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.

Visit The Cow at Chester County Library

Over the past year there’s been a lot of interest in The Guernsey Cow locally and on the web.

My brother, Kevin, measures The Cow

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.

photo provided by Jess Church, the designer at Merje who created the wall.

Stop by the library in Exton, get some books and look for The Cow!

Remembering Marmsie

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 digitizing things as 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.

The Guernsey Cow From Above – New Photo

The Guernsey Cow Property ca. late 1940s

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.

The Guernsey Cow Property circa 1974

For other aerial shots of Exton and The Cow see my previous post.

Exton, PA through the ages from above

I was digging around on West Chester Jim‘s history site recently and stumbled on a link for the Pennsylvania Geological Survey’s site for historical aerial photography of Pennsylvania.

In 1937, this is what the crossroads in Exton looked like:

Aerial Photo of Exton, PA (Chester County) in 1937
Aerial Photo of Exton, PA (Chester County) in 1937

Mostly farm fields and woods. Here’s the same photo zoomed in on the crossroads of Routes 100 and 30 (the Lincoln Highway).

Exton, PA Crossroads in 1937
Exton, PA Crossroads in 1937

Next I overlayed the same shot with a shot from 1971.

Exton, PA 1971
Exton, PA 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.

Exton, PA Crossroads 1971 - Routes 100 & 30
Exton, PA Crossroads 1971 - Routes 100 & 30

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.

The Guernsey Cow and Exton, PA Crossroads circa 1974
The Guernsey Cow and Exton, PA Crossroads circa 1974

A close-up below shows The Cow property, Sleepy Hollow Hall (aka The Massey House) and The Guernsey Cow sign across Lancaster Highway.

The Guernsey Cow Property circa 1974
The Guernsey Cow Property circa 1974

And another overlay below using Google Maps shows the level of development in the crossroads today 30 years later.

Exton, PA circa 2007
Exton, PA circa 2007

The Guernsey Cow property below as it is today as the DNBFirst bank.

The Guernsey Cow/ DNBFirst Bank circa 2007
The Guernsey Cow/ DNBFirst Bank circa 2007

Cows on the run

Dairy cows on the loose by The Guernsey Cow billboard
Dairy cows on the loose by The Guernsey Cow billboard

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.

Dairy cows roam around The Guernsey Cow billboard in Exton, PA
Dairy cows roam around The Guernsey Cow billboard in Exton, PA

Fun & Profit-Making inside The Guernsey Cow in the 1970s

Kids wear Amish hats at The Guernsey Cow in 1970
Kids wear Amish hats at The Guernsey Cow in 1970

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.

Kids search for change under the ice cream counter, 1973.
Kids search for change under the ice cream counter, 1973.

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!

A Letter From a Tennessee Reader

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?

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.