This article is very close to my heart, because I am a part of the family that worked at the Produce Business. This is a first hand account of my view of that time. I married into the Ruminer family in February 1969. It wasn’t long after, that I began to experience the pleasures of Ruminer’s Produce.
Ruminer’s Produce was started by Edward and Billie Ruminer in 1957. It was there at 927 W. Inyo Ave., Tulare, CA, that on their first day of business, they sold $5 of merchandise. In the beginning the business was housed on the sidewalk in front of the Ruminers’ residence. But, as the business grew, the house became smaller, until there was only a small portion of the house left. The house soon turned into a business, and the family moved their residence elsewhere.
I worked there during the 1970’s. It was then that I remember so well.
Each season had its special fruit and vegetables. In the spring there were strawberries and cherries. In the summer there were watermelons and cantaloupe galore. Let’s not forget the corn that sold for 33 ears for $1.00; peaches, vine ripened tomatoes, red sweet onions, zucchini, yellow neck squash and okra. Fried okra is now one of my favorite dishes. (I had never heard of okra until I married into this family). I learned to cook chili relleños out of the long green anaheim chiles. Now those were the days!!! Those are still some of my favorite summer-time dishes.
In the fall there were pumpkins, sweet potatoes, butternut and other numerous winter squash.
In the winter and especially at the holiday season there were boxes of oranges, apples, yams and a variety of nuts.
Year round there were bags of potatoes. Not only the 10 and 20-pound bags, but large families would purchase the 50 and 100-pound bags of potatoes. There were also the 50-pound bags of onions. Let’s not forget to mention the 100-pound bags of pinto beans We sold countless boxes of lettuce and tomatoes, and bags of onions and pinto beans to the restaurants and fast food places.
I remember well when Fred and Louis Ruiz would come by and purchase beans and chiles for their business when it was still in the beginning stages over on No.“F” Street, in Tulare. Another such customer I remember well was Ray Vejar when he was first starting out.
Other customers were Sugar Shack on the corner of Cross and J Street, Taco Bell, Horace LeVan at Barney’s Restaurant, Lyle Haller from Lyle’s Café, the Bilvados from El Dorado Restaurant, Earl Henderson from Earl’s Restaurant, Al Hollingshed from Al’s Drive-In and Loman & Maxine Myers from Monty’s Drive-In.
We enjoyed them all, from the restaurant owners to the retail customers. When you hadn’t seen a particular customer for some time and began to wonder about them, they were sure to drop in and say hello and purchase some items.
In the winter it could get very cold working in the fruit stand. I would keep warm by wearing many layers of clothing, keeping busy and working hard.
Summers were very warm, but we always had a nice cooler blowing, along with extra fans.
One of the things my husband always told me is that it only took me 30 minutes to get dirty. I mean “pig-pen dirty”. I always told him, no one could deny that I worked hard.
One of my memories is shining the oranges. We would pour several oranges into a gunnysack and shake them all around. (I’m sure that’s how the name GUNNYSACKER got started).
Then there would be the task of bagging the oranges. A customer could purchase an 8-pound bag of oranges for $1.00. We also bagged salted and roasted peanuts, potatoes, and apples to name a few.
My husband, Richard, could set up a produce rack like a work of art. It was full and color-coordinated. My father-in-law, Eddie Ruminer, spent countless trips on the road purchasing produce. He taught me that the money in the till all faces one direction, and that you count back your money to the customer.
My mother in-law, Billie Ruminer, would hum and sing while she worked. She and Richard painted a lot of the signs that were displayed along the fences out side.
I liked stocking the shelves and waiting on the customers. I remember one of our busiest days being Christmas Eve. The families, and churches as well, would buy boxes of oranges and apples for the children. They would purchase the salad makings and celery for that Christmas Dinner and boxes of sweet potatoes to make that favorite sweet potato pie.
In the summertime, it was not unusual to see a truckload of watermelons come rolling up to the fruit stand. Three or four boys were called to help unload the truck. The boys would “pitch” the watermelons from the truck to the table where they were finally displayed. Occasionally one would fall, and it was saved for the workers or the family to eat the “heart” of the watermelon.
July 4th was always a busy day for selling watermelons. They were sold by the pound and weighed when the customer purchased them. We had a scale there at the cash register, but when they were bigger than 30 pounds they had to be weighed on the large platform scales. My husband, Richard, and my father-in-law, Eddie, knew how to tap on a watermelon and tell you if it was green, ripe or over ripe.
Around 1980 my father-in-law, Edward Ruminer’s health began to wane, and the decision was made to sell the fruit stand. Today, Mario’s Tires operates his business at the location of the former Ruminer’s Produce.