12/07/09 — Workin' It - Wrestling needles ... for kids

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Workin' It - Wrestling needles ... for kids

By Laura Collins
Published in News on December 7, 2009 1:46 PM

The Job: Tree lot worker

The Company: Goldsboro Optimist Club Tree Lot

The Location: Goldsboro

My muscles and I are currently not on speaking terms.

"If you keep carrying trees like that, you're not going to be able to get out of bed in the morning," said 77-year-old Ann Edgerton.

"It's OK, I'm really strong," I responded.

Wrong. My muscles have let me know how strong I am, and it's not nearly as strong as I thought I was. Carrying trees for four hours at the Goldsboro Optimist Club Tree Lot was apparently a little too much.

I worked with Bill Edgerton, 72, who has been a member of the Optimist Club for 32 years, and his sister-in-law, Ann Edgerton, who's been a member for more than 15 years.

With one question, I knew I was going to like the job almost immediately.

"Have you ever used a chain saw before?" Bill asked.

"Technically no, but I'm ready to start."

"All you have to do is hold it tight," was the only advice he gave me before handing over the chainsaw.

Turns out, there was a little more advice he should have given me like: cut the branches off, but don't nick the tree; don't cut the branches off too high because it looks silly; don't leave the branches too low because the tree stand won't go on; don't cut at an angle; and finally, don't get frustrated if the customer insists on a tree that doesn't fit their tree stand, which you are required to put on for them.

Overall though, it went well. I was entertained watching the families who came through looking for a tree. Most of the children ran around the trees chasing each other, excited for the long night of tree lighting and decorating that was in store. The mothers were usually a bit more serious, scrutinizing every branch on every tree, making sure it was perfect before it became a fixture in their living room. The dads were another story, though. Most of them wandered aimlessly around the lot, only stopping to look at a tree if they were in sight of their wives.

"I can't find one," one wife said.

"That's weird, I've found about 10," her husband responded. Clearly their standards for what makes a good Christmas tree weren't matching up.

The couples all left happy, though, with their perfect tree picked out.

Later in the evening, Maurice Nicholson, club president, came to take over for Bill at the tree lot. We spent some time hauling trees to fill in the vacant spots where trees had been purchased.

That is when it happened. The first serious injury of my Workin' It series.

OK, "serious" might be a bit of a stretch. Basically I scraped my arm on the trunk of a tree I was carrying and it started bleeding. Since it was late in the evening, and a coworker was buying the tree, I didn't feel too bad. I did use the opportunity, however, to sit inside with Ann, drink hot chocolate and eat candy canes.

The club's Christmas tree lot is almost as old as the club itself in Goldsboro, which was chartered in 1957. Soon after, the first tree lot opened and though it has moved location, it has been raising money for the club and children in Wayne County ever since.

"At my age, that is one thing I can still do is and help out here and make money for the children," Ann said.

For Bill, the decision to help the Optimist Club runs back to his wife, a former fourth-grade teacher.

"We believe that if kids have positive feedback and attention, they'll be OK," he said.

The lot is open from 12-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1-6 p.m. on Sundays.

The trees are Fraser firs cut from the mountains in North Carolina. Prices for trees range from $40-$115 and prices for wreaths range from $12-$18. Tree stands start at $7.