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Archive for July, 2010

Working in Hershey, part 2

Finding work in Hershey was a simple matter during Milton Hershey’s lifetime. Hershey established a central employment bureau in 1915. From its inception until his retirement in 1962, it was managed by one man, John R. Zoll. This centralized system enabled Hershey to easily relocate employees from one division to another as needed.

John Zoll was well known by all those seeking employment in Hershey.  Mary Bonawitz, who was employed by the Hershey Chocolate Factory in 1934, remembered how she first got work in Hershey:

I was eighteen years of age and wanted to get out in the world, earn some money for myself, so I chose Hershey Chocolate Factory, and I never was sorry. Those times you didn’t go into the office. You stood outside the employment office and Mr. [John] Zoll would come out and he would pick you and would say, “You come in here.” And look over the crowd and, “You come in here.” That’s the way you got the job. Sometimes people stood outside for a week or more until they were picked. So I happened to be picked August 13th, and I worked there for thirty-two years.

Hershey Chocolate Factory, kiss wrapping department.  Packing kisses by hand.  3/1937

Hershey Chocolate Factory, packing kisses by hand. 3/1937

Sometimes people didn’t really know or care where they worked, they simply wanted a job.  George Booth attended Hershey Industrial School 1925-1937.  After graduation he initially got a job in Lititz, PA, a town about 25 miles east of Hershey but the business soon went bankrupt.  Unable to find work, he returned  to Hershey in 1938 with hopes of finding something.

So I came down to Hershey and thought, “Well, the park’s open. Maybe I can get a summer job.” I came down, went down to the–as a matter of fact, I still have my application on the wall in the den, June 13, 1938. I applied for a job, not knowing where I was going to go. John Zoll was the employment manager at that time. He sent me up to Hershey Lumber Products to a B.S. Cornell. He hired me, as a clerk in the office–time cards, posting machine. They were doing a lot of construction at that time, Hershey was. Anyway, we finished. The summer came to an end, construction slowed down. October, November. Then I was sent down to the bank building.


Question: Who sent you there?


I think Cornell told me they want me down there, and I was to report to Harry Spangler. I remember reporting to Harry Spangler. Harry Spangler was the comptroller at the time. He interviewed me and put me to work the same day. Our offices for Hershey Estates were on the second floor of the bank. So I became a clerk, bookkeeper, that sort of thing.

Hershey Trust Company and Hershey National Bank.  ca. 1935

Hershey Trust Company and Hershey National Bank. ca.1935

Working in Hershey, part 1

Hershey PA has been known as a premiere tourist destination almost since its founding. However, for the 1000s of men and women who work in Hershey, the town is valued as much for its employment opportunities as its entertainment possibilities.

Hershey Community Archives oral history collection is a rich resource for understanding the historyof the community, its industries and activities.  Excerpts of oral history interviews with factory workers, Hershey Estates employees, bookkeepers and bank tellers reveal what it is like to work in the “sweetest place on earth.”

The stories of how people first got a job in Hershey are varied.  Many of Hershey’s most committed employees initially had no interest in working here.  Frank Mather, whose Hershey Bears’ ice hockey career spanned several decades, needed some special convincing to  come to Hershey.  In his oral history interview Mathers relates this story:

I was brought in as a player-coach. I had gone home [to Winnipeg]. I was thirty-one at the time and I figured it’s time to, you know, get a real job. So I went home. I really had no intention of being a coach. That, too, was not one of the things that I had planned, but anyway, Mr. Sollenberger phoned, and he was a very insistent gentleman. I told him no, I wasn’t interested really, but then finally he said, “Come on down. Just stay at the hotel. Bring your wife down.” We did and [he] treated me very well, gave me a car and carte blanche around Hershey, and, “Just tell them you know me and sign the check,” and that type of thing. And I did. I’m glad that I did, of course. That was the smartest move I ever made, because I signed with Hershey.

This is a funny story and it’s a true story. But I really never enjoyed Hershey when I played in Pittsburgh, the reason being we came to Hershey when the Ice Show was in Pittsburgh, and we’d be here for–what I’d say, stuck for two weeks in Hershey in the middle of the winter. At that time there was one show that changed maybe twice a week and there was very little action at all. We used to say that the highlight of the day was walking over to the arena from the Cocoa Inn.

Anyway, so I really didn’t think that I would enjoy it, but I came here. I think we arrived Tuesday and we went through the whole area. So after we saw all of Hershey at our own pace, doing what we wanted to see, then we met–this must have been a little bit later in the spring, because the park was open. As I recall Mr. Sollenberger didn’t go to the hockey games because he had a bad heart–too exciting. The only game that I can recall him ever going to was an All-Star game where the outcome was not important. Yeah. So he didn’t go to the games, but yet we went to the park. And we went on the roller coaster–now, he sits in the front seat with his wife and Pat and I are right behind them. [Laughter] And we were on there, I swear, for twelve rides. I think, “If this guy wants me to sign for hockey, I’d better sign and tell him I’m going to sign now. I’ll be his coach. Then we’ll get off this thing.”

Hershey Bears hockey team, 1956-1957 season.  Frank Mathers is 8th from the left.

Hershey Bears ice hockey team, 1956-1957 season. Frank Mathers is 8th from the left.