We left our Cleveland side trip until today because we wanted to include a stop at the house from “A Christmas Story,” which has been restored to the way it looks in the movie and includes a small museum and gift shop across the street. It’s open only on Thursday through the weekend, so this was our one chance.
First we had breakfast in the lumberjack-themed room – a cold bar of fruit, cereals, biscuits and gravy, and pastries, followed by breakfast basics served family style (French toast sticks, scrambled eggs, sausages, and bacon). I drank two full mugs of coffee because I had a bad night’s sleep, for some reason.
Our drive to Cleveland was smooth and pleasant; rather overcast, but everything is very green and lush. We followed Mrs. Garmin’s instructions to “A Christmas Story” house in a fairly rundown neighborhood of large old houses. However, the Christmas Story complex is at least reviving that one street. It was obvious new sidewalks had been laid in places and a crosswalk was being installed between the house and the “museum” across the street.
We had to purchase tickets in the gift shop, which gave us a preview of goodies just waiting to be purchased. We had a few minutes until the next tour, so we stopped in at the museum. A gentleman held a couple in thrall with nonstop anecdotes about the movie, and soon we were sucked into his vortex. Turns out he was one of the men who carried in the crate containing the leg lamp, and obviously he was thrilled with his role as on-site cast member with plenty of backstage tales to share. Behind him stood the original leg lamp from the movie. Various other memorabilia were on display behind glass, such as Ralphie’s pajamas from the movie.
We had to pry ourselves away from our museum host to get across the street for the 11 a.m. tour. It was a thrill to stand there and gaze at the house from the same angle as it appears in the credits in the movie. There were a few obvious updates in restoring the house from the condition into which it had fallen since the movie was filmed, but they did a great job capturing as much of it as possible.
Inside a small group of us stood endlessly as another enthusiastic staffer explained about the house and various connections between Cleveland and the movie. Interior scenes were shot on a soundstage in Toronto, so the house’s rooms were simply attempts to recreate aspects of rooms in the movie, but they did a good job. There was an exact replica of the round cocktail set (the staff referred to it as “the Old Man’s bowling trophy”) on an antique radio, a leg lamp stood in the center window, and there was a lighted, trimmed Chritmas tree in the corner (with a blue bowling ball among the gifts). The kitchen was small but effective, with checkerboard linoleum and a sink with wooden doors on the bottom that visitors are welcome to open for photos.
Ralphie’s scene with his new BB gun where he nearly shoots his eye out was filmed in the backyard, as well as the fantasy sequence with the masked marauders, so it was a pleasure to walk around back there and take pictures of the restored shed. The staffer couldn’t guarantee that the back steps with the screen door was actually where the Old Man yelled, “Sons of bitches! Bumpesses!!!” Just in case, I snapped a photo of Diamondqueen enacting the line from the top step.
Back in the museum, we viewed such treasures as the original zeppelin Randy received, various pieces of clothing (including the winding scarf and snowsuit that bound Randy up so bad he couldn’t move his arms), and some architectural pieces salvaged from the Toronto school that was used as Ralphie’s grade school. At the gift shop, we loaded up on wondrous junk, including boxes of “Oh, Fudge!” fudge.
Then it was off to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Diamondqueen and I had been there back in 1995 soon after it opened. I liked it but hadn’t been as overwhelmed as I hoped I’d be. I wasn’t any more impressed this time, although there’s tons of stuff to see, including lots of original stage costumes from everyone imaginable. Diamondqueen had designed a scavenger hunt for the Hooligans, complete with little books with various stars’ photos. The idea was they had to find something for everyone in the book, and she’d burned a CD of songs to go with the book so the kids would have some familiarity with the musicians and at least one song.
The kids did find everything eventually. It was kind of strange to hear nearly-seven-year-old S.Hooligan loudly proclaiming, “We have Country Joe and the Fish, but where is Green Day?” The prize for their completed scavenger hunt was they could pick out anything they wanted from the gift shop. Unfortunately, nothing struck their fancy, so Diamondqueen said they could shop elsewhere during the rest of the trip.
When we got back to Sandusky, we stopped for an early dinner at Applebee’s and had the same server who’d taken care of us the other evening. I asked her, when S. was away from the table, if she possibly had found a cheap toy ring. She checked for me, but there was no ring. S. has moved on by now anyhow. Of course, after the Hall of Fame, her heart was crushed again when she discovered that J.Hooligan had sat on the fan I won her last night and accidentally tore it.
After a rest, we had a final visit to the waterpark part of the lodge. Diamondqueen and I took turns swimming the lazy river with S., who throughout the trip has insisted she’s a St. Bernard who rescues swimmers from the river and often drags her mother, afloat in an inner tube, all the way around the course. After a long visit, during which J. rode down the long slide numerous times and S. and I sat in the hot tub for awhile and played on the tower with all the squirting pipes and spilling buckets, S. said she was ready to leave. She went with her mother to the lazy river, but when she returned she was crying. Diamondqueen said she was upset because we had to leave the hotel. I said it was a sign of a successful vacation if S. was that miserable to leave. When I started back to the room with her, she whimpered, “Goodbye, lazy river,” and then sobbed all the way back to the room. As I was taking a shower, I could hear her crying by herself.
She recovered by the time we were dressed and heading down to the lobby for that damn animatronic show again. First we stopped in the gift shop and got a girly wolf stuffed animal that S. chose as her prize for the scavenger hunt. After the show, we joined Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan in the arcade to finish up the game tokens and cash in the tickets. There were several thousand points, with a couple hundred left over after the Hooligans chose the prizes of their dreams. Diamondqueen passed along the extra points to a boy who happened to be standing at the counter, and he literally hopped up and down with joy.
We stopped at the ice cream station in the lobby for huge cones, which we ate sitting before the big fireplace. A few final photos, a couple of smashed pennies out of the machines, and we headed back to the room for the kids’ baths. They played Nintendo while Diamondqueen packed up four days’ worth of dishevelment.
Tomorrow, an overnight in Holmes Co., then home.