Station Wagons: Shaping the Family Atmosphere at MHS
Over the years, Milton Hershey School has utilized various forms of transportation to take students to class, activities, appointments, and student homes. In the early years, students rode the trolley to the Junior-Senior High School (now Catherine Hall) on what was known as Pat’s Hill until the trolley was discontinued in December of 1946. Buses then took over as the main form of transportation.
When the school celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1959, it signified a time to plan for the future. Many changes occurred during the next decade, including a new form of transportation: station wagons.
Family Station Wagons
After celebrating its 50th anniversary, the school created the Intermediate Division in 1960 for boys in grades five through eight. Student homes for this division were built in clusters in a new area of campus. They were styled like any other family home during this time period—sprawling ranches and split levels—to emphasize the family environment at MHS.
To further enhance the home-like atmosphere, seven modified station wagons were ordered for the intermediate student homes. They were designed to hold 14 students, and the station wagon policy stated that, “a further purpose of this system is to teach boys, by example, safe and courteous driving attitudes.”
Debuting in January of 1962, the vehicles created quite a buzz in the community. Modified specifically for MHS, the vehicles were regular Chevrolet Biscayne wagons that were sent to Stageway Coaches, a specialty vehicle outfitter, to be changed into 14-passenger vehicles. The MHS wagons became the first non-commercial vehicles of this type in the state of Pennsylvania.
In an article from the April 1962 issue of the student-produced Spartan magazine, it states that “each station wagon, similar to a family car, is equipped with power steering, power brakes, three-speed transmission, and a 250 horse-power V-8 engine.”
The fourth and fifth seats folded down so meals could be transported from the central kitchen to the student homes. The rear-facing back seat was the prime spot to ride and usually claimed by seniors.
The Transition to Vans
Because the wagons accomplished the goal of transporting students in a family atmosphere, the school purchased 20 more three months later. When Catherine Hall opened in 1966, intermediate school students now walked to school, freeing up the wagons for use in Senior Division.
However, they soon discovered that the vehicles were too light for the older boys, so in 1968, heavier Pontiac Catalina wagons were ordered. The wagons were phased out in the mid 1980s and were replaced by the nine-passenger vans that are used today.
Like the average family that transitioned from the station wagons of the 60s and 70s to the mini-van, MHS reflected a similar change. Although there have been many changes over the years, the school’s family atmosphere remains the same. The station wagons are no longer around, but the reasons why they were acquired are embedded in our history.
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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.