This image is in the archives at The Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. It’s the only one they have related to The Guernsey Cow in their archives.
[They have a nice service there where you can pay them to research a topic or multiple topics and determine what information and photos they have on record. Or you can go in yourself and dig around in the library reading room. Someday I’ll spend afternoons there mining their collection for various historical tidbits.]
The Guernsey Cow was famous for its ice cream and for its hand-made cream caramels. The caramels were cooked up in huge copper kettles with big wooden paddles. The caramels were wrapped in branded wax paper and then stuffed into the tubs like those shown. The lid had a die-cut guernsey cow head in it that popped out and made a nice way of pulling caramels out as you needed.
“Famous Cream Caramels from the World’s Largest Guernsey Cow” is the slogan on the side of the tub and as referenced in a previous post they were also famous among the famous. For the long-distance traveler they were the perfect take-home product when you couldn’t take the ice cream with you.
In 1937, this is what the crossroads in Exton looked like:
Mostly farm fields and woods. Here’s the same photo zoomed in on the crossroads of Routes 100 and 30 (the Lincoln Highway).
Next I overlayed the same shot with a shot from 1971.
The Exton Square Mall had not yet been developed but the Exton Drive-In is there (can you find it?). Plenty of housing and commercial development are starting to show their marks on the West Whiteland landscape.
The photo below is a shot of The Guernsey Cow around 1974 or 75 after The Exton Square Mall was put in and the K-Mart and Exton Cinema were under construction. My grandfather had this in his office and my older brother has it on display in his home now.
A close-up below shows The Cow property, Sleepy Hollow Hall (aka The Massey House) and The Guernsey Cow sign across Lancaster Highway.
And another overlay below using Google Maps shows the level of development in the crossroads today 30 years later.
The Guernsey Cow property below as it is today as the DNBFirst bank.
Before The Guernsey Cow changed names and signage in 1945, it was known as The Exton Dairy Grille. This is how it appeared in 1940 on a Friday morning.
At some time during World War II Exton apparently suffered a significant flood. The Valley Creek that runs along the road across from what was then The Exton Dairy Grill looks to have overflowed its banks. A Brandywine Farms truck navigates the waters along with two cars.
Before there was The Guernsey Cow billboard, during World War II, this sign pointed the way to The Exton Dairy Grill and proclaimed “Our Ice Cream for Health; War Bonds for Victory.”
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.