Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cows, ice cream, a postcard and some history that needs filled in

This creased postcard from Borden was meant for retailers in southcentral Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. There is no date anywhere, but we can do a little triangulation as we go and narrow it down a bit.

The front of the card shows a display area featuring cows Elsie and Elmer and their child Beauregard. The iconic Elsie the Cow was launched into fame as Borden's mascot 80 years ago, in 1936.1 Her mate, Elmer the Bull, arrived in 1940 and the advertising gurus concocted their first offspring, Beulah and Beauregard, in 1948. So we know that this postcard is from 1948 or after, though it's interesting that Beulah is absent.

The front of the card touts three locations of Borden's Ice Cream parlors — on 210 Lafayette Street in York, 2429 Derry Street in Harrisburg and Center Street in Hagerstown, Maryland. There was once an entire chain of Borden's parlors. Now, just one remains. It's the privately owned Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe in Lafayette, Louisiana.2 It opened in 1940 and is still going strong. One of its employees, Ella Meaux, has worked there since 1961!

Lauren Bassart of The Constant Rambler visited the shoppe in 2015, and the place gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, which is no surprise. Because ice cream.

But we digress. It would be interesting to hear memories of the Borden's Ice Cream locations in York, Harrisburg and Hagerstown and to learn what happened to those parlors. Please share information in the comments section if you have it.

Let's turn now to the back of the postcard...

First up, we have a fine print that describes the traveling display, pictured on the front, that allowed customers to meet live cows representing Elsie and family in person. I'd love to learn more about the history of this display and the types of locations where it was set up. My guess would be state and county fairs. Here's the description of the display:
"Elmer is at the left, Elsie at right, and young Beauregard in his playpen. Elsie's dressing table, made of barrels, has milk bottle lamps and her toiletries include Tail Wave Set, Henna Fur Glaze and Meadow Mud Pack. Elmer's chair is made of actual wheels with barrel staves for rockers. The sampler over the mantel, Elsie did when she was just a heifer. The candle sticks are half ears of corn and the bed ladders have scythe-handles for supports. Books in the breakfront include The Farmer With Cold Hands, Animal Husbandry and Wivery, and Bulliver's Travels. Elsie's dressing table mirror is a large frying pan and the floor lamp is an old churn."
This postcard was canceled in York, Pennsylvania and mailed with a 1½-cent Martha Washington stamp. That stamp (Scott 805) was first issued in May 1938. But these Presidential Issue stamps were in continuous production and issue through the mid 1950s.

That brings us to the final piece of the puzzle on this postcard (which is also touting Borden's three-flavor sherbet pint package). The typed address tells us that the card was mailed to Getz's General Store, F.L. Getz, Freeland, Maryland.3

Our best information about this store comes from the obituary for Mary Ellen Getz, who died on September 12, 2006, at age 97. Her husband was Francis Lee Getz Sr., who would be the F.L. Getz that this postcard was addressed to. Here's an excerpt from the obituary:
"She and her husband operated the former Getz's General Store at Sunset View in Freeland, Md., from 1951 to 1981, in addition to farming Oakland Farm. ... She enjoyed nature, especially birds, as well as history, reading and cooking shows. Her longevity was often attributed to her knowledge of natural medicine."
That's it. One sentence about a community's general store, which was in business for 30 years. Does anyone know or remember more? Please share.

1. Borden still exists, though it is no longer its own company. If I have this straight: The Borden brand is owned and operated by Eagle Family Foods Incorporated, which is itself a fully owned subsidiary of The J.M. Smucker Company, which sells about half of everything in your pantry and fridge.
2. They're open until 10 p.m. Eastern tonight, if you're anywhere near Lafayette, Louisiana, and have a hankering for ice cream.
3. Freeland is an unincorporated community in Baltimore County, Maryland.

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