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Cultivated for Pleasure: History of Hershey Conservatories

 

Entrace to Hershey Park, ca1920-1930

Entrace to Hershey Park, ca1920-1930

 

Landscaping and beautification of grounds and property was always a priority for Milton and Catherine Hershey. The community of Hershey was noted for its extensive garden beds, as well as the lush lawns and trees that were planted throughout Hershey. Catherine Hershey took particular responsibility for the gardens surrounding their home, High Point, personally supervising the placement and planting of the flower beds.

 

To protect the tropical plants that enhanced Hershey’s landscaping and offer residents and visitors a respite from the cold winter months, Milton Hershey directed that greenhouses or conservatories be built in the community.

 

Hershey conservatories were used year round.  In the winter, they housed the many tropical plants and trees that beautified Hershey Park during the warm weather months, as well as the zoo’s birds and reptiles that could not tolerate Pennsylvania’s cold winter months. Visitors enjoyed visiting the conservatories to see the plants and wildlife. The conservatories were also used to propagate seedlings and cuttings that were planted in Hershey’s extensive garden beds each spring.

 

HIGH POINT CONSERVATORY

 

High Point mansion conservatory, ca1909-1918

High Point mansion conservatory, ca1909-1918

 

Hershey’s first conservatory was built in 1909, as an accompaniment to Milton and Catherine’s home, High Point.  Visitors and residents were welcome to tour the conservatory as well as the grounds.  The conservatory was removed circa 1928, when the grounds were redeveloped as a golf course.

 

HERSHEY PARK CONSERVATORY (1910)

 

Hershey Park's first conservatory was built close to the park main entrance. ca1915

Hershey Park’s first conservatory was built close to the park main entrance. ca1915

 

 

The next conservatory was built soon after the first was completed. Opening in 1910, the first Hershey Park conservatory was located near what was then the main entrance to the Park in the vicinity of what is today ZooAmerica’s Southern Swamps exhibit.

 

 

During the winter months,  conservatories were used to propagate seedlings for the ourdoor flower beds. ca1910

During the winter months, conservatories were used to propagate seedlings for the ourdoor flower beds. ca1910

 

By 1915, the Zoo’s bear enclosure adjoined the building. The conservatory was removed around 1924 in anticipation of the Hershey Estates Greenhouse.

 

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HERSHEY PARK CONSERVATORY (1914)

 

In 1914, a second Hershey Park conservatory was built in the middle of the quickly expanding Zoo. Shortly after it opened a portion of the building was used by the Zoo for their primate enclosure.

 

Hershey Park conservatory was renovated as an enclosure for the zoo's birds in the 1930s. ca1934

Hershey Park conservatory was renovated as an enclosure for the zoo’s birds in the 1930s. 1934

 

The building is now home to ZooAmerica’s Great Southwest exhibit.

 

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, ca1935-1940

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, ca1935-1940

 

 

HERSHEY ESTATES GREENHOUSE (1930)

 

Hershey’s last public conservatory and greenhouse was built in 1930. The Hershey Estates Greenhouse was constructed on the north side of the railroad underpass on Mansion Road.

 

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, 1931

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, 1931

 

Removed in 1961, portions of the structure were reclaimed in 1998 and used in the construction of The Butterfly House at Hershey Gardens.

 

MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL (Hershey Industrial School) GREENHOUSE (1919)

 

Hershey Industrial School (Milton Hershey School) boys spell out “H E R S H E Y” in front of the school greenhouse. 1923

 

Hershey Industrial School (now Milton Hershey School) also built a greenhouse for the use of its students in 1919. The greenhouse was located adjacent to the Homestead, Milton Hershey’s birthplace. Hershey Industrial School students used the greenhouse as part of the horticultural curriculum. Students cultivated plants for retail sale. In 1961, the greenhouse was relocated to the School’s farm Rosemont, where it remained in use until 1992.

Hidden collections: Hershey Senior Citizens Writing Project

Did you know that the Hershey Community Archives includes records of local businesses and organizations? In addition to caring for the corporate records of Milton Hershey’s businesses, we also seek to preserve the history of the Hershey community and actively collect the records of organizations such as the Hershey Rotary Club, the Volunteer Fire Company, People Mover, Hershey Figure Skating Club, and receive donations from individuals. While these collections are much smaller than our corporate collections, these private collections hold treasures and help us to understand our community’s history.

 

Hershey’s Mohler Center was originally organized in 1983 as the Senior Citizens’ Center of Derry Township. In 1989, the Center sponsored a reminiscence writing competition. The competition was held again in 1991. The essays were donated to the Archives in 1993.

 

These essays, written by more than 50 individuals, contain wonderful personal stories about growing in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. While many of the contributors grew up in the Hershey area, there are also  stories of childhoods spent elsewhere in the United States, a reminder that we became a much more mobile population following World War II.

 

These essays offer a unique perspective on local and national events, public school, recreation, and home life.

 

Hershey Junior-Senior High School auditorium, Hershey Industrial School (today Milton Hershey School). ca1934

Hershey Junior-Senior High School auditorium, Hershey Industrial School (today Milton Hershey School). ca1934

 

There are several essays centered on memories of World War II. One essayist (a Milton Hershey School graduate) wrote:

 

All the students in grades 6 to 12 gathered in the High School auditorium at noon to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration of war. It was quite a somber time. Principal W. Allen Hammond, normally very talkative, was subdues in his remarks after FDR’s message was finished. He alluded to the fact that, unfortunately, there would be graduates – past and upcoming – who would be killed in action. Mr. Hammond was very prophetic; 37 Homeboys paid the supreme price.

 

Other essays spoke to businesses that no longer exist, providing a window to the past:

 

The Bradley Quarries not only quarried their limestones but crushed and baked some for lime. The kilns were on the hill between Old West Chocolate Avenue and [the] Philadelphia & Reading train tack and the main or first quarry. There were three kilns sheltered from the weather on three sides. At night one could see the bright glare in the darkness.

 

These essays are a great resource for people seeking to understand what life was like in Hershey for those growing up in Hershey. While the Archives holds photographs from these years, the essays help us understand what was happening inside those buildings.

 

Hershey's Y.W.C.A. was located across from the railroad station. 1913

Hershey’s Y.W.C.A. was located across from the railroad station. 1913

 

 

For example, we know that Hershey’s YWCA was located across from the Hershey railroad station (currently the ZooAmerica parking lot). But what went on inside the building? From an essay titled, “Return to Hockersville Road and More,” we learn:

 

In the middle of the [19]20s I was a Girl Reserve, a YWCA girl group similar to the Girl Scouts, that year at the YW. The second and third floors had rooms and a recreational room (or beauty parlor) for unmarried working women. The northeast end of the building was the gym and in back of the gym was the kitchen.

 And in the [19]30s when it was remodeled for an apartment house, my family and I lived in an apartment on the first floor.

 

Even if you didn’t grow up in Hershey, the town’s amenities attracted visitors from all around. If you lived close by, visiting Hershey could be a regular summertime activity. For a boy growing up in Palmyra, visiting Hershey Park was a popular pastime.

 

Entrance to Hershey Park, ca.1920-1930

Entrance to Hershey Park, ca.1920-1930

 

In an essay titled simply, “Childhood Memories,” the author reminisced about the park:

 

Those were the days when, if I earned the money myself, I was permitted 25 cents to spend at Hershey Park. A 5 cent trolley ride to and a 5 cent trolley ride from the park to Palmyra, left me with 15 cents to spend at the park. What gigantic decisions! Shall I squander my 15 cents on amusement rides?  . . . Souvenirs? . . .Popcorn? . . .a Pony Ride? . . .an Eskimo Pie? After I grew slightly wiser – and older – I WALKED from Palmyra to Hershey and back, thereby allowing myself the ENTIRE quarter (a small fortune, then) to spend in the Park.

 

Learn more about this collection, the Hershey Senior Citizens Writing Project, and many more by visiting the Archives’ website. Hershey Community Archives is open to researchers Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on the first Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

HersheyArchives@30-17 Meet you at the movies: Seeing Wonders

 

Specially sized postcards promoting the town of Hershey were included with Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars. ca1915-1920

Specially sized postcards promoting the town of Hershey were included with Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars. ca1915-1920

 

While he did not make use of print or radio media advertising, Milton Hershey was interested in promoting his model town and its amenities and attractions. He believed that the town and the chocolate business were intertwined and promoting one benefited the other.

 

Milton Hershey was an innovator and was inspired by new ideas and methods.

 

The immense popularity of movies in the 1930s encouraged Milton Hershey to experiment with them to promote his model community, and his chocolate business.

 

Hershey hired Don Malkames, a successful filmmaker from Hazelton, Pennsylvania, to create a film about Hershey.

 

In 1932, “The Gift of Montezuma” was released.  Distributed to public schools and community groups across the United States, this film told the story of Milton Hershey’s model town, the process of making milk chocolate and the beneficiary of Hershey’s success, Hershey Industrial School (today Milton Hershey School).

 

The following year, buoyed by the success of his first film, Milton Hershey decided to make a second film.  Once again directed by Malkames.

 

 

Unlike “Gift of Montezuma,” this short (less than 11 minutes) film, “Seeing Wonders,” was more like a travelogue. The film promoted Hershey as a model town and a destination. Significantly, Lowell Thomas, a nationally known broadcaster, was tapped to narrate the film.

 

“Seeing Wonders” celebrated Hershey’s continued growth and success during a period of national economic collapse. The film was designed to inform, inspire and encourage viewers to visit Milton Hershey’s model town.

 

 

The movie takes viewers on a tour of the model town’s comfortable homes and happy children.  The newly built Hershey Community Building, with its extensive recreational facilities is highlighted.

 

 

Hershey Park’s extensive recreational facilities were also featured including the zoo, amusement rides, entertainment, and recently built swimming pool.

 

 

The movie was filmed just after The Hotel Hershey opened.  In his narration, Lowell Thomas referred to The Hotel Hershey as “a palace, a palace that out-palaces the palaces of the maharajas of India.”

 

 

Throughout the movie, there are continual references to the Hershey Industrial School and the boys that are being cared for there.  As Lowell Thomas notes, the school “is the real meaning of the city that is a dream come true.”

 

#HersheyArchives@30

HersheyArchives@30-9: Hershey Zoo: From Angora Goats to Zebus

Pages from Hershey Improvement Company, Transfer Ledger #1. ca1906-1916

Pages from Hershey Improvement Company, Transfer Ledger #1. ca1906-1916

 

Within five years of Hershey Park’s official opening additional attractions were introduced in the Park to supplement and enhance the guest experience.   An amphitheatre, bandstand, dance hall, photograph gallery, and bowling alley were part of the Park’s expansion; and in 1910, Hershey Zoo.

 

Postcard: Herd of Zebus graze in Hershey Zoo.  ca1915

Postcard: Herd of Zebus graze in Hershey Zoo. ca1915

 

Franz and Louise Zinner, who moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania from Heisenberg, Germany in 1899, persuaded Milton Hershey to open the Zoo as a community and visitor attraction.  Franz had at one time worked with Carl Hagenbeck, a German collector and trainer of exotic animals, who later founded a privately-owned zoo in Hamburg, Germany.  Aware of Franz’s interest in animals, friends of the Zinners who had moved to the western United States, shipped them twelve prairie dogs.  Unable to keep them in their backyard, Franz Zinner contacted Milton Hershey about keeping the prairie dogs as a park attraction.  The two men eventually decided to open a zoo, and Zinner and his family soon moved to Hershey to oversee the facility.

 

Prairie dogs are entertaining but they are a burrowing rodent and spend part of their lives out of view and underground.   Just as Hershey Park expanded to offer a variety of attractions, Hershey Zoo needed to acquire additional animals.

 

Detail of Hershey Improvement Company Transfer Ledger, #1. ca1906-1916

Detail of Hershey Improvement Company Transfer Ledger, #1. ca1906-1916

 

A ledger in the Archives’ collection details the first menagerie acquired for the Zoo.  Wenz & Mackensen was a firm based in Yardley, Pennsylvania that specialized in selling birds but at times dealt in more exotic animals.  Wenz & Mackensen supplied the Zoo with bears, zebus, angora goats, and pheasants.  Zinner supplied prairie dogs and H.E. Cudney, a New Jersey dealer, supplied deer.  By the 4th of July holiday in 1910, the Zoo was a featured attraction.

 

The weekly newspaper, the Hershey Press, promoted the zoo in its advertisement for the Hershey Park's July 4th celebration. 6/24/1910

The weekly newspaper, the Hershey Press, promoted the zoo in its advertisement for the Hershey Park’s July 4th celebration. 6/24/1910

 

The Zoo continued to expand over the years with animals that ranged from the mundane to the exotic.  By 1940, the Zoo covered forty acres and contained individual houses for primates, carnivores, small mammals, antelopes, tropical birds, pheasants, and fish as well as outdoor cages and enclosures.

 

In the era before television, zoos played an important role educating the public about unfamiliar animals and environments.  Hershey Zoo was the first attraction Milton Hershey introduced to the community that exposed residents and visitors to opportunities and experiences outside of those normally available in a rural Pennsylvania community.  Many more would follow.

 

#HersheyArchives@30

HersheyArchives@30-8 DESTINATION: Hershey, PA

Throughout its history, Hershey has been a well-known destination for entertainment.

 

Each summer,crowds of people traveled to Hershey to enjoy its many amenities. 1915

Each summer,crowds of people traveled to Hershey to enjoy its many amenities. 1915

 

After the Hershey Chocolate Factory opened in 1905, the town soon emerged as a popular regional destination. Visitors came to explore the model town and enjoy Hershey Park and its growing number of amenities.

 

In 1914, Hershey’s weekly newspaper, The Hershey Press, announced that a convention hall was going to be erected in Hershey Park. In developing plans for the hall, Milton Hershey was inspired by a well-known assembly hall in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and sent his builder, James K. Putt, to visit the structure to learn more about it and what might be incorporated in the Hershey building.

 

Convention Hall, longitudinal section.  Architect: C. Emlen Urban. 1/8/1915

Convention Hall, longitudinal section. Architect: C. Emlen Urban. 1/8/1915

 

The new facility was built specifically to attract large events and big crowds to Hershey.  Its first function was the Triennial Convention of the Brethren Church.  Milton Hershey was very interested in hosting this major event and promised the meeting planners that the Convention Hall would be completed in time for their conference scheduled for June 1915.  Construction began in March 1915.

 

Brethren gather to meet in Hershey's Convention Hall. 6/1915

Brethren gather to meet in Hershey’s Convention Hall. 6/1915

Hershey Convention Hall ready for its first meeting.  Note that the ceiling has not yet been plastered.  6/1915

Hershey Convention Hall ready for its first meeting. Note that the ceiling has not yet been plastered. 6/1915

 

The building was dedicated on Memorial Day weekend, May 30, 1915.  Hershey Park opened for the season the following day, Memorial Day (Monday, May 31).  The dedication program included a 40 piece band, the combined church choirs of Hershey, several vocal and instrumental soloists, as well as several speakers.

 

The Convention Hall was not simply a large assembly hall.  Milton Hershey’s plans for the building incorporated many of his goals and vision for his community.  The Hershey Press carried this announcement about the building’s dedication in its June 3, 1915 issue:

 

Dedication

Hershey Convention Hall is dedicated to the service of the people.  May they meet often within its walls and by their proceedings and discussions find wisdom.  May they listen to words that will guide them in the paths of peace and righteousness.  May they hear music that will uplift them.  May they gather the products of their fields and factories and stimulate one another to higher achievements in agriculture, manufacture, commerce and the arts.  May they learn more of the great principles of consolidation and co-operation.  May they be imbued with the spirit of brotherhood, of courtesy and of helpfulness.  May the services on Memorial Day exalting the patriotism of our heroes be a true dedication of this Hall to the welfare of a free people, the cause of liberty, the love of the Flag and the glory of God.

 

The Convention Hall hosted a variety of musical and theatrical performers. ca1915-1920

The Convention Hall hosted a variety of musical and theatrical performers. ca1915-1920

 

True to Milton Hershey’s vision, the 1915 addition of the Convention Hall transformed Hershey, Pennsylvania into a destination capable of hosting large conventions and national performers. The Convention Hall quickly became a popular destination for both nationally celebrated performers and as a meeting venue for large organizations. The building would host a variety of events over its years of service including concerts by New York Metropolitan Opera singers, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, the Sistine Chapel Choir during its first American tour, and nationally recognized marching bands.

 

#HersheyArchives@30

Riding the Rails: Hershey Park’s Miniature Railway

The miniature train carried passengers over Spring Creek to the ball fields located on the far side of the park. ca.1916.  Note the carrousel building in background.

The miniature train carried passengers over Spring Creek to the ball fields located on the far side of the park. ca.1916. Note the carrousel building in background.

 

When Hershey Park first began operating, it was a community park with picnic tables, playgrounds for children, ball fields, a bandstand, a small concession stand and a pavilion that was used for vaudeville style performances, dances and other events.  Visitors came to enjoy a picnic, stroll the paths along Spring Creek, listen to a band concert and perhaps take in a baseball game.

 

Hershey Park’s first amusement ride, a second-hand merry-go-round was installed in 1908.  The following year, the park continued to expand with a new amphitheatre with seating for 2000. Hershey Park was quickly emerging as a summer destination.

 

The starting point for the miniature railway was located near the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard, not far from Hershey's railroad station and downtown Hershey. ca.1925-1935

The starting point for the miniature railway was located near the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard, not far from Hershey’s railroad station and downtown Hershey. ca.1925-1935

 

Milton Hershey purchased a miniature electric railway for the 1910 Park season.  Problems with installation delayed its opening until September 5, 1910.  The 22-inch gauge railway was built by the Lancaster Iron Works, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  At the time it was built, the little one-of-a-kind railway was considered a technological achievement.

 

The dark line highlights the route of the Miniature Railroad. 1913

The dark line highlights the route of the Miniature Railroad. 1913

 

The ride connected the ends of the Park.  The train line started at the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard and traveled around the edge of the park ending by Hershey Park’s ballfield.  The train line had no loop so the line had only one train.  The cars could carry up to thirty passengers and the seats had movable backs so that passengers would always travel facing forward.  The fare was five cents for a one way ride.  People enjoyed the ride because it was more than an amusement ride, it was a fun way of traveling to a variety of Park attractions.

 

By 1913 the ride passed by the carrousel, the Hershey Ballroom, and the boating pond.  In later years, passengers could disembark at the entrance to the Hershey Park swimming pool and sunken gardens.

 

In later years, passengers used the railway to reach the Hershey Museum.  ca.1955-1965

In later years, passengers used the railway to reach the Hershey Museum. ca.1955-1965

 

The miniature railway was dismantled after the 1971 season.  That year, Hershey began a multi-year project to modernize the park as a themed amusement park.  In 1971, a fence went up surrounding park rides and attractions but most of the miniature railway continued to operate outside of the fence.  While Hersheypark initially planned to relocate the railway inside the park grounds, those plans were never realized.

 

For more information about the Miniature Railway, read Technology Meets Entertainment:  Remembering the Hershey Park Miniature Railway, by Ron Rhoads, Jr. 2007.  A copy is available in the Archives’ library.

Looking Back: Hershey Park Kiddie Week

One of the first Kiddie rides added to Hershey Park was a children’s boat ride.  ca.1926-1935

One of the first Kiddie rides added to Hershey Park was a children’s boat ride. ca.1926-1935

 

 

Rides specially designed for children began to be added to Hershey Park beginning in 1926.  That same year Hershey Park featured its first Kiddie Day.   Children 12 years old and younger could register and receive a ticket that would give them free rides and special treats.

 

In 1929 Hershey Park expanded its Kiddie Day to an entire Kiddie Week that was held each year in late August.  In addition to the expanded time, special entertainment was scheduled at the Bandshell for the week.  Kiddie Week was part of Hershey Park’s summer  events through 1972.

 

Kiddie Week was a highlight for many Hershey children.  Millie Coyle Landis remembered:

Even though the entrance to the park was free, you still had to pay for the rides.  But that didn’t bother us.  We just went and watched other people have fun on the rides.  [Laughter]  But on kiddies’ day, I remember getting in line and waiting for a strip of tickets, and you got ten tickets and you had these free rides, and you could go every day for the whole week.  That was the big thing for us when we were kids.  [Laughter]

The merry-go-round was there.  That was the most favorite one.  I remember airplane rides, The Bug, the Fun House.  There were some [tickets] that nobody even used.  They used to throw them away.  You could find them laying there.  Like at the zoo.  Nobody went to the zoo.  There was a zoo ticket on there, and nobody went to the zoo.  [Laughter]  I don’t remember.  They were mostly the children’s rides.  They weren’t big things, anything that cost like over ten cents.  I think the biggest thing was The Bug and the carousel and the airplane rides.   There was something called the Whip.  The roller coaster was not on the strip.  No, it wasn’t.  No, it was just the cheap rides.  [Laughter] 

 

Baby Parade in progress at the Hershey Sports Arena.  1950

Baby Parade in progress at the Hershey Sports Arena. 1950

 

As Kiddie Week grew in popularity, Hershey Park expanded the program.  In 1936 Hershey introduced its Baby Parade.  The first Baby Parades were held in Ocean City, New Jersey.  The seaside baby parades were held on the boardwalk and served as an ingenious way for proud parents to brag about their children without offending anyone.

 

Hershey’s Baby Parade began at the Miniature Railroad Station as children under five years old either walked or rode on parade throughout the Park and concluded by crossing the Bandshell floor to the music provided by the Hershey Community Theatre Orchestra.

 

Hershey Park General Manager, George Bartels, presents the cutest baby award to Kyle Ann Katzenmoyer.  1956

Hershey Park General Manager, George Bartels, presents the cutest baby award to Kyle Ann Katzenmoyer. 1956

Hershey Park Baby Parade, ca.1950-1960

Hershey Park Baby Parade, ca.1950-1960

Hershey Park Baby Parade, 1955

Hershey Park Baby Parade, 1955

 

There were a variety of prizes including ones for cutest baby, fanciest baby carriage, best fancy costume, most original decorated carriage, fattest baby and best comic costume.  Beginning in 1947 the Baby Parade took place in the Sports Arena.

 

The Baby Parade was eagerly anticipated by many.  Local resident, Helen (Menicheschi) Cappelli, shared some vivid memories of the Baby Parade:

 

They really didn’t have [Baby Parades] when I was a little girl, but my children were involved in it.  My Elaine, she won a prize.  Yes, I remember I had her dressed in a little lavender dress with pink bows in her hair.  Then her little doll cart, we decorated that with the same colors that she was wearing, and she won a prize.  Yes, she did.  I remember that day.  It was a pretty hard day, because it was in the afternoon and it was her nap time.  So, oh, my goodness, she really carried on, you know.  See, they kept on bringing them back up on the bandstand, you know, to walk around, to choose the ones that were supposed to get the prizes, so they called her up and they called her up.  Oh!  This didn’t go over well with her.   So finally, they chose.  But she got the prize.

Baby Parades and Kiddie Week were discontinued after the 1972 season.   Hersheypark was actively being redeveloped as a themed amusement park and many traditional park events were no longer offered.

 

It’s wonderful good: Hershey’s Dutch Days

Hershey's Dutch Days celebrated the crafts and traditions of the Pennsylvania German community.  August 21-22-23, 1952

Hershey’s Dutch Days celebrated the crafts and traditions of the Pennsylvania German community. August 21-22-23, 1952

 

Hershey’s first Pennsylvania Dutch Day was held on August 27, 1949.  It grew out of a Pennsylvania Dutch language class held during the winter of 1948-1949 as part of the Derry Township evening school.  Upon completion of the course, the class suggested holding a gathering in Hershey Park that summer to thank  leaders responsible for offering the class.  A few displays were set up in the Hershey Arena, most of them borrowed or owned by class members.  The planners estimated that perhaps 2,500 people would come see the displays which included hand-painted works from the art class, donated quilts and kitchen utensils.  However, 25,000 people turned out that day.  The success of that one day affair led to its expansion to three days the following year.

 

Table tent advertisement for 1963 Dutch Days

Table tent advertisement for 1963 Dutch Days

 

Dutch Days showcased the authentic arts, crafts, and customs of the early Pennsylvania German pioneers who settled South Central Pennsylvania.

 

Hershey Park Arena showcased a wide variety of Pennsylvania "Dutch" crafts such as quilting.  ca.1966

Hershey Park Arena showcased a wide variety of Pennsylvania “Dutch” crafts such as quilting. ca.1966

 

The festival offered a wide range of crafts and activities that celebrated the “Dutch” way of life such as apple butter making, threshing, quilting, pottery, musical concerts and, of course, food.  Dutch Days grew into a true community wide event with activities taking place in Hershey Park, Hershey Arena and Stadium, and the Hershey Community Building.  Various community organizations got involved and held fund raisers by offering Pennsylvania Dutch treats and dinners.

 

Pennsylvania German Band on route to the Hershey Park Bandstand. 1960

Pennsylvania German Band on route to the Hershey Park Bandstand. 1960

 

During Dutch Days evening concerts were held at the Hershey Park Bandstand and the Ballroom offered square dancing with old time fiddlers.  Dutch Days was administered by a volunteer committee.  In spite of the ever‑expanding scope of activities, for many years no admission was charged to any of the events.  Dutch Days was last held in 1979.

Strike up the Band!

John Philip Sousa at the podium, Hershey Convention Hall.  July 4, 1925

John Philip Sousa at the podium, Hershey Convention Hall. July 4, 1925

 

 

Summer in Hershey means concerts.  This past weekend the Dave Matthews Band came to Hershey, bringing traffic and tens of 1000s of fans to our community.  Presenting internationally recognized stars, such as Dave Matthews, is nothing new for Hershey.  Our community has been a destination for top performers since the early 1910s. 

 

 

Visitors gather outside Hershey Convention Hall.  1925

Visitors gather outside Hershey Convention Hall. 1925

 

The Convention Hall, constructed in 1915, was a perfect venue for headliners.  The facility seated 6000 people. The addition of such a performance hall, created the perfect place for nationally recognized performers to appear in Hershey. 

 

Hershey Press Sousa 7-2-1925

 

In 1925 John Philip Sousa and his band came to Hershey for the first time, opening its touring season over the Fourth of July weekend (July 4-5).  An internationally acclaimed conductor, he toured and performed to sold-out crowds in the United States and around the world.  Unlike many other popular conductors, Sousa conducted every concert.  The Sousa band did not have any assistant conductors.  His concerts featured many of his own compositions as well as other popular music. 

 

 At that time Sousa was 71 years old and still actively composing music.  During the two days, Sousa conducted 4 concerts.  Over 10,000 people came to hear him perform, with many more people listening outside standing by the Convention Hall’s windows..  The success of the Sousa concerts led to an invitation to return to Hershey the following year.

 

In 1926, Sousa returned to Hershey again starting his touring season in Hershey, performing four concerts over July 4th and 5th.  Attendance was less, with 5,000 guests.  Heavy rains over the two days, with July 5th falling on a Monday, contributed to the smaller crowds.

 

Not just rides: Hershey Park fun houses

Hershey Park lit up at night with neon lights decorating many of its attractions.  1938-1940

Hershey Park lit up at night with neon lights decorating many of its attractions. 1938-1940

Hershey introduced its first fun house in 1930 when the old swimming pool bathhouse was remodeled to be the park’s first fun house.  Hershey didn’t try to create this attraction in-house.  They hired James A. Fields, of Detroit, Michigan, who had been in the fun house business for more than twenty years to create the park’s first fun house.
Simply called “The Funhouse,” the attraction was an active fun house that had four wooden slides, a barrel roll, a spinning disk, and a ride called the cup and saucer.  It also contained a tunnel to walk through.  The crazy contraptions were pleasing to both the participants and the onlookers.  People simply tried to get through the devices without being too embarrassed.
Cy Little, the park’s picnic manager, described the Funhouse in his 1990 oral history interview:

The Funhouse was a popular place.  That had all sorts of little gimmicks in it.  The barrel, for example, was a great place to test your equilibrium, and there was a sack ride.  You rode down an incline in a burlap sack, and the boys used to stand around the blow holes waiting for the girls to go down, and the operator would turn on the blowing air, and up go the skirts.

It was remodeled in 1938, with new stunts added, and renamed WHOOPS.  Philadelphia Toboggan Company did the remodeling and provided the stunts.  The Funhouse was located along Spring Creek in the future Comet Hollow area.  After the 1945 park season, WHOOPS was torn down to make way for the Comet roller coaster.

Death Valley was built as a dark, walk-through funhouse in 1938.

Death Valley was built as a dark, walk-through fun house in 1938.

The popularity of the Hershey Park Funhouse/WHOOPS led to the construction of a second fun house, built in 1938 and first named “Death Valley.  Unlike WHOOPS, Death Valley was a dark walk-through style fun house. In 1940 new stunts were added and it was renamed Laugh Land.  This fun house was described in press releases as an attraction “where you walk around in the dark and strange things happen.”  Laffing Sal, a mechanical laughing woman that had been purchased from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, was added and entertained passersby from her window above Laugh Land’s entrance.  She became an icon of Hershey Park.  Laugh Land remained a part of Hershey Park until 1971 when Hersheypark began its transition into a themed amusement park.

'Laffing Sal  created all guests at Laugh Land, laughing like crazy all day long.  ca.1940-1950

'Laffing Sal greeted all guests at Laugh Land, laughing like crazy all day long. ca.1940-1950

Funland (5C184.11) was the park’s third fun house. It opened in 1946, replacing WHOOPS. Unlike the dark experience that Laugh Land offered, Funland was a more traditional walk through fun house.  In an article written for the Lancaster [PA] Motorist in 1947, the attraction was marketed this way:

In Fun Land you ought to wear jodhpurs regardless of the sex to which you belong for the fun maker will have his innings in the trap that he has laid out for you.  Here you can show off to advantage if you know how to spin.  If you can dance on a dime and not get dizzy, you are a No. 1 candidate. [Accession 85008 B1, F84]

Fun Land  remained a staple of the park through the 1972 season. It was demolished at the end of the season to make way for the new theme park renovations.  For more information about Hershey Park’s fun houses, visit the Archives’ website.