GENERATIONS: Tony Nicholson: An old-fashioned boy's Christmas

In October 2012, my wife and I visited our oldest daughter in Cleveland. As part of our visit, she took us to the house and the museum of the movie "A Christmas Story."...


In October 2012, my wife and I visited our oldest daughter in Cleveland. As part of our visit, she took us to the house and the museum of the movie "A Christmas Story."

This Christmas classic is fictionally set on Cleveland Street in Hohman, Ind., around 1940. The actual street scenes were filmed in Cleveland. In the movie, elementary school age Ralphie Parker wants an Official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas. His mother and his teacher, as well as the department store Santa Claus, reject his plea for the rifle with the admonition, "You'll shoot your eye out." Near the end of the movie, on Christmas morning, Santa grants Ralphie his wish.

Although Ralphie wanted to be a cowboy armed with a BB gun, he listened to his favorite radio program, "Little Orphan Annie," on the family radio. As a seven-year old, I listened to my favorite radio program, "The Lone Ranger," on our family radio. Like his counterparts Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger wore two guns when chasing the bad guys. I played cowboy whenever I could, not cowboys and Indians, but good guys and bad guys. That Christmas of 1950 I implored Santa in person and by letter to bring me a set of two cowboy cap guns with holsters. I wanted big guns like the Lone Ranger. Specifically, they had to be two feet long.

On Christmas morning, I raced to the Christmas tree to see what Santa had brought me. There under the decorated tree lay two big silver colored revolvers with white handles placed in black holsters decorated with silver ornaments. I could not wait to take one gun out and place it on the floor. With excited apprehension, I measured the length of my new present with my bare feet. Sure enough, it was two feet long, even longer. I strapped the belt with holsters and the guns around my waist, and went to show my family the greatest present ever.

Up until I got the two guns for Christmas, I played cowboys with an ordinary cap gun. Those guns broke in the middle to allow the placement of a roll of caps, generally containing 50 shots that that produced smoke and noise when the trigger was pulled. Most of the boys I played with had a similar gun. We disregarded the six-shot and reload rule like most movie cowboys did. We shot our roll of caps before reloading. My new guns were different. Those guns were realistic.


The brand of my new guns was Nichols. Like real western type revolvers, the gun contained six cartridges that were accessed by opening the loading gate to load one cartridge at a time. The cartridge had two parts, the bullet and the casing. Unlike a real cartridge, the bullet separated from the casing. A small round cap had to be placed into the base of the casing, and the bullet dropped into the casing. Then the entire cartridge was inserted into the cylinder. Laboriously the six cartridges were loaded one at a time. After the cap was fired, the cartridge had to be ejected by the extractor under the barrel. The loading process started all over. Of course, the end of the barrel did not have an orange plug so from a distance the guns looked real. But, the real six-gun factor could not compete with the phony six guns with fifty rounds with a quick reload of another 50 rounds.

Suffice it to say, I continued to play cowboys with my friends using my old cap gun. I kept the Santa ones with my other "good" toys that I had to show my parents periodically that I had taken care of them, and that they were not lost or broken. I kept my twin Nichols six guns with the fancy holsters until I got married and left home. I reckon that I got too busy with life to ask my mother about their fate. I guess when she moved from the family home she either sold them or gave them away. I know that for more than 20 years, I cherished those guns, and kept them in a dresser drawer in my bedroom. Every time I watch "A Christmas Story," I share with Ralphie the gratitude of Santa making a little boy's Christmas wish come true, even if it may not be safe or "politically correct" by today's standards.

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