Boulder Daily Camera
What inspired Ed Trumble, who grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska during the Great Depression and survived the Battle of the Bulge, to start a greeting card company in Colorado after returning from World War II?
“I don’t know what plants a seed like that,” Trumble said. “These may well have been instrumental.”
Trumble reaches into a filing cabinet behind his desk at the Leanin’ Tree Greeting Card Co. and Museum of Western Art in Boulder (CO) and pulls out cards that were sent to 99th Division, 395th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion, by the Germans via air mail on Christmas Eve 1944.
“We were in our foxholes (at the village of Hofen) buried in snow and hears air bursts,” Trumble recalled. “And it looked like snow was floating down. Then we realized it was propaganda, which the Germans had burst over the town out of artillery shells.”
Trumble picked up three of the cards and tucked them away in a pocket inside his uniform. Most soldiers laughed after reading the messages and threw them on the ground.
One of the cards Trumble saved pictures a wounded soldier on one half of the cover with a young girl on the other. It reads: “Daddy, I’m so afraid.”
Another card reads:
“Every speculation has failed …
Every promise broken …
Every hope shattered …
There’s no rhyme or reason …
If you don’t fall today, then tomorrow …
Put a stop to it one way or another …
‘Dead men tell no tales – But POWs do!”
Almost 66 years later, Trumble – whose company will be producing cards for the 62nd consecutive Christmas – will be honored by the Bolder Boulder as part of the race’s Memorial Day tribute at Folsom Field.
“I had always been interested in the power of words and pictures and graphics,” Trumble said. “And I had grown up on the edge of the West, which was much more culturally established than it is now. I loved Western art and lore and I loved Indian lore.”
Before Trumble could return home and chase his professional dreams, he had to survive the bloody Battle of the Bulge. The Germans greatly outnumbered the Allied Forces as the two sides fought during a dangerously cold and snowy winter in the densely forested Ardennes Mountains.
Trumble suffered a severe concussion and a burst eardrum on the second night of the Battle of the Bulge but kept fighting.
“We were so well dug in and we were never really destroyed as a unit,” Trumble said. “My best friend was killed the first night on the line. An artillery shell landed in a fresh hole he had dug. We had a battalion commander who was fierce. He personally inspected our foxholes.
In late January, Trumble collapsed on the line due to his head injuries. He was sent to a string of hospitals and eventually sent to Paris on limited duty in a post office unit.
On May 8, 1945, Trumble was able to experience the VE Day celebration as Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and the Allied Forces were paraded down the Champs-Élysées after the victory over the Nazis.
Trumble arrived back in America via ship in time to be a part of the famous V-J Day celebration shortly after Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945. The scene was captured best in a LIFE magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
“They were both just huge and went on for three days,” said Trumble, who has to be among a small number of people who attended both events.
Trumble was the youngest of four brothers who all served in World War II. They all survived and reunited with their mom, a widower, for Christmas in 1945.
After doing some research, Trumble learned that his grandfather had fought for the Union with the Wisconsin Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.
“He didn’t leave much evidence of history – no letters or mementos,” Trumble said. “He was wounded at the Battle of Vicksburg and was in the hospital in the Jackson barracks in New Orleans where I did my basic training. I didn’t know that when I was there.”
When Trumble’s grandfather returned from the Civil War he got married and the couple had nine boys. Those boys (Trumble’s father was the youngest) went on to have 47 kids and 17 of them served in World War II (one was killed).
Trumble’s father died in 1934 and the family farm was “starved out and dried out” by 1939.
“But I never had so much fun in my life,” Trumble said of growing up during the Great Depression. “When you’r elittle you don’t know how rough you’ve got it.”
Trumble had attended LSU briefly before WWII as part of the Army Specialized Training Program. After returning home he earned a business degree at Nebraska and then interviewed for a job at Hallmark in Kansas City, Mo.
“I spent a week there and took the job. Then I resigned without ever starting,” Trumble said. “You have to be young and foolish to do something like that.”
Trumble, who still had a passion for Western culture and art, wanted to live in Colorado. He took a job at the Denver Western Livestock magazine, for half the salary Hallmark had offered, where he met Bob Lorenz. The two war veterans started the Leanin’ Tree in 1949.
“Bob designed four Christmas cards, and I talked my boss at the magazine into a trade for advertising space,” Trumble said. “We had no money and started the business on credit with our suppliers. After the war, people were very kind about helping veterans get started.
Lorenz died of cancer in 1965, and Trumble bought his share of the company. Today, Ed remains active as founder and chairman of the board, while his four children – Tom (president/CEO), Jane (senior vice president of product development), Nancy (vice president of celebration greetings) and Tim (vice president of special projects) – manage the day-to-day business.
Trumble estimates that more than one million people have visited the Leanin’ Tree Art Museum, which averages about 40,000 visitors per year. The company that started out with four Christmas cards has produced more than 3,000 different varieties.
“It’s very fulfilling,” Trumble said. “I’m very fortunate to have four kids who all love each other and are quite content to work together.”
Trumble ran the Bolder Boulder in 59 minutes at the age of 59 before retiring his running shoes. He is now 85 with no plans to retire.
“Why would I retire? How can you beat this place?” Trumble said. “I’ve had the same office since 1974 when we moved (to the current location), I see my kids daily, and I don’t have anything to do except visit with visitors and look at the art collection.”