There was a time, not very long ago, when driving south of Oakdale took you past the ultimate olfactory factory.
It's difficult to conceive an aroma greater than that of cocoa beans roasting on their journey to becoming the "great American chocolate bar" and other goodies for more than four decades.
But The Hershey Co. abandoned Oakdale in February 2008. It devastated hundreds of workers who, in many cases, spent their entire careers there. And the wonderful wafting disappeared, too.
The Pennsylvania company closed the plant along with several others in the United States and Canada, cutting more than 3,000 jobs while at the same time opening a plant in Mexico. Suddenly, one of the great American success stories joined the ranks of heartless outsourcers that put profits, executives and stockholders ahead of people and families.
The CEO at the time, Richard Lenny, basically scuttled the tenets of founder Milton S. Hershey, who built his company and an entire town in Pennsylvania with his workers and philanthropy in mind.
If there's a consolation to the folks who once worked in Oakdale, I'm told Lenny was as reviled in Hershey as he was here. A year after closing the company's distribution center in Oakdale, he visited the manufacturing facility and the Oakdale plant in August 2002 and assured workers it would not close.
Then, coming off a year (2006) in which he earned $6.6 million, the company announced it would leave town.
Back in Pennsylvania, he warred with the Hershey Trust Co., which holds controlling stock in company and funds the school Hershey and his wife, Catherine, built for orphans and underprivileged children.
Among the battles, when Lenny quietly tried to negotiate a merger with Cadbury, the trust balked. He left the company less than two months before the final day of the Oakdale plant.
Consequently, you won't find a tribute to Lenny at The Hershey Story museum downtown, where exhibits depicting Milton Hershey's life and dream are on display.
I spent last week in Hershey, burning some vacation time there with my daughter while my wife attended a business conference and meetings in Hershey and Harrisburg. She worked for Hershey until 2001, when the distribution center closed.
The Hershey area is beautiful. It's green and clean. The country roads are lined by cornfields that, unlike ours, aren't dumping grounds for old sofas, TVs, mattresses and other assorted discards.
The town itself consists of well-kept homes on one side, and the Hershey amusements a four-star hotel, a theme park, the Chocolate World tour center, stadium and arena on the other.
But while downtown, I noticed the absence of a vital element you'd expect when visiting the self-proclaimed "Sweetest Place on Earth": That same mind-altering chocolaty smell that once obsessed Oakdale.
It's gone, and has been since the last chocolate products rolled off the line in the original factory, which closed in the spring. Hershey built a new plant on the west side of town, and that's where you have to go if you want to inhale. OK, that's not entirely true. In the "The Hershey Story" museum, a perky young woman who could pass for a high school cheerleader or an Olympic gymnast allows you to sniff cocoa beans and byproducts at one of the exhibits.
The company sold the old plant property to a developer who is exploring possible uses that could include housing, under certain conditions.
The look of the factory's exterior cannot be altered, a museum docent told me. The twin smoke stacks must remain, as will a rooftop tank bearing the Hershey logo. The hedge spelling out "Hershey Cocoa" must remain. And Hershey is leasing back a couple of floors of office space.
But the chocolate smell is definitely AWOL. Vamoosed. You'd think after decades of permeation, it would have taken longer than a few months to fade away. Not so.
It didn't stick around in Oakdale, either, nor resume when Sconza Candies moved into the plant in 2008 because Sconza doesn't roast cocoa beans at the plant.
When it comes to your nose, the pungent odors of the dairies nearby or the bouquet of tomatoes cooking down the street will just have to do.
The smell of chocolate, in Oakdale and in downtown Hershey, Pa., is but a fleeting memory.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.