The Air Arms Museum refers to “A Christmas Story”

ROGERS — New this year at the Daisy Airgun Museum in downtown Rogers is an awe-inspiring sight that would have wowed 9-year-old Ralphie and his family in the holiday classic “A Christmas Story.”

Standing 25 feet tall outside the museum’s entrance is a gargantuan fake rifle billed as “the world’s largest Daisy BB gun”. It rises almost as high as the roof of the two-story building, whose ground floor is filled with exhibits tracing the history of Daisy Manufacturing Co. since the 1880s.

One of the museum’s 29 most popular exhibit areas focuses on “A Christmas Story,” which multiple surveys have ranked as the best holiday movie of all time. The display includes an antique table radio, circa 1940, fitted with a small video screen that shows clips from the film.

In one of the replayed scenes, Ralphie Parker has his mouth washed out with soap by his mother for using a swear word. In another, he is spooked by a gruff department store, Santa Claus and his elf. In another, he breaks his glasses on Christmas morning after the recoil of his new Red Ryder air rifle knocks them off.

Other items evocative of “A Christmas Story” include a replica of the garish floor lamp Ralphie’s father cherished and its crate labeled “Fragile” (pronounced “Fra-jee-lay” by “The Old Man”). A Red Ryder poster is titled ‘I’ll help you get a daisy for Christmas’. Black-and-white photos from the set show lead actors Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Arkansan Melinda Dillon and Ian Petrella.

“There’s a bit of Ralphie in all of us,” says Joe Murfin, chairman of the nonprofit museum’s board of trustees. The screening of the film “always makes people smile, as a large majority of them have seen the film”.

Visitors among the millions of Americans who owned a Daisy rifle in their youth may find the museum as fascinating as the Baseball Hall of Fame would be to a lifelong Big League fan. Those unfamiliar with air guns will learn that they run on compressed air to fire a BB or other metal pellet at relatively low velocity.

The Red Ryder BB gun gets a lot of attention from museums. Unless you are an elderly person, Red Ryder may be unfamiliar to you. He was a popular cowboy in the movie series in the 1930s and starred in the comic book lineup as the character until 1964.

As museum visitors learn, the Red Ryder is the best-known BB gun ever made. Manufactured from March 1940 until Daisy switched to WWII military equipment in mid-1942, resumed production in late 1945 and sold over a million rifles in 1949.

A quirk of “A Christmas Story” is that the Red Ryder his parents gave Ralphie has a compass and a sundial in the stock, which was not true for the Red Ryders assembly line. To satisfy the film’s producers, Daisy installed a compass and a sundial in three guns to use as on-screen props.

Visitors learn that today’s Daisy Outdoor Products started in 1882 as the Plymouth Iron Windmill Co. in this Michigan town. When the business failed in 1888, the owners made an all-metal airgun and offered it as a bonus to any farmer who purchased a windmill.

According to the story, an inventor had approached Daisy executives with this air gun, which board members passed around. Supposedly one of them exclaimed, “Boy, that’s a daisy!” So the weapon was named and the rest is history.

Red Ryder is one of the Daisy Airgun Museum model truck themes. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler) Daisy moved its operations to Rogers in 1958 and opened a small museum there in 1966. When the company outsourced its parts manufacturing in 1997, primarily to China, rifle assembly was moved to Neosho, Mo. A largest museum was opened downtown. Rogers in 2000, with then-first lady of Arkansas Janet Huckabee pulling through a ribbon to mark the dedication.

In 2007, Daisy moved its assembly operations back to Rogers, three years after the museum moved to its current location. The company’s rifles and other products are assembled in America from parts made in China. This seems ironic, given that private possession of firearms is generally prohibited in China.

An exhibit area is dedicated to Daisy’s role in firearms education. The site’s 48-page guide claims that “more young people have learned to shoot a Daisy BB gun safely than any other brand.”

If Ralphie had taken a Daisy safety course before firing his first shot in the family yard, he probably would have handled the recoil that caused his glasses to break. But that would have left “A Christmas Story” without one of its final twists.

  • The Daisy Airgun Museum
  • Or: 202 W. Walnut St., Rogers
  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
  • Admission: There is a $2 entrance fee, with visitors under 16 entering free.
  • Information: To visit daisymuseum.com or call (479) 986-6873.

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