Monday, October 10, 2011

Manhattan, Philadelphia and Hershey

Dad would like me to go back to Thursday, when we went to Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.  We all got up at 6:00 a.m. and drove Suey to the airport, where we saw her off at 9:00. :(  Then we drove to a parking garage in Brooklyn and then walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.  St. Paul’s Cathedral was a stop for us, and that had a really neat 9/11 memorial. 

There was also a free concert at Trinity Church, where a former Julliard student named Eric Clark was giving a piano concert.  And that was really neat.  I had never seen a pair of hands move so fast on a piano, nor with such feeling and precision.  It was incredible.  If mom and I hadn’t been so tired we would have enjoyed it a lot more!  I don’t know why mom was so tired, but my case was that I probably got four hours of sleep the night before, at most.  Not only had I gone to bed at 10:30, Suey’s phone rang at around 11:00.  Then it took her and I at least two more hours to fall asleep!  So I was beat and probably looked like a walking zombie in New York that day.  

The last and most memorable thing we did in the city was go up into the Empire State building.  It cost a lot of money but was so worth it!  We took an elevator to the 86th floor and there was a wrap-around observation deck with a high fence around.  It was a fabulous day—warm and sunny, perfectly clear and no wind.  And best of all, all was quiet.  There was no trace of any city noise below, and even the people on the observation deck seemed to be in an awed, hushed state.  It was really peaceful and a breathtaking view.     

To get back to our car across the bay, we took about four different subways and it took about an hour.  Then we spent about two hours driving through Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens—nightmare!!!  It was stressful for dad, who was trying to read the GPS, talk on the phone and drive at the same time.  Thankfully, we all arrived home in one piece...

On Friday afternoon, after driving from Croton Harmon, dad found us a lovely campground in rural Pennsylvania in which to spend a couple nights.  It was beautiful, with nice sites and good bathhouses, the only flaw being the lack of electric hookups.  But we lived nicely with our lanterns and barely used any electronics.  It was a very dark, very peaceful night and I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise on Saturday morning.  The sunlight streaming through the trees that were turning red and orange, and there was not a cloud in the sky. 

After a leisurely morning, we drove to downtown Philadelphia to spend the day enjoying history.  We visited the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin’s home site, a print shop and bookbinding shop, the Carpenter’s Hall and a bunch of other cool sights.  The tours we took were neat and insightful, especially the tour of Independence Hall.  We were going to go into Christ Church Burial Ground, but it had closed by the time we reached it.  But buried inside were Ben Franklin, Benjamin Rush and other prominent men of history.  It would have been neat to see, but we had just run out of time.  Before leaving the city, we bought a Philly steak sandwich—what else would we eat in Philly? ;)

The next day, dad took us to the sweetest place on earth, just 30 miles from Lancaster, Pennsylvania…the Hershey Chocolate World!  That place was awesome, I’m telling you.  Chocolate heaven!!  First we visited the actual Chocolate World, where we took a fun virtual tour of the factory and then explored the gift shops.  There was also a large candy store and a food court, complete with bakery and ice cream shop, but that was expensive.  The candy store had every kind of Hershey candy ever made, all in their own sections.  Since I have an extreme weakness for peanut butter and chocolate, it was very hard to walk through the Reese's section without wanting to buy everything in stock...

After buying a stuffed animal for Libbey, a trinket for Delaney, a t-shirt for me and apron for mom and candy for dad, we got on a trolley tour around the town of Hershey.  It was a fascinating tour, lasting an hour and ten minutes and we saw Milton Hershey’s homes, the factory (largest in the world), the amusement park and stadium, the old remaining homes of factory workers from the early 1900’s, and the Milton Hershey school. 

It was all just incredible to hear how Milton Hershey’s humble beginnings and determination eventually made him a millionaire making caramel candy and selling it to Europe, and how he used his incredible wealth to make the town of Hershey and put aside a trust for the Milton Hershey School.  When the Hershey’s chocolate business was booming in the early 1900’s, Milton’s wife Kitty told him that since they couldn’t have children of their own, that they ought to open up a school for orphan boys.  That humble, one-room schoolhouse and small homes for those orphan boys has grown and expanded all the way up to the present, and there is now a Hershey elementary, middle and high school.  We drove by the high school and went inside their Founder’s Hall.  The trolley guy told us that the Hershey high school had a fitness center, swimming pool, ice rink, laboratory, and a plethora of other additions that gave students everything they could possibly need along with education. 

The Founder’s Hall is a place where students work and alumni can have weddings, and adjoining it is the theater, which seats almost over 2,000 students.  The theater is used for Broadway productions and fun activities, but every Sunday it is used as a chapel.  When the school was well underway in the mid-1900’s, Milton Hershey decided that the students of his school had to have some religious knowledge, so he required each and every student to attend Sunday service, no exceptions.  Such has been the tradition up until now, and every young man is required to wear and suit and tie and each young lady must wear a dress or skirt. 

The Hershey School takes in more than just orphans now, boys and girls alike.  You must be poor and/or have parent(s) that cannot care for you properly.  They received many children in the years of Katrina devastating the south, and other children with such difficulties.  They are all housed within walking distance of the campus, and each housing facility has a married house couple that acts as parents to the boys or girls living there.  Every need is provided for—from food to clothing to medical needs to their electronics is taken care of.  Milton’s trust that he began after his wife died has grown to be worth over $8 billion dollars and is all put towards the Hershey School and its students.  Some of the profits from the Hershey products also go towards this cause.

Learning all this gave us a huge respect for the guy who introduced milk chocolate to the U.S.  I don’t think I’ll ever eat a Hershey bar again without thinking of the legacy that he began.  I guess I’m advertizing Hershey candy while I’m at this, and I can highly recommend going to visit Hershey, Pennsylvania—it really is sweet!  All along our tour, the trolley guy was giving out samples of their candy—Hershey’s Kisses and Special Dark Kisses and even Hugs n’ Kisses (the candy).  At the end of the tour they gave a whole Hershey chocolate bar to each person on board…talk about sweet!!  I have never gotten so many free samples on a tour before (of course, the ticket fee probably covered the price of the candy!).  But it was really great, candy or no.  Definitely a place to put on your bucket list…

This concludes my blogging for now, I’d love comments so I hope to hear from you!

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