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Working in Hershey, part 1

Hershey PA has been known as a premiere tourist destination almost since its founding. However, for the 1000s of men and women who work in Hershey, the town is valued as much for its employment opportunities as its entertainment possibilities.

Hershey Community Archives oral history collection is a rich resource for understanding the historyof the community, its industries and activities.  Excerpts of oral history interviews with factory workers, Hershey Estates employees, bookkeepers and bank tellers reveal what it is like to work in the “sweetest place on earth.”

The stories of how people first got a job in Hershey are varied.  Many of Hershey’s most committed employees initially had no interest in working here.  Frank Mather, whose Hershey Bears’ ice hockey career spanned several decades, needed some special convincing to  come to Hershey.  In his oral history interview Mathers relates this story:

I was brought in as a player-coach. I had gone home [to Winnipeg]. I was thirty-one at the time and I figured it’s time to, you know, get a real job. So I went home. I really had no intention of being a coach. That, too, was not one of the things that I had planned, but anyway, Mr. Sollenberger phoned, and he was a very insistent gentleman. I told him no, I wasn’t interested really, but then finally he said, “Come on down. Just stay at the hotel. Bring your wife down.” We did and [he] treated me very well, gave me a car and carte blanche around Hershey, and, “Just tell them you know me and sign the check,” and that type of thing. And I did. I’m glad that I did, of course. That was the smartest move I ever made, because I signed with Hershey.

This is a funny story and it’s a true story. But I really never enjoyed Hershey when I played in Pittsburgh, the reason being we came to Hershey when the Ice Show was in Pittsburgh, and we’d be here for–what I’d say, stuck for two weeks in Hershey in the middle of the winter. At that time there was one show that changed maybe twice a week and there was very little action at all. We used to say that the highlight of the day was walking over to the arena from the Cocoa Inn.

Anyway, so I really didn’t think that I would enjoy it, but I came here. I think we arrived Tuesday and we went through the whole area. So after we saw all of Hershey at our own pace, doing what we wanted to see, then we met–this must have been a little bit later in the spring, because the park was open. As I recall Mr. Sollenberger didn’t go to the hockey games because he had a bad heart–too exciting. The only game that I can recall him ever going to was an All-Star game where the outcome was not important. Yeah. So he didn’t go to the games, but yet we went to the park. And we went on the roller coaster–now, he sits in the front seat with his wife and Pat and I are right behind them. [Laughter] And we were on there, I swear, for twelve rides. I think, “If this guy wants me to sign for hockey, I’d better sign and tell him I’m going to sign now. I’ll be his coach. Then we’ll get off this thing.”

Hershey Bears hockey team, 1956-1957 season.  Frank Mathers is 8th from the left.

Hershey Bears ice hockey team, 1956-1957 season. Frank Mathers is 8th from the left.

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