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Learning by Doing: The Sweet Art of Baking and Candy-Making

How did Milton Hershey become interested in candy-making? His apprenticeship in the candy business for Lancaster confectioner, Joseph Royer, sparked his love for candy-making and experimentation that lasted his entire life. In his later years, his nurse companions were guinea pigs for his candy experiments. Mr. Hershey sometimes recruited them to be his assistants in his High Point Mansion kitchen when the urge to make candy struck. When he finished, the chef cleaned up and the nurses would eat the candy.

While planning the curriculum for the new Junior-Senior High School on Pat’s Hill – now referred to as Catherine Hall – Milton Hershey was inspired by his unwavering love for candy-making. His main priority was establishing a vocational program, and he had two major suggestions for what it should include:

1. A ceramic shop where Pennsylvania Dutch-themed pottery could be made.

2. An experimental bakery and candy shop.

The ceramic shop was discontinued due to lack of popularity, but the Baking and Candy-Making vocation proved to be a student favorite. Although the program has evolved over the years, culinary training still exists at Milton Hershey School today as part of the Career and Technical Education program.

Preparation of Candy in Machine

Where it all Began

Located in the lower level of what was then the Hershey Museum, adjacent to Hershey Park, the Hershey Baking Company and Candy Shop opened on August 12, 1939. It gave Milton Hershey School (previously known as Hershey Industrial School) students the opportunity to learn by doing from industry professionals – just like Milton Hershey did during his original apprenticeship.

According to school records, the program was “just another example of the variety and scope of the educational opportunities which our school affords.” When asked about the new experimental Bakery and Candy Shop, Mr. Hershey said his goal was to “make the best product possible” using the best ingredients.

The interior of the Bakery and Candy Shop featured glazed tile walls and floors and even had air conditioning. The baker, Milton M. Hunchberger, gave hands-on instruction to the apprentice students. He taught them how to make dozens of different products including cakes, rolls, cookies, pastries, pies, buns and doughnuts. Veteran candy-maker, Charles Major, led his apprentices and other Hershey employees in making 52 kinds of candy, including a dozen types of bon-bons and the prize confection, “Hotel Hershey Sweets.”

A Sweet Experience for Students

William Price 42, one of the first Hershey Industrial School students to go through the Baking and Candy-Making program, remembers the shop well. Visitors could watch the sweet treats being made through windows along the center aisle. “Everything on both sides was glass. And when you walked in, you [could] see the candy-maker and then on the other side, you would see the bakers working,” he said.

Price learned from the professionals and Milton Hershey himself.

“We’d say ‘here comes Mr. Hershey! ‘ and I can see him taking his hat off and putting it on the clothes tree. He would pick up an apron… tie it and come out,” Price explained. “We would watch him on the baking side. [He would] mingle around with the kids and talk to the instructor, and then he’d come over to the bakery and help us make cookies.”

The students’ favorite nickname for Mr. Hershey was “The Snowman.” After spending time in the candy kitchen working with cornstarch and working in the bakery with flour, his dark suit would often look snowy. When Mr. Hershey left the shop, Price remembers, “we would [respectfully] say, ‘now the Snowman’s leaving!‘”One time, Price went up to where the instructor and Mr. Hershey were talking and stood there silently. Mr. Hershey then put his arm around Price – a treasured memory after all these years.

After graduating and working for a bakery in Reading, Pennsylvania, Price came back to Hershey to work in the Hershey Bakery where he originally learned his trade. As an instructor to a new group of young bakers, he often shared Milton Hershey’s sentiment.

“When I was instructing, I used to tell the kids what my instructor told me: Anything you bake, you bake as though you were going to eat it yourself,” Price said.

The Transformation of Career and Technical Education

To respond to a changing employment environment, the school transformed the Baking/Candy-Making program into a comprehensive Food Preparation program in the early 1960s. Alumnus Jim Hanawalt 65 fondly remembers his days learning from Price.

“Mr. Price was very proud of returning to his school, and he spent time with each of us daily to make us better bakers. Breads, rolls, shortbread, cookies, cakes, pies and even wedding cakes were part of the weekly production, and all orders had to be completed on time,” Hanawalt said. “My first contact with Mr. Price began a friendship that has continued [over time]. I still see Pop Price often and listen to him talk glowingly about MHS, his days at the school, alumni he influenced and his family.”

Price and his wife, Betty, were houseparents in the Junior Division at MHS – now referred to as Elementary Division – from 1966 until their retirement in 1991. Former students of ‘Pop Price’ keep in contact with him and visit when they are in town. This past Homecoming, they made sure he was able to attend functions and even made him a photo book of the festivities.

Written nearly 100 years ago and practiced for decades, the words of the Deed of Trust are still true today: “…Bearing in mind that the main object in view is to train young men and women to useful trades and occupations, so that they can earn their own livelihood.”

To embrace the mission outlined in the Deed of Trust, the current CTE Program at MHS includes a Culinary Arts/Restaurant Management Services career pathway that prepares students with proficiency in culinary techniques and cooking methods. In February, MHS culinary students won first place at the Pennsylvania ProStart Culinary Invitational for the second year in a row. Even though the pathway has transformed over time, baking and pastry arts – Mr. Hershey’s passion – continue to be fundamental parts of the instruction.

Milt Memories History Blog

MHS Department of School History works hard to preserve the Hersheys’ values and students’ cherished memories through articles, photos, interviews and artifacts.  Follow along with our monthly blog series focused entirely on the fascinating school history and inspiring work of our founders.

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