I had the opportunity a few years ago to learn about the life of Milton Hershey. He was a man with great perseverance. He never gave up on his dream of owning a successful candy making company, and, in spite of four failed attempts in four different cities, he dusted himself off, learned from his mistakes, returned to his home state of Pennsylvania, and started the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1883.
He finally found the perfect “ingredients” for a successful candy company. In fact, merely a few years following its opening, he was shipping delectable confections all over the country. Then, in 1893, inspired by the chocolate making techniques presented at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he founded the Hershey Chocolate Company. Hershey Chocolate has been enjoyed worldwide ever since!
Not only was Hershey a great businessman, but he was also a visionary and an extremely generous philanthropist. The town of Hershey, Pennsylvania was created for his employees, and it included parks, recreational facilities, churches, schools, and housing. During the Great Depression, he began several building projects in the town in order to provide jobs.
Unable to have children, Hershey devoted much of his time and resources to youth endeavors. This included the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys. Later, it was renamed the Hershey School, and included girls in the student body. Much of his estate has been funneled into the Hershey Foundation, which funds opportunities in education and the arts.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited to make a stop in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I envisioned a clean, quaint little town filled with tourists ambling down sidewalks lined with cute little shops selling candy, books, and antiques. What we found were a couple of museums, an amusement park and an outlet mall. It was very quiet and empty on Saturday night in Hershey.
Maybe we were just looking in the wrong place, we thought. There was a tour of the chocolate factory, and we went to bed that night with new resolve because we were going to learn how chocolate is made!
We headed back to Chocolate Avenue the next morning and decided to try our luck at the Hershey Story Museum. “We want to take the free tour of the chocolate factory!” I said with enthusiasm to the ticket lady.
“You will find that at Chocolate World, but you are welcome to look around here.” So we took a few moments to look around. There was a museum upstairs that was pretty pricey. Downstairs we found a well stocked Hershey Candy Store.
Realizing the directions were not within walking distance, we got back in the car, heading away from downtown. Something did not seem right as we pull into a ginormous parking lot behind the amusement park. This didn’t look like any factory I had ever seen!
Against our better judgement, we walked through the doors. Inside we found all of the tourists that were missing on Chocolate Avenue. There were swarms of them shopping in the largest superstore of candy products I had ever seen.
It was a difficult area to navigate, and I was still under the misguided impression that I would get to tour a factory. I grabbed what looked like an employee and asked her the way to the factory tour. She pointed us in the right direction. We were eager with anticipation as we waited in line musing that perhaps the factory is located on the back of the building, or maybe we will be whisked away in a bus to its location.
These thoughts, unfortunately, were erroneous. At the end of the line, we were ushered onto a mobile seat that took us through the “factory”. For fifteen minutes were were entertained by singing cows and simulated factory machinery operating to the beat of the music. The narrator fed us a plethora of information, most importantly, that Hershey Chocolate is mootritious! Feeling like, at any moment, they were going to ask us to drink the purple Kool-Aid, we decided to exit Chocolate World for greener pastures.
I’m not sure if this is what Milton Hershey envisioned all those years ago. Though I am still a big fan of him, his life and his works, not to mention his chocolate, I will savor it from afar. A once in a lifetime experience with singing cows is plenty!