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.

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Famous Cream Caramels

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.

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.

Famous

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.]