Limbo Wagong: Part of Milton Hershey School’s Heritage, Part of Its Future
– Rosario (Roy) Sollazzi ‘88

When I first learned that the school was looking to acquire one of its eight door station wagons from the 1960’s or 1970’s at a meeting of the Harrisburg Chapter of the Alumni Association, I wanted to help the School in its effort.  As a classic car buff, I thought that this would be a perfect way for me to give back in a small way to my Alma Mater that which has given me so much.  Over the years we have lost many historical landmarks that have shaped the community that we call home.  For our School to once again have in its possession something that was such an ubiquitous part of the landscape from the 1960’s through the 1980’s, to those of us who spent our formative years at the school during that era, a limbo wagon would truly be a treasure to keep the memory of the past alive while making new memories for future generations of the Milton Hershey School family.

Those wagons that transported us Milts were for many the embodiment of the Milton Hershey School.  Those of us of a certain age can and have shared numerous memories involving these wagons.  They are one of the many things that have made us stand apart.  By now, much has been written and documented concerning the limbo wagons and their integral part of the Milton Hershey School story.  The focus of this essay is to demonstrate how the reacquisition of one of these wagons would benefit both the Milton Hershey School and the Milton Hershey School Alumni Association now and for generations to come.

We are all aware that the country is and has been enduring tough economic times for the past several years.  The downturn has resulted in belt tightening for both MHS and MHSAA.  During the school’s Centennial school year of 2009 – 2010 the hope of resurrecting and putting one of the school’s wagons back on the roads were dashed with the downturn.  For some in the Association, fixing up an old car seemed to be a frivolous waste of money.  For those who don’t have an affinity towards old cars and don’t have an understanding why they are so endearing to so many, it’s understandable why they would feel that way.

My involvement with this process reminds me of the story of how the Statue of Liberty came to be in New York Harbor.  As you recall, France had wanted to give the statue as a gift to the United States on the condition that the U.S. raise the funds to build a pedestal.  Then as now there was an economic downturn during the 1870’s and early 1880’s.  There was little public support for the statue, and even less money was donated for the cause.  After all, it was just a statue.  In hindsight, I think we can all agree that we are fortunate that there were people on both sides of the Atlantic who were passionate about seeing the project through, and that the funds were finally raised to finish the assembly of “Liberty Enlightening the World.”  Today, it would be inconceivable to envision New York Harbor without the Statue of Liberty.

Not that a 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 8 door station is a project on a scale as grandiose as Lady Liberty, but just as the statue is a physical embodiment of the United States of America, so too is a wagon to the ideas of values of the Milton Hershey School.  The Department of School History has documentation from the early 1960’s showing the rationale behind the purchase of these wagons.  The idea was to promote a strong family unit in each student home, and those stations wagons, modified as they were, emulated the family station wagon typical of middle class American families of the era.  Is it any wonder then why they are remembered with great fondness?

The wagons are an important part of our past.  So, how can a wagon be a part of our future?  First, let’s revisit the Centennial gift that the association gave to the School back in 2009.  As you recall, the association received a total of $30,078.58 for the Spartan Head gift in just 4 ½ months!  The total cost of the project was $26,552.18.  The association netted $3,526.40 over what was needed.  $3,526.40 in just 4 ½ months!  I strongly feel that a fundraiser to bring one of our wagons back to its rightful home would generate a much needed infusion of cash into our coffers in the long run.

I’ve previously written a report detailing how the alumni association and the school could work together to make the wagon roadworthy.  When the restoration is complete, here are my ideas as to how it can continue to benefit both the school and the association.  I will expand upon the bullet points from my previous paper on the subject.

  • The wagon can be used by alumni for Founders Hall weddings

In discussions with Ralph Carfagno he had mentioned this as a possible use for the wagon.  Since a Founders Hall wedding is free to alumni, the association can charge a fee if the bride and groom wish to be chauffeured to the Purcell Friendship Hall or venue of their choice.

  • The wagon can be used for parades. As an example, MHS students can ride in it and throw candy during Hershey’s annual Halloween parade.

This would be a fun activity for the kids.  Furthermore, an activity such as this would go far towards promoting good will and cementing the bonds between the School and the community.

  • The wagon can be used for sporting events. For example, MHS cheerleaders can arrive at Henry Hershey Field in the wagon for the Homecoming game.

I just think that this would be cool!  Can you imagine the stir seeing one of the School’s old limbo wagon prior to the game would generate?  The spectacle alone is sure to be a crowd pleaser, as well as a great way to  promote Spartan Spirit!

  • The wagon can be used as a recruiting tool. As the school continues to expand enrollment, the wagon can be put on display at several local car shows where MHS EMFR (Admissions) staff and alumni can hand out literature and answer questions about the school.
Imagine this wagon fully restored representing MHS at local parades, instead of being pulled on a trailer?

Imagine this wagon fully restored representing MHS at local parades, instead of being pulled on a trailer?

I think that this is perhaps one of the most useful and important points to be made concerning the limbo wagon.  Currently the School is using a minivan to shuttle staff to one of its Opportunity Fairs.  It is also using one of the Kissmobiles to attract attention at these events.  A limbo wagon can be just as much as an attention getter (if not more so) than the Kissmobile.  Furthermore, a limbo wagon is much more representative of the mission of the Milton Hershey School than the Kissmobile.  In terms of enrollment and fostering good will in the community, the limbo wagon can be used to put the word out about our school at many of the collector and classic car shows that are held in Central Pennsylvania during the spring, summer and fall.

  • The wagon can be used for MHSAA fundraising events and activities

On Community Service Day, wouldn’t it be cool for a wagon full of Milts to show up at a local venue to perform their annual service to the community.  Again, the wagon itself would be an invaluable ice breaker between the recipients of our good deeds and the members of our extended family.  Again, as far as fundraising is concerned, I believe the mere sight of the wagon would compel my fellow brothers and sisters to loosen their purse strings enough to contribute generously to the Association.