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Archive for July, 2012

What a way to make a living! Working at the Hershey Chocolate factory

The wrapping department poses in front of Hershey Chocolate factory offices.  1915

The wrapping department poses in front of Hershey Chocolate factory offices. 1915

The original Hershey Chocolate factory closed this spring after 107 years of service. Chocolate making is still in Hershey as operations were moved down the street to the newly expanded West Hershey plant. The original factory and its iconic smokestacks will remain part of the Hershey landscape. Over the next several years the building will be repurposed.

During its life as a chocolate factory, the Hershey Chocolate factory defined the community, providing steady work for residents of the town and surrounding area while adding a sweet, chocolatey scent to the air.

Who were these workers and what was it like to work at the original chocolate factory? The Archives recently created a case exhibit in The Hershey Story lobby to showcase some of the archival materials in the collection that provide insight into worker lives. In particular the Archive’s oral history and photograph collections help us to better understand what working in the factory was like.

Women with gingham aprons label and pack cocoa tins.  ca.1925-1935

Women with gingham aprons label and pack cocoa tins. ca.1925-1935

I was new.  I was scared of getting lost.  I didn’t know the way around, you know.  You had to go through two long corridors, five flights of steps, and you went in there.  Those days we had aprons, gingham aprons, and white caps we wore.  You went in and went to your machine.  You had to be there.  When your machine started up, there was no waiting.  You’d better be there, you know.  One time I was reprimanded.  You only were reprimanded once.  You didn’t want to be reprimanded again. (Interview with Mary Bonawitz, 1996)

Employee "stick" almonds to make sure the almonds are completely coated in chocolate.  1950

Employee "stick" almonds to make sure the almonds are completely coated in chocolate. 1950

When you stuck almonds, you got bored.  It was hot and you had to fight sleep sometimes.  You start in work at ten minutes of six, coming up to your department, you know.  You had to be there.  And it was so hot.  And in one position for five hours, there was a tendency to get drowsy.  And if you wanted to talk to your partner, it was all lip reading.  But we caught on very well.  We had fun. (Interview with Mary Bonawitz, 1996)

To learn more about Hershey Chocolate workers and what it was like to work in the chocolate factory, stop by The Hershey Story and check out our exhibit case.  To learn more about the Archives’ photograph and oral history collections, visit the Archives’ website.

All the comforts of home: Hershey Motor Lodge

The Lodge opened in 1967, offering guest curbside access to their guest rooms.  ca.1967-1969

The Lodge opened in 1967, offering guest curbside access to their guest rooms. ca.1967-1969

During the 1950s and 1960s Hershey was a sought after place for recreation, entertainment and business.  The influx of tourists created parking and traffic problems.  Hershey Estates, the owner of all of Hershey’s attractions and lodging venues, struggled to met the growing demands of visitors to the town.  While Milton Hershey had been alive, he had provided the necessary funds to keep Hershey an attractive destination without concern for profits.  After his death, profitability became more important and without adequate funding, facilities often appeared worn and tired.

Hershey’s  Cocoa Inn had many faults:  inadequate wiring, plumbing and room layout.  The downtown site was plagued by severe sinkholes.  Limited parking made the facility unattractive to the modern tourist family.  In response to the growing automobile based tourist business Hershey Estates began planning for a large 200 room motel on the west end of town.  The future Hershey Motor Lodge was a visible symbol of Hershey Estates’ new focus on entertainment and resorts.

Aerial view of new Hershey Motor Lodge, ca.1967

Aerial view of new Hershey Motor Lodge, ca.1967

Construction for the Motor Lodge was hampered by sinkholes, a well-known obstacle in Hershey.  The location for the Lodge’s entrance was changed three times because of them. Opening May 1, 1967, the Hershey Motor Lodge featured 200 guest rooms, the Hearth Room Restaurant, two meeting rooms capable of holding 400 people, and a free-form outdoor swimming pool.

Not part of the original plans, the Forebay Cocktail Lounge was added in 1968

Not part of the original plans, the Forebay Cocktail Lounge was added in 1968

Interestingly, since the primary market was seen as families, plans for the Motor Lodge called for the facility to be totally alcohol free.  It wasn’t until shortly after opening that Hershey reconsidered that decision and the brand new facility was renovated to add a cocktail lounge (The Forebay).

The lake that marks the main entrance to the Motor Lodge was also another addition to the original design.  The lake was added at the request of James Bobb, then Hershey Estates’ president.  The architect, contractor and consulting engineer all argued against the idea, citing the extensive and complex system of sinkholes.  To create the pond, individual sinkholes were filled with crushed stone and sometimes sealed with concrete, and then the entire bed of the lake was sealed with “Bentonite,” a special mixture of clay which bonds and holds water.  Anytime it rained, the pond would fill.  When needed, the pond could also be refilled from a nearby farm’s water source.

To learn more about the growth and development of the Hershey Lodge, visit the chronology database available on the Archives’ website and search on ‘Hershey Lodge.’