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Archive for March, 2013

All you need are a few good men. . .

Milton Hershey and colleagues.  1905.  Left to Right: Front Seat: Chauffeur, Milton Hershey; Second Seat: George Shearer (brother-in-law of Murrie), William Murrie; Third Seat: Ezra Hershey, C.V. Glynn, George Eppley

Milton Hershey and colleagues. 1905. Left to Right: Front Seat: Chauffeur, Milton Hershey; Second Seat: George Shearer (brother-in-law of Murrie), William Murrie; Third Seat: Ezra Hershey, C.V. Glynn, George Eppley

 

Milton Hershey had a genius for selecting talented, energetic people to help him manage his business ventures. The leadership and skills of these men freed Milton Hershey to pursue new passions and ventures, including Milton Hershey School, Cuba, and experiments with new products.

 

Foremost among Mr. Hershey’s key managers was William F.R. Murrie.  Bill Murrie began work for the Hershey Chocolate Company soon after the company was established.  In 1896 Milton Hershey hired him as a salesman for the new chocolate business.  His talents were quickly realized and he came off the road to manage the chocolate business.  Through his career, you can chart the growth and success of chocolate sales. When he retired in 1947, his career spanned over 50 years.

 

He was promoted to President, Hershey Chocolate Company in 1908.  Murrie was only 35 years old.  He served as company president until he retired in 1947.

 

Milton Hershey did not enjoy the day-to-day tasks associated with building and managing a successful business.  Murrie’s skills and leadership managing the chocolate business freed Milton Hershey to pursue new passions.

 

Hershey Baseball Team, 1905.  William Murrie is pictured  fourth from left, back row.

Hershey Baseball Team, 1905. William Murrie is pictured fourth from left, back row.

 

As one of the Hershey community’s earliest residents, Murrie also took an active role in recreational activities, particularly sports.  For many years he managed one of Hershey’s baseball teams.

 

Hershey Industrial School (Milton Hershey School) Board of Managers, 1944.  front row, l-r: P.A. Staples, Milton S. Hershey, William Murrie.

Hershey Industrial School (Milton Hershey School) Board of Managers, 1944. front row, l-r: P.A. Staples, Milton S. Hershey, William Murrie.

 

Murrie’s career came to a close shortly after Milton Hershey’s death.  By the time Milton Hershey was choosing the person to succeed him in managing all of his businesses, Murrie’s health was beginning to fail.  His eye sight was fading and he was over 70 years old.  Milton Hershey recognized that Murrie was at the end of his career and selected P.A. Staples to take charge of the Hershey businesses and Milton Hershey School.  Murrie retired in 1947 and moved to New Jersey.  He died a few years later in 1950.

Becoming a destination: Building the Hershey Convention Center

Hershey Estates president Jim Bobb and Hershey Trust Company president Arthur Whiteman cut the ribbon formally opening the Hershey Convention Center.  March 25, 1974

Hershey Estates president Jim Bobb and Hershey Trust Company president Arthur Whiteman cut the ribbon formally opening the Hershey Convention Center. March 25, 1974

 

How did a major Convention Center end up being built in Hershey, Pennsylvania?  While it makes sense today, in the early 1970s, Hershey was a not a national destination.  Hersheypark had just begun its transformation into a themed amusement park, the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center had just opened in 1970 and the Hotel Hershey was perceived as a quaint, but worn out hotel.

 

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Building a Convention Center grew out of the initial success of the Hershey Motor Lodge which opened in 1967 and featured 200 guest rooms, the Hearth Room Restaurant, two meeting rooms and a free-form swimming pool. The motor lodge’s primary market was thought to be families and so the original plans did not include a venue for alcohol sales. It wasn’t until shortly after opening that the decision was made to permit the sale of alcohol in the Motor Lodge.  Renovations were made quickly and the Forebay cocktail lounge was added.

 

Entrance to Hershey Convention Center, ca.1974

Entrance to Hershey Convention Center, ca.1974

 

Extensive market studies were completed before Hershey Estates decided to add the Convention Center in 1974. Studies revealed that there were no large meeting facilities available in central Pennsylvania. When it was built the Convention Center was the largest meeting space between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore. 

 

Jim Bobb and Arthur Whiteman prepare to cut the ribbon to formally open the Hershey Convention Center. March 25, 1974

Jim Bobb and Arthur Whiteman prepare to cut the ribbon to formally open the Hershey Convention Center. March 25, 1974

 

Hershey Convention Center grand opening, March 25, 1974

Hershey Convention Center grand opening, March 25, 1974

 

Grand opening was held March 25, 1974.  Oversized household items (phones, beer bottles, etc.) and large scale construction vehicles (cement truck) decorated the Convention Hall to emphasize the large space.

 

The Convention Hall transformed the Motor Lodge and helped Hershey’s transition to a major destination.  The space was very versatile, offering meeting and convention space for from a banquet for 1500 to a boardroom meeting for 24.  The upper and lower levels of the Convention Hall offered over 30,000 square feet of usable space plus a 4500 square foot upper lobby and a 325 seat mini theatre.