Brian’s Column: Speaking of “A Christmas Story”…

2: Previous column, “To  Change a Tire,” unleashes a golden memory or three
Brian R. Wright

[Link to Episode 1]

Note: These columns are a series, I will make into a volume of my memoirs. You may follow the links at top and bottom of page to go to preceding or succeeding episodes. The series starts here. {If the [Link to Episode <next>] at the  bottom of the column does not show an active hyperlink, then the <next> column has yet to be written.}

In that column, I was referring to a rite of passage from boyhood into teenhood, which was the simple act of learning to successfully change out a flat tire on the family car. And I pointed to the scene in A Christmas Story, where Ralphie Parker goes to help his dad to do just that… having a slight misadventure in the process. 🙂 The movie and that funny little sequence conjure up a remembrance of my own nuclear family life in middle America, and one of my very first images…

… where my little brother Forrest, the would- be passenger in the photo right, tries to turn his tricycle into an airplane! It was 1951, or thereabouts. The Wrights had just rented a small flat in Kansas City, as we waited for our home to be built ‘out in the country’ of suburban Overland Park. Dad had been promoted to a sales job for paper products of the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment (KVP) company, for whom he had worked since coming back from the service (WW2) then graduating from Western Michigan University (go Broncos!).

It occurs to me now that we were well off enough to be able to afford to give both Forrest and me fairly new and modestly appointed tricycles at a young age. [My parents, as many of the aspiring middle class of those days, were Sears & Roebuck mail order fans. Sears typically had three models of everything, from wagons to lawn mowers: 3) the cheap, economy version, 2) the reasonably priced, higher quality, middle of the road option, and 1) the highest priced, bordering on bragging rights, top of the line Sears product. Mom and Dad always bought the #2 model.] On this fateful night I was about 3 1/2 and Bro had just turned 2. Continue reading

Movie Review: A Christmas Story (1983)

“You’ll shoot your eye out.” (10/10)

christmas_storyA Christmas Story is becoming the It’s a Wonderful Life of the Baby Boomer generation… maybe more so for the Tweener Generation—a designation I just made up for folks born between, say, 1930 and 1946.  The movie is especially meaningful for those who were boys in the context of a loving family where Pop worked, Mom kept house (and kept you out of trouble), and the Popsicle Index [1] was nearly 100%.

The year is somewhere around 1940—some reviews claim it’s the depression era, one says it’s 1940, some say it’s the 1940s in general, and it always looked to me something like 1949—in Hohman, Indiana, a mythical northern industrial city approximating Gary, Indiana.  The movie is based on several narratives from Jean Shepherd’s book of reminiscences, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.

Mr. Shepherd narrates the movie, which was filmed in the early 1980s in Toronto, with some downtown shots set in Cleveland. He’s Ralph Parker, a New York writer thinking back to the days when he was Ralphie, a nine-year-old everyboy growing up there in middle-class Indiana off the smokestack-laden southern shores of Lake Michigan with Mom (Melinda Dillon) and the Old Man (Darren McGavin) and his exasperatingly, though often funny, infantile five-year-old brother. Continue reading

Book Reviews: Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories (1971),204,203,200_.jpgAnd other disasters, by Jean Shepherd
Reviewed by Brian Wright

1971, Doubleday [stories originally appearing in Playboy]

“For some unaccountable reason, I discovered I was a consumate polka dancer. The polka is a true soul dance. You don’t learn it; it engulfs you and sweeps you on in a flood of braying coronets and tootling clarinets and the thundering syncopation of bass drums and cymbals.  The drummer, a heavy-set Pole, squatted like a toad and his equipment, operating with the machinelike precision of a pile driver. I bounced and sweated, Josie clinging and hopping, ducking and bobbing as one born to the beat…”
— from “The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski” Continue reading