Scouts still selling tradition at Christmas tree lot

Robert Houk • Dec 4, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees at a lot near Kiwanis Park has been a holiday tradition in Johnson City since 1959.

Scoutmaster Larry Taylor, whose association with the Boy Scout Christmas tree lot goes back to 1974, has been helping his own Troop 237 sell trees on the corner of West Market Street and Veterans Way for the past 26 years.

“The city has been good to us,” Taylor said before trimming the branches of a tree with a chainsaw. “We do this as a community service, but the boys do have some fun.”

He said 11 Scouts and six adult leaders will work at the lot this season. The trees sell for about $10 a foot, and come in a number of sizes. 

Taylor said the lot, which opened the day after Thanksgiving, will be staffed by an adult “24-7” until all of the 360 Fraser firs from a tree farm in Buladean, North Carolina, have been sold. He expects that will be around Dec. 14.

Taylor said he is pleased to see many familiar faces return annually to buy a Christmas tree.

“We want people to come back year after year for their trees,” Taylor said. “We want to keep our loyal customers happy.”

Among the customers at the lot Tuesday were Claudia Wiest and her husband, Luke. Wiest, a native of Germany, said they recently moved to Johnson City after her husband retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army.

“I must have a Christmas tree,” she said after they loaded a 6-footer into their pickup.

She also picked up the trimmings from the tree to use as decorations around their house. 

Julie Posey and her husband, Micah, were looking for a much taller tree — at least 8 feet — to decorate their home in Jonesborough.  The couple brought along their 18-month-old son, Maddux, to help them find the perfect Christmas tree.

“We bought our tree from here last year,” Julie said. “We got it from a Scout named Wolfgang. He was a great salesman.”

One way of keeping customers coming back, Taylor said, is to make sure they are getting fresh trees. He said buyers can make sure they are getting a fresh tree is to test its branches. If they are sticky, brittle or drop needles, they are not fresh.

Fred Deakins, an assistant Scout leader, said it is also important to make “a fresh cut” of the tree’s trunk before placing it in a stand. He said it is key to keep water in the tree stand because a Fraser fir can drink as much as two liters of water a day.

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following to make sure a live Christmas tree doesn’t become a fire hazard:

• Don’t place a tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent;

• Inspect all Christmas lights annually for frayed wires, bare spots and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up; and

• Never leave Christmas tree lights on unattended. Thirsty needles and hot lights could spell disaster.

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