September 7, 1980
Ruth Weidinger’s stand is a Superior institution
By Richard L. Pomeroy, News-Tribune
The small truck pulls into a parking lot in South Superior shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday.
Several people are waiting for the woman sitting behind the wheel.
She stretches, walks around to the side of the truck and hangs a weathered sign announcing “Apples for sale here – also squash” before going to the back and dropping the tailgate.
Inside are bushel baskets stacked to the top of the truck box. Ears of corn peek from the baskets as if intent on eavesdropping on the start of conversation.
“Apple Annie” is more than four hours into her long working day. She has been up since 6 a.m., worked in her garden and wheeled her truck about 80 miles to Superior. For her, this day is like any other fall Saturday or Sunday.
“Apple Annie” is open for business – selling apples and vegetables as she has for 20 years next to the firehall at 58th Street and Tower Avenue.
Although known to many of her customers only as “Apple Annie,” the vendor is formally and legally Ruth Weidinger. She operates a vegetable farm and apple orchard about 4 1/2 miles north of Bayfield.
Bushel baskets of fresh-picked corn are stacked on the back of Ruth Weidinger’s truck in South Superior in September 1980. On the side of the truck, a sign reads “Apples for sale here – also squash.” (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
Weidinger is aware of the “Apple Annie” nickname, but has “not the slightest idea” how it came to be.
“It doesn’t matter – maybe they just don’t know what else to call me,” she said during one of the brief breaks in the sales operation that continues until about 6 p.m.
“As long as I’m selling, and they’re buying, it doesn’t make any difference,” Weidinger added.
“It’s a living and if I wasn’t doing this I don’t know what I would be doing. It’s too late for me to change my ways now – I never did anything else. This is it, this is my life.”
Sales are brisk for more than an hour. There’s no time for small talk.
It takes only a few minutes for Weidinger to get the operation organized.
Several bushels of corn are moved onto the tailgate. That gives her room to stand and begin filling orders.
A kitchen scale is used to fill the first order – for tomatoes.
Weidinger shows her marketing knack by quoting the price at “three pounds for $1.50,” thus filling few orders for less than that amount.
The corn? It was fresh-picked this morning “like it always is.” It sells for $1.25 per dozen.
Why no white corn? “Because I don’t plant any – that’s why.”
Apples? “Yes, but they’re not good keepers. Everything’s pretty early, but the best apples won’t be had for at least a couple of weeks. These are Melbas – soft, but good for pie if you use them right away. The best ones – Wealthies, Cortlands and McIntoshes – come later this month.
The sun beats down. Weidinger slips out of the woolen shirt she wears over a blouse.
The sales continue, Weidinger filling one order while answering another shopper’s questions about prices.
She totals purchases with precision, accepts payment and makes change from a cardboard box well inside the truck.
Twenty years ago, she sold produce at the Superior fairgrounds, and before that worked with her father at a farmers’ market at 14th Street and Ogden Avenue. After the farmers’ market was discontinued, she teamed with her father in door-to-door selling in Superior.
“But that was too much walking and carrying,” she recalled.
Her products vary with the fall season but always include the traditional vegetables of the area.
Weidinger operates the orchard and truck farm on the old family homestead of about 360 acres. She has about 50 acres, “including the apple trees,” under cultivation.
Her brother, Edmund, whose family lives in another house on the homestead, is a partner and helper.
He and his two sons help with the harvest and help load the truck.
By 6 p.m., it’s time to close shop and head back to Bayfield.
The schedule is the same the next day: up before 6 a.m. to pick more corn and tomatoes, then more wheeling and dealing – wheeling 80 miles to Superior and dealing with both friends and strangers.
Ruth Weidinger, aka “Apple Annie,” made trips to sell produce in Superior until 1994. She died in Washburn on April 1, 2002, at the age of 91.
In News-Tribune story reporting Weidinger’s death, her niece told the paper that Weidinger preferred selling her produce to people, not to stores, because she liked the variety of folks she would meet.
“She always wanted to smile,” Donna Line told the News Tribune. “She was very, very genuine and friendly, and she liked to talk and visit.”