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  • Writer's pictureRobert Adams

Sugar Grand Daddy

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

MY GRANDFATHER WAS A CORPORATE LAWYER who worked for Domino Sugar for over thirty years ending his career as vice chairman of the company. He died in 1954 of lung cancer when I was just a small lad.

I remember little about the man except for his bushy eyebrows and the tall Cuban cigars he kept in the upper pocket of his three-piece suits. He seemed to wear such fine clothes seven days a week. Casual dress was not in his make-up.

Reflecting on his life with the help of his diaries, I have learned much about the man. He was all business. I’ve come to believe with certainty that humor was not his strong suit. He meticulously recorded his private thoughts with the help of his fountain pens and bound notebooks in his daily journaling.

The following is an excerpt from January 5, 1936, describing his daughter at fifteen years of age. Louise, his eldest, would become my mother in 1949.

Louise is in her second year at Scarsdale High School. She receives consistently poor marks and had to drop Latin. She frequently comes home disgruntled with her schoolmates and wants to move away. She is boy-crazy and quite brazen about letting objects of her successive infatuations know how she feels about them. Louise, who has taken piano lessons (without making much progress) since she was five or six, is now changing to voice lessons. She is neat and orderly, courageous, and a hard and efficient worker on things other than studies. She has a most difficult disposition, which we are doing our best to smooth off.

Louise was sent to her room during dinner for being unpleasant.

Hiram Beach Carpenter, Esq.

This is representative of his stern approach to raising his three children. He wasn’t what you called a fun guy. My mother had the furthest thing from a “difficult disposition,” at least as I knew her. We all live with a point of view. I think this entry might be a near-perfect metaphor for the saying - the pot calling the kettle black. i.e., criticizing others for the very fault one possesses.

His business life involved international travel. Stories of his hosting sugar processors and visiting with Cuban associates from all walks of life have been gleaned from his journals. The tobacco farms were his favored free-time pursuit where he enjoyed the finest cigars Havana had to offer. I’m sure sugar-cane rum played in there, too.

I’ve watched with partisan interest the ups and downs of the sweetener industry. I recall an early trip north of Flint where sugar beets were strewn all over the Dixie Highway having fallen from the large farm trailers. My dad skillfully avoided hitting them as we headed up north. It fascinated me as I learned that these colossal beets would be processed into granulated white table sugar. That was a shock to my system. And then to add fuel to the fire, I learned a few years ago that the stevia herb grown down in South America was 200 times sweeter than the granulated sugar derived from sugar cane. My conclusion here is that the world is constantly changing for the consumers' benefit because of discoveries and technology.

For my money, and family ties, I’m a fan of the yellow and white Domino Sugar product (pictured) and, yes, I still drive a Chevrolet with a gasoline engine.

Another sweet ending.

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