Pennsylvania Memories is a special series marking the turn of the millennium featuring readers' memories of events, experiences, incidents, individuals, innovations or inventions that profoundly affected them or gave them a deep appreciation of personal history.

Boys, if you ever make any money, for God’s sake, keep it!” I remember the advice given by candymaker Milton S. Hershey at the depth of the Great Depression in the 1930s to his “white, male orphans” at a Hershey Industrial School assembly. For more than sixty years I have remembered and tried, although not always successfully, to follow his rec­ommendation.

On another occasion, Mr. Hershey said something else, which at first seemed contradictory but isn’t. “Men of wealth should, while they are still alive” he said, “give of their money for the betterment of their fellows, for they cannot take their wealth with them when they cease to exist here.” In accordance with his philosophy, he set up a trust and endowed the industrial school with a half-million shares of Hershey stock. Today, that institution, known as the Milton Her­shey School, holds controlling interest in Hershey Foods.

During the Depression, we students were privileged to receive from Mr. Hershey a free education, food, clothing, lodging, and guidance. We lived and worked on farms. We learned how to work.

Old-timers like to remember the community of Hershey as it was then. There was the Cocoa Inn at the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, where I sometimes stopped for a cup of hot chocolate. Then there was the creamery, where I occasionally worked during summers washing cans and bottles. Nearby, the old dance hall attracted some of the top bands of the era. Only the best golfers played in the Hershey tournaments. Henry Picard was the first prominent resident pro, followed later by Ben Hogan. Mr. Hershey enjoyed watching his “B’ars,” later called the Bears, play hockey and could often be spotted in the press box chatting with reporters.

I remember the days when Mr. Hershey’s famous amusement park was open free to the public. Today, the site of a barn where I once worked is part of an immense parking lot where visitors wait for a shuttle bus to ferry them to a vastly expanded park. While recently awaiting a shuttle, I realized that I was standing just about where I used to milk three cows twice a day.

Mr. Hershey kept the local economy going during the Depression with an imaginative building program. I watched the construction of the Hotel Hershey, a new high school, and the Sports Arena with its curved roof. (I often wondered what kept that roof from falling!)

Milton S. Hershey went from selling candy from a pushcart in Lancaster to leading a business empire based on chocolate. He made money, took good care of it, and made sure that after he was gone it would not be frittered away. Today, his school, as well as the public schools, factory workers, the medical center, community residents, and thousands of alumni all benefit in one way or another from the generosity of this farsighted Pennsylvanian.

I well remember Milton S. Hershey and his town of the 1930s. I remember his words and his deeds. I remember. I do, indeed.


William Lennox is a 1937 graduate of the Hershey Industrial School. The school’s farm unit, Broad Acres, where he lived as a student is a distant memory, having been torn down to create an additional parking area for the continually expanding Hersheypark. He retired from tire Lancaster New Era as a copy editor and television editor and as a columnist for the Elizabethtown Chronicle. The writer resides in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, with his wife, Jane, two dogs, and three cats.