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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The Guernsey Cow Ice Cream Social: July 19, 2012

photo: Jess Church

Join friends, family, and former employees at the Exton branch of the Chester County Library on Thursday, July 19, 2012, from 4 to 6PM to celebrate the library’s mural dedicated to The Cow:

A celebration at the Library to recognize Exton’s past history. For years the Polite family ran a local ice creamery and restaurant in Exton that was known as the “ Guernsey Cow”. We now have a mural in the library dedicated to the “cow”. Come out to see the beautiful mural and help us celebrate with ice cream and activities as we remember a part of Exton history.

Event information on Chester County Library’s Facebook page.

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.

The Guernsey Cow as it appeared in the 1940s

 

cow-building_1940s_cropped

This is another photo my grandmother had in her files. I believe it’s The Guernsey Cow circa post World War II. That’s when my grandfather changed the name of the business from The Exton Dairy Grille to The Guernsey Cow.

I really like the detail of this pastoral scene atop the roof. I don’t know if it was painted from an actual Chester County scene or a creation of Pottstown sign-painter Harry Reed’s. I also wonder how it fared in harsh winter and summer storms — especially the twin cows standing watch on either side of “The Guernsey Cow” board.

Twin Guernseys stand watch.

Chester County Tours & Walks: The Guernsey Cow, Sleepy Hollow Hall & the Zook House Aug 21

From the Chester County Parks & Recreation page and hosted by the West Whiteland Historic Commission (edits are mine):

“Tour three of West Whiteland’s most prominent historical structures located on Lincoln Highway at the intersection of Pottstown Pike, the crossroads of Chester County. The resources, all located at the perimeter of the Exton Square Mall and in close proximity to one another, include the well-known Zook House (c 1754), The Guernsey Cow Dairy Barn (now DNBFirst Downingtown National Bank, c 1930), and Sleepy Hollow Hall (aka the Massey House, 1717). Each property illustrates how effective adaptive reuse can both preserve and perpetuate historic structures in the face of significant development. Following the tour, you will be treated to light refreshments and locally crafted ice cream in honor of The Guernsey Cow’s legacy.”

I’ll be on-hand to eat ice cream and help out with The Guernsey Cow and Sleepy Hollow Hall sides of things.

Call 610-363-9525 for further information and registration.

Join in the West Chester Ice Cream Tattoo Quest Thurs June 26

The West Chester Guerilla Drive-In has teamed up with West Chester Dish to create a unique ice cream adventure in West Chester next Thursday evening. On June 26 at 6:30 PM, gather in front of the Chester County Courthouse The Lincoln Room around the corner from the Chester County Courthouse at 28 W. Market Street and receive an air-brushed ice cream tattoo and a scorecard.

Walk West Chester borough with friends, family or complete strangers to evaluate 5 different ice cream locations. Return to the Courthouse Lincoln Room when you are done (and had your fill of ice cream), hand in your completed scorecards and receive a flame tattoo to top off your ice cream tattoo. Your flaming cone will be the envy of all as you stroll the streets, beaches, and malls for days and show that you were able to eat ice cream in 5 locations in one evening AND rate them all.

Look for the vintage motorcycle with sidecar flying a banner resembling the flaming ice cream cone. For more details than you can shake a stick at, visit The Guerilla Drive-In Ice Cream Tattoo Quest page.

Chester County’s ice cream legacy is alive and well and having fun.

[update: I hope to be wearing my new Guernsey Cow Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream t-shirt, hot off the presses, for the quest. Get yours!]

Did You Work at The Cow?

Child Labor
Child Labor circa late 1930s

Thanks to the brainstorming efforts of Uncle Pep (Joe Puliti/Polite), we have added a new page where you can add comments to let us know you worked at The Cow, what you did and when you did it. We would also love to hear what you ended up doing later on it life or what you are doing now. Click here to visit the Employees page.