The Story of “My Christmas Story ‘Story’”
An interview with Sue Stewart, author of “My Christmas Story ‘Story,’” an amusing book taking you behind the scenes of a Christmas movie classic that hits close to home.
Written by: Abigail Preiszig
“A Christmas Story” is a well-known Christmas classic. The comedic film follows a young boy, Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), and the trouble he gets into leading up to Christmas day. If you are from Cleveland, you have probably seen the film, and even the Cleveland house where many exterior scenes were filmed.
Sue Stewart is a Cleveland native who grew up in the “shadows” of “the house.” She played there as a child and partied there as a teenager. In her book, “My Christmas Story ‘Story,’” she recounts the life of the house, the set of the movie and the experiences of her brother, Jim Moralevitz, who worked as a production assistant to director Bob Clark. Stewart tells her Christmas Story story through never-before-seen photos and stories from the set of “A Christmas Story.”
Stewart began writing the book about 18 years ago. It originally consisted of personal stories she wrote here and there about the neighborhood before, during and after the film.
“It’s very different,” she said. The neighborhood used to be “very quiet and quaint,” with barely any traffic. Now, it is visited by thousands of tourists year round.
Five years ago, her brother, Jim Moralevitz, passed away. Two days before his death, she made a “deathbed promise” to finish the book and include photos he took on set alongside hers. This is when she began to take the project seriously saying, “I made that promise to Jim five years ago, I figured I owed it to him, and now I’m fulfilling that promise.”
Jim Moralevitz had been connected to the film since the beginning. Director Bob Clark had seen the Depression-style homes of Tremont in a different movie and sent location scouts to the area. Jim introduced the scouts to the owners of what would later be known as “A Christmas Story” House.
The house was chosen due to the lack of neighbors behind it and the view of the steelyard. What really sold the director on the Cleveland location was Higbee’s, in downtown Cleveland, which allowed him to film the Santa scene in their department store.
Once filming began, Jim offered to help wherever he could. That January, the snow would not stick, so Jim used his connections at a ski club to rent three snow machines for the film. He then assisted in going door-to-door, asking neighbors if they could blow snow onto their houses and yards. He became an on-set chaperone for the young actors and even helped carry in the leg lamp. Jim became so close with the director, cast and crew that they made him a production assistant. Ten years later, director Bob Clark asked Jim to help with his film, “My Summer Story,” a movie that also featured the Parker family.
Jim loved his Christmas story stories, and worked for many years at A Christmas Story Museum, where he told them.
“Jim would come over here for Thanksgiving and Christmas and just talk. He’d talk about his stories over and over, I have them memorized and I thought, ‘these stories need to be told!’” said Stewart.
The book “My Christmas Story ‘Story’” contains a story about complications during the leg lamp scene, a never-before-heard story about a little white kitten on set, an emergency bath taken by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) at a neighbor’s home, Stewart’s time as a stage mom and much more.
“It’s a feel-good kind of book,” said Stewart.
The book begins with Stewart’s account of the opening day of “A Christmas Story” House & Museum in November 2006.
“The air was unusually warm and sunny for the time of year,” she recalls.
She had planned to park in her brother’s driveway at her childhood home, but there were so many people there that the street was blocked off. The neighbors were on their porches, selling pop and beer to the hundreds of people waiting to get inside. Sue Stewart could not believe it. “I’m standing in line with a ticket to see a house that I played in as a child and partied in as a teen.” To her it felt like a dream.
“During production, we just thought it was another children’s Christmas movie, no biggie! We never thought it would be such a huge movie and we’d be talking about it in 2021, or that I’d even write a book about it. That never entered our minds,” said Stewart.
When it came to finding an editor and publishing the book Stewart faced many rejection letters and dead ends, but she never felt discouraged due to her trust in God and manifestation.
“I believe in manifestation. I’ve manifested it, I’ve dreamt it, I thought it into reality for so many years, I prayed about it. I believe that God put that dream in my heart to make this book many, many years ago and I truly believe God doesn’t give you a dream in your heart unless you have the capacity to fulfill it.”
Stewart’s faith came to fruition during a chance conversation with her doctor. She was telling her doctor about her need for an editor, and discovered that the doctor’s daughter is an editor. A few months later, she messaged an author on Facebook, asking who her publisher was. The author responded excitedly by sending her all the information for a local publisher, Sunny Day Publishing in Rocky River.
Some time passed and Stewart hadn’t heard from her editor or the publishers. On Sunday night, her editor emailed her the fully-edited manuscript; Monday morning, Stewart finished editing it; and Tuesday morning, the publisher called, asking for a finished manuscript.
“Boom! Boom! Boom! That’s totally God, I knew it was meant to be.”
“My Christmas Story ‘Story’” by Sue Stewart is set to release in 2022. If you would like to find out more, you can follow the book on Instagram @mychristmasstory83 and on Facebook @ My Christmas Story ‘Story.’