Warren G. Harding

Raphie’s elementary schoool, Warren G. Harding Elementary School is a real school in Hammond, Indiana.  Warren G. Harding Elementary School was the childhood school of “A Christmas Story” author Jean Shepherd.  However, the school used for the filming of the movie was Victoria School in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Victoria School closed several years ago and has since been converted to a women’s shelter.  Most of the pictures below were discovered by Tyler Schwartz during the filming of Road Trip for Ralphie.  The photos were taken by Anne Dean a teacher at Victoria School during the filming.

Anne Dean provide an account of the filming at Victoria School to the Lincoln County Board of Education in April 1983.  Here is an excerpt from that account:

“No one could believe our school had been chosen for the site of an M.G.M. movie.  What an adventure awaited us!  Excitement began to build.  Audition time was here.  They took pictures of all the students  and chose those for the classroom scenes and parents signed the contracts.  Other students were told they’d be used in outdoor scenes.  A group of hairdressers came in from The Career School of Hairdressing  to cut the hair of the boys to fit the era.  Truckloads of equipment arrived.  An ordinary Science classroom underwent a miraculous transformation, travelling back through time.

 Costuming 120 students proved quite a task for both the teachers and wardrobe co-ordinators alike.  The coats, mittens, boots, socks, sweaters, scarves, hats, caps, vests and knickers had to be delivered to each child and then returned later to the proper place. Many of the children were given makeup and wardrobe calls as early as 7 a.m. Transports, winnebagos and trailers arrived en masse.  Every parking space was occupied.  Lights, cameras, scaffolds, wardrobe, sound machines and snow machines were painstakingly unloaded.  What a thrill it was to see the antique roadsters,  fire truck and vintage police cars.  The halls were jammed with furniture, lights and then came all the people.

 The weather did not co-operate and once the indoor scenes were shot, everything was packed up and off they went to the studio in Toronto.  Four days later, they returned when the snow arrived and unpacked everything again to film the outdoor scenes. As shooting commenced on Sunday Feb.  6th and take after take was repeated, the glitter began to wear off.  The children arrived at 7:30 am and were outside most of the day.  They were released at 5:30.  We soon found out that movie making was a tough business. Even after standing in the cold, the children persevered and still found show business quite appealing.  Filming continued on Monday.  Then they packed up and left, only to again return on Friday to re-shoot the Jungle Jim scenes with about 20 students.  All trace of them was gone by  Monday morning.

Working with people like Director Bob Clark gave the children of the neighbourhood a sense of the awesome magic of Hollywood.  Stars like Peter Billingsley, R.D. Robb and Scotty Swartz were just like ordinary kids off the set.

Not only were the experiences worthwhile, but the school will see many future benefits from the hard work of the students involved.  But far more valuable than any monetary rewards are the unforgettable memories of movie-making that we will always treasure.

What a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

Staff and Students of Victoria School, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Victoria School as it appeared in the movie. (Notice in this establishing shot taken from the movie that the flagpole is out in front of the school, just in front of the car even though the scene for the flagpole in movie takes place behind the school in the playground. Just a small blooper.)

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The classroom that served as Miss Shield’s classroom was the science room at the school.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Ann Snider did the writing on the blackboard.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Antigue cars in the staff parking lot.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The Parker’s family car from the movie

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Make up and hair styles.  Anne Dean wore the wig up on top of the mirror.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The costume room next to Anne Dean’s classroom.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Everyone had to get a 1940′s style air cut.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Jarrod Craig and Jerry Clute getting hair cuts.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Classroom turned barber shop.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Teacher Anne Dean and her class dressed and ready for the flagpole scene.

, Owen Baggott, Anne Dean, Dora Giannarakis, Tammy Klein, Sherry Gillingwater, Jarrod Craig, Leanne Wilson, Jamie Scholler, ________. (Front) Krista Warriner, Michael Sheridan, Jerry Clute, Kenny Christie, ___________, _____________

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Virginia Holmes, Grace Pomroy, Beth Pomroy, Anne Dean all in costume for the film.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The monkey bars scene preparations.   Taken from the landing near the staff room, overlooking the field.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The monkey bars scene preparations.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The monkey bars scene being filmed.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The monkey bars scene preparations.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The monkey bars scene being filmed.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The flagpole scene from the classroom window.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The flagpole scene from the classroom window after the police, fire department and Miss Shields (Tedde Moore ) have arrived.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Flagpole scene close up.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Flagpole scene close up.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Flagpole scene close up.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Flick (Scott Schwartz) between takes.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Two of Anne Dean’s Students: Alex and Corey at the flagpole.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Actor’s trailers.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Schwartz (R.D. Robb) closing the door to his trailer.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The fire truck from the near by Chippawa Fire Department on set.

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The Famous Flag Pole Scene

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

The 3 Little Stars – Flick, Ralphie and Schwartz

Victoria School Warren G. Harding A Christmas Story

Gary Brown in his Feature Film Debut. Gary provided the this and the preceeding two photographs.

Victoria School Past and Present

Victoria School as it appeared in 1983 during filming.

Victoria School as it appeared in 2006.

Victoria School as is appeared in 2008 as a women’s shelter.

Insights from Bill Dywer, an extra during the filming at Victoria School

My friend John (he’s the Fire Chief at the flagpole) and I were hired as

drivers for the street scene in front of Victoria school. We were all told

to vary the order of the cars each time we turned for another run by. It

made for some fancy manoeuvering at the corners!

At one point, a parked car had to be relocated. It was black and had a nice

fresh covering of snow on it; the driver was told “don’t lose the snow”. He

couldn’t use the wipers to see, nor close his door for fear of disrupting

the snowflakes. We walked alongside to hold the door open and guide him.

All communication there was by walkie-talkie; they were using three

different frequencies, and one

crewman was carrying three units. It was his job to relay messages from one

group to another.

A car that was needed in a scene for continuity went missing. Dave, the “car

boss” gave John and me the keys to his Austin Mini and told us to go looking

for “the big brown Chev and get it back here now!” We found it two blocks

away; the guy had driven away to mail a letter! The car had stalled and

wouldn’t turn over. He produced a big rope and said “it always starts on a

tow”. I looked at the Chev, which was about three times the size and weight

of the Mini, and figured we should try, considering the urgency. So, we

tied the rope onto the Mini’s bumper, not noticing the bumper was bolted to

the trunk lid which was held on by two little hinges and the latch. I eased

out the slack and took off. The Mini was wound out in first gear when Mr

Chev popped the clutch. It felt like we were yanked backwards, then with a

big bang, we shot forward! I looked in the mirror and saw the trunk lid

flying through the air and Mr Chev standing on the brake pedal trying to

stop and miss the lid coming at him! The Chev was running and back to the

school it went.

When I got back to the school, I was sent to wardrobe to dress as a

bystander for the flagpole scene. The coat they gave me had a bright pink

lining, and buttoned the wrong way- it was a woman’s! The lady said “no one

will notice”.

The red lights on the police car were truck stoplights bolted to suction

cups and stuck on the roof. The cop driving made a bunch of unsuccessful

attempts to bring the car in and stop where the director wanted it.

Finally, they put a sandbag on the road (you can see it under the front

wheel), that would stop the car at the right place. So they rolled in again

and stopped. Perfect. The cops got out, slammed the doors and the lights

fell off.

I earned about $18. from the movie.

Trivia: The Fire Chief’s hat has the letters RNFBA. This is for the Regional

Niagara Fire Buffs Association, a local benevolent group that operates an

emergency canteen service for the Fire Department.

Trivia: The tire changing scene took place in St. Catharines on Glendale

Ave adjacent to the Welland Ship Canal; you can see the lift bridge in the

background.

Regards, Bill Dwyer

Bill Dwyer from A Christmas Story

Leg Lamps and more at A Christmas Story House Gift Shop achristmasstorygiftshop.com