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Archive for January, 2013

Looking for something to do? Hershey’s Y.M.C.A.

The Hershey Press promoted starting a Y.M.C.A. with articles and advertisements. 11/19/1909


Providing opportunities for recreation and continuing education has always been an important part of the Hershey community.  Today those opportunities are provided by a number of organizations, including the Hershey Public Library, Derry Township Parks and Recreation, The M.S. Hershey Foundation and community groups such as the Hershey Figure Skating Club, Hershey Symphony Orchestra and the Hershey Community Chorus, just to name a few.


Milton Hershey knew that in order for his new community to thrive, the workers and residents needed opportunities to exercise their bodies and their minds when they were not at work or school.  He encouraged residents to establish a variety of clubs and organizations to provide those opportunities.


The Young Men’s Christian Association began in the mid-19th century as a reaction to the challenges young single men living apart from their families faced.  By the turn of the 20th century, the Y.M.C.A. had grown into an organization that offered men, single and married, a variety of programs to nurture their bodies and their minds.  In addition, most Y.M.C.A.s offered lodging, continuing education courses and reading rooms.


Hershey was only a few years old when plans to establish a Y.M.C.A. were announced   The Hershey Press and its editor, C.S.Gee, were strong advocates for the new organization.



Hershey Press, 10/29/1909



Editor Gee published almost weekly articles on the Press’ front page promoting the new organization.  On December 17,1909, a list of men in support of establishing a “Y” was published in the paper.


The Cocoa House served as the headquarters for Hershey’s Y.M.C.A. ca.1911


The “Y” was officially established on Tuesday, January 18, 1910.  The Cocoa House was designated as its headquarters.  Plans were soon announced that a new gymnasium and indoor swimming pool would be built behind the Cocoa House.  Completed by the end of the year, the new addition enabled the Y.M.C.A. to offer a wide range of services, including a variety of sports (teams and classes), a reading room, boarding rooms for single men.  Since the Hershey Trust Company was also located in the building, the Cocoa House was a center for community activity.


While the Hershey Y.M.C.A. programs were popular locally, the club’s relations with the national organization became strained over time.  By 1913, Hershey resented many of the national organization’s rules, including restrictions on who could vote and the minimum age for membership. Hershey decided to break its ties to the national organization and in October 1913, the “Y” was renamed the Hershey Men’s Club.


Hershey Men’s Club, Gymnasium Class, ca.1914


Dining Out in Hershey: The Oyster Bar

When Devon Seafood Grill opened for business in Hershey, it brought restaurant goers the opportunity to enjoy fresh seafood.  However, this is not the first time a seafood restaurant has opened in Hershey.


Hershey Community Inn, on the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues. ca.1936


In 1936 a major addition was made to the Hershey Inn.  Located on the southwest corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, the 1910 Hershey Inn provided guest rooms at moderate cost. As more and more people came to visit Hershey, the Hershey Inn could not keep up with the demand for its rooms.  So, in 1936, two more floors were added to the Inn and it was renamed the Community Inn. 


Menu cover, The Oyster Bar.  ca.1936-1948



As part of these renovations, a new restaurant was installed in the Inn.  Christened the Oyster Bar, this restaurant specialized in seafood.  Chincoteague Island oysters, Cherrystone clams, Maryland Eastern Shore crabs and North Carolina shrimp were some of the menu highlights.



The Oyster Bar offered a wide selection of fresh seafood, including oysters, clams, lobster and brook trout. ca.1936-1948



As an article in the Hotel Hershey Highlights noted, “The Oyster Bar is the only one of its kind within many miles of Hershey and has quite a metropolitan air.”



Large aquariums held lobsters and Hershey raised brook trout for hungry diners. ca.1940-1950




 So what happened to the Oyster Bar?


While Milton Hershey enjoyed seafood, the restaurant consistently lost money.  After World War II, a review of all Hershey Estates operations was conducted the audit firm, Andersen & Co..  Its 1948 report revealed that the restaurant was not and had never been financially successful.  Recommendations were made to alter the menu and eliminate the focus on seafood.  While the restaurant continued to be called the Oyster Bar in the 1950s, menus from that era show that seafood offerings were greatly reduced and more emphasis was placed on more traditional restaurant foods such as steak and chicken.


The Oyster Bar ceased to be when the inn closed in September 1970.

The pedestrian tunnel opens, finally!


 If you live in or near Hershey, you are aware that downtown Hershey has been under construction for for the last couple years.  There are several projects going on:  straightening the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues, building a new bridge over the railroad tracks (to replace a bridge that was built over 100 years ago), and building two pedestrian tunnels: one under Chocolate Avenue and the other under Park Avenue by the entrance to ZooAmerica. 


Hershey Train Station, ca.1915


 This is not the first time Hershey has built a pedestrian tunnel to improve safety.   


West bound train arrives at Hershey railroad station. ca.194-1920


Passengers disembark an eastbound train at the Hershey railroad station. ca.1913



Years ago, when people rode trains to get to Hershey and locals took the train to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, there was quite a bit of foot traffic to get to one side of the train tracks or the other. If you arrived at Hershey via a westbound train and wanted to get to Chocolate Avenue, the factory, or the Department Store, you would have to walk over the railroad bridge on your way to Chocolate Avenue. After a day at Hershey Park, to get to the south side tracks for trains traveling east, travelers had to walk over the railroad bridge and then over to the passenger station.



When it was snowing or icy, this inconvenient route became dangerous.  The steep rise of the bridge made walking challenging.  In bad weather the footpath over the bridge was often slippery with ice and snow.  By 1912 residents and visitors were clamoring for a easier, safer way for pedestrians to cross the train tracks.



As part of Hershey’s planning for its 10th anniversary in 1913, a decision was made to build a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks.  The Hershey Press carried news of plans for a new tunnel.


 Hershey Press, 3/20/1913


Construction did not go smoothly.  In late April 1913, heavy rains caused two cave-ins and delayed the tunnel opening.  It was not ready in time for the Community’s 10th anniversary celebration.  It finally opened in early July 1913.  To read the details about the tunnel, visit the Archives’ website and read the Hershey Press newspaper for yourself.