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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. . .

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