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  • Linda Ruminer

Ruminer's Produce

Edward and Billie Ruminer started Ruminer's Produce in 1957. At 927 W. Inyo Ave., Tulare, CA, it was there that on their first day of business, they sold $5 of merchandise. In the beginning, the sidewalk in front of the Ruminers' residence housed the business. But, as the company grew, the house became smaller until only a tiny portion of the house left. The house soon turned into a business, and the family moved their residence elsewhere.

I worked there during the 1970s. It was then that I remember so well.

Each season had its unique 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 summertime dishes.

In the fall, there were pumpkins, sweet potatoes, butternut, and other numerous winter squash.

In the winter and especially during the holiday season, there were boxes of oranges, apples, yams, and various nuts.

Year-round there were bags of potatoes. Not only the ten 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.

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 hot, but we always had an excellent 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 counts 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 they displayed along the fences outside.

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 packages of sweet potatoes to make that favorite sweet potato pie.

It was not unusual in the summertime to see a truckload of watermelons come rolling up to the fruit stand. We would call three or four boys to help unload the truck. The boys would "pitch" the watermelons from the truck to the table where we finally displayed them. 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. We sold them 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, we had to weigh them 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 overripe.

Around 1980 my father-in-law, Edward Ruminer's health began to wane, and we decided to sell the fruit stand. Today, Mario's Tires operates his business at the location of the former Ruminer's Produce.

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