In what year did you think 'A Christmas Story' was set?

Being that it was marathoned on cable like it is every Christmas I happened to look it up and was surprised to find it was supposed to be set around 1939. There’s a few anachronisms here & there but this *was *the year the filmmakers intended it to be. I always though it was supposed to be a decade later. Specifically I always thought it was post-WWII but pre-television, so late 40s. It just seemed happy & cheery and full of post-war American optimism and consumerism (and completely lacking in any pre-war doom & gloom).

This year I noticed for the first time that Ralphie’s Little Orphan Annie decoder pin is stamped “1940.”

I would have said either Christmas 1939 or Christmas 1940. There are characters from The Wizard of Oz in the parade at the beginning, which came out in the summer of 1939.

After the release of Wizard of Oz but before the U.S. enters World War II, so Christmas 1939 or '40 and I concur with Eyebrows.

That’s what I always assumed.

Ralphie specifically mentions that it’s during the Depression.

If anyone is wondering, yes kids did get braces during the Depression-- my father had them-- or, actually, he had them during the early years of WWII, when the Depression economy hadn’t been replaced by the wartime economy yet. They didn’t look like the ones the kid in the movie has-- there was a lot more metal, and specifically gold involved, and they weren’t used for cosmetic purposes. You had to have a really bad bite to justify them. But they existed.

My father’s father was a newspaper reporter, which was a job that actually had some security during the Depression, and he was too old to be drafted, so my father remembers a much less gloom and doom childhood then you’d think a kid born in 1930 would, but kids aren’t always aware of the problems of the adults around them.

Not to mention, the book is a little more gloomy about the Depression days than the film is, although it is apparent that Ralphie’s family is somewhat better off than his friends, although we never know exactly why. His father does seem to have an office job in a steel mill town, while most of the men are laborers, so he may be in management at one of the mills.

I remember being with my father while he listened to Gene Shepherd on the radio. Probably mid 70s since I just looked it up and he left WOR radio in New York in 1977. My father was just a little bit younger than Shepherd so his stories about growing up during the Depression really struck home. He also read some of his books. I had no trouble understanding that the movie was pre-war.

I always thought it was late 40’s, too.

I looked it up a few years back as well, because I was curious when Indiana schools were integrated (there are at least 2 or 3 black children in Ralphie’s class). It wasn’t until 1949. Maybe Ralphie just attended a very progressive school.

The movie feels like late 40s to me, not sure why.


Jean Shepherd was born in 1921, so it’s probably a little later than his stories took place, though I’m not sure how autobiographical the pieces are supposed to be.

I never really thought about it, but I would have guessed mid-to-late 40s, myself. Never thought about the Wizard of Oz parade (but that wouldn’t help, as I couldn’t tell you when that movie was made. I probably would have also guessed mid-40s or later for that one.)

I answered late 40s but I do believe it took place in the late 30s early 40s (pre-war). My mother listened to Little Orphan Annie on the radio and she was a child pre-war. She even won a watch for making the most words from the phrase “Little Orphan Annie.”

When I first saw it I was thinking 1947, but when I started paying attention to the question I moved that estimate earlier and earlier.

Jean Shepherd claimed, not autobiographical at all. Since the thing is set in the fake steel mill town of Hohman, Indiana, while Shepherd grew up in steel mill town of Hammond, Indiana, which has a main street called “Hohman,” and Shepherd really did have a little brother named Randy, I tend to think he picked a lot of details from his life, and the lives of friends, and wove a narrative, but the book wasn’t, strictly speaking, an autobiography or even memoir.

If it was set during WWII, I should have thought there would be SOME indication. Some rah-rah flag-waving, kids playing war games (“you guys be the dirty Japs and we will be the Marines”), seeing the neighbor’s brave enlisted son off at the station, blah blah blah. Every single movie I’ve ever seen with families during The War have some sub-plot involving a victory garden, food and gas rationing…judging by the fashions and hairstyles from what I could see, it looks like late 30’s, early 40’s. A timeless childhood when you went out and played in the snow, looked at the display in a Woolworth’s window, seeing Santa in a big department store. I just love this movie so much.

I said late 1930s, but Ralph is an unreliable narrator, and we’re listening to the adult Ralph reminisce about his boyhood. It’s not surprising that he would get certain dates confused. Definitely post Wizard of Oz and pre-Pearl Harbor.

The movie is supposed to be an amalgam of childhood memories. The time frame isn’t meant to be consistent.

Given that, the decoder pin is, as mentioned, a 1940 version. But the copy of Look magazine that Ralph cleverly hides his BB gun ad is a 1937 issue.

Still, I vote for pre-war, for lack of anything war related, except on soldier at Holman’s window.

Yeah, it was pre-war, which was the intention of both the producer and the author, according to Wiki. That aside, it has the feel of late Depression Era to me.