Superior’s ‘Apple Annie,’ 1980

September 7, 1980

Ruth Weidinger, aka “Apple Annie,” greets customers at a produce stand in South Superior in September 1980. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

‘Apple Annie’

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.

Ruth Weidinger keeps up a steady exchange of conversation with her customers as she peddles fresh produce from her farm near Bayfield in September 1980. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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.

Ruth Weidinger waits for customers as she sells produce in South Superior on Nov. 26, 1989. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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.”

7 thoughts on “Superior’s ‘Apple Annie,’ 1980

  1. I remember Apple Annie, because my mom was the one that would get apples and corn on the cob from her. I was born and raised in South Superior..

  2. I remember when Bob’s South Tower used to be across the street where he had one of the only full service gas stations left. My grandmother used to drive out to our house (we grew up in South End) every week, stop for gas and chat with Bob then head over for her usual order from “Apple Annie”. My sister and I would get so excited and still to this day I try to stop at the roadside vendors and enjoy their bounty. I think they just plain taste better! Thanks for the memory jog..those sure were the days!

  3. moved to south superior in 1979 and bought many apples and lots of corn from apple annie. wonderful lady.

  4. Moved to South Superior in 1970 with my parents. “Apple Annie” was a local icon. I think everyone knew her in our little world out there. Thanks for bringing these memories back.

  5. Great story. Growing up in South Superior my parents used to take my brother and I to buy apples from apple Annie. I admit was a little intimidated by her gruff exterior but she was such a nice person. Thanks for the memory.

  6. Wanted to call attention to the “Apple Annie” story byline — Dick Pomeroy. Dick, who died at a ripe old age not long ago, was a friend of mine and colleague at the News Tribune, a rough-hewn Superiorite (but native of Duluth) who served in World War II shortly after high school, caught on at the Duluth daily newspapers and was sent to temporarily cover Superior and stayed for — must be — over 50 years. He was a natural writer, whose ham-sized hands could pound out copy on a manual typewriter as fast as anyone I’ve ever seen, and colorfully, too. Take another look at the “Apple Annie” story, when “Ears of corn peek from (the) baskets as if intent on eavesdropping on the start of conversation.” It doesn’t get any better than that. Anywhere.

  7. There was a man who sold produce on Grand by the old Kleerflax, his dozen of corn was 13 for $1. I don’t know what else he sold.

    Those were the days.

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