Readers may be interested in a new book out this week about West Whiteland by Janice Earley of the township’s historical commission.
It features chapters with lots of photos and images on The Battle of the Clouds, Richard Downing’s personal letters of his life in West Whiteland in the 1850s, The Guernsey Cow, and the Valley Creek Coffee House and much more.
If you’re local, it’s available at Chester County Book Company and other local bookstores and also available online.
Janice will be presenting the book during the township’s 250th anniversary celebration at The Chester County Library in Exton on February 26 2015. You can register for two free events that day: an ice cream social and Janice’s presentation of the history of the township in images. You can register for these events here.
Willie Minor, an icon and goodwill ambassador for Exton, Downingtown, Coatesville and beyond is now riding that great bicycle in the sky. He was greeted into heaven with endless high fives and locked thumbs — Willie’s traditional greeting for our family whenever we met.
In the late 70s and into the 80s we often joked with Willie that he was the Fonz from Happy Days and he wore this sweatshirt all the time. Like the Fonz, everyone wanted to hang with Willie and all the chicks dug him.
He was a loyal friend to all and especially to my grandfather who he accompanied on many trips far and wide to pick peaches and other fruit, run errands and check in on people.
A few years ago my mother wrote this profile on Willie Minor and it remains one of the most popular posts on this blog.
His obituary is here and the guest book is the truly the best tribute to Willie.
Willie, Easter morning, 1966, overseeing the Easter basket hunt — from our family’s home movies.
Polite daughters in front of Guernsey Cow sign
This is another nice photo from my grandmother’s photo albums taken in the Fall of 1941. My Aunt Saundra and mother, Wanda, stand out along the Lincoln Highway (Rte 30).
In 1941, the business was called The Exton Dairy Grille. It was these smaller cow signs advertising “Golden Guernsey” products that would prompt customers to tell friends, “I’ll meet you at the sign of the cow.” And later during World War II, patrons would tell my grandfather, Larry Polite, that he should change the name to “The Cow.” He changed it to The Guernsey Cow and when World War II ended, he built the now-famous sign.
Growing up I would see the word “famous” on the all the Guernsey Cow packaging. I’m assuming I believed it. By the time I was a doubting teenager I knew it was true.
My aunt Saundra Polite Schier — Gladys & Larry Polite’s #2 daughter — sent me a couple of stories about The Guernsey Cow’s “reach” in this world.
In 1960, just out of college, she was swimming in the Adriatic Sea along the coast of Italy near where her father was born and raised before coming to America as a young teen.
“…my American accent was overheard by an apparent native Italian. Since he was mighty attractive, I engaged in a conversation leading to the inevitable….where in the States did I live? When I said near Philadelphia (who ever heard of Exton back then?), I was pressed to be more specific.”
When she replied “Exton”, the Italian asked, “We go to Exton every Sunday for ice cream, do you know the Guernsey Cow?”
It turned out he was a first generation Italian Upper Darby resident who spent every summer in his second home in Abruzzi (now Abrruzzo).
This kind of coincidence was known by my grandmother as “Murray’s Law”. My grandmother kept a clipping of a column written by a Philadelphia Inquirer or Bulletin columnist by the last name of Murray. His law, as he described in this column, was that no matter where you are in the world, you will always be sitting next to or near someone that will know someone who knows you or someone from where you live. This was a decade or two before the whole Six Degrees of Separation concept became popular — but our grandmother, Gladys, was always hitting on that anytime a story like Saundra’s came up.
[I did some quick searching for Murray and his law but could find nothing on the web … guess his wisdom didn’t make the leap to info-space.]
In the early 1970’s before any of my siblings and I were ready to start working at the Cow we had the pleasure of dining there every Tuesday night with our grandparents. My recollection is that this was a summertime tradition.
One of the benefits of being grandchildren of the proprietors was that we were allowed to order or help prepare whatever concoction we wished for dessert. Our best efforts were put into pulling together the greatest variety of flavors and toppings. Once we wolfed that down, we usually ended up playing tag until nightfall out on the expansive property of the Cow and the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Hall where our mother grew up.
Occasionally, the combination of the limitless ice cream bar and running around on a summer evening led to more than a few upset stomachs. However bad it got, by the next Tuesday the competition was on again for packing flavor in.
Stop by the Flavors page to recall and post your favorite Guernsey Cow ice cream flavors.
[I remember my usual standby as: chocolate + vanilla fudge + mint chocolate chip + chocolate chip + hot fudge + chocolate sauce + salted peanuts + pretzel sticks + whipped cream (no cherry)]
It’s about a week late but the sentiment is there. This is the top view of a caramel container lid. The Guernsey Cow’s World Famous Cream Caramels were hand made in copper kettles.
History, information, and memories about the Guernsey Cow in Exton, PA …. more coming soon.