I was enrolled in typing at University High School in my sophomore year and wanted an Underwood typewriter like the ones the class used. The Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog offered "Upright Underwood" for a lot more money than I had in the bank. Mom and Dad talked this over and said, "If you’ll put all of the money you make this year selling Christmas trees toward the purchase of that typewriter, we’ll make up the rest." I flew into this agreement and, at Mom’s suggestion, put a classified ad in the Tribune to increase my sales.
The University Lab School had long vacations and exams in January at the end of the semester. Not only did I need that Underwood for school, I was the Columbia Herald Statesman’s columnist, writing the news from Harg Community, Olivet Church and from four one-room elementary schools: Carlisle, Turner, Carter and Robnett. The Statesman paid 10 cents for each column inch of printed Harg items. It was news, in those days, when clubs met, people had minor illness or farmers used the threshing crew or filled their silos. Birthday parties and sports events between those grade schools increased my income from the Statesman, so I read and reread the Sears catalog about the wonders of Upright Underwood typewriters.
Anyone who ever cut a cedar tree to fit in a house can vouch for this: Trees grow after being cut. You eyeball it and even measure it, but when you take it indoors, it’s always too big for the prepared place. Most people asked for a symmetrical tree, but thoughtful others said, "Our room will be crowded, and I’d like the tree to be flat on one side so it will set close to the wall."
I sometimes cut a generous length on purpose. One time I started to the house with a beautiful cedar, longer than what was ordered. I couldn’t lift it, but dragging it all that way would have scarred the branches.
I decided to get my sled so I could tie the tree down and pull it over the dry ground and rocks.
However, it was a dark night, so I left it and planned to come back the next morning.
That night, we had sleet, ice and freezing rain; everything was coated with ice. The tree I left in the woods would weigh a ton. Dad hitched the horses to the wagon and took me to the woods. We beat the tree to shatter off a lot of the ice, but some remained. We set it in the milk house, where the steam boiler kept water hot and the room warm, and it was ready to deliver in two hours.
Finally, it was Dec. 23, and all tree orders had been filled. We were playing Flinch, and I had to stop and answer the phone.
"How much do you charge for a 7-foot Christmas tree?" a man asked.
Wow! I’d never sold such an enormous tree, so I asked an enormous price: "A dollar and 75 cents," I said.
The man gave me his address and phone number. "Call me before you come; I’ll have a check ready."
Flinch didn’t matter any longer. I dressed and went to the woods to cut his trees and drag them down the steep hill to where Dad could bring the team and wagon.
True to form, they "grew" overnight, and my 7-foot trees were too long; Dad sawed them off before we loaded them, and we ordered the Upright Underwood on Dec. 26.