"The Sweetest Place On Earth”


In our current era of corporate malfeasance, it’s hard to believe that any powerful honcho could be so charitable. But if Hershey had a dark side, you have to dig to find it today. Traces do exist: Those ubiquitous early photos of factory workers show only white faces, and the school didn’t enroll minorities until 1968; an exhibit at the museum tells about a 1937 sit-down strike that ended in violent clashes between the pro-union strikers from the factory and the farmers and anti-union workers. Most recently, in the summer of 2002, townspeople raised a furor when the trust that controls Hershey Foods announced plans to sell it to the highest bidder. After a Pennsylvania judge imposed an injunction against the sale, the trust’s board voted to keep its stock. Problems like that reflect the inevitable growing pains of a town that quickly evolved from one man’s protective fantasy to a community that now puts out more than a billion pounds of candy per year and entertains thousands of visitors a year to boot. Even though Hershey has grown beyond its original mission, it strives to remain, as its founder put it, “an industrial Utopia where the things of modern progress all center in a town that has no poverty, no nuisances, and no evil.”