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Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Monday, August 12, 2013




This is a current event, one not covered much even by local news, but one that I finding fascinating and sad. Thirty years ago, the town of Hershey was centered around a great sprawling, -- and let’s face it – ugly – chocolate plant, one that had grown in stages, production area by area, over many years. There were about five hundred workers, give or take, when the place was in production, and these were all good union jobs, which brought prosperity, comfort and a fair ration of smugness to the inhabitants, who considered themselves to be Milton Hershey’s Chosen People.

View of the plant during the recent flood.
Now the old plant has closed and a new, more efficient one has been erected on the western side of town.  Here, some of the younger workers have found employment, but many other workers had to take early retirement while others took severance packages and left for other jobs. The union made large concessions. Some internet sources say that a 1000 people are employed at Hershey West—others say 500—but since a large plant came online in Mexico there is a different feeling in the town that Mr. Hershey, that legendarily benevolent dictator, built for his workers.  

Hershey proper remains a popular tourist destination, a traffic-clogged crossroad leading to a sprawling, roller-coaster festooned amusement park.  Where I live, I can hear machines pounding away, as they demolish the old factory. Last week, for the first time in years, a welcome smell drifted into our house. I figure the wreckers must have been at work on the old conching rooms, where great vats of chocolate liquor were massaged into tasty submission. I was fortunate enough to see those processing rooms back in the 80's, and it was an unforgettable experience. The friction heat generated by the stone rollers in each giant granite tub warmed the entire stadium-sized room to a tropical level and when you walked out, your clothes smelled like chocolate.

For about an hour last week, I could smell the creamy hot cocoa scent which always used to come our way from the factory every day about noon. Then it was gone.

Juliet Waldron
Historical Novels with Grit and Passion


1 comment:

  1. A sad, historic time. The passing of an icon in your life. I hate change!(that's a gut level reaction which does not reflect the best in me!)

    I will eat a large chocolate bar in memory of times past.