If It’s Christmas Time, It’s A Cinch Mystery Coconut Coming
PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ The only Christmas mystery for Ed Clinch is who will deliver the coconut. Since 1948, he’s been getting the offbeat Yuletide gift from a secret pal.
″Oh, and one more thing. I don’t know when it’ll come. That’s really a mystery,″ said Clinch, 70, who’s been on the receiving end of the coconut gag ″so long I don’t care anymore who’s doing it.″
″It used to bug me,″ but now it’s all right, the retired Peoria Park District employee said. ″A lot of folks enjoy it, and my grandchildren, oh, they love those coconuts.″
Since Christmas 1948, when the first coconut arrived at Clinch’s doorstep with an unsigned note saying, ″To the Daddy from The Thing,″ each holiday season has brought yet another.
Clinch is positive the coconuts are linked to his World War II service in the South Seas.
They’ve been delivered via horseback, helicopter, parachute, ambulance and police squad. They’ve been handed to Clinch by past Peoria mayors, an FBI agent, the Bradley University basketball team, local television personalities and a former prosecutor.
The coconuts have been adorned in such outfits as a nurse’s hat for a ride on an ambulance, when the fruit was carried on a stretcher. One came in a Mark Twain get-up with cotton hair and mustache, and a third arrived in patriotic attire in 1976 to honor the nation’s bicentennial.
Clinch thinks the gift is locally conspired and believes its originator was prompted by Clinch’s military service on a coconut-palmed island near the Philippines.
″I’ve told some tall tales, and I guess some were about coconuts,″ Clinch said. ″And me and my Army buddies were pretty good practical jokers.″
His lists of suspects and theories change about as often as Christmas rolls around.
Of an original group of 15 area pals, Clinch said only two still are alive. ″They could be it, but I don’t know. I’ll never pin it on them.
″You know what I think now?″ he said. ″I really do think the original guys aren’t around anymore, and maybe some others got together and picked this thing up, to keep up a legend.″
During the tradition’s first 10 years, Clinch said he tried every way he knew to expose the stunt’s perpetrator.
″I even tried to blackmail guys, threatening to tell their wives on them,″ he said.
He said that since the 1960s, as Christmas draws closer each year, he gets calls from as far away as Australia and Nova Scotia, from television and radio stations and newspapers, and from ″regular folks just interested in whether I’ve gotten my coconut yet.″
The 1980 coconut’s cryptic message said it was the last. But 1981′s arrived anyway.
This year’s gift hasn’t arrived - yet.
″Maybe one won’t come this year,″ Clinch said.