Kokomo — For more than six decades, Dallas Thomas Jr.’s spending money has come from being green.
A friend sold Christmas trees, so the 14-year-old entrepreneur in need of Christmas cash sold trees, too.
“My parents didn’t have money to give me, so I had to earn it,” said Thomas, who operates three Christmas-tree locations in central Indiana. “I was always looking for something to sell, even garden seeds.”
He started small, but his business grew over time.
“I sold a dozen and went back for more,” he said. “After a while, he couldn’t let me have any more because it would hurt his supply. When I was 16, I got my driver’s license and went to Michigan and brought my own trees back to sell. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Having sold Christmas trees for 62 years, Thomas is celebrating 50 years in the Kokomo Maple Crest lot, at the corner of Washington Street and Lincoln Road.
He also sets up in the Marion Five-Point Mall lot and has an Elwood retail operation.
Holding a faded, yellowish black-and-white 1958 photograph, Thomas reminisced about his Christmases at Maple Crest.
“Back then, there was not much here in this lot,” said Thomas, looking at the photo of himself and an oxen hauling Christmas trees in the area of the present-day Rural King store.
Well past just earning extra Christmas cash, he now sells trees, grave blankets and other Christmas decorations.
The Elwood man has also been known to offer stories about his Christmas career and advice on how to select the perfect tree from the five varieties on his lot.
A tree-buying tip from Thomas at no charge: Bend the tree’s needle. If the needle snaps, the tree is too dry. A bent needle should have a rubbery feel to it.