Christmas Tree Auctions, The Denny’s Tree, and My Dad

19 Dec

They bought it from a tree lot located on the corner of a busy street, across from a Denny’s, I think. It was a nice enough looking Christmas tree, but it still wasn’t the same. It was smaller than usual and it wasn’t even cold out when they brought it. I think it was 76 degrees that day.

No coats needed. Probably shorts and a t-shirt.

Growing up, picking up a Christmas tree required flannel underwear, long socks, sweaters, jackets, beanies, mittens and Kleenex. Granted it was probably just 60 degrees, but for this Southern California Guat 60 was cold.

So there we were packed in my dad’s two-tone brown Oldsmobile station wagon making our way to the train tracks somewhere near downtown to the Christmas tree auction.

I guess when most people think of auctions they think of the hoity-toity, with their fancy clothes, bidding thousands and thousands of dollars on boats, cars, or artwork with that small white paddle. We had no paddles here. We had USC sweatshirts and flannels. We had the hand gesture or the nod.

To this day, that is the only type of holiday shopping I have ever enjoyed … ever.

Picking up the tree was an adventure. It didn’t involve parking lots. It involved train box cars filled with Douglas firs being unloaded on cold nights. It involved the smell of fresh trees, and not the smell of the Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast specials. It didn’t involve hostile moms and dads arguing over parking spaces. It involved the excitement of bidding against another dude and his family for the perfect Christmas tree. It involved woo-hooing. It involved sitting on my dad’s shoulders just to check out the auctioneer dude. It involved browsing at trees and people watching. It involved getting hot chocolate with marshmallows from the vendor and holding it tightly in my hands so that my fingers stayed warm. It involved my dad looking at my sister and asking her, “What do you think?” It involved smiling at my dad when he finally won a bid.

Image via

Image via

It involved us freezing our butts off when we returned to the station wagon, because the heater didn’t quite kick in right away. So my mom would give us the blankets she had packed. It involved recapping the evening, jokes and all, on the drive home. It probably involved a nap as well.

The excitement of Christmas tree shopping became an unforgettable Guat family tradition that I think about every year. It became something we looked forward to every holiday season. However with the economy, and I guess other influential factors, the auction block closed down. No more Christmas tree-filled box cars, no more Dad bidding, no more hot chocolate.

This week … this week the Christmas tree was picked up in a parking lot across the street from a Denny’s. I thought about my dad as they dragged it in here in a plastic bag. Once decorated, it was a nice looking tree. Short, but plump, well-rounded. But it’s still not the same. It’s a Denny’s tree.


13 Responses to “Christmas Tree Auctions, The Denny’s Tree, and My Dad”

  1. Darla Welchel December 20, 2012 at 6:09 AM #

    What fond memories! Be so ever thankful that you have these; our tree was a small aluminum one from a box and my parents were usually too inebriated to make the moment a pleasant memory. In fact, I don’t ever remember decorating the tree; I don’t think we were allowed.
    Like I said, be thankful for your memories. I have since created new and better ones with my own family. 🙂 Merry Christmas and have a Blessed New Year!

    • The Guat December 22, 2012 at 12:26 AM #

      It was a great memory. I think about it every Christmas and I was so very thankful that I had some. I’m so glad people enjoy my Dad stories. And good for you for creating happy memories yourself and your family. We all got to that sometimes. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by

  2. susielindau December 20, 2012 at 6:28 AM #

    What great memories!
    One of my favorite memories is when we picked out our tree at a farm when the kids were little. It was beautiful and they had a cute gift shop filled with wreaths and fresh greens.
    The worst tree we ever had Danny and I cut down in the National Forest. It looked like a tall wispy version of the Charlie Brown tree…. 🙂

    • The Guat December 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM #

      Ohhhhhhhhh! I have yet to go to a Christmas tree farm, but now that the auction block is no more I might have to investigate that … Don’t know if they have those in Southern California…

  3. adinparadise December 20, 2012 at 8:08 AM #

    You have such wonderful memories of your dad, locked away in your memory bank, and they pop out at the appropriate moment so that your can share them with us. Wonderful! Happy Christmas to you and your family, TG. 🙂

    • The Guat December 22, 2012 at 12:35 AM #

      Ohhhhhh. Thanks so much. I love think about him and wondering what he would be doing now. I’ve got lots of memories. Some of them happen around the holidays, others happen during random stops at places like the In-n-Out. Most of the time they’re funny, light-hearted, touching other times normal dysfunction of a regular family.

  4. lameadventures December 20, 2012 at 8:25 AM #

    Lovely post Guat. Your recollections are so vivid I could almost smell your tree, but on second thought, I think someone in the apartment next door has just made toast. Merry Christmas buddy. I’m going to be in the Bay Area for a while with family and friends so I won’t be online much.

    • The Guat December 22, 2012 at 12:42 AM #

      Merry Christmas, my friend. Glad you stopped by and enjoyed my dad stories. I love telling them and I love people getting to know him through me. He’s a cool guy. Hope you enjoy the Bay Area. Have a sourdough bowl of soup for me at Pier 39. 🙂

  5. Paul December 20, 2012 at 9:21 AM #

    “Whenever I think of the past it brings back so many memories!” ~~ Steven Wright
    My fondest memory is of an aluminum Christmas tree that shone first red, then green, then yellow from a color wheel that lit it. We had that tree for most of my formative years. That probably explains a lot. I think I’ll appropriate your memory as my own. I like it so much better.

    • The Guat December 23, 2012 at 12:07 AM #

      So glad you enjoyed my dad story. I like and remember it often. You can borrow it 🙂 Oh … I never had an aluminum tree. I think the only time I saw one was in the Charlie Brown Christmas special 🙂

      • Paul December 23, 2012 at 9:07 AM #

        Just call me Charlie!

  6. bgddyjim December 21, 2012 at 1:49 AM #

    Sometimes that progress that makes everything so much easier and faster isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    • The Guat December 23, 2012 at 12:07 AM #

      So true. I wish they still had this so my son could experience it, but everything is so much “easier” nowadays …

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