At some time during World War II Exton apparently suffered a significant flood. The Valley Creek that runs along the road across from what was then The Exton Dairy Grill looks to have overflowed its banks. A Brandywine Farms truck navigates the waters along with two cars.
Before there was The Guernsey Cow billboard, during World War II, this sign pointed the way to The Exton Dairy Grill and proclaimed “Our Ice Cream for Health; War Bonds for Victory.”
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.
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
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!
The awning behind the pipers reads “The Guernsey Cow” which puts this event in the 1940s after the name was changed from The Exton Dairy Grille. There ‘s no explanation for the gathering of pipers — perhaps lunch after a morning parade?
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.
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.
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
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.
My sister, Erin, brother, Brian, and I (in snappy jacket and tie) pose in Amish hats in front of the grill inside The Guernsey Cow, Easter morning 1970. Every Easter after church at nearby Sts. Philip & James we would gather at The Cow for breakfast. An Easter basket hunt out behind The Cow among the large trees and bushes with Willie‘s help was always the main event.
The other benefit to being grandchildren of the owners was searching for loose change that fell on floor beneath the ice cream counter. In the photo below from 1973, my brother, Brian, and I are caught in the act.
Thanks to my sister for borrowing these photos from our grandmother, Gladys’, collection!
If you have photos inside or outside of The Guernsey Cow, email me copies to post on the site — we’d love to see them!
It’s been a while since my last post and I’m hoping to show some new things soon. In the meantime I received this email the other day from Tom Malloy of Memphis, TN that I thought was worth sharing:
I grew up in Exton, Pa on Shoen road not far from the Cow. I remember Willie riding through my neighborhood., He would always say hello in his special way. I was always amazed that he remembered my name even when I was just a little kid. I don’t think I ever saw Willie without a gigantic smile on his face. I remember one time he let try to hold his bike up when I was little kid. It was too heavy for me with all of the horns and mud flaps and mirrors. I remember seeing him at the Farmers Market and I’d always see his parked in the Drive In.
My family would got to the Cow every Sunday after church. I think I ordered the same thing every week for 15 years or so. It was cube steak sandwich with fries and a black & white shake and it was awesome. I can still my brothers lips stained black by the blue moon ice or the licorice. It was a great place in a great time.
It was my brother Brian’s first job working at the cow.
Do you remember the place across the street where the big cow sign stood. It was called the Vittle House run by three brothers. They sold a sandwich called a beer sandwich that was incredible. I could die for one of those beer sandwiches now.
Thank for the Memories. I live in Memphis, Tn now and it was a great trip down memory lane.
Thanks for the note Tom! Does anyone else out there remember the Vittle House and what beer sandwiches are made of?