Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bo' Ling for A Happy Marriage

One of my favorite movies is "A Christmas Story." I won't go into an overview of the movie, I think everyone has seen this one. It's on for 24 hours on TBS every Christmas Day.

The year is never actually established, however, the Radio Orphan Annie Decoder Ralphie receives is the 1940 model. Because of the era, I've always obsessed about the objects they have in the house, particuarly, their radio. The radio is a 1940 Westinghouse model 780-x. The majority of scenes from the movie were shot in Toronto, and this is actually an exclusively Candian model.

Even without the movies influences, I've always wanted an old console radio, but couldn't justify the cost of most I saw at antique malls. Several years ago, I finally came across an affordably-priced 1941 model Philco at the (now sadly closed) Arnold Antique Mall for $40. When I got it home, I found the only thing wrong with it was the speaker had become disconnected. After a 20 second warmup, it hummed to life bringing in AM stations along with shortwave broadcasts from around the world, not to mention a mysterious broadcast that simply counted off the time, second by second.

While my radio wasn't a match for Ralphie's, I still wanted to complete the look. I had long wondered what that metallic orb was that sat on top. An antenna of some sort?

While walking through the South County antique mall some time after acquiring the radio, I stumbled across the answer. It was a bowling trophy. And not just any bowling trophy, a liquor dispenser bowling trophy! Unfortunately, it was missing the bowler on top.

I searched in vain for years for a replacement. The Kenrick Antique Mall had another trophy made of plastic, but sporting the proper bowling figure. But they were (and still are) at a firm $40 for the trophy, plus I'd hate to ruin another trophy just to fix mine. So I've kept my eyes open for plain bowling awards, hoping to use a figure from there. Years before this, I had actually scored a large quantity of 1950's and 60's bowling awards at a garage sale for 50 cents a piece. I ended up giving them away to an organizer of a Special Olympics bowling team to be reused.
Finally, a year or so ago, I came across some more bowling trophies at a garage sale. They were women's trophies, but they looked great so I picked them up. On top of the trophy was a larger bowling figure and two other smaller figures flanked either side at the base.

It turned out, the smaller ones fit perfectly.

In the collector's field, this is what is known as a "Happy Marriage" -- replacing a missing item with another that fits so well, it looks like it was meant to be.
Kind of like my radio and this trophy.

Oh, and why "Bo' ling"? A small piece of A Christmas Story trivia. When director Bob Clark was looking for a Chinese restaurant to shoot the infamous "Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra Chinese turkey dinner" scene from the movie, he took a queue from his assistant director as told on
"The scene for Chinese Turkey at Bo’ Ling Chop Sury Palace was filmed in Toronto, Canada. It is still a restaurant but now serves French Food. The idea for the name Bo’ Ling Chop Suey Palace in which the sing clearly reads Bowling with the light for the “w” burnt out came from the real life experience of assistant director Ken Goch. When he was a child, Ken’s mother had actually mistaken a Bowling alley with a burnt out “w” for a Chinese restaurant when trying to find a place for the family to eat. Lucky for them there was a restaurant attached to the Bowling alley."

This conflicts with the take Bob Clark gives in the commentary for A Christmas Story in which he tells of searching for a site to film this scene and settling on a bowling alley and adjusting the signage. Maybe not what actually happened, but a good story and a fine example of repurposing one thing for another. A Happy Marriage.


  1. Nice items , i like the story behind them !

  2. I live across the river from you and I enjoy your blog. Best regards, Gene

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Gene. I appreciate the feedback.


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