My mother, Wanda Polite, #1 daughter of Ilario and Gladys, reports her own ‘world famous’ tale.
Once upon a time during the summer of 1957 two friends and I were staying in an elegant hotel on a Switzerland mountaintop. (Audrey Hepburn, her husband Mel Ferrer, Sophia Loren and her future husband Carlo Ponti were also staying there.) A gentleman approached us and asked for our home towns. All summer long while touring Europe we would reply to that question, “Philadelphia” or “Pennsylvania”, rather than Cathy saying “Upper Darby”, Barbara saying “Shenandoah” or my saying “Exton.”
But this gentleman would not settle for anything but an exact answer. When he heard the word “Exton”, he said that they drive out there for ice cream at The Guernsey Cow. The man was Mr. Biddle of the highly regarded Bailey, Banks, and Biddle jewelers in Philadelphia.
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.