Giant Lady Leg Lamp at night.
Giant Lady Leg Lamp at night.

Giant Lady Leg Lamp

Field review by the editors.

Chickasha, Oklahoma

In the summer of 2018 Tim Elliot was driving cross-country when, on a whim, he stopped in Winslow, Arizona. He was impressed by the town's gift shops and restaurants around its Standin' on the Corner Park, and wondered why his hometown of Chickasha, Oklahoma, couldn't have something similar. And it quickly occurred to him what that "something" should be: a giant version of the Lady Leg Lamp, the iconic prop from the 1983 film, A Christmas Story.

Tim Elliot.
Tim Elliot, in his office, with his Leg Lamp.

Chickasha was known for its holiday-season Festival of Lights, but Tim didn't see the lamp as a stand-in for a giant Santa or gingerbread man. He envisioned it as a year-round attraction, distinguishing his town from all others. "Nobody else," he said, "is gonna have a giant Lady Leg Lamp."

For two years he fruitlessly tried to raise interest in the idea. "The mayor, everybody was against it," Tim recalled. "They'd say, 'Oh, crap, here comes Tim. He wants to talk about that damned leg lamp again.'" Ironically, one person who did want to talk with him was Noland James, an elderly Chickasha visual arts professor who was in hospice under the care of Tim's daughter-in-law. "Whenever she'd see me she'd say, 'Noland wants to see you,'" Tim said. "I blew him off as an old man. Never went and visited with him."

Original lady leg lamp of inventor Noland James.
Elizabeth Stockton holds photos of Noland James with the original Lady Leg Lamp.

When Noland died on July 18, 2020, his obituary contained the surprising reason why Noland had been so eager to see Tim. It claimed that Noland was the inventor of the Lady Leg Lamp.

According to Elizabeth Stockton, his widow, Noland had created the lamp out of the lower half of a female mannequin and a wastepaper basket, and proudly displayed it in his office until he retired. One day, she wrote, "A man seeking employment at the school became tantalized with the lamp and came by Noland's office many times to look at it and ask about how it was put together -- he nearly took it apart to see how it was made. A few years later, this same man was on the production team that produced the leg lamp.... Noland always felt his lamp was the prototype for the one in the movie, A Christmas Story."

Inflating the Giant Lady Leg Lamp.
Inflating the Giant Lady Leg Lamp.

"I didn't know any of that," Tim said.

(Author/screenwriter Jean Shepherd first mentioned the leg lamp in his 1966 novel, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." Noland was probably unaware of it -- and he seems to have been the first to actually build a leg lamp. The movie's production designer, Reuben Freed, always said that his leg lamp was based on a lamp owned by his mother).

Noland James's revelation softened some of the formerly hard hearts in Chickasha. Tim Elliot, realizing that this was his moment, put in a rush order -- at his own expense -- for a 40-foot-high inflatable Lady Leg Lamp. With some friends, he erected it at the end of Main Street in late November 2020.

Temporary inflatable Lady Leg Lamp.

The lamp stood for only a few days before Oklahoma winds blew it down. Nevertheless, a photo of the standing lamp went viral, and Chickasha quickly became a destination for the media and visitors. "Everybody was shocked," said Tim. "We had people coming from all over the United States to see it. One family drove eight hours just to get here, and they didn't even know if the lamp was gonna be up or not."

Tim devised a system to quickly repair the lamp whenever it was toppled. But it was still a tenuous attraction, flattened whenever the wind exceeded 20 mph, which it does frequently in Oklahoma (We're on record expressing our displeasure with inflatables). For the sake of the lamp's preservation, it was taken down in early 2021, and an attempt to put it back up in July only lasted a few days before the wind took it down again.

Obviously a more permanent solution was needed. This time Tim had no trouble enlisting local support. "After they saw all the people come to town, it was a no-brainer," he said. Although the inflatable leg lamp is back up again -- weather permitting -- work is underway to replace it with a permanent fiberglass leg in November 2022, fifty feet tall. "It'll be up for the next 30 years," Tim said. "It is going to change Chickasha forever."

Tim added that Elizabeth Stockton plans to donate Noland's original leg lamp to the Grady County Historical Museum in Chickasha, where it will have a place of honor in the building rotunda.

Giant Lady Leg Lamp

Address:
100 W. Chickasha Ave., Chickasha, OK
Directions:
East edge of downtown, at the intersection of 1st St. and W. Chickasha Ave. One block south of US-62 and three blocks east of US-277.
Hours:
Lit at night. Call before visiting to find out if the leg lamp is standing. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
405-222-6020
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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