Milton Hershey poses with a kitchen employee at a Hershey Industrial School picnic held at Hershey Park. 1938
In the 1920s, American households had a new choice in home entertainment—the radio. The first commercial radio station was established in 1920 and by 1922 over 600 stations were on the air. Radio programs in a variety of formats and genres were broadcast including radio plays, variety shows, news, and interview programs. One such program was “It Can Be Done” hosted by Edgar A. Guest, an English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the twentieth century.
On June 8, 1938, “Milton S. Hershey, ‘The Builder,’” was featured on the radio show, “It Can Be Done.” At the time of the interview, Mr. Hershey was eighty years old. His voice had aged and his speech was slow as he was inexperienced with public speaking and was reading from a script. At the end of the interview, Guest read his poem, “Compensation,” in tribute to Mr. Hershey.
The audio below is the only known recording of Mr. Hershey’s voice. Click on the link to listen to Milton Hershey.
[Transcript of audio]
Announcer: So Milton S. Hershey, the builder of an ideal town continues to build, to build happiness into the hearts of boys, happiness that is the foundation for sturdy, worthy, useful citizenship. The unconquerable, unselfish spirit of Milton S. Hershey has brought fulfillment of his most fantastic dreams. And proves once more, “It can be done.” We present now, ladies and gentlemen, Milton S. Hershey,” the builder.”
Mr. Hershey: Thank you, Eddie Guest. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. Guest: Mr. Hershey, how many years have you been in the candy business?
Mr. Hershey: Sixty years.
Mr. Guest: Are you still active in the business?
Mr. Hershey: Indeed I am.
Mr. Guest: You know, it seems to me that as long as I can remember I’ve seen your chocolate bar on candy counters.
Mr. Hershey: Yes, the Hershey Bar has been on the market thirty odd years and we were the first to introduce the almond bar.
Mr. Guest: Now, you must use an unbelievable amount of cocoa beans.
Mr. Hershey: We use as much cocoa, raw cocoa beans, as France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain put together.
Mr. Guest: Hmmm.
Mr. Guest: How large is your town Hershey, Pennsylvania?
Mr. Hershey: Hershey, Pennsylvania, has a population of 2500. In that total of 2500 we have 3200 students. The Hershey Township High School is the largest township high school in the United States.
Mr. Guest: How long has the Hershey Industrial School been in operation?
Mr. Hershey: Since 1909.
Mr. Guest: Can you tell me what has happened to some of the boys you’ve trained there?
Mr. Hershey: Well, one is treasurer of the Trust Company, two are in the bank, and there are others in responsible positions. You see, we follow the boys through until we see that they have jobs.
Mr. Guest: Tell me, just how do the opportunities for the boys today compare with those of your day? That is, these boys coming out of your school?
Mr. Hershey: Most of them have better chances for character building and education than ever before. Perhaps they don’t have the chance to make as much money as some individuals have made, but they will lead to happier lives.
Mr. Guest: Milton S. Hershey, Household Finance and I humbly salute you and your courage which carried you through to success and we add our tribute to that of thousands of others for the great work you are doing with boys. Congratulations, Milton S. Hershey.
Mr. Guest: Mr. Hershey, I’d like to think, when life is done,
That I had filled some needed post,
That here and there I’d paid my fare
With something more than idle boast.
That I had taken gifts divine,
The breath of life and manhood fine,
And tried to use them now and then
In service for my fellowman.
I’d hate to think when life is through
That I had lived my round of years
A useless time that leaves behind
No record in its vale of tears;
That I had wasted all my days
By treading only selfish ways
And that this world would be the same
If it had never heard my name.
I’d like to think when life is done
That here and there, there shall remain
A happier spot which might have not
Existed had I toiled for gain,
That someone’s cheery voice and smile
Shall prove that I had been worthwhile
That I had paid with something fine,
My debt to God for life divine.