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True Stories From the Guardsmen Tree Lot

By Erin Carlson

EVERY DECEMBER, THE GUARDSMEN–a group of successful, suited-up industry leaders–get down and dirty delivering trees from their festive Fort Mason headquarters to the City’s fanciest addresses. They do this in relative anonymity–sometimes with chainsaws!–but always with a sense of humor. And for a worthy cause: Raising money, tree by tree, for disadvantaged kids in the Bay Area. In the spirit of the season, the Gazette collected tales of deliveries-gone-awry, holiday hookups and humbled neighbors.

Greg Wettersten

(President, Global Capital):
It was 1994 and Charlotte Mailliard Swig, now Charlotte Schultz, hired Stanlee Gatti to decorate her place. Stanlee came down to the tree lot and he purchased an 18-foot-tall tree, one of the biggest ones we had. And he looked at me and he said, “How much for delivery?” … I just said, “A thousand dollars. And before the “thou” in a thousand dollars was out of my mouth, he said, “Done.” And I knew I’d made a mistake… We’d never done anything even remotely like this. We cut the tree in half, and the tree had cost a fortune. Of course, we didn’t have a tree to replace it. So, we put the two halves of the tree with [a] dowel in it, put it in the back of the truck and we went there. We moved so quickly! Before anyone could see what we were doing, we put the tree back together. I heard through a friend that Charlotte said, a week and a half later, “Why is the top of the tree dying and the bottom half is not?” And, of course, the top of the tree was not getting any water and the bottom was.

James Harlow

(Assistant Vice President, PNC Realty Investors):
As we were putting up the tree I noticed that a bridge table was set up in the room next door. I asked the gentleman if they were planning on playing, which they were, and told him that I was a big bridge fan having grown up playing with my family.
When we had finished decorating the tree the hosts were kind enough to offer us a drink as well as something a little unusual, offering me a seat at the bridge table with their newly arrived guests. Much to my reluctance, my fellow Guardsmens’ enthusiasm to see such an event transpire gave me no choice but to play. As the cards were being dealt, fear coursed through my veins. The other Guardsmen volunteers looked on anxiously, hoping I wouldn’t embarrass
the organization with meager card play. And while I admit I am an amateur at best, I’ll never forget the events that unfolded during that fateful hand. … For those with no bridge context, what transpired would be akin to sitting down for one hand of no-limit poker, being dealt a pocket pair, and hitting four of a kind. We did not bid a grand slam, my new bridge friends believed me to be a master and it was a Guardsmen delivery story for the ages. I’m looking forward to delivering the tree again this year to see if the cards will still be in my favor.

Mike Pola

(Managing Partner, Health-care Supplier Solutions):
We brought a tree up to Pacific Heights … and the guy answering the door is some high-stressed guy. He says, “You guys, I can’t believe, I told you to bring a saw. You need to shorten the tree to fit into our space, because it’s too tall.” And he was kind of yelling at us and we said, “Well, we didn’t bring a saw.” And he says, “You guys are incompetent. How do you do this for a living?” And he didn’t realize what we do – that we’re volunteers. And then [my fellow Guardsman] responds, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll go get a saw.” The guy says, “I’m not going to wait until you guys drive back! I have to be out tonight!” The Guardsman goes, “Don’t worry, I live down the block from you. I’m two houses up the hill–in the bigger house up there.”
I’ve seen a few of these, where a young woman will come down and pick up a tree –it’s like a 4-foot tree. I mean, she could have probably put it in her car. She’ll go, “No, I want it delivered.” And she’ll say, “I want to have you deliver it”–you know, pick someone. It was never me. Unfortunately, I was never the pick of the litter. But they pick a guy, a tall good-looking guy, to come deliver it.”
Wattersten adds, “More than one Guardsmen has met his wife at the tree lot.”
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