About Operation Milt Wagon
The Antique Auto Museum here in Hershey is home to many important and precious examples of our nation’s rich automotive heritage. It isn’t necessary for me to identify for those who are familiar with the museum, but I would like to point out some things that are of a regional interest here in the Hershey area.
The overseers of the national museum felt it appropriate to pay homage to the town and its founder by having featured a mural of Hershey circa 1920s as the backdrop in the area displaying vehicles of that era. Featured prominently on that painting are Milton S. Hershey, his birthplace – The Homestead as well as Founders Hall of the Milton Hershey School.
Further along in the exhibit area, there is a sidebar placard explaining the first electric vehicle seen in this area, a Riker delivery truck purchased by Mr. Hershey. Another placard mentions one of his limousines, a Chrysler Airflow, that he used to take some of his lucky boys of the Hershey Industrial School on chauffeured drives around the town that he built.
Unfortunately, his limousine is no longer with us to preserve and cherish. However, there is another piece of automotive heritage unique to the Hershey area that is suited and worthy of preservation and display at the Antique Auto Museum in Hershey.
The front page of the April 12, 1962 Hershey News heralds the decision of the Milton Hershey School to purchase specially modified 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne station wagons to transport its middle school students. The reason for their acquisition was summed up by then school superintendent Dr. John O. Hershey (no relation to Milton Hershey), who stated “this change in transportation for boys brings to a fuller realization the family organization of homelife created here.”
For almost 3 decades those wagons played a highly visible and important role in the lives of those who attended and graduated from the Milton Hershey School. They were there for seminal historic moments in the history of our nation in the latter half of the 20th Century. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. The Civil Rights Movement. The landing on the moon. Vietnam. The OPEC oil embargo.
The service life of the last of the “limbo” wagons coincided with the economic boom of the 1980s and the winding down of the Cold War. Those 8 door stretch station wagons that were once a ubiquitous part of the Hershey landscape are gone but not forgotten. For those who were fortunate enough to have been MHS students during that era, there are many fond (and oftentimes humorous) memories of riding in them as youths. To the population who lived in Hershey and the surrounding area during that time, those wagons represented a unique and lasting impression of Milton Hershey School.
The importance of this brief recap is that one of the school’s first wagons has been purchased locally and has been donated to the museum so that it will be restored and preserved in perpetuity as an important piece of its collection. It is a 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne wagon.
We are certain that the throngs of auto enthusiasts who attend Hershey’s annual Fall Meet would be interested in seeing such a unique vehicle as a “limbo” wagon. Furthermore, there are MHS alumni from across the country as well as many local residents from almost a span of at least 35 years who would now have an additional reason to visit the museum. We are not aware of any other museum in the U.S.A. that currently houses one of these unique vehicles. When this historic wagon is restored to its original as delivered to the Milton Hershey School condition, some might consider its value priceless.