Mr. Green Jeans Slept Here

Sleepy Hollow Hall Exton, PA
Sleepy Hollow Hall Exton, PA

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.

Sleepy Hollow Hall, Exton, PA Registry
Sleepy Hollow Hall, Exton, PA Registry

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.

Mr.s  & Mrs. H.R. Brannum in the Sleepy Hollow Hall Registry
Mr.s & Mrs. H.R. Brannum in the Sleepy Hollow Hall Registry

The postcard below was from Mrs. Brannum in July 1941 from Shawnee On Delaware:

July 1941 Postcard from Mrs. Brannum to Mrs. Polite Exton PA
July 1941 Postcard from Mrs. Brannum to Mrs. Polite Exton PA

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.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Brannum

Postcard from Mrs. Brannum requesting caramels
Postcard from Mrs. Brannum requesting caramels
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Cows on the run

Dairy cows on the loose by The Guernsey Cow billboard
Dairy cows on the loose by The Guernsey Cow billboard

Sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s a truck carrying cows either overturned or broke down along the Lincoln Highway in Exton, PA in front of The Guernsey Cow.  The cows, on the loose, were drawn to the giant Guernsey Cow billboard and milled around in its shade and that of the nearby trees. Meanwhile, serious men stood by pondering the best action to take.

Dairy cows roam around The Guernsey Cow billboard in Exton, PA
Dairy cows roam around The Guernsey Cow billboard in Exton, PA

Reader Mail: Horn & Hardart Years

Last week, I received an email from Frank Lavin who worked for Horn & Hardart and managed The Guernsey Cow for a few years in the late 1970s.

I’ve edited the letter a bit for length:

I worked for Horn & Hardart from 1973 ( during High school ) through 1978 ( as a Restaurant Manager ).

Horn & Hardart took over the ‘Cow’ for a few years in the late seventies… I knew the ‘Cow’ was better off with the Polite’s. Horn & Hardart was in the process of closing stores (pretty much the end of the line for the once great company).

I worked at the ‘Cow’ for about 2 years when I just got out of High School in the restaurant as the night manager for H & H and later they brought me back to make the ice cream for not only the Exton restaurant but also the rest of their Philadelphia footprint of restaurants and retail stores.

I remember helping Willie move from his home inside the store to his new home in the small cottage next to the big home in the rear of the restaurant.

Willie was ‘great’ he helped me immensely.  I used to visit him ( after I left Horn & Hardart ) at least once a year until one day when I found his cottage was vacant. I spoke to someone who told me that he moved to Downingtown.

In a follow up email, Frank explained:

Yes, we used to ship the ice cream and also the caramels ( not sure who made the caramels for Horn & Hardart ) in the Guernsey Cow tubs to all the H & H stores in their Philadelphia market, such as:

  • Broad & Walnut
  • 12th & Market ( Reading Terminal )
  • Cottman & Large
  • 8th & Market
  • 16th & Market
  • Lansdowne
  • Lawrence Park 
  • Bala (City Line Ave) 

There were more, but these are some that I worked at.

I do remember both your Grandparents. Larry was a nice man. I was the afternoon manager and I spent some quality time with him. I was just out of High school ( very green behind the ears ) and he showed me around and taught me lot about managing the restaurant. 

Do you remember Mackie?  he worked at the Ship Inn and used to come in everyday?

I do remember Mackie as I’m sure many others do as well. He was some kind of character!

Thanks for writing in Frank.

In 1967 The Guernsey Cow Grew Bigger

 In 1967, The Guernsey Cow added on to the existing structure to expand the dining room and kitchen area. The photo below is taken from behind the ice cram counter looking into the old dining area. Elmer Polite, brother and partner of Larry Polite and Joseph Pep Puliti (and later, owner of Mr. Sandwich in West Chester) poses on the far right.

The column in the center later became the location of the blackboards that listed the available ice cream flavors.

Elmer Polite, far right, poses before remodeling begins
Elmer Polite, far right, poses before remodeling begins
Cinderblock walls form the new exterior wall in 1967.
Cinderblock walls form the new exterior wall in 1967.
Framing is delivered, probably from Lancaster or Gap, PA.
Framing is delivered, probably from Lancaster or Gap, PA.
1967 Guernsey Cow Remodeling Tear Down
New framing takes shape while old dining area is torn down.
Framing near completed.
Framing near completed.
The remodel completed.
The remodel completed.

The World’s Largest Cow Makes Room for The Lincoln Highway

The World's Largest Cow Makes Room for Highway Expansion
1972: The Cow Sign Moves Back

In 1972, The Lincoln Highway (Route 30) in Exton, PA was being widened and The Guernsey Cow signs needed to be moved back from the road to make room.

As described previously, when the billboard was originally erected right after the end of World War II, the highway department visited Larry Polite and informed him that, although it was a nice big cow, it needed to be moved back from the edge of the road because the cow’s head hung over the highway.

In 1968 the northern side of the highway was widened. The smaller sign shown in the post below (from 1941) would have needed to be moved or removed for that widening.

The sign above reads: “It’s The Greatest Ice Cream In The World” and it’s written over a musical staff with notes.

The Ice Cream Song

Anyone know the jingle or can play it for me?

Looks like: A F F F  F A F   F F F F    A F G F    F F G A C

The Guernsey Cow sign rises into the air
1972: The Guernsey Cow sign rises into the air
The Cow Signs Start To Settle In
1972: The Cow Signs Start To Settle In

The Guernsey Cow as it appeared in the 1940s

 

cow-building_1940s_cropped

This is another photo my grandmother had in her files. I believe it’s The Guernsey Cow circa post World War II. That’s when my grandfather changed the name of the business from The Exton Dairy Grille to The Guernsey Cow.

I really like the detail of this pastoral scene atop the roof. I don’t know if it was painted from an actual Chester County scene or a creation of Pottstown sign-painter Harry Reed’s. I also wonder how it fared in harsh winter and summer storms — especially the twin cows standing watch on either side of “The Guernsey Cow” board.

Twin Guernseys stand watch.