Hammond or Hohman? The town where A Christmas Story was born

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Every year, A Christmas Story takes us back to a simpler time when the holidays were actually pretty complicated.  Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun, a major reward, a frosty flagpole, and Chinese duck may have you longing for a visit to Hohman, Indiana.  Of course, Hohman is fictional, but author Jean Shepherd didn’t make it all up out of thin air.  His inspiration was Hammond, Indiana – where you’ll find his boyhood home and, more recently, a statue (yeah, a statue!) that honors his work.

Location

Hammond, Indiana bumps up against the lower end of Chicago, along the Illinois/Indiana state line.  Interstates 90 and 94 provide easy access from Chicago.  If you’re looking for the tongue-stuck-to-the-flagpole statue of poor Flick, you’ll find it at the Indiana Welcome Center at 7770 Corinne Drive – just off Interstate 94 exit 3.

Jean Shepherd’s boyhood home is located at 2907 Cleveland Street.  From the Welcome Center, head north on Kennedy Avenue about two miles, then turn right at Porter’s Tap.

My Visit

Hammond is starting to figure out, it can draw a lot of visitors by cashing in on its connection to A Christmas Story.  Even though the town didn’t appear in the movie (that was Cleveland, Ohio), it is the boyhood home of author Jean Shepherd, and there are plenty of subtle hints that tie it to the film.  But the town still needed a reason for people to detour off the interstate.  And now, here it is.

A Christmas Story Statue: Flick stuck to a flagpole

The Hammond welcome center had flagpoles out front, and an exhibit on the movie inside.  It wasn’t long until someone figured out what had to be done.  Flick, the victim of a sinister triple-dog-dare, must be permanently frozen to the flagpole for everyone to see (and Instagram).  And now, there he stands, abandoned by his friends, be it 20 below or a toasty 82 degrees. Send the police.  Send the firefighters.  It doesn’t matter.  He’s never getting free.

A closer look reveals that Flick doesn’t look panicked at all.  Perhaps this moment is just before he realizes his predicament.

If you don’t know the whole story, there’s a speaker box that will provide a pre-recorded history of Hammond’s connections to Hohman.  There’s also a plaque with a rather lengthy legal contract which informs you that, just by being there, you consent to having your image used.  In other words, if you look like an idiot when you lick the flagpole, the whole world might know.

Well, that’s all I’m going to say about poor Flick.

Jean Shepherd’s Boyhood Home in Hammond, Indiana

Less fanfare surrounds another Hammond attraction that deserves to be seen by every true A Christmas Story fan.  It’s the boyhood home of Jean Shepherd.  His stories were loosely based on his childhood, and that childhood took place right here on Cleveland Street.

Yeah, that’s right.  His boyhood home really is on Cleveland Street.  Perhaps it was a strange twist of fate that the home used in A Christmas Story is actually in Cleveland — on a street that was ceremoniously renamed Cleveland Street to honor the film.  But that is movie make-believe.  This is the real thing.

If you didn’t do some internet searching before your visit to Hammond, you probably wouldn’t even know about this house.  It’s not a tourist attraction.  It’s just an unassuming house in a nice neighborhood.  From the street, nothing hints at the inspiration that came from this place.  But a newspaper article from way back in 2008 confirms that this is the place.  It even mentions some graffiti, left in the attic by Jean when he was 17 — as well as his 15 year old brother, Randall.   Yeah, that’s right.  His kid brother was Randy.

I stopped along the opposite side of the street and took a few pictures.  There’s not much else to do here.  Another family lives here now, with no connection to the Shepherds, and I’m sure they don’t want to be bothered by gawkers.

The Bottom Line

It won’t take long to see Flick on the flagpole and Jean Shepherd’s boyhood home.  So, this is a nice quick detour, if you happen to be driving through the area, or if you want to drive down briefly from Chicago to pay your respects to one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive around Hammond, Indiana – which includes a stop at Jean Shepherd’s boyhood home.

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