November 28, 2009
Eric and Gloria Sundback have been growing trees for over 50 years and in that time they have grown 4 official WH Christmas trees: President Reagan (2), President Carter and the Obamas.
So that’s 3 out of a possible 11 presidents. And no other family, grower or company has made it to the WH four times.
See here for how the growers are chosen and other specifics.
Here’s a nice profile (and above pix) of the Sundbacks from AARP (Blair S Walker).
They met at Syracuse University in 1950. Gloria was working on a Ph.D. in chemistry, and Eric had received a BS in pulp and paper. They married a year later, ended up in Washington, where Eric became a landscape architect and Gloria ran the household, which eventually included two children.
If anybody had told me I’d wind up in the Christmas tree business. I would have told them to go see their friendly psychiatrist.
Their first attempt at growing Christmas trees in PA wasn’t quite successful.
We planted them on ground that had too much water on it and drowned the trees.
But their hard work paid off, eventually enabling them to purchase a 160-acre tree farm in Shepherdstown, WV. And now, a fourth visit to the WH.
When you go to the White House, they treat you the best you’ve ever been treated. It’s like you’re an ambassador—or a king!
Nancy Reagan was awfully pleasant, and Rosalynn Carter was just impressive and wonderful. We thought she [Carter] was going to be the first woman president.
In the video below, they’re packing up and loading the official WH Christmas tree.
You’re helping make Christmas for the whole country. What we really like this year is that it’s going to a family. The children are there – the family is well-knit.
They’re looking for trees that have good form and for trees that have stronger branches because they use a lot of decorations.
She had a word with the seed bed…’Well fellas, do you want to be a Christmas Tree now or wait till later and be toilet paper.’
That gets the tree growing.
You don’t want to let it go to your head because you gotta come back out and work again.
We hope they enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed Christmas as kids.
If the tree is good and they enjoy it – that’s what it’s about.
How it gets from their farm in Sheperdstown, WV to the horse-drawn carriage at the WH and who pays the freight?
Video of the tree and carriage pulling up to the WH to the sounds of sleigh bells and the Marine Band’s “O Christmas Tree”.