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HersheyArchives@30-23 – Hershey Figure Skating Club

Milton Hershey’s letter to the Hershey Figure Skating Club thanking them for the honor of being made a member of the club. 1/22/1936

Milton Hershey’s letter to the Hershey Figure Skating Club thanking them for the honor of being made a member of the club. 1/22/1936

 

The Archives’ collections are a rich resource for understanding not just Milton Hershey and his legacy but also for the growth and development of the Hershey community. The Archives actively collections the records of local businesses and organizations to preserve the history of the community and its residents.

 

Milton Hershey took an active interest in everything that happened in his town. As  noted in last week’s blog post, when community business leaders established the Hershey Rotary Club, Mr. Hershey was made an honorary member.  Many other community groups, wishing to recognize Milton Hershey’s generosity and vision for his community, also recognized him as an honorary member.

 

Hershey Figure Skating Club members pause for a photograph in the Ice Palace. ca1934-1936

Hershey Figure Skating Club members pause for a photograph in the Ice Palace. ca1934-1936

 

Hershey’s Ice Palace opened in 1931. Ice skating and hockey quickly became very popular. By 1932, Hershey was sponsoring its own ice hockey team. Artificial ice rinks were unusual in central Pennsylvania and soon figure skaters began coming to Hershey from Lancaster, Harrisburg and Reading.

 

The idea for an established club grew out of the group’s desire to be able to rent the rink for sessions devoted to figure skating.  In November 1934, a small group of figure skaters held an organizational meeting for the Hershey Figure Skating Club . Milton Hershey was very supportive of the Hershey Figure Skating Club, providing facilities and the management support of Hershey Estates.

 

Hershey Figure Skating Club minutes, 11/14/1935

Hershey Figure Skating Club minutes, 11/14/1935

 

The following year the club formally recognized Milton Hershey’s support, making him an honorary member of the club.

 

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Skating for the Gold: 1953 United States Figure Skating Championship

What’s not to love about ice skating?  One of the highlights for me while watching the Winter Olympics is all the figure skating.  I love the beauty and creativity and greatly admire the athleticism needed to make it look so graceful.

 

Hershey Skating Club Winter Carnival, ca.1959

Hershey Skating Club Winter Carnival, ca.1959

 

Hershey also loves figure skating.  The sport has been an important sport in Hershey since the Hershey Skating Club was established in 1934.  Over the years, well-known figure skaters, including Roy Shipstad, Evelyn Chandler and Bruce Mapes have come to Hershey to work with the Skating Club and to perform in the Ice Arena.

 

National Figure Skating Championships, official program.  1953

National Figure Skating Championships, official program. 1953

 

In 1953, Hershey’s impressive facilities made it possible for the Hershey Skating Club to host the National Figure Skating Championships, often referred to as the “Nationals.”  Usually the competition is held in major cities with facilities and enough lodging to host the hundreds of skaters, their coaches and family members, over the four day event.  While Hershey was a small town, it was well acquainted with hosting large-scale events.  The competition brought national attention to the small community.

 

National Figure Skating Championships, Schedule of Events,  1953

National Figure Skating Championships, Schedule of Events, 1953

 

That year, the men’s competition was won by Hayes Alan Jenkins, who would go on to lead American male skating for four years, 1953-1956.  He also would win the gold medal in the 1956 Winter Olympics.

 

In 1953 Tenley Albright (right) won the gold medal at the United States Figure Skating Championship held in Hershey, PA.

In 1953 Tenley Albright (right) won the gold medal at the United States Figure Skating Championship held in Hershey, PA.  Silver medalist Carol Heiss is pictured left.

 

In the women’s competition, Tenley Albright continued her reign as the leading female skater in the United States, having first won the Nationals in 1952.  Her reign would continue through 1956.  That year she also would also win Olympic gold.

More information about the Hershey Figure Skating Club is available at the Archives.