The proverbial Christmas “spirit” is sort of akin the Holy Spirit, but with a sense of humor. The Christmas spirit can be an elusive, ethereal thing to pin down, but I found it on Woodward Avenue this past week at a Christmas tree lot of all places. There I found Tom Muir, who swears he is closely related to Santa Claus.
Tom is the proprietor of Ho-Ho-Ho Christmas trees, where he is celebrating 20 years of bringing Yuletide joy via his enthusiastic selling of trees.
Yes, it’s a business and Tom is interested in making money to augment his day job pay as a pattern maker, but it’s tough work with long hours in cold, wet and snowy weather.
Having said that, Tom says what brings him back year after year are the customers that bring him donuts, cookies, cider and hot chocolate—even spaghetti dinners—along with stories of their families, who in many cases have grown up during Tom’s tenure.
Tom is a big personality. He greets you with a hearty handshake, a big laugh and, if he had a white beard and wardrobe with a little more red and white, you might think that he’s not kidding about his special relationship with Santa Claus.
I watched Tom and wife Linda’s eyes mist over telling me their favorite stories, including young families whose budgets don’t meet the tree they want and his unofficial policy of making sure that doesn’t stand in the way of the right tree for the right family.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but to be part of so many families' Christmas for two decades. I just don’t see myself walking away from that," Tom said. "There are not many jobs where people get out their cars and hug you!”
Shrine Dads Club
A mile south is another lot filled with trees and volunteers from the Shrine Dads Club, who spend their free evenings and weekends selling trees to benefit the kids at . This a labor of love for Shrine fathers, so much that they have enlisted a cadre of retired dads whose kids have long since graduated from school.
Clint Fogle currently has grandchildren at the school. He works with Phil Massimilla at the lot during the day now that they are retired. They have been at the lot since its inception in the mid 80s. You can tell they still enjoy the camaraderie and the smiles on kids faces as they tie a tree to the roof of a car.
Our family has been buying trees from Tom or the Shrine Dads Club lots since our kids were little—and that was a long time ago. There were many years when our tree selection day coincided with a nasty sleet spitting storm bearing down from Escanaba. The bad weather, along with the perennial argument over how much to spend on a tree, deciding between a Douglas fir or a white pine, and hollering at our sons to stop playing tackle tag in the trees were our traditions. I can’t tell you how much I miss those times. It makes me get a little misty walking amidst the trees.
Having said that, this year Ho-Ho-Ho delivered the tree, set it up in the family room and vacuumed the rug. There is some consolation to empty nesting!
Looking for a Christmas Tree?
- Shrine’s Dads Club lot is located on Woodward just south of 12 Mile Road behind .
- Ho-Ho-Ho is located on the east side of Woodward just north of 13 Mile Road next to the .
Both are great spots for trees and I’m guessing you’ll leave with a wisp of Christmas spirit hanging from your stocking cap.
It’s Monday, the holidays are coming up. Let’s go!
Gerry Boylan is the author of two books, "Getting There," a novel and "Gerry Tales," a collection of short stories. Both books are available at Amazon.com. In addition, they are available for download for Kindle and Nook at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. You can also pick up both books at the Yellow Door Art Market located in Berkley.
(We hear Gerry's books make great Christmas gifts!)