Pam was an office worker, working in the engineering and shoe industries. One of the few things that the man she was married to at the time of the death was able to tell me of her was her incredible numeracy skills and how she put them to good use. He spoke of how she could instantly work out the amount of leather needed to make different styles of shoes and also, how she could add up long columns of numbers on the factory spreadsheets, in her head, in a matter of seconds.
Travelling along to enjoy the evenings at Alconbury, Pam would have been eighteen or nineteen years old when she met an American airman called Grant. Being the same age as Pam, their birthdays were only a few weeks apart.
Our histories could well have been very different if fate had deemed it, as after initial training with the US Air Force, half of Grant’s squadron were sent to Vietnam and Grant, with the other half, was stationed in the UK at Alconbury.
Grant had entered the US Air Force after leaving an orphanage in Pennsylvania. His mother had died at the age of thirty six, coincidentally the same age of death as Pam’s would later be and also similarly, in strange circumstances. He had been six years old and the youngest of six children at the time of his mother’s death. Struggling to cope, his father eventually had no choice but to place the younger children into the care of the famous Milton Hershey School.
The Milton Hershey School had been established in 1910 and at that time was called The Hershey Industrial School. Having been founded and funded by the chocolate industrialist and philanthropist Milton Hershey and his wife, it was established;
‘for impoverished, healthy, Caucasian, male orphans between the ages of eight and eighteen, ‘
the guiding principles being that;
‘every graduate should have a vocation’
‘every student should learn the love of God and man’
‘every student should benefit from wholesome responsibility’.
The school still exists today as a philanthropic, private boarding school, funded by the Milton Hershey School Trust, which holds controlling interest in The Hershey Company, owning the Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company. It is overseen by the Board of Managers and today is one of the wealthiest schools in the world.
The school became racially integrated in 1968 and female students were first admitted in 1977. Admission criteria are based on age, financial need, social need, potential to learn and geographic preference, as preference is still given to students from Pennsylvania.
During Grant’s time at the orphanage, the children would be placed with families on the farms in and around Hershey. They were mostly deeply religious families and the children were expected to follow the beliefs of the families they were placed with, sometimes with extreme religious instruction.
Hard work on the farms was rewarded with a roof over their heads, food, an education and healthcare. Grant is thankful for his placement there and has declared that it probably saved his life. However, there could also be beatings with canes or leather straps and they were forced to endure the ridicule of the local children, who commonly termed the orphanage boys ‘cows’.
The name ‘cows’ had evolved due to the fact that the orphans had to care for the cows on the farm, often being seen in the fields, feeding and herding them and also, due the fact that the boys had to milk the cows twice daily, something that only ceased to a requirement in 1989!