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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.

Something For The Ladies: Hershey’s Y.W.C.A.

Hershey's Y.W.C.A. was organized in February 1911.

Hershey’s Y.W.C.A. was organized in February 1910.

 

In the Fall of 1909 articles began appearing in the Hershey Press about wanting to start a Y.M.C.A. in Hershey.  Milton Hershey drew his support behind the plan, providing space in the Cocoa House for the organization to hold its meetings and events.  The successful launch of the “Y” in early 1910 probably prompted the women of Hershey to press for the creation of a similar organization for themselves. 

 

You can follow the story of Hershey’s Y.W.C.A. in articles printed in the Hershey Press.  To get you started, here are some excerpts from early letters to the editor and articles about starting a women’s club in Hershey.

 

 Hershey Press, 11/4/1910 (page 11)

A Communication –

A Letter Received at the Press Office

Editor of the Hershey Press — “Will you kindly print the following in your paper?”

To all the girls of Hershey, surrounding towns, and to all whom it may concern:

“We girls are all aware of the splendid Y. M. C. A. in our town. Why can we not have a Y.W.C.A.  just as well? The cry is, “If we girls only had some place to go.” Let us bestir ourselves and see if something can not be accomplished. Let us get together and form sort of a band or club. Let it be at least this much if it can not be a Y. W. C. A. though that is far more

preferable. “We surely can have something if we try. Some of the leading women of town have expressed a kindly interest in the movement and a willingness to lend a helping hand in this good work.  All those desiring to take part in such a movement will kindly send their names to Box 104, Hershey, Pa., before Saturday, November 19.

ONE INTERESTED.”

 

Clearly the letter was successful because just a few months later, the Press published another article annoucing that a Y.W.C.A. had been organized in Hershey. 

 

Hershey Press, 2/10/1911

OUR LITTLE TOWN APACE WITH THE CITIES

Young Women’s Christian Association Organized on Monday. State Industrial Secretary Present. Constitution Adopted

 

A permanent home for the Y.W.C.A.. ca.1912

A permanent home for the Y.W.C.A.. ca.1912

 

At first, meetings were held in the Hershey Park Pavillion.  But after the Hershey Garage and stable, located on the south side of the railroad tracks (currently Hershey’s ZooAmerica’s parking lot)  were destroyed by fire,  the location was selected for a permanent home for the Y.W.C.A. In August 1912, (page 5) the Y.W.C.A. moved into its new permanent home above the rebuilt Hershey Garage.  The facility included boarding rooms for single women, a spacious reading room with a piano, and a cafeteria with seating for 100.

 

Hershey’s Y.W.C.A. remained a vital part of the community for many years.  At some point in the later 1920s, Hershey decided to separate from the national Y.W.C.A. organization and reorganize as an independent Women’s Club, something the men had done years earlier, in 1913.

 

Hershey’s Women’s Club continued to play a vital role in providing opportunities for fellowship, recreation and education  through the post war years.  The organization’s purpose was assumed by other groups and the Women’s Club building was razed in 1963 to make way for a new headquarters for Hershey Estates and the Hershey Drug Store which occupied the first floor.