Remembering Uncle Pep

Remembering Uncle Pep

Last year saw the passing of the last of the Polite brothers that managed The Guernsey Cow in Exton, Pennsylvania for decades. Joseph E. Puliti/Polite (aka “Pep” or “Peppy”) died March 31, 2014 just shy of his 90th birthday.

Pep (top), sister Dolly, and friend, Vince, in Wildwood NJ 1936

Pep (top), sister Dolly, and friend, Vince, in Wildwood NJ 1936

The youngest of the brothers, Pep became the chief ice cream officer at The Guernsey Cow until its sale to Horn & Hardart in 1976.

Pep (fruthest left), older brother Elmer, cousing Johnny Falini and niece, Wanda Polite around 1939

Pep (left), older brother Elmer (middle), cousin Johnny Falini, and niece, Wanda Polite around 1939

Pep went to and played football at West Chester High and then at Appalachia State until he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and entered into World War II. During the war, he was stationed in the South Pacific.

Upon returning home from his Marine Corps service he attended the University of Maryland, graduating in 1950 with a degree in Dairy Technology.  At Maryland, he met his future wife, Barbara. They married, moved back to the Exton area and had three children: daughter Wendy and sons, Kerry and Kim.

Pep resumed his duties at The Cow and, for more than 25 years, was the father of invention when it came to ice cream flavors. He boasted that the list of flavors tried was over 400. He had his successes (Black Licorice) and his duds (Roquefort or Moon Dust) that often were inspired by current events, customer requests, or his own wild imagination.

He often surreptitiously included alcohol in flavors such as Rum Raisin, Egg Nog, Grasshopper and Turkish Coffee especially around Christmas time. Pep posted a few of his flavorful stories in the comments here.

We grand-nephews and -nieces recall Pep as the happy-go-lucky one of the brothers. He always had a joke and was willing to horse around. His son, Kim, told me a few years ago:

“Peppy’s famous gratuitous phrases for pushy customers were ‘Help your fat’ and ‘Maximilian’ (for ‘Thanks a million’) which were spoken so quickly as to be partially unintelligible.”

While Pep wasn’t making ice cream and caramels he was playing golf at Whitford Country Club and running a garage door opener business on the side.

Joseph "Pep" Puliti

Following the sale of The Cow in 1976, Pep moved West to Colorado. Joseph "Pep" Puliti - Google Docs 2015-01-10 10-04-01An avid skier and cyclist, the Colorado Rockies beckoned. He followed professional photographer son, Kim, to Denver for 8 months then landed in Durango CO where he opened up Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor downtown.

After a few years he sold the shop and eventually joined the Durango Silverton Railroad where he was in charge of concessions on the train and in the station. He enlarged the offerings there from just snacks to include clothing and gift items, increasing concession revenues and turning it into a million dollar venture.

peppy-willie

Pep and Willie

In 1998, he moved back to West Chester to be closer to family. He took a role as the “Candy Man” at Boscov’s in the Exton Square Mall next door to the original Guernsey Cow property. As his daughter Wendy recalled, “He ended his career making fudge at Boscov’s next door to the place he started his career making caramels at The Cow.”

Joseph "Pep" Puliti - Google Docs 2015-01-10 10-05-37

In 2003, he moved to Ann’s Choice in Warminster, PA, enjoying a group of friends for biweekly lunches as well as a regular breakfast group, and living independently the rest of his life.

I am grateful to Uncle Pep for the information and knowledge he provided in the early years of building TheGuernseyCow.com. I enjoyed his frequent emails containing stories of old Exton and the hijinx at The Guernsey Cow. His comments are throughout this site as well as on the Facebook page dedicated to The Cow and Exton memories. We’re lucky to have them.

Special thanks to Pep’s children for providing memories and photos.

Remembering Marmsie

I started this blog New Year’s Eve 2007, a little over a year after my grandfather, Larry Polite, died about six weeks short of his 98th birthday. As we moved my grandmother, Gladys Polite (or Marmsie as we and many others knew her), out of their apartment and into assisted living we needed to move a lot of the things they collected and kept through the years to new homes. My initial interest in just uncovering a fresh look at the things they held dear over the years turned into an effort to show her it was worth saving it all.

She had always been concerned about the things she saved and who would want them. Early on I convinced her that there are people out there that are interested in such things, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and they will find them if we put them ‘out there’. Multiple explanations of ‘the Internet’ and ‘the World Wide Web’ were met with the same blank stares that my job descriptions garnered through the years. “Honey, you know I don’t know what you are talking about,” she would often say with the slightest of smiles.

As I started going through their things that marked their history with The Guernsey Cow and Exton, PA and Chester County in general, I would send her printed copies of the blog posts and the comments that people left. I would tell her how many people visited the blog, how far away people visited. What pleased her most is that people remembered and were actively out there searching for information about The Guernsey Cow and the history of Exton, PA. I think it also pleased her that saving “all this stuff” had been worth it.

In 2009, I launched another blog dedicated to her “stuff”. The Amercian Gothic Parodies blog is a showcase of her collection of parodies of the Grant Wood classic. When they were living in Exton, my grandmother had a wall in the basement dedicated to magazine covers, ads, greeting cards and more that used parodies of American Gothic. She continued to collect them on her own and from friends and family that knew of her obsession.

In December 2009, a student at The Arts University College at Bournemouth, England got in touch with me and asked permission to use the collection in her dissertation on Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. She also asked some interview questions of my grandmother that I relayed. My grandmother was shocked and thrilled that her collection would spark the interest of a college student in England and that she would be included in it as well.

Last weekend, my grandmother, Gladys Polite, passed away at the age of 95. I have fresh boxes of the things she left behind to go with the many boxes that I’ve had for several years now. I’m actively digitizing things as I can and will share fresh material from The Guernsey Cow as I get to them. Know that your visits, your comments, your memories of The Guernsey Cow and Exton pleased her. Thanks for sharing here and on The Guernsey Cow Facebook page.

Profile: Willie Minor

Willie Minor and his bicycle

The most loved member of The Guernsey Cow community was, and still is, Willie Minor. “Our Willie” is remembered for his bicycle outfitted with horns, lights, fenders, racks, flags, and baskets heavily laden with old newspapers and many spools of string pieces knotted together with such precision that there were no ends sticking out. Even now, Willie continues this pastime where he lives in a loving home near Coatesville. The local postman provides the string for Willie.Willie at Work

Willie lived at The Guernsey Cow restaurant where he was employed from the early 1940s until 1994. Willie could have been dubbed Exton Ambassador for all the smiles he brought to everyone who knew him as he helped Larry and Pep make ice cream and cream caramels, washed dishes, and mowed the lawns that surrounded the restaurant and the Polite home, Sleepy Hollow Hall.

When he was not working he frequented locations that are just memories for Exton long-timers. Willie welcomed and conversed with folks at the Exton Drive-In Theater, a gas station on Route 100, the Downingtown Farmers Market, and Felix’s Farm Market.

Willie and Larry PoliteLarry and Willie had a remarkable relationship. They enjoyed many hours in Larry’s truck running errands and working in their vegetable garden. Mrs. Polite liked to call it “Larry’s garden,” but family members knew it was primarily Willie’s back-breaking effort and so called it “Willie’s garden”. At harvest time, they would deliver tomatoes, string beans, and sweet corn to friends in the area. Willie became a sounding board for Larry who confided in him during the many hours they shared.

Contributed by Wanda Polite McGlinchey
Black & White photos provided by Kim Puliti