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Skating for the Gold: 1953 United States Figure Skating Championship

What’s not to love about ice skating?  One of the highlights for me while watching the Winter Olympics is all the figure skating.  I love the beauty and creativity and greatly admire the athleticism needed to make it look so graceful.


Hershey Skating Club Winter Carnival, ca.1959

Hershey Skating Club Winter Carnival, ca.1959


Hershey also loves figure skating.  The sport has been an important sport in Hershey since the Hershey Skating Club was established in 1934.  Over the years, well-known figure skaters, including Roy Shipstad, Evelyn Chandler and Bruce Mapes have come to Hershey to work with the Skating Club and to perform in the Ice Arena.


National Figure Skating Championships, official program.  1953

National Figure Skating Championships, official program. 1953


In 1953, Hershey’s impressive facilities made it possible for the Hershey Skating Club to host the National Figure Skating Championships, often referred to as the “Nationals.”  Usually the competition is held in major cities with facilities and enough lodging to host the hundreds of skaters, their coaches and family members, over the four day event.  While Hershey was a small town, it was well acquainted with hosting large-scale events.  The competition brought national attention to the small community.


National Figure Skating Championships, Schedule of Events,  1953

National Figure Skating Championships, Schedule of Events, 1953


That year, the men’s competition was won by Hayes Alan Jenkins, who would go on to lead American male skating for four years, 1953-1956.  He also would win the gold medal in the 1956 Winter Olympics.


In 1953 Tenley Albright (right) won the gold medal at the United States Figure Skating Championship held in Hershey, PA.

In 1953 Tenley Albright (right) won the gold medal at the United States Figure Skating Championship held in Hershey, PA.  Silver medalist Carol Heiss is pictured left.


In the women’s competition, Tenley Albright continued her reign as the leading female skater in the United States, having first won the Nationals in 1952.  Her reign would continue through 1956.  That year she also would also win Olympic gold.

More information about the Hershey Figure Skating Club is available at the Archives.



Happy Birthday, Mr. President

President Eisenhower slices a piece of birthday cake in Hershey.  10/13/1953

President Eisenhower slices a piece of birthday cake in Hershey. 10/13/1953


Hershey’s central location in Pennsylvania, its public venues and its ability to receive and house 1000s of visitors at any one moment, has made our community a natural choice for hosting a wide variety of large scale events throughout its history.


Many of these events have brought national attention to our town.


This was particularly true in 1953 when the National Republican Party hosted a birthday party for sitting President Dwight D. Eisenhower.


The birthday party was planned for 1000s of attendees and the celebration was held in three different venues in Hershey:  Hershey Stadium, Hershey Sports Arena and in a Barnum and Bailey Ringling Brothers Big Top Tent erected especially for the event.


Entrance to the Eisenhower birthday Big Top, 10/13/1953

Entrance to the Eisenhower birthday Big Top, 10/13/1953


While the event was organized by the National Republican Party, it was a home grown affair.


Program: President Dwight D. Eisenhower Birthday Party, 10/13/1953

Program: President Dwight D. Eisenhower Birthday Party, 10/13/1953


In the Stadium, which was open free to the public, 12,000-14,000 guests enjoyed golfing demonstrations by some of the country’s leading golfers, including former Hershey Country Club pro, Ben Hogan.  Attendees also enjoyed concerts by six Pennsylvania marching bands, including the Lebanon High School State champions.


The Big Top dinner was organized as a fundraiser for the Republican Party with tickets priced at $100 per plate.  The centerpiece of the decorations was a huge 24 foot high and 40 foot wide wooden “cake” containing bushels of colorful Pennsylvania fruits and vegetables.  Dinner was an original farm to table event with roast beef, mushrooms, peas, potatos and coleslaw.


Hershey High School’s yearbook devoted a page to remembering President Eisenhower’s birthday party. Choclatier, 1953


The celebration moved to the Hershey Sports Arena where guests enjoyed a slice of  cake provided by 800 women who each baked a cake for the festivities.  Cake and ice cream was served by 500 local high school girls.  The evening culminated with a musical performance written and directed by Pennsylvania’s own Fred Waring.








Happy Birthday, Mr. Hershey!

Employeed honored Milton Hershey with a surprise birthday party held at the Hershey Arena.  9/13/1937

Employeed honored Milton Hershey with a surprise birthday party held at the Hershey Arena. 9/13/1937


Today, September 13, is Milton Hershey’s 156th birthday.  Check out a new exhibit on the Archives’ website that looks at how Milton Hershey celebrated his day.  As he got older, the celebrations grew to fill the entire Arena!


He shoots, he scores!

50 years ago today the Philadelphia Warriors played the New York Knickerbockers in a game held in the Hershey Sports Arena.  At that game Warrior Wilt Chamberlain scored a record smashing 100 points, an achievement that no basketball player has ever duplicated or even come close.

Little remains of the game, no ticket stubs, no video.  Fortunately there are some photos taken by Paul Vathis, an AP photographer who happened to attending the game as a fan and who rushed to his car mid-game to get his camera equipment, . 

Game program, Hershey Sports Arena, March 2, 1962

Game program, Hershey Sports Arena, March 2, 1962

In the Archives collection, there are copies of the game program and remarkably, a recording of the last 15 minutes of the historic game.  The recording was made by an enterprising college student, a Knicks fan, who listened to the game on his AM radio and was inspired to record the broadcast on his reel to reel tape recorder.

Construction begins

Building the scaffolding in preparation for pouring the Arena barrel roof shell, 1936

Building the scaffolding in preparation for pouring the Arena barrel roof shell, 1936


Tedesko realized that the Hershey project would be a unique challenge.   He referred to it as a “home-made structure, constructed by Hershey men.” Tedesko became the planner/architect/engineer/construction manager. Milton Hershey wanted to save money and refused to formally hire a construction manager. The result was a rather chaotic beginning.   Eventually, Tedesko secured the help of Oscar Spancake, a carpenter-foreman, who mobilized a crew of 250 men, 4 concrete mixers and 2 elevators. The workers had no previous experience in concrete construction, leaving Tedesko no choice but to supervise all aspects of the concrete pours. Remarkably, by July 2, 1936 pouring for the first roof section began.


Pouring the lower tier of seats in the Hershey Arena, 1936

Pouring the lower tier of seats in the Hershey Arena, 1936

Formwork for the sections was made up of a patchwork of standard lumber sizes, since Milton Hershey had stipulated that all the lumber associated with the project later be used in the construction of barns and homes in Hershey. The scaffolding structure was composed of over 300,000 board feet of yellow pine lumber and the entire scaffolding and formwork structure was placed on a series of 250jacks .  The pours were simultaneously started on both sides from the ground level, and didn’t stop until the two sides came together at the top of the arena. These pours took anywhere from 14 to 20 days, working 24 hours a day.


Workers hauled concrete in handcarts up to the roof.  1936

Workers hauled concrete in handcarts up to the roof. 1936

George Booth had vivid memories of the construction:

Yes, I remember when that was going up.  And that windowless office building, too.  But that arena job was unbelievable, the number of men.  How it was a continuous concrete pour with that kind of equipment, you had to push a truck, probably 800, 900 pounds of concrete in it, wet concrete, push it up ramps, somebody helping to pull you, pouring 24 hours right around the clock. 


After a minimal time  of curing, the plan was to lower the support jacks and  the forms would drop away from the concrete shell.  The first time this step was taken, Witmer feared that the structure was about to collapse.  As they lowered the support jacks the concrete continued to stay attached to the forms for the first 2 inches.  Much to his relief, the concrete shell stopped settling and separated from the scaffolding as the forms were lowered further.


As the work progressed, the workers gained skill and subsequent sections were completed more efficiently.  Pours were still being made when the temperature dropped significantly. If the concrete froze the structure would be ruined:

Again from George Booth:
It got cold, and Paul [Witmer] made a deal with the city of Philadelphia to have carloads, rail cars, brought up here with manure to cover that concrete, to help it cure, you know.  Today you couldn’t do a thing like that.  As a matter of fact, it would take longer to get a permit to build a building like that than it took to build it under today’s regulations. 

When it opened on December 19, 1936, the Hershey Arena was the first large scale barrel shell roof structure in the United States.  Its construction established Anton Tedesko as the preeminent engineer for such structures.


More construction photos available at

Hershey Sports Arena. . .a home for hockey and more.


Hershey Sports Arena, main entrance. 1936



Hersheypark Arena will celebrate its 75th anniversary in December 2011.  When it was constructed it was an engineering marvel, the first large-scale thin-shell concrete structure in the United States.  The Hershey Arena established a new type of roof structure that was used throughout the United States from 1936 onwards.  The building is even more impressive when you realize that total time of construction, from breaking ground on March 11, 1936 to opening night on December 19, 1936 was a little more than nine months.


Anton Tedesko was a German engineer who had developed the concept of thin shelled concrete structures.  In 1931 he had been sent to the Chicago design-construction firm Roberts and Schaefer  to drum up new business for this newly patented construction method.  In the beginning Tedesko worked tirelessly with many unrealized proposals. He ran into resistance from conservative steel designers, and the harsh economic climate of a deep recession.


By 1935, Tedesko had professional friends and contacts in many U.S. cities including Philadelphia.  The Portland Cement Association representative, James Gibson, acted as an intermediary to Hershey Estates who wanted to build a new ice arena. The 32 year old Tedesko leapt at the chance to design the largest monolithic concrete roof structure in North America. There was no precedent for such a structure, no design codes, no established construction practices for a project of this scale requiring such careful tolerances.


On January 21, 1936, Tedesko, helped by Gibson, presented his idea for a huge arena to Hershey Lumber Company manager, D. Paul Witmer, who in turn presented it to Mr. Hershey. “I was somewhat startled when Witmer showed me the plans, for I hadn’t figured building such a large structure, and I had to think twice before I let him go ahead with its construction”, said Milton Hershey. Tedesko hired staff in Chicago and design work started immediately, and on February 7 he began to write out in detail the full calculations for the roof structure.

to be continued. . .

Hershey Skating Club



Hershey Ice Palace, ca.1931-1935
Hershey Ice Palace, ca.1931-1935


The Hershey Skating Club has been an active part of our community since its founding in 1934.   Though it was officially established that year, Hershey’s interest in figure skating dates much earlier.  When the Hershey Ice Palace opened in 1931, a small group of figure skaters from Lancaster joined to together as an informal club and came to Hershey to practice their “figures.” 
Skaters pose on the ice at the Hershey Ice Palace, ca. 1931-1935

 Over the next few years the group expanded to include skaters from Harrisburg, Hershey and Reading.  The idea for an established club grew out of the group’s desire to be able to rent the rink for sessions devoted to figure skating.  Club membership grew from its original 48 skaters to over a group of 125 members at the end of the 1937-1938 season. Milton Hershey was very supportive of the Skating Club.  During his lifetime the Club was able to use the Ice Palace and then the Sports Arena without charge.


The same year the club was established Hershey sponsored its first Ice Carnival, featuring well-known professional figure skaters.  The first two shows were choreographed by Joe Chapman of the Philadelphia Skating Club.  The club was also assisted by Roy Shipstad, creator of the Ice Follies, who came frequently during 1935 to offer lessons, while serving as the Ice Pro at Baltimore.  For the 1936-1937 season the Club hired its first skating professionals, Evelyn Chandler and Bruce Mapes, who offered lessons and oversaw development of the annual ice show.

Evelyn Chandler, Hershey ice skating professional, 1945

Evelyn Chandler, Hershey's first ice skating professional, 1945

 The Club’s Ice Show was very popular in the community. The number of performances offered quickly increased from one show the first year to three shows.  Even with the expansion, tickets sold out quickly and many were turned away at the door.   

Hershey Skating Club Ice Carnival, 1959

Hershey Skating Club, Winter Carnival, 1959

Hershey’s interest in figure skating as well as hockey was a key factor in Milton Hershey’s decision to build the Hershey Sports Arena in 1936. Since then the Figure Skating Club has played an important role in our community’s recreational life, providing opportunities for learning and practicing figure skating to children and adults. Over the years the Club has also hosted a number of regional and national competitions, beginning with the 1953 United States Figure Skating Championship and most recently the 1992 Pro-Am Competition.

Serving the Region: Hershey’s service during the Three Mile Island Emergency

The accident at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station was the most significant accident in the history of the American commercial nuclear power generating industry. Though no one was injured, the accident caused a partial core meltdown of the Unit 2 reactor. The accident occurred just a weeks after “The China Syndrome,” a popular movie that told the story of a nuclear reactor accident. The movie served to heighten local and national fear of the nuclear accident.


Hershey, located ten miles away from the accident site, served an evacuation site for people living within 5 miles of the power plant. When the accident was announced, State authorities recommended that pregnant women and children evacuate the area. Hershey was designated as an evacuation site. Working with the State and the Red Cross, Hershey Estates and the Hershey Arena prepared to accommodate up to 25,000 people who lived within the radius.


When news of the emergency broke on the morning of March 28, 1979, Hershey Estates Arena staff were holding their weekly staff meeting. Paul Serff, then in charge of the Arena, remembered that the hockey team had been practicing on the Arena ice. Practice was cancelled and the floor was put down over the ice. Restrooms were stocked, refreshment stands were staffed just so that evacuees would be able to get water. Not knowing how many people might come, Hershey Estates was told to be prepared to host up to 20,000 people. The Stadium had been closed for the winter. Staff opened up its restrooms, because they knew that the Arena would not be able to accommodate so many people but they thought that people could at least wait in their cars and use those restrooms.


The Red Cross arrived in the afternoon. Cots were put up, TVs were hooked up and the Medical Center sent over staff and set up a medical station that had the capability to support labor and delivery. Though approximately 144,000 residents within a 15 mile radius of the plant evacuated the area during this crisis, most people found other places to go, whether family or friends. Over the course of the 5 day emergency, only 186 people, primarily women and children, lived at the Arena.


c. Hershey Community Archives, 2009