The Boy Scouts Tree Sale was begun by Jimmy W. Coleman, Sr. (1918-1997), in 1959. Jimmy worked his entire career for the telephone company. He was a trained Electrical Engineer. He also served for many years in the Army Reserves. Jimmy was the founding Scoutmaster of Troop 4. When he began, there was no equipment, little support, and much hope for a successful Troop. Jimmy and his wife, Florence, had three boys; two of which, Jimmy, Jr., and Harry, were to become Eagle Scouts in the Troop. Jimmy Sr. had no desire to constantly beg the boys' parents for money to support and sustain the Troop. After considering numerous money-raising options, it was decided that a Christmas tree sale would be begun. For the first two or three years, trees were on consignment. Jimmy would go to numerous vendors at the Farmers Market, to wholesale grocers and others to get the trees. During that time, the trees came in bundles of 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1. All bundles were the same price. Thus, the sale made more money by buying the larger bundles. When delivered to the back yard of the Colemans, which was the first sale site, the trees were unbundled and the sale began. For delivery purposes, the Colemans used their own trailer. Mrs. Coleman related that these initial years were difficult for her family and her, what with everything being in the back yard at 2153 Mountain View Drive, Vestavia Hills. She indicated that it was even difficult for her to get a bath at night because of all the customers! In 1960, Jimmy, who was a member, approached the Board of Stewards at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. He received permission to set up the sale in what was then the undeveloped parking lot. At that time, only trees and gravel made up the parking lot. After a sale or two, however, it was realized that this site was not much better than the backyard of the Colemans as it was off the beaten path of Highway 31. They next went to Yielding's, which was then in the current Vestavia Hills City Center next to what is now the Hallmark store. The site at that time was in the right-of-way between the highway and the shopping center. Again, however, it was realized that this was not an optimal site for the sale. Jimmy then contacted his fellow steward and Army Reserve friend, Brigadier General Reed Doster (who participated in the Bay of Pigs) for aid. The General's son, Reed, was also in the Troop. The General pulled some strings and got an okay for a different site directly on Highway 31. There was a house there then, which later became the site for Rite Aid and now Trust Care. The Sears store had not yet been fully built. It was the home of Mr. & Mrs. Joe King. She was the City Clerk for Vestavia Hills, and maintained her office in her house, as there was no City Hall at the time. The sale remained at this location until the Sears store was completed and additional expansion was requested. When developer Charles Byrd wanted to improve the medians on Highway 31, the sale had to move down the hill. The moves continued until about 1969, when negotiations with the City resulted in permission to go to what would become known as Scout Square. It was seeded and improved by the Boy Scouts participating in the sale. In relating various memories about the early days of the sale, Mrs. Coleman gave many insights. During the days when the sale was in the right-of-way of the shopping center, the sale had much support from the merchants there. They related to Mrs. Coleman that many of the Tree Sale customers stayed to shop with the merchants. During these times, Mrs. Coleman stayed at the lot each day for most of the day. She had the first Volkswagen Micro Bus in the city and that was the headquarters for the sale. Mrs. Coleman and other mothers would work from opening at 9:00 a.m. until the various Scouts got out of school and could come to work the lot. Thereafter, the Scouts worked until their dads could come and work the lot until closing. Each year in November, the Colemans would have a parents meeting. Work lists would be circulated, similarly to what is yet done today. Mrs. Coleman related that they would light a smudge pot (for heat) during colder times. Also, the only restroom facilities were in the merchants' stores. The boys slept in her bus at night, to protect the inventory. Eventually, Jimmy learned of bigger and better trees. About this time, he was also getting somewhat tired due to his extensive labors. Both of his boys had left Scouts, and Jimmy needed help. At that time, around 1969, he appointed Charlie to head up the effort, and his son, Harry, became Treasurer. The dollars raised from the sale enabled the Troop to buy the church's first vehicle, a used blue school bus. It was given to the church, through the offices of Steward Julian Bishop, so that the bus could have insurance. The Boy Scouts would use the bus one weekend each month, and the church otherwise had access to and use of the bus. This continued until the church got additional vehicles for their use. At this time, Jimmy had 56 Scouts in his Troop, with an extensive waiting list. The sale monies also enabled the Troop to acquire canoes, a trailer, tents, gear and all sorts of necessary items. After five or so years, Jimmy had been able to raise sufficient monies for his Troop's needs. At that time he began to ask other Troops to come in and do part of the sale. As he wanted to "share the wealth," he was able to bring in additional Troops and give a yearly donation to the Council. When Jimmy died, Mrs. Coleman requested that no flowers be given. Instead, she asked for donors to give money to the City for the then-new and fledgling Avenue of Flags Foundation. She related how proud she was to see how much money came in, and even how much more proud she is every time she sees the flags waving on the Avenue. Another telephone company employee, Jim Baker, had no boys, but was involved in Troop 4 and helped create the Avenue of Flags. He loved the boys and the outdoors, but, like Jimmy, was a strict disciplinarian. He got posthole diggers, a police car and several boys and they erected the initial Avenue of Flags. Originally, the Avenue extended only from Shades Crest Road to the Post Office. Over the years, with several Eagle projects, the Avenue was extended as far south on Hwy 31 as it is today. Mrs. Coleman related that the same system in use now was used then to see to it that the flags were put up and taken down. Another Scouter in Troop 4, John Mims, had a connection to Avondale Mills' Camp Helen, in Florida. The Troop went yearly to this Camp for long weekends, and always did their own cooking. Mrs. Coleman recalls a dedication of Scout Square, which was also dedicated to Jimmy, but she does not recall the specific date. Jimmy had a deal for the Scouts in his Troop who worked the tree sale. The first two boys in the Troop to achieve the rank of Eagle would receive a free trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. The two recipients were Wayne Ellis and Jimmy Coleman, Jr. Mrs. Coleman also remembers Henry and Mary Evelyn Horton, who had the first house on the mountain. They also had a swimming pool. The Scouts of Troop 4 frequently did their Swimming Merit Badge at that pool. Mrs. Coleman also recalls a summer when the Troop camped out on the west coast, all the way down to Acapulco, Mexico. Mrs. Coleman is yet, at 76, a stalwart supporter of the Tree Sale. She still loves the Scouts, and all children, and is pleased each year to see our continuing success. (Mrs. Coleman passed away Febuary 4th, 2017)
The Mountain Scouts Tree Sale has been in operation since 1959 raising funds for Boy Scout Troops in the over the mountain area. There are 10 troops involved in the sale with lot locations in Vestavia, Hoover and Homewood. The sale is run by volunteers, the Scouts and their parents. All proceeds go to support the scouting activities of the following Troops:
MOUNTAIN SCOUTS CHRISTMAS TREE SALE ASSOCIATION
Interview with Mrs. Jimmy W. (Florence) Coleman, Sr.
by Loring Jones III, Chairman 2000-2009