By: Friedrich Seiltgen
Most Gunpowder readers are familiar with the 1983 Christmas film “A Christmas Story.” Every Christmas, millions view the movie and watch the adventures of Ralphie Parker and his little brother Randy. When asked what he wants for Christmas, Ralphie has his wish down pat. “An official Red Ryder Carbine action, 200 shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time.”
The response to Ralphie’s Christmas wish is always, say it with me folks, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Now Christmas Story fans can buy the official Daisy Christmas Wish Red Ryder BB Gun at Walmart!
The actual “Ralphie Special” never existed as a production gun. It was a combination of the Red Ryder and the Buck Jones Special. Six Ralphie rifles were produced for the film. After filming, one of the guns went to Peter Billingsley (Ralphie), one to the film archives, and the rest to production team members.
I remember getting a Daisy BB Gun for Christmas when I was eight. After I was forced to read the owner’s manual front to back (thank you, Pops!), we set up a shooting range in the basement. Air rifles are a wonderful way to introduce youngsters to the shooting sports.
In 1886, the Plymouth Iron Windmill Company near Detroit had been producing windmills for four years. The company came close to liquidating in 1888, however, a premium item given to windmill buyers was about to change that. The “Chicago” Air rifle was made almost entirely of wood by the Markham air rifle company of Plymouth, Michigan. Plymouth Windmill founder Clarence Hamilton started producing a model out of metal. After firing the new metal rifle, Plymouth Windmill Company manager Lewis Cass Hough stated, “That’s a daisy.” The air rifle became a hit with Windmill buyers, and they were more interested in the air rifle gift than the Windmills.
By 1890, the Plymouth Windmill Company, with its 25 employees, were producing 50,000 guns a year, which were sold within a 100-mile radius of the factory. By 1895, the Plymouth got out of the windmill business, changed its name to Daisy Manufacturing Company, and never looked back!
The War Years
During WWII, Daisy, like other manufacturing companies, was prohibited from using steel for non-essential items and helped out the war effort by producing several defense items. Cass Hough would ultimately end up as Daisy’s chief and was considered a war hero. He served 38 months with the 8thAir Force in England as director of technical operations. He deployed to England and brought with him the new and untested P-38 Lightning. Cass worked out the bugs the aircraft had and would ultimately get the P-38 into top form. Ten of Hough’s revamped P-38s went into battle and shot down 16 out of 25 Messerschmidt’s to only one loss. For his work on the P-38 program, Cass received the Air Medal, Legion of Merit, and The Distinguished Flying Cross.
If you are ever in Rogers, Arkansas, be sure to stop by the Daisy Air Rifle Museum. www.daisymuseum.com. They have a wonderful collection of classic air rifles and the history behind them. While you’re there, you can purchase one of their limited edition models, like the 80thanniversary Red Ryder rifle!
For those of you serious Christmas Story Fans, take a trip to the Christmas Story House and Museum! It’s located at 3159 W 11th St, Cleveland, Ohio. www.achristmasstoryhouse.com. This is the actual house where the movie was filmed, and the owner purchased one of the original guns used in the movie for $10,000 at auction! It’s one of Cleveland’s top attractions. They also have an extensive gift shop where you can purchase Christmas Story memorabilia. And yes! they even have the Leg Lamp for sale!
That’s all for now folks! Please keep sending in your questions, tips, and article ideas. And as always – “Let’s Be Careful Out There.”
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, Active Shooter Response, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: By User: Mavarin, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65364361