On January 24, 1939, my 3-year-old mother, Wanda Polite, was bitten by the family dog. Earlier in the day, an Exton Dairy Grille customer was nipped on the hand by the same dog. Her father, Larry Polite, suspected something was wrong with the dog and, according to my mother, he killed the dog, severed its head, and drove it to Harrisburg for rabies testing. This was, and remains today, the only way to test an animal for rabies.
A few days later, results showed the dog did indeed have rabies and an alert
from the Pennsylvania state police went out to the press in the area in search of the man bitten. According to reports at the time, effective treatment must occur within 10 days of a bite. A race against the clock ensued to find the traveler identified only as a likely New Jersey resident — based on Polite’s recollection of the man’s Oldsmobile license plate.
Articles appeared in newspapers in the region starting on January 26, 1939, and were seen as far west as South Dakota and as far south as South Carolina based on searches of newspaper archives on Newspapers.com.
The most dramatic headline appeared in the Reading Eagle: State Police Seek Rabid Dog Victim: Race Against Time ot [sic] Save Man From Death.
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.
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 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.
Following the sale of The Cow in 1976, Pep moved West to Colorado. An 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.
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.”
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.
My cousin , Kim Puliti, sent me this photo from August of 1968 a while back. Am assuming that’s him and his brother Kerry trapped in the ice cream room window with the empty 5-gallon bulk ice cream containers on a hot August day.
Over the past year there’s been a lot of interest in The Guernsey Cow locally and on the web.
Last summer we helped some folks from West Whiteland Township Historical Commission with piecing together and cataloging the remnants of The Cow sign they have stored in a local barn.
Over the past many months, the Chester County Library main branch in Exton has been undergoing interior renovations. One result of their work is the newly installed wall seen below that memorializes The Guernsey Cow and its place in Exton history. Copy was provided by my brother, Brian at McGlinchey Communications.
Most of the images come from the various bins of material that my grandmother kept over the years. She and my grandfather would be very pleased to see and know that The Guernsey Cow remains in the hearts of many and that lots of new people will be introduced to something they and many others put their hearts and lives into for so many years.
Stop by the library in Exton, get some books and look for The Cow!
I started this blog New Year’s Eve 2007, a little over a year after my grandfather, Larry Polite, died about six weeks short of his 98th birthday. As we moved my grandmother, Gladys Polite (or Marmsie as we and many others knew her), out of their apartment and into assisted living we needed to move a lot of the things they collected and kept through the years to new homes. My initial interest in just uncovering a fresh look at the things they held dear over the years turned into an effort to show her it was worth saving it all.
She had always been concerned about the things she saved and who would want them. Early on I convinced her that there are people out there that are interested in such things, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and they will find them if we put them ‘out there’. Multiple explanations of ‘the Internet’ and ‘the World Wide Web’ were met with the same blank stares that my job descriptions garnered through the years. “Honey, you know I don’t know what you are talking about,” she would often say with the slightest of smiles.
As I started going through their things that marked their history with The Guernsey Cow and Exton, PA and Chester County in general, I would send her printed copies of the blog posts and the comments that people left. I would tell her how many people visited the blog, how far away people visited. What pleased her most is that people remembered and were actively out there searching for information about The Guernsey Cow and the history of Exton, PA. I think it also pleased her that saving “all this stuff” had been worth it.
In 2009, I launched another blog dedicated to her “stuff”. The Amercian Gothic Parodies blog is a showcase of her collection of parodies of the Grant Wood classic. When they were living in Exton, my grandmother had a wall in the basement dedicated to magazine covers, ads, greeting cards and more that used parodies of American Gothic. She continued to collect them on her own and from friends and family that knew of her obsession.
In December 2009, a student at The Arts University College at Bournemouth, England got in touch with me and asked permission to use the collection in her dissertation on Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. She also asked some interview questions of my grandmother that I relayed. My grandmother was shocked and thrilled that her collection would spark the interest of a college student in England and that she would be included in it as well.
Last weekend, my grandmother, Gladys Polite, passed away at the age of 95. I have fresh boxes of the things she left behind to go with the many boxes that I’ve had for several years now. I’m actively digitizingthingsas I can and will share fresh material from The Guernsey Cow as I get to them. Know that your visits, your comments, your memories of The Guernsey Cow and Exton pleased her. Thanks for sharing here and on The Guernsey Cow Facebook page.
Both the beauty and sometimes agony of going through my grandmother’s collection of things she’s saved over the years is that I often find nuggets of gold among things that I wonder why she saved. I know they all meant something to her and she had her reasons for saving either to look at later or to share with me and the rest of the family.
I found the negative for this photo with a few other negatives in a pile of Christmas photos from the 1970s. This is an aerial photo of The Guernsey Cow and Sleepy Hollow Hall (aka The Massey House) shot from the South side of the Lincoln Highway (Rte 30). I’m guessing that it’s late 1940s. Perhaps someone with a keener eye for cars can pinpoint it better.
If you click on the photo you can see a larger version and see the shadow of The Cow billboard at the bottom as it appeared at the time.
Note that The Cow billboard was built once World War II ended, so this could have been shot soon after The Cow was put in place. Also note the position of the sign. This was taken before the highway was widened and The Cow sign had to be moved. See the difference in position based on this photo from 1974.
For other aerial shots of Exton and The Cow see my previous post.
I just passed by the pile of newspaper clippings and paper in The Guernsey Cow bin and this card caught my eye. I read it and realized it has a little more ‘story’ and ‘hype’ than an earlier version of the history of The Cow that appeared on the back of a menu.
Permit us to welcome you to “The Guernsey Cow“, at Exton, where the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) crosses Route 100, just three miles south of the Downingtown interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Whether you be a neighbor from a nearby town or city, or a guest from Maine, Florida or California, call again, and again.
No matter where you travel, you will never find ice cream with better flavor or cream caramels as smooth and of more healthful content than that served here, amde with dairy products from tested Guernsey Cows.
The Guernsey Cow has been under the same management since 1931, and during that time we have taken great pride in serving the finest of Foods and Dairy Products. The manufacture of our own ice cream and famous cream caramels is done right on the premises, using the finest ingredients available anywhere. A majority of the many and unusual Guernsey Cow Ice Cream flavors are originals, not to be found in any other dairy store in the country. Our cream caramels are nationally and internationally known and are regularly sent all over the world, while our ice cream is occasionally flown to Europe to satisfy customer appetites.
The store building originally was a barn, and the stones in the building, today, are part of that old structure. Through the years, since its construction, the original building has gone through many internal changes. From a produce stand, to a fluid milk dairy, through a wholesale ice cram plant, and an ice cream mix plant, The Dairy Grille finally emerged in 1931. By 1941, the original Dairy Grille was changed to The Guernsey Cow, a name which was adopted through the insistence of our customers. Anywhere you might travel today, you can usually find someone who will understand the phrase, “MEET YOU AT THE COW“.
The residence on the property is one of the oldest in this vicinity. The back part of this house was apparently built in 1685 by people who moved into this valley, following the lines of migration north from Chester on the Delaware River, the oldest settlement in Pennsylvania. About 1740, an addition was built to the original small house by a George Massey. Mr. Massey was a great friend of George Washington, and he, Mr. Washington, was a frequent visitor and guest of Mr. Massey. This information was given to us by the Historical Society of Chester County. In 1820, the front part of the house was constructed. This contains excellent examples of mantles of that period.
Well-marked roads to Valley Forge, the great shrine of American patriotism, branch to the left of Lancaster Pike as you go to Philadelphia. Near Paoli is the site of the Paoli Massacre, where the British Troops surprised Mad Anthony Wayne, whose birthplace and grave ar just beyond, near Devon.
Visitors from a distance will enjoy a rather interesting trip by taking the road to West Chester and going on to Brandywine Creek, where one of the early battles of the Revolutionary War was fought.
Visit The Guernsey Cow as often as you can. Tell your friends. Come out any time. Bring the children.
When traveling East, stop in to see us, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Downingtown interchange.
THE GUERNSEY COW
on the Lincoln Highway
seven miles west of Paoli, at
“The crossroads of the World”
Phone: (215) 363-9796
The Philadelphia Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was completed in 1950 which would have included the Downingtown interchange. The emphasis on the proximity of The Cow to the Downingtown interchange was probably a response to traffic that the turnpike drew away from what had been the main East-West corridor: the Lincoln Highway aka Lancaster Pike aka U.S. Rte 30.
I like the phrase, “The crossroads of the world” to describe the intersection of Routes 100 & 30 in the center of Exton. I don’t know if that was something my grandfather created or whether other folks thought the same. I know we grew up thinking that’s what it was — and that the world thought the same.
[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.