as a department store, however it’s an excellent place to begin your visit to Cleveland as the building is now the home of Positively Cleveland, the convention and visitor’s bureau of the Greater Cleveland area.
You may just find a good excuse to stay in Cleveland for the weekend, or longer. We saw pink bunny pajamas, a leg lamp and a broken pair of eyeglasses and I was able to reinforce a good reason not to get my kid a pocket knife for Christmas.
All photos by Ed Lamaze.