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We have trampled on our forefathers' legacy - Hendrickson

Published:Tuesday | August 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill

Renowned businessman Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson, who heads the Continental Baking Company, believes Independence for Jamaica means the opportunity for us to frame our own destiny and to build a Jamaica which will last and, of which, generations to come will be proud.

As a country and people, Hendrickson believes we have revelled in the freedoms that were hard-fought by our forefathers and, to an extent, we have enhanced what they created. However, he believes that in many areas, we have trampled on our forefathers' legacy and have abused the freedoms that meant everything to them.

On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became an Independent Nation and a member of the British Commonwealth.

The modest, yet highly accomplished businessman, believes that many of the country's values and attitudes have significantly declined, including that of the family and the safety and protection of our children.

"As an independent country, it is more important than ever to make our families the centre of our lives and the top of our priorities. When we were growing up, we had great neighbours and good friends and we had to be disciplined and well-mannered," Hendrickson said.

"Children today do not have the childhood we had then. There is a certain innocence to children and what is happening now is that some children are growing up so fast. They are those that believe that our children should not miss anything," Hendrickson said.

During the post-independence era, Hendrickson, who was nine years old at the time, said that with several open lots in his neighbourhood, they would turn them into football fields and just had fun. "We were allowed to be children. Health and emotional wellbeing have their roots in early childhood. We know that if we get it right in the early years, we can expect to see children thrive throughout school and their adult lives," he said.




Educating our people, he said, is often spoken of as being optional. However, as a society, he said, if we are preparing individuals for the competitive job market, they must be highly trained and competent for the job market.

"We cannot think of education as secondary if we are trying to create a society that is equitable. We are just robbing generations of their future. Education is of great social importance, especially in the modern societies," Hendrickson said.

"We have to ensure that we are not too busy being ourselves that we miss the boat. We have yet to clearly define Jamaica and what it takes to be a successful nation," he added.

'Through concerted efforts we can deliver'

The Hendrickson family is well known in Jamaica. By any measure, Hendrickson is easily one of Jamaica's most successful entrepreneurs. His company, known for its baked products under the National brand, is a household name in Jamaica and among the Diaspora in North America and the United Kingdom.

His grandfather opened a bakery in Maggotty, St Elizabeth, in the 1920s. His father Karl Hendrickson, opened National Bakery at Half-Way Tree Road in 1952. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, the family business boomed as the elder Hendrickson introduced innovative machinery and techniques that kept National ahead of competitors.

Hendrickson shared vivid memories inside the National Stadium when the Union Jack was lowered and the black, green and gold Jamaican flag was hoisted to officially signal the country's Independence.




"In the eyes of a nine year old, it was an awesome feeling. One of my most significant memories was Kingston being decorated in the national colours and the Handley Page Victor bombers that flew over us a couple of times. They were so big, we felt as if it was on top of the house," Hendrickson said.

Quite noticeable, he said, a number of new companies were established afterwards including Reckitt & Colman, Colgate Palmolive, Nestle, Serv-Wel, the Jamaica Biscuit Company, Seprod with Felix Fox, Berger, Salada Foods, Magnol House, Marzouca's, Masterton Company and Metal Box Limited.

Hendrickson, who is also well known for his philanthropy, having made hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to several causes, particularly in education said as Jamaicans going forward, we must get smart about how we want the country to grow.

"The challenge is daunting. Nevertheless, we can succeed. Through concerted efforts, we can deliver tremendous results," Hendrickson said.