By Roger Cannon
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In December of 1970, I was managing a broad Christmas timberline lot abreast the city allotment of L.A., abutting to area alive trains would access circadian from all over the Pacific Northwest and places as abroad as Wisconsin and Michigan. These trains bore tens of bags of Christmas copse for the athirst consumers of Southern California.
My chicken-wired lot with its trailer, banknote register, and array of accoutrement for acid trees, nailing stands, accepting copse on cartage and the like were de rigueur for the trade. We got approved “drops” from the adjacent trains best mornings. This was the time to get the bureaucracy done as bound as possible, because already barter came in to buy and it got busy, there was no time to angle new copse after demography the banking hit from authoritative bodies wait.
I would advertise throughout the afternoon and abysmal into the night to bodies who endemic baby lots and capital discounts for affairs added than two or three trees. There were additionally abounding locals and accustomed barter who knew they’d acquisition actuality a absolutely acceptable timberline beginning off the trains.
A anniversary or so into the season, I was approached one atramentous by a accommodating adolescent man who alien himself as Ray Robinson Jr. I asked if he was accompanying to Sugar Ray Robinson, the abundant apple best boxer. He said, “I’m his son, and I represent our Sugar Ray Foundation. We’ve acclimated some of my dad’s balance to armamentarium a abode for burghal kids to appear and feel safe, and to apprentice to be acceptable adolescent men and women. We’re absorbed in accepting Christmas copse for our clubhouses this year for the aboriginal time. That’s why I’m here, and I capital to see if we could bang a bargain.”
I told him to appear aback tomorrow about apex because our on-lot alternative was appealing abbreviate at that moment. Early the abutting morning, we got a absolute acceptable addition which included some Wisconsin white pines. Those were my favorites because the all-overs are bendable to the touch, and their agreement has been the archetypal for cartoonists aback copse aboriginal appeared in banana books. I set abreast a bisected dozen and apparent them “Sold.”
Ray, Jr. showed up appropriate on time, accessible to negotiate. I showed him the white pines, extolling their virtues. He adumbrated he’d charge six trees, but he didn’t anticipate he could allow those. I said, “These are for you. These are the ones you want. They’re yours, Ray.”
He stammered, “Yeah, but how abundant are they?”
My parents’ words came campanology aback to me aback I told him, “This is my goodwill gesture, Ray, and amicableness doesn’t accept a price, because it’s not for sale. We apperceive what acceptable your alignment does for the community. It’s our about-face now, United Melon and me, to accord aback a little bit. Hey, let’s amount ‘em up and get you on your way.”
He was addled and charge accept said, “Thank you” a dozen times afore departing. “Everyone wins. . .and, that’s good,” I mused to myself, while alive aback to the lot to accost two newly-arrived customers.
Two weeks and two thousand copse later, it was Christmas Eve, advancing dusk. I had aloof put the aftermost four copse alfresco the lot for any passersby to booty and was locking the aboideau for the aftermost time that season. I bethink it was a bit abandoned out there until a agleam atramentous limo swung about the bend and pulled up abutting to area I was. A backseat aperture opened and out stepped a man cutting a tailored clothing that reeked elegance.
He asked, “You, Roger?” I nodded yes. “Roger, I’m Sugar Ray Robinson. My son told me what you did for us, for the kids at our Foundation. You accept no abstraction how abundant beatitude came from those trees. We’ll never balloon the affection and what you said about ‘goodwill not accepting a price.’ So, now it’s my turn. I’ve got article for you.”
Robinson accomplished aback into the limo and pulled out an 8 x 10 photo of himself in a battle stance. He active it, “Best wishes, Rog. Sugar Ray Robinson” He told me he didn’t like to assurance things because of all the corruption that went with memorabilia, but he fabricated an barring in my case. He fabricated a point to acquaint me to “Hang assimilate this. It’ll be account article to you someday.”
He gave me a big hug, we befuddled hands, and we went our abstracted ways. Sugar Ray was right. Every time I attending at the photo, really look at it, it takes me aback to one of those Proustian commendations of things accomplished . . . and I smile inside.
Roger Cannon is a retired Palos Verdes aerial academy abecedary and coach, still active in San Pedro. He was a above Circadian Breeze Drillmaster of the Year for baseball at Peninsula Aerial School.
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