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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Fruit from Cuba

​1915 was still the age of the industrial barons and in July of 1915 the Pantagraph headline read: "FROM CUBA TO BLOOMINGTON" -- Bloomington had been touched by Baron Flagler when fruits from Cuba were delivered to one of the wholesale grocers operating out of Bloomington, IL. There were four wholesale grocers in Bloomington, which employed numerous travelling salesmen who sold products to grocery stores scattered throughout McLean County and probably other counties as well. The paper did not specify which of the grocers had received the fruits, but the paper was full of admiration for Mr. Flagler, who had built a railroad that spanned the water between Key West, Florida and the mainland. With his railroad that spanned 7 miles of water, Flagler brought fruits from Cuba and the other West Indies islands that much closer to the American market.

The supports for the tracks were set in the coral reef, an environmental atrocity that would make the modern environmentalist shudder. But at that time, no one recognized the importance of the coral reef at that time and Flagler was much admired for his ingenuity and use of this vast wealth.

The railway system did not last however. Construction started in 1905 and by 1912 the railroad was built. In 1935 a hurricane destroyed the railroad and operations ceased.

As a new era of openness begins with the U.S. and Cuba, we can remember when Cuba supplied the bananas and sugar and other fruits to Bloomington and hope that such friendly conditions will exist again.

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