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.

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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?

Profile: Willie Minor

Willie Minor and his bicycle

The most loved member of The Guernsey Cow community was, and still is, Willie Minor. “Our Willie” is remembered for his bicycle outfitted with horns, lights, fenders, racks, flags, and baskets heavily laden with old newspapers and many spools of string pieces knotted together with such precision that there were no ends sticking out. Even now, Willie continues this pastime where he lives in a loving home near Coatesville. The local postman provides the string for Willie.Willie at Work

Willie lived at The Guernsey Cow restaurant where he was employed from the early 1940s until 1994. Willie could have been dubbed Exton Ambassador for all the smiles he brought to everyone who knew him as he helped Larry and Pep make ice cream and cream caramels, washed dishes, and mowed the lawns that surrounded the restaurant and the Polite home, Sleepy Hollow Hall.

When he was not working he frequented locations that are just memories for Exton long-timers. Willie welcomed and conversed with folks at the Exton Drive-In Theater, a gas station on Route 100, the Downingtown Farmers Market, and Felix’s Farm Market.

Willie and Larry PoliteLarry and Willie had a remarkable relationship. They enjoyed many hours in Larry’s truck running errands and working in their vegetable garden. Mrs. Polite liked to call it “Larry’s garden,” but family members knew it was primarily Willie’s back-breaking effort and so called it “Willie’s garden”. At harvest time, they would deliver tomatoes, string beans, and sweet corn to friends in the area. Willie became a sounding board for Larry who confided in him during the many hours they shared.

Contributed by Wanda Polite McGlinchey
Black & White photos provided by Kim Puliti