DOUG ROSS: What happened to an idea run up the flagpole

2013-11-01T00:00:00Z 2013-11-01T08:22:04Z DOUG ROSS: What happened to an idea run up the flagpoleBy Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

You might still be on a Halloween sugar buzz, but I spent this week thinking about Christmas. Specifically, I had a lot of memories of the movie, "A Christmas Story."

I couldn't resist attending Wednesday when Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in the movie, helped unveil the statue in his likeness at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.

It's quite a sculpture. Go see it. Just don't lick the aluminum flagpole if it's cold outside.

Sculptor Oscar Leon told me it took about 600 to 800 man-hours to create the bronze sculpture. It already was roughed out, Leon said, when the bottom half had to be redone after Warner Brothers wanted the boy in the sculpture to lean into the flagpole more, along with a few other changes.

Schwartz has become an icon because of the scene in the movie reflected in the statue, in which Flick's tongue gets stuck to the flagpole after a "triple dog dare."

Every winter, Schwartz said, reporters call him for a comment after some kid's tongue gets stuck to a pole. His response: "What can I say? He's a schmuck."

Didn't that kid see the movie during the TBS marathon?

The sculpture is appropriate for Hammond because that's the hometown of Jean Shepherd, who wrote the book on which the movie is based.

It's a sentimental movie for me, and not just because it was the first VHS tape I ever bought.

On Dec. 24, 2006, The Times printed a long story the late Mark Kiesling wrote about the movie and its Hammond roots. I talked Mark into writing that story.

That gave me the privilege of a trip to the Hammond Public Library to see its Jean Shepherd collection, with a photo of the original Warren G. Harding Elementary School, where the legendary flagpole was located.

Mark also drove me around Shepherd's old haunts, seeing his boyhood home at 2907 Cleveland St. in Hammond's Hessville neighborhood, along with other locations. It was a real treat.

The story took Mark more than a week of research.

Accompanying the story was my column suggesting Hammond and the tourism bureau capitalize on the movie's fame. Create a festival, perhaps.

It prompted a call from Bill Wellman, who is now vice chairman of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority board. Wellman, a consummate showman, said he loved the story and column and the idea of making a big deal of the movie.

Wellman said he wanted to create a series of statues featuring characters from the movie, starting with Flick's tongue stuck to the flagpole.

The expense delayed the implementation of his idea. The Flick sculpture cost almost $40,000, but Wellman pushed for it. He even chipped in the first $1,000 for it.

There's more at the Indiana Welcome Center than the flagpole. On Nov. 9, the popular annual display of "A Christmas Story" scenes from Macy's windows will resume. And yes, there will be festival-style events there.

Shepherd is long gone, but his embellished boyhood memories live on in Hammond.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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