“That Story Lady”

Angela Scott, Author – Storyteller – Ventriloquist

How a Bad Debt Created Good Jobs – Coconuts, Cash and a Creative Thought

December 16, 2009


I admit I was curious yesterday when I saw the picture in the October 1945 issue of “The Country Gentleman” magazine. That’s why I had to read the article.

I learned Mr. Franklin Baker had shipped a lot of flour to Cuba and then waited months to be paid for it. However, the payment he received was a shipload of coconuts rather than cash. He did not expect coconut souvenirs.

In the picture, he held a hammer in one hand and a portion of a coconut in his other hand. The woman standing on the other side of the table held a portion of a coconut in one hand and held a cloth in her other hand. Newspapers were opened and spread on the table in between them with large chunks of coconut strewn out as well. On the floor lay a large open burlap bag filled with coconuts that had spilled at their feet.

After attempting to sell the coconuts at open markets, he found he was stuck with the dilemma of possessing a product no one wanted to buy.

However, after Mr. Baker opened the coconut, he was inspired with an idea to save time for cooks who used fresh coconuts. He and his son decided to go into the business of opening coconuts. Their product provided an item that was ready to use in cakes, pies and puddings.

Mr. Baker risked every penny he had but he began the coconut business. Today we know his product as the successful and familiar “Baker’s Shredded Coconut.” His business grew from small to a sizable coconut product business and created jobs which contributed to making other jobs such as shippers, salesmen and accountants. Farmers also benefited from his creative thought to transform coconuts into a product which earned a lot of cash.

When I was young, I remember a similar picture in my mind of my mom and dad breaking coconuts open for cooking. Mom would bake a fresh coconut pie or a fresh coconut cake. An unforgettable mouth watering aroma filled our home like none I have recently smelled.

Intrigued that the coconut product created by Mr. Franklin Baker in 1895 is still serving us today in 2009, I felt compelled to share this history lesson I learned because a black and white picture placed at the top of the magazine page caught my attention.

While grocery shopping this afternoon, I decided to take a picture of Mr. Baker’s coconut product displayed in the baking aisle. As you can imagine, I was the only person taking pictures in the grocery store which caught the attention of several other people. Perhaps they thought I was a secret shopper and if so, they were right because I found the answer to a great secret in baking history.


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