During our travels, we have had the privilege to run into all types of people with backgrounds, jobs and history different from our own. That has been what has made our journey so much more interesting than just seeing the country… although that has been pretty spectacular. We have met Alaskan natives, Harley riders, crab and lobster fishermen, truck drivers, environmentalists, shop owners, bicycle riders, beach goers, mountain climbers, pot smokers, campers and of course RV’ers. Among the most different and kindest were the Amish in Pennsylvania.
We stopped in a suburb of Lancaster, PA right in the middle of Amish farming country, next to the small community of Bird in Hand. The farms were beautifully manicured for miles around the towns, and each farm had a huge variety of flowers in their yards. The Amish drove their horse drawn carriages along the roads and shopped in the local stores. That gave us the opportunity to have conversations with them and we found them outgoing and good natured.
There were vegetable and fruit stands along the roads and most of them were operated on a trust basis. Signs would let you know how much the produce was, so you just took what you wanted and left the cash. What a great way to shop and it was so delicious.
We did take two tours. One was on a shuttle that showed us around the farming countryside and stopped at a couple of Amish farms. One for local quilts and one for local candles. The second tour was at an old Amish farm and house where we were able to see the inside of a typical Amish home and learn a little more about their culture and history.
Most of the time they are referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch, but in reality they are mostly descendants of Swiss Germans and speak German in their church. Their religion is Christian and they are usually baptized between the ages of 16 to 25. They are allowed to choose their own partner, but can never divorce. They wear plain clothing and do not utilize most modern conveniences such as automobiles, electricity or telephones. Most families do have a telephone on the premises for emergencies, but it is not kept in the house. They only go to school through 8th grade and are schooled in one room schools for all grades. They do pay taxes, but don’t participate in social security or contribute to it.
Frankly, there is a lot to be said for some of their customs, and there is a lot we can learn from how they are living and how they treat others.
Hershey Pennsylvania was only about an hour away, so we took one day to see that famous town. Even the street lights were shaped like Hershey kisses. We learned how to taste chocolate and became cholate connoisseurs. You just have to use your five senses, as you let the chocolate melt on your tongue. Difficult job!
The most important thing we learned about Hershey was that Milton Hershey, who developed Hershey Chocolate, was the benefactor of the Milton Hershey School for orphans and the underprivileged. This private school serves over two thousand students every year and none of the families have to pay a dime for it. Most of the graduates end up going to college and if their grades are good, they get scholarships towards the University of their choice. Mr. Hershey and his wife, Kitty, who died at an early age, left a legacy of several million dollars to keep the school going.
Since we had three weeks before our ralley in the Smokey Mountains, we decided to head for the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Cape Hatteras. Woo Hoo! Tell you about that next time.