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Archive for September, 2009

Heart of the Community: Hershey’s Community Building



Hershey Community Building, 1933
Hershey Community Building, 1933


Originally planned for 1916 and finally constructed during Hershey’s Great Building Campaign of the 1930s, the goal of the building was to provide entertainment and recreation, as well as to fulfill educational and civic functions for the entire town. World War I and subsequent financial challenges for Hershey Chocolate Company delayed its construction.  Finally in November 1928 ground was broken.  The building was completed in September 1932 and officially dedicated in September 1933 as part of the Town’s 30th anniversary celebration.

The primary function of the Building’s recreational facilities was for the use of the Hershey Men’s Club.  The Men’s Club offered an extensive range of programs and activities for the boys and men of Hershey.  The facilities were very impressive.

Game Room: 180 feet long, contains four bowling alleys, a court for practicing driving golf ball or putting, three shuffleboard tables, four ping pong tables, five pocket billiard tables for men, one billiard table for boys, a table for curoque, and a section devoted to games for boys in addition to tables for cards, checkers, chess, etc.

Game Room, Community Building; ca. 1932-1942

Game Room, ca.1932-1942

On same floor is a swimming pool 75 feet long by 25 feet wide, 3 – 9 1/2  feet deep,  with three spring boards.  Separate showers for men and boys
Community Building Swimming Pool, ca. 1950-1960 
Gymnasium:  (80 x 44 feet with 35 foot ceiling) for class work, volley ball, basketball, softball, badminton and special exercising rooms as well as two courts for four-wall hand ball, also can be used as squash courts.
Men's Club Junior Division, Community Building Gymnasium, ca.1935

Men's Club Junior Division, Community Building Gymnasium, ca.1935

The Archives oral history collections contain many memories of the Community Building and how important it was to the residents, particularly the children.  Many men shared memories of their childhoods spending afternoons and evenings at the Community Building:

Frank Simione (93OH02):

In the early years, from starting at my eighth birthday, we belonged to the Hershey Community Building, which at that time was called Community Club for us, where they had the Hershey hospital on the sixth floor, later became the Hershey Junior College. At eight years old, we belonged to this Community Building, where we learned all the athletic sports, all types of games. I think it was three dollars for six months, and you started as a cadet and went up to a junior, and then you went into intermediate, then you went into a senior program.

Spending all that time and all those years there, I learned many athletic games and as much as all the small games that you would play, like checkers and dominos and pool and ping-pong and bowling. We were fortunate to have this facility. At the time, we didn’t know any better, but as we grew, and later on in life, we found that that was a beautiful place for kids to go.

To learn more about the Archives’ oral history collections use this link to visit the Archives online collections database.


New machinery for the factory installed

Hershey Press, 1909 original masthead
Hershey Press, 1909 original masthead





The Hershey Press issue dated September 17, 1909 carried a variety of articles about the community and Chocolate factory as well as printing ads from Hershey owned and independent businesses.

One of my favorite columns was titled: Hershey Briefs: Items About You, Your Neighbors and Things in General.  Illnesses, individual’s trips to Harrisburg and Lancaster, comments about people who dropped in to visit the Press office, parties, practical jokes, bowling competitions and related events were appropriate for this column.  It reminds me of today’s Facebook postings:  the information in the column varied in significance and interest.

The Hershey Press is also a great resource for documenting the growth and development of the community.  On the front page of this issue, the Press carried an article about the installation of a new pastor at Derry Presbyterian Church, one about the contents of a large freight train delivering materials to Hershey and an article noting the completion of a new addition to the Hershey Chocolate Factory for the Longitudinal department.  I found the article 9-17-1909-longitudinal-machines




 particularly helpful because this short article helped the Archives date this photograph of the new department:


Hershey Chocolate Factory, Longitudinal department, ca.1909

Hershey Chocolate Factory, Longitudinal department, ca.1909

The article and photograph also bring  to life architectural plans in the Archives collections for a new addition to the factory on a 1909 insurance map.  The plan {87FP01.1} notes that the new building held “about 30 Grinders for finishing chocolate”  operated by “220 volt motors.

Hershey Press launches

Hershey Press, 1909 original masthead

Hershey Press, 1909 original masthead




1909:  Hershey, with big plans for its future, was still a modest community of about 250 people.  While the chocolate factory employed several hundred people, most of the workers lived in the surrounding communities, using the Hershey trolley system to travel to work each day. Hershey Park was essentially a community park, the only ride a small, second-hand merry-go-round that had been installed next to the baseball field the preceding year. Housing construction was underway, but available housing was extremely limited. Milton and Catherine Hershey had just moved into their new home, High Point, the previous year.

Milton Hershey’s aspirations for the expanding community included a newspaper. On September 3, 1909, the first issue of The Hershey Press, a weekly paper, was printed. Published through 1926, with a brief interruption in 1917 during World War I, The Hershey Press promoted the community, encouraged readers to support causes and new ventures and documented the events of the community and its residents.

Periodically I’ll be posting excerpts from The Hershey Press, following the centennial of their original publication.

Some background:  The first issue of The Hershey Press was printed on Friday, September 3, 1909.  An annual subcription to the weekly paper cost $.75.  The first issue was 8 pages and covered a broad range of topics:  a review of recent events, a history of Derry Presbyterian Church, a report of the Hershey Family Reunion held at the Park, baseball scores, jokes, as well as advertisements (both Hershey owned businesses and other) and a map of the community.  The paper also introduced a column titled “Hershey Briefs” which offered updates on the activities of community residents and others, a precursor to today’s Facebook status entries.  This column was one of the newspapers most enduring parts of the paper.

Check back often to learn more about the activities of Hershey 100 years ago. 

P.S.  If you can’t wait, The Hershey Press can be viewed online through a link on the Archives’ website.

Honest Products, the Hershey way

Hershey stood at the forefront of promoting the values and of the the Pure Food Law of 1906.  This law, a major achievement of the Progressive Movement, protected consumers from being deceived or harmed by food products with false or deceiving labels.  The national Pure Food movement inspired Pure Food Shows in cities across the United States during the second decade of the 20th century.

Locally, Harrisburg first sponsored a show in 1914.


Hershey Press, February 3, 1916.  page 8


 Hershey finally got on the bandwagon in 1916 when the Hershey Store Company sponsored its first show.  The show was advertised in the community newspaper, The Hershey Press

Hershey's 1st annual Pure Food Show, held February 8-12, 1916, at the Hershey Store Company.

Hershey's first Pure Food Show was held at the Hershey Store Company, 2/1916.

 Held for five days in February 1916, the show not only featured display booths sponsored by a wide variety of manufacturers but also presented free motion pictures in the Hershey Central Theater.  Hershey, not to be outdone by the big cities, filled to overflowing the Hershey Store Company Grocery Department with exhibits of the leading food manufacturers.  There were 18 booths featuring a range of manufacturers and growers including Karo (Corn Products Refining Company), Heinz, Occident Flour, Dromedary Products, Postum foods, Grapefruitola, Sunkist, Moxley Butterine (Oleomargarine), Foulds spaghetti, Sunshine Biscuit and of course, Hershey Chocolate and Cocoa. 


Heinz food products, 2/1916

 Though billed a “Pure Food Show” the event also featured non-food quality products such as Diamond Matches and ‘Perfection’ Oil Stoves.


Perfection Oil Stoves and Parowax, Hershey's Pure Food Show, 2/1916

 More than 7000 people attended the five day show that also included daily concerts by the Hershey Orchestra.  The show was repeated in 1918 with more exhibits and expanded to other facilities in Hershey.

 For more information about the Pure Food Show, search the Hershey Press newspaper, available through the Archives website.