Next to The Guernsey Cow building in Exton, PA, is Sleepy Hollow Hall. Gladys and Ilario Polite bought what is also known as The Massey House a few years after they started running The Exton Dairy Grill.
The house, originally built in the early 1700s, is on the National Register of Historic Places and a detailed history can be read on the Pennsylvania Historic Resource form filled out in 1981.
From the 1930s and through the 1940s the Polites, while living in the house and raising a family, also boarded travelers. True to my grandmother’s inclination to save everything, she still has the original guest book.
The first guest signatures show up May 1, 1938: Mr. and Mrs. R. Berg of Pittsburgh PA. From May to December that year, they registered about 150 guests at Sleepy Hollow Hall from all parts of the country and even a J. Shimojo from Japan by way of New York City in September 1938.
One of the guests that my grandmother speaks of the most is Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum. While Brannum probably gained most of his fame as Mr. Green Jeans on the Captain Kangaroo children’s TV show from 1955-84, he was previously known as a standup string bass player for band leader Fred Waring‘s orchestra, His Pennsylvanians. In the 1940s, Brannum performed skits as Little Orley on Fred Waring’s weekly radio show.
Brannum and his wife stayed at Sleepy Hollow Hall many times through the 1940s. Even when Fred Waring bought The Shawnee Inn & Resort in 1943 and insisted his band stay there (at their own expense), Brannum, according to my grandmother, insisted on staying in Exton.
The postcard below was from Mrs. Brannum in July 1941 from Shawnee On Delaware:
Dear Mrs. Polite,
Will you please send me two pounds of caramels C.O.D. to Mrs H.R. Brannum, Shawnee Lodge, Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania. I’d like most of the dark ones with the walntus.
I expect to send the picture Mr. Brannum took of the children by next week. He has been too busy to print them.
We think of you often and hope you are having a pleasant summer.