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Archive for August, 2012

M.S. Hershey Consolidated School

This week, thousands of Derry Township students returned to school, something that children have been doing in this township since the 1800s.

‘Tis education forms the common mind

Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined

Alexander Pope, British poet, 1732

I found this quote in the Hershey Press.  It was part of an editorial published July 9, 1914.  The editorial was praising the completion of a new school building for Hershey, the M.S. Hershey Consolidated School, that would open that fall.  The addition of the Consolidated School was a remarkable accomplishment for a town only 11 years old.  And it was all due to Milton Hershey’s vision for his model community.

Greiner School, a one-room school in Derry Township, PA.  ca.1900

Greiner School, a one-room school in Derry Township, PA. ca.1900

When Milton Hershey returned to Derry Township to begin construction of his  chocolate factory, 14 one-room schools dotted the township.  During the 19th century, in rural areas like Derry Township,  education was limited to one-room schoolhouses.  Milton Hershey, who spent part of his childhood here,  attended 3 of those schoolhouses as a young boy.  The short school year and Milton Hershey’s lack of interest resulted in a very uneven education.  His experience was not unusual.

Milton Hershey as a seven year old boy, 1864.

Milton Hershey as a seven year old boy, 1864.

By the time Milton Hershey was an adult and developing his new town, he knew that the future success of his model community would depend upon the success of future generations of residents.  He recognized that investing in public education was key to that success.

Named for the recently slain United States president, McKinley School enabled the School District to establish a township high school.  ca.1906

Named for the recently slain United States president, McKinley School enabled the School District to establish a township high school. ca.1906

His commitment to public education began even before the Hershey Chocolate factory was completed.  In 1904 he donated land and money to the Derry Township School District to encourage them to build a high school for his new community (even though he couldn’t know for certain how many children would be available to attend).  It was a gamble.

But Milton Hershey’s dreams for his community became real and the town grew.  The numbers of students increased rapidly.  The first school building, McKinley School, consolidated 4 one-room schools and established a formal high school program.  The School District quickly outgrew the building.

McKinley School, ca.1910-1914

McKinley School, ca.1911-1914

In 1911 McKinley School  was enlarged.  By 1912 it was clear that a new school building was needed.  The growth of the community and the student population provided Milton Hershey with an opportunity to implement an innovative educational program.

Next time:  Bringing Educational Innovation to Hershey

A Picture Sometimes Needs a Few Words

Often, when we are processing a collection, we come across a photo that raises more questions than answers.  Take this photo as an example:


Dinner party on Hotel Hershey lawn

Dinner party on Hotel Hershey lawn




A close study of the photo does provide some clues.  The background  shows the pergolas and reflecting pools of the Hotel Hershey formal gardens.  So we know that the dinner took place at the Hotel Hershey.  Using a magnifying glass to study the faces of the dinner guests helped me to discover that Milton Hershey was seated at the circular table in the center of the table arrangement.  He is dressed in a white suit with his left arm resting on the back of his chair.  The president of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation, Bill Murrie, is seated on his right.


Fortunately, the Archives is filled with resources and collections that can provide answers and help illuminate sometimes mysterious photos.


Between 1934 and 1951, Hershey published a weekly newsletter, the Hotel Hershey Highlights.  This publication served as a community newspaper, providing information about events throughout the community.  A headline on the front page of the June 13, 1936 issue, introduced a pertinent article:


Civic and Country Clubs Entertain M.S. Hershey in a Setting Unusually Artistic


While there was no photo published with the article, it describes the dinner and table placement, making the photograph understandable.  Here is an excerpt from the article:


    A dinner party for M.S. Hershey, founder of the community that bears his name, took place on the lawn of the Hotel Hershey on the night of June 3.

    The setting was unusually artistic.  With the moon shedding its rays on the countryside and picturesque white pergolas and evergreen shrubbery for a background, tables to seat two hundred guests were arranged like the spokes of a wheel.  At the hub of the wheel sat Mr. Hershey, who came to the site of the present Hershey when it was a cornfield thirty-three years ago.

    The dinner was arranged by members of the Hershey Civic Club and the Hershey Country Club as a token of appreciation.  The keynote was expressed by Richard Von Ezdorf, president of the Civic Club.. . .

The article goes on to describe the speakers and the gifts presented to Milton Hershey. One of the gifts was a leather bound book containing the signatures of all the guests and the inscription:


    As an outward expression of gratitude for your many kindnesses to us, we are in this manner thanking you.  What we feel within ourselves must be expressed individually and in many ways.  We want you to know and feel that your gracious entertainment of us, your constant desire to smooth our paths of work and play, and your sympathy for and patience with us is fully and sincerely appreciated.

    May your reward be greater than any one of us can give you — the satisfaction of a job well done.


Putting the photograph and article together, we suddenly can visualize the event and understand the significance of the photo.


In Milton Hershey’s memory: Cocoa Avenue Plaza

Cocoa Avenue Plaza swimming pool.  ca.1965

Cocoa Avenue Plaza swimming pool. ca.1965


Just prior to his death, Milton Hershey set aside 18.25 acres to create Memorial Field, a community park with a playground and sports fields in the heart of residential Hershey.  Plans for Memorial Field were extensive and not all could be developed at first.


Several years later, Sam Hinkle, president of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation, decided to expand the existing Memorial Field with several amenities, some of which had been envisioned in the original plans for Memorial Field. When plans for the new facility were announced, Sam Hinkle was quoted in a Hershey News article that the new recreational facility was “being built as a memorial to the late Milton S. Hershey, town founder.”    The article went on to explain that the Cocoa Avenue Plaza was being built and constructed with Chocolate Corporation funds.


Laurie & Green, a Harrisburg, PA architectural firm, designed the new facility.  Inspired by Milton Hershey’s love of innovation, plans for Cocoa Avenue Plaza incorporated modern and innovative design and engineering.  H.B. Alexander and Sons, Inc. of Harrisburg, PA was selected as the general contractor for the project.  The new pool, was built to then current NCAA standards, and could function as an indoor or outdoor facility, thanks to its retractable roof.  John Zerbe, then in charge of Hershey’s recreation program, described the unique features of the pool complex in his 1996 oral history:

It was probably the first swimming pool [of its kind] in the country like it, and we had people from all over the country come in to look at that building, but it was the first pool in the country to actually use almost a water company quality chlorination process.  It was the first pool in the country to use PVC piping all around, and, obviously, it was the first pool in the country to use the kind of opening-dome design that we used.  The real structural design of that was absolutely phenomenal, and it all basically rotated on a humongous pin at the top.�

I thought that design and the corporate resolve here to build that kind of a building was very visionary.  I can’t imagine too many corporations willing to go after that kind of design and see it through.

The pool's walls can fully retract to create a completly outdoor pool.  ca.1965

The pool's walls can fully retract to create a completly outdoor pool. ca.1965


Dedication of the Plaza was originally planned for September 13, 1963.  However, delays in finishing work and time needed to trouble shoot the new mechanical systems caused the dedication to be delayed.  All construction was finally completed on October 12 and the dedication ceremonies were held on October 20, 1963.