Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A QUICK VISIT TO THE “SWEETEST PLACE ON EARTH”

Betsy and I decided to visit a real chocolate city on our RV adventure.  And no, I’m not referring to New Orleans and that infamously stupid phrase uttered by the then mayor of New Orleans (Ray Nagin). I am talking about the town defined by Mr. Chocolate himself, Milton Hershey.  Hershey, Pennsylvania is not just a  chocolate city but one that would receive the distinguished honor of being coined “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”  Before going to Hershey, Betsy and I did not know if the Hershey Chocolate Company was named after the town or the town was named after the company.  But when you go to this little country town flanked by Amish farms and pretzel factories you will know that the town most certainly got its name from the man behind the company. 

The town of Hershey is very Disney-like with lots of activities for families.  There are resorts, an amusement park, museums, gardens, stadium, amphitheaters, water parks, and everything else the American family wants for summer vacation.  Throw in some chocolate and golf and the moms and dads are happy too.  We came in the off season so the amusement park was closed but we still got the feel for the area.  “Chocolate World” seemed like a likely place to start.  There we experienced a 3-D movie that was supposed to explain the history of the Hershey Company but rather seemed to entertain our child-like senses with dancing Kisses, Tootsie Rolls, York Peppermint Patties, and gyrating Twizzlers... all accompanied by an occasional burst of chocolate smell and splattering of melted chocolate in your 3-D glasses.  Upon exiting the theater, we were treated to free samples and funneled into the gift shop.  There you will find Hershey everything…pillows, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, lunch boxes, purses…and of course candy.  The subliminal (and not so subliminal) messages that bombarded us in the movie worked.  We could not pass up the 5-lb. Hershey bar which we thought would make a nice gift for our friends at Sherman RV.  It was the world’s largest Hershey Bar! 
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
We were going to buy the red Twizzlers pillow but decided it wouldn't
compliment the motorhome decor.
Very dangerous for customers when they provide shopping baskets and bags.
Do not leave Chocolate World without taking a ride on the “Great American Chocolate Tour.”  The ride is a mix of Disney “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” meets factory tour with dancing milk cows.  The ride takes you through the evolution of chocolate.  It begins in a tropical rainforest where cocoa beans grow and are harvested and takes you through a make believe factory where you witness their transformation to a bar of chocolate wrapped in brown paper into the desirable chocolate bar.   Again, you are treated to a free sample when you exit!
The dancing cows sang a catchy jingle explaining the importance
of quality milk in making chocolate.
After the entertaining cows, you are funneled through a make believe
factory showing how Hershey candies are made.
Downtown Hershey has Kisses on the light posts, streets called Chocolate Avenue, and buildings named Hershey this and Hershey that.  We made our way to The Hershey Story, a museum which tells the serious history of the company through a wonderful mix of modern exhibits and historical artifacts.  Like many successful business men, Hershey experienced failure and decades of business failure led to bankruptcy.  Finally success came in the caramel candy business.  Hershey was determined that there was a demand for fine chocolate like those he had experienced in Europe and added a chocolate component to his Lancaster Caramel Company.  He sold the caramel business, but kept the chocolate subsidiary and invested 1 million dollars and went all out with his new chocolate venture.

The "Hershey Story" is a museum telling the history of Milton
Hershey's business ventures.
So why did he choose a small town in rural Pennsylvania called Derry Church to start his business?  Simple:  It had four ingredients Hershey felt were keys to success – water, railroad access, milk and water.  Water from the creek was necessary in the factory operation, railroad access meant goods would be transported to and from, milk was needed from the dairy cows for chocolate production, and there were plenty of potential factory workers with affordable housing nearby.


Milton Hershey’s legacy is long-lasting and engulfs more than chocolate.  He wanted to provide a clean, safe, happy work environment for his workers so he built parks, theaters, gardens, and schools.  His town was a stark contrast to the dirty, over-crowded towns established by business empires in other parts of the country.
The museum has a timeline that compares significant events in Hershey's history
with those of US and world events.
When Hershey's caramel business grew rapidly, he improvised
and used bathtubs to make the candy.
The museum has a great collection of memorabilia and history. 
Hershey was so successful he gave his fortune away...twice.  One of his lasting legacies is the school he created for orphaned boys in 1909 which was created to provide “children with the education and loving guidance needed to overcome economic and social hardship.”  This Milton Hershey School now has over 1,700 boys and girls ages pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Milton and his wife were unable to have children but extended their love to thousands of them through their creation and endowment for the school.  Milton’s second large gift came in the form of $50 million dollars which was given to start the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.  Not bad for a man with limited education and numerous business failures.


“One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy” – Milton Hershey

Betsy is reading a book, The Emperors of Chocolate, Inside the Secret World of Hershey & Mars by Joel Glenn Brenner.  She said that if you want a great read about the history of these companies, pick it up.  We left Hershey, PA high on chocolate and oh so glad that we took the time to experience all that was offered.        

2 comments:

  1. Hershey is an amazing town, glad you got a chance to enjoy it.

    I always leave there with a chocolate overload balanced by a lighter wallet... ;c)

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you ever get to Santa Fe NM - you need to visit Chocolate Smith. Not a factory but they make all their own chocolate and it is FANTASTIC. Some with our great NM chiles incorporated.
    Lots of nice dark chocolate as well.

    ReplyDelete

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