Archive for Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Once popular Christmas tree fundraisers were hard, cold work

December 8, 2015

While I’m sure they are still around, it has been awhile since I’ve seen a Christmas tree sales lot operated by a service club or benevolent organization. Looking back, I can remember a time when the selling of Christmas trees was a huge fund-raiser for many organizations.

There is no doubt that Christmas trees remain very popular in the United States. According to the American Christmas Tree Association, 78 percent of homes in the United States (or 94 million) displayed a tree in 2014. Possibly one of the reasons that Christmas tree sales lots are becoming scarce is the fact that 83 percent of the trees were artificial.

I’m a long-time veteran of Christmas tree selling. My first experience was with the Kansas City Kansas Optimist Club in the 1960s. The Christmas tree sales project was our chief money raiser. While I don’t recall exact totals, I know we made several thousand dollars, which is a bit surprising since I believe Scotch pines sold for $5 or $6. We had to sell a lot of trees and had to have many members volunteer a great deal of time.

The project started when the ice-covered trees arrived in a box car. We normally spent the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the railroad siding, hoisting frozen trees out of the box car into any truck we could beg, borrow or find. We hauled them to the lot on State Avenue and began cutting the plastic mesh off and setting up the trees so the branches could spread.

Next came a couple or three weeks of manning the lot and actually selling the trees. I remember holding up trees so families could get a good view and choose the perfect tree. Sometimes we had to trim up the trees or cram a big tree into a small vehicle trunk. In all it was hard, cold work that required young, hardy members, but it was for a good cause.

I had my first opportunity to be “Santa’s helper” when the club decided it would be a good idea for kids to have something to do while mom and pop selected a tree. It was an excellent marketing move as I remember it.

I sold Christmas trees in Mulvane, in Carrollton, Mo., and, yes, here in Bonner Springs. The Optimist Club had a lot at the site of the former “Greenhouse” on K-7. The Bonner Springs High School Booster Club operated a lot on K-32 for a couple of years. If I remember correctly, slumping sales and a lack of volunteers ended both projects.

Community Christmas trees are very popular now. The Mayor’s Tree in Bonner Springs was originally in Kelly Murphy Park, and it got so big it became hard to decorate. A small tree in Centennial Park was then designated as the Mayor’s Tree. If I’m not mistaken, almost every area city has a lighting ceremony for the community tree. President Calvin Coolidge started the tradition of a national tree at the White House in 1923.

There are many legends concerning the origin of the Christmas tree. One story credits Martin Luther with originating the tradition. Another gives the credit to St. Boniface, who was a missionary to the Druids. Most believe German immigrants in Pennsylvania initiated the holiday tradition of Christmas trees in the United States.

The decorated tree is the center of the secular Christmas celebration now. The simple tree has advanced with new and modern ornaments and has come a long way from popcorn and cranberry garlands, a string of lights and some foil icicles. I enjoy the Christmas tree at our home and also seeing decorated trees throughout the area.

Yes, Christmas trees are beautiful and an important part of the holidays. You could say I enjoy everything about Christmas trees – except selling them.


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