Holman R. Cloud (1894-1983),
Founding Figure in the Florida Citrus Industry
Holman R. Cloud was born to Mary Emma and Lewis Emery Cloud in 1894, the fourth of nine surviving children. At early adulthood he left Henry County Indiana for the University of Chicago. He did not complete his study but was recruited with other college students from around the country to aid the French cause in World War I. This was before the entry of the United States into the war. There is a book that chronicles this group of US non-combatant volunteers called "Gentleman Volunteers" written by Arlen J. Hansen. The University of Chicago magazine dated November 1919 lists Holman as one of the students in uniform for the cause.
We have a letter that Holman wrote to his sister, Georgia in early 1919. The letter provides a date and location of his service and identifies Holman as the unit censor, a 1st Lieutenant, and part of the US Ambulance Corps Section 562.
We can unearth a bit of detail by tracking the history and service record of that military unit. Confirming Holman’s rank and military unit, a University of Chicago magazine article from early 1919 notes, "Our one-time corporal Holman R. Cloud is now a lieutenant in charge of section 562 in France."
Section 562 was drawn up of 14 college students from Dartmouth, more from Washington and Jefferson College, and still more from the University of Chicago. The goal was to recruit 45 men which was the French regulation ambulance unit size. Section 562 served at the Military Red Cross Hospital in Neuilly outside of Paris where they evacuated wounded of all nationalities from trains and river barges and handled calls dispatched to posts as far away as Meaux. They were involved in the drive on Metz. At Nancy, they were given orders to attach to the 18th French division and sent into Germany as part of
the army of the occupation at the end of the war.
The official history of Section 562 is corroborated by Holman's letter to his sister, Georgia Hess. Section 562 traveled through Lorraine to Saarbrucken and was eventually billeted on the Rhine River at St. Goar on February 22, 1919. Holman's letter is dated April 4, 1919 and notes the origin as St. Goar am Rhine. He notes that in his letter he has been on 14 days leave in Italy. A little over a month later It appears that Holman Cloud returned to the United States on May 23, 1919, aboard the cruiser USS St Louis returning from Brest to Hoboken.
After the war, the 1920 US census records show Holman living on his own as a lodger of David S. Whitaker in or about Lebanon City, Indiana, in Boone County. This is in the northwestern outskirts of Indianapolis and about an hour from his home city of Spiceland. His profession is noted as an electrician in public service.
We know from oral family history that by the early twenties Holman was working in sales with power and light companies both in Indiana and then in Reading, Pennsylvania. His company decided to expand natural gas offerings to the state of Florida and Holman was dispatched to lead this enterprise. He arrived in Florida in the early 1920s and never left the state.
Holman married Mabel Clare Ammerman in Florida and had two children, JoAnn (1928-2020) and Jerry Douglas (1930-2020). The family started on Stetson Street in College Park and purchased a home during the early 1930s at 1245 Poinsettia in the brick street area around Lake Ivanhoe, minutes from downtown Orlando.
The entrepreneurial spirit and appetite for risk that Holman showed volunteering in France are evident later in his career. Near the end of World War II while Holman was a vice president at Florida Power the federal government signed a contract with National Research Corporation of Boston to manufacture powdered orange juice for the troops. The war ended before the contract could be fulfilled and the businessmen in that project decided to try to utilize the technology to make concentrate orange juice, removing 80% of the water and thereby making the transport cheaper. It was unknown if this idea had any commercial applicability. The war was over. Why would citizens want to buy processed wartime foods given recent memories of rationing and scarcity? A marketing firm, H.A. Loudon Advertising in Boston, came up with the name "Minute Maid" and the group went to Florida seeking the two ingredients they would require: citrus and electrical power.
To find industrial-grade electric power in Central Florida in 1945 one would have crossed paths with Holman Cloud. Then at the age of 56, Holman was hired to join this highly entrepreneurial enterprise, leaving a well-established position in the upper hierarchy of Florida Power. The world's first frozen fruit concentrate plant was built in Plymouth Florida, north of Apopka. The remains of that facility survive to this day. The first shipment took place in April of 1946. There was a
limited advertising budget. The investors steeled themselves to see if consumers would cotton to something as unaccustomed as mixing frozen orange juice from concentrate in their kitchens.
The initial retail price of Minute Maid concentrate was $0.29. The plant in Plymouth Florida had cost $2.3 million to construct and the company lost $490,000 in the first two years of business. By 1947 Holman might have had cause to second guess the wisdom of his career change. But after two years the product took off. There was a $179,000 profit by year 3 and talks of setting up a California plant. Then, in October 1948 time magazine announced that Bing Crosby would host a 5-day-a-week radio show to promote Minute Maid. The Crosby show ran until October 1950. By 1954 Minute Maid had purchased its rival, Snow Crop, and by 1960 Minute Maid was purchased by Coca-Cola. An April 5, 1958, Orlando Sentinel article with a picture of Holman announces an upcoming Minute Maid board meeting to take place at the new Langford Hotel in Winter Park.
Preparing this narrative, I spoke with some surviving who worked with Holman. Holman was respected as a manager at his work but not for sentimental reasons. By accounts, he was not chummy, but neither was he exclusive. He had an office in the front of the complex and an open-door policy for visitors. He did not make big speeches or issue "crazy statements" but believed in letting managers run their departments without interference.
He was brought on board at Minute Maid to run the Florida business unit based on his statewide contacts and professional networking assembled during his years at Florida Power. He was regarded for competence and highly effective management approaches. It was a validation of his management style and philosophy when a unionization effort at the Minute Maid offices was voted down by the employees. Shortly after his retirement, he was approached to run Minute Maid nationwide for one year and he accepted this responsibility, a fitting capstone to his career. Along with his other corporate titles, Holman was a president of the Orlando Rotary Club, president of the Orlando Chamber of Commerce, president of the Florida Canners Association, president of the University Club, and the wartime president of the Country Club of Orlando.
On a personal level, I can relate from knowing him that Holman had a 19th-century air. He was unfailingly gentlemanly and always observed a certain decorum. People who knew him as an adult refer to him reverently as "Mr. Cloud" even now, 40 years after his death. Business and social peers referred to him as “HR”. He used curious, other-generation expressions in his everyday conversation like "twas" for "it was" and "great day in the morning" as an expression of excitement or surprise, as well as "he/she is a pistol ball" to characterize someone exhibiting exceptional moxie or achievement.
At 89 years of age Holman was determined to survive to New Years day, 1983, he said for purposes of tax benefit. He died on January 20, 1983 weeks short of his 90th birthday. His son, my dad, lived to exactly 90 years and a month, father and son having seen almost identical lifespans and mostly under the sunny skies of Central Florida.
Christopher Holman Cloud