Hershey – the sweetest place on earth, where Milton S. Hershey built the biggest candy factory in the world in the middle of a corn field, used fresh milk from dairy farms and the pure water from Derry Church spring to make milk chocolate for the masses.
Hershey – the sweetest place on earth, where Milton S. Hershey built decent housing instead of hovels for his workers.
Twenty-five years before the founding of Hershey, the jobs creators known as the Philadelphia Coal and Iron Company built company towns in the anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania. The “homes” were shacks and shanties in which thousands of starving Irish immigrants with surnames such as Corbett struggled desperately to feed their families. No worker could own his own home, not even a shack. Wages were low and hours were long. Many miners were paid in company “script” good only at the company owned store. The towns had no parks for recreation and few schools. Almost every tree in and around the town was cut down to use as mine timber. The finer wood was shipped to mansions in Rhode Island, Long Island, and Mauch Chunk. Children were employed in the mines. Over 30,000 men and boys were killed in mining accidents.
“Don’t make them all alike,” Mr. Hershey said, “Don’t even make every second one alike. We want each house to have a style of their own.” Later on he said, “Every man ought to own his own home if he can. We can build a few to rent, but let’s make the rents low.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hershey shared a love of trees and gardens. In their company town, trees lined all the streets of the beautiful homes that workers could own. Mr. Hershey gave definite instructions never to cut down a tree without his permission.
Hershey – the sweetest place on earth, where Milton S. Hershey envisioned a complete community around his factory with inexpensive public transportation such as the Hershey trolley, a quality public school, a library, and a hall for cultural programs.
One of the first couples I called on when I was a pastor in Palmyra was a couple who met on the Hershey trolley on their way to work in the factory. When calling on a family for the first time, I usually asked “How did you two meet?” I asked. Almost without hesitation the lady replied, “We met on the trolley on the way to work. He looked at me and I looked back!” This couple raised four children who now have adult children and grandchildren of their own.
Hershey – the sweetest place on earth, where Milton S. Hershey, concerned about providing adequate recreation for his workers, built Hershey Park with an entrance of open lawn dotted with newly planted trees and shrubs. Spring Creek was dammed up to create a small lake for boating and canoeing. Spanning it was a rustic bridge that led to picnic areas on both sides of the creek. Swings and slides for kids, band and later ballroom for adults, and baseball for kids of all ages.
Hershey – the sweetest place on earth. As the great depression swept across America, people were out of work. They lost their homes and their hope. And they were hungry. Sales of Hershey products dropped in half. Against the advice of all his senior advisors and associates, Mr. Hershey chose not lay off a single worker nor cut their pay, but instead began public works projects to employ his workers. The Community Building was the first building to be finished. It contained two theaters, a dining room, a cafeteria, a gym, swimming pool, bowling alley, a fencing room, a gym, and a dark room. Next was Hotel Hershey, followed by Junior-Senior High School, the beloved “Barn” (Hershey Arena), and then, Hershey Stadium. Mr. Hershey was prepared to build the stadium into a “bowl” rather than let his workers and their families starve. Fortunately, the depression ended and the ends of the stadium were never built. “And as far as I know,” Mr. Hershey said afterward, “no man in Hershey was dropped by reason of the depression. And no salaries were cut.” He paid them with legal tender (money), not company script.
Above all, Hershey – the sweetest place on earth, where on November 15, 1909, Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the Deed of Trust giving 486 acres of first rate farm land to the Hershey Trust Company to build a school for the education of impoverished children. Mr. Hershey said modestly, “It was Kitty’s idea.” Mrs. Hershey died 6 years later, but Mr. Hershey, a man with a 4th grade education, devoted the rest of his life and almost his entire fortune to educating disadvantaged and impoverished children.
“I want all my money for the benefit of my employees and the people of Hershey, for the education of children in Derry Township, and the children of my employees – all my money.”
The Deed of Trust emphasizes that the Hershey Trust must spend money only on the direct care and education of the students of the Hershey School. Today, that fortune for the direct care and education of impoverished children stands at $7,800,000,000, one of the wealthiest schools in the world.
Milton Hershey gave his riches in trust to help poor, impoverished children. Richard Lenny and LeRoy Zimmerman used that trust to help rich people get even richer. The next articles will outline how Hershey, the sweetest place on earth became Hershey, the sweetest deals on earth.
Photo by Knitting Zeal
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