Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jean Shepherd: A Hammond, Indiana Story

Kathryn Page Camp
Like Jean Shepherd, my husband grew up in Hammond, Indiana. So one of our family traditions is to watch A Christmas Story on Christmas day.
After moving away from Northwest Indiana, Shepherd became a radio and television personality. He is best known for co-writing and narrating A Christmas Story, which was filmed in Cleveland. But it and many of Shepherd’s beloved short stories are set in his hometown. He changed the name to protect the guilty, but Hammond by any other name is still Hammond. 
Humorist Jean Shepherd was born on July 21, 1921. His biographies give conflicting information on the actual place of his birth, with some listing south Chicago and others saying he was born in Hammond. But it is clear that he grew up in Hammond, graduated from Hammond High School in 1939, and worked in the steel mills for a time. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II and spent most of his career in New York City, with earlier stints in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He eventually retired to Florida and died there on October 16, 1999.
But although Shepherd spent his career outside of Indiana, he couldn’t get Hammond out of his blood. As mentioned above, many of his short stories are set there, as is the movie A Christmas Story.
Hammond can’t get Jean Shepherd out of its blood, either. The picture at the head of this post shows the Jean Shepherd Community Center. Hammond also recognizes its hometown hero during holiday events, such as a tribute held downtown and an annual display of scenes from A Christmas Story at the Indiana Welcome Center.
If you haven’t read any of Jean Shepherd’s books, I recommend starting with In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.
You just might get hooked.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

1 comment:

  1. A few errors in your brief bio, Kathryn. Shep was definitely born on July 26, 1921, in Chicago. He briefly lived in East Chicago, Indiana, before moving to Hammond in about 1927. Prior to moving to WOR in NY in early 1955, Shep worked on radio stations in Hammond (WJOB), Toledo (WTOD), Cincinnati (WSAI, WCKY, WKRC and WLW) and Philadelphia (KYW), but not Cleveland.


    Steve Glazer, Esq.