Sep 20, 2008
Dec 11, 2008
Having failed to find public transport solutions to take me onto Gettysburg and figuring there is no way you can see everything anyhow, I decided to make my move and headed to Hershey for a one-night stop to experience 'Chocolate World'! I have to say Hershey gave me a bit of a surprise. The factory itself dominates, or rather the two brick towers do with Hershey's printed on them, very Willy Wonka-esque so maybe Roald Dahl saw a picture somewhere? You used to be able to actually get guided tours in the factory but they stopped in the 70's. So now there's Chocolate World which is built up by the Hershey Theme Park, with it's many rollercoasters (only open in high season so didn't make it on those). You can go on a free tour inside Chocolate World telling you how they make the chocolate, and see the 'fabulous' singing Hershey cows who obviously have a major part to play in the Hershey chocolate-making story. Then I did the Trolley Works tour and that's when you realise what a lot of money can really do. The town was orginally settled by Irish Protestants from Derry, and for bureaucratic purposes is still known as Derry township but Milton Hershey and his fortune transformed the town, providing financial, health, leisure and education facilties for the whole town not just the Hershey employees as well as innumerable houses for all the management at Hershey's. That was unexpected enough but it is the Milton Hershey School, which he began in 1916 when he put his $60m fortune in trust to set up a school for orphan boys originally, which was the highlight for me. It is the largest private residential school in the world for socially and financially underprivileged children, there are 1800 living in 178 'homes', across a campus which reaches across all areas of the town and the mini-buses which ferry them all around are absolutely everywhere. Not only that but any of the children who want to go onto higher education are provided for as they would be by well-off parents, given help with lodging, allowances etc and given $77,000 towards their fees (this is a gift, not a loan - they never have to pay it back). Now I guess if you have a lot of money it makes it a lot easier to do these kinds of things, but still not everyone with that kind of money does so it still impresses, or it impressed me anyway, to see what can be achieved with not only the money but the necessary will for it to succeed. All in all Hershey is a nice town, and for the chocolate fans the influence is everywhere, from the street names to the streetlamps.