In the lunch meat business, there’s one thing you learn by doing.
“I had to learn to slice,” said Homeland resident Donald Rudy. In those days, slicers didn’t have automatic stackers, so the operator had to slice and stack as he went along. “You’ve got to have good coordination, and you had to be fast. It was a knack.”
For 22 years, Rudy’s Farmer’s Market, in the Progress area of Harrisburg, served customers the best in meats and cheeses. It continued a tradition started by Rudy’s father, who in 1919 opened Frank B. Rudy and Sons in the city’s Broad Street Market.
Don and his brother, Burton, got into the business, and their cousins had similar stands in other markets. Shipments of lunch meats and massive wheels of cheese would arrive, and everyone would get to work.
At Eastertime, there were whole hams to be cut. “One Easter, we sold 500 hams,” said Don. “Easter, Christmas, and Fourth of July were our big weeks.”
The Fourth of July also was a big day in Don’s life because that’s when in 1954, he married his wife, Frances. They met as teens at Broad Street Market, where Frances’ father, Lynn Farver, owned a produce stand. The only problem: She lived in Mechanicsburg, and he lived in Progress.
“We bus-dated,” Don said. “I’d take my bus, and she’d take her bus. It depended on where the movie was.”
Frances was 18 and Don was almost 19 when they got married. He kept working for his father. She joined the business, too, and also worked for a food producer. Everywhere Fran went, she spread joy. He remembered one day when they took separate seats on the bus, and he could hear her chatting with someone. He asked if she knew that person. “No,” she said. They just happened to be seatmates.
Their lives revolved around family. Don and Frances had four daughters. Don, his brother, and his parents built neighboring homes. Every Sunday, everyone from both sides of the family would gather at Don and Fran’s house for sandwiches, pinochle, and shooting pool.
In 1968, they decided to build their own market on Route 22, on the outskirts of Harrisburg. At Rudy’s Farmers Market, shoppers found everything they needed, sold by a variety of vendors – meats, cheese, seafood, bread. A grocery section carried canned goods and other staples.
Until it closed in 1990, the market was “a gathering place,” said Don’s oldest daughter, Debbie Kurtz, who was visiting recently along with her sister, Cindy Thomas. “You always saw people at the same time every week. You knew who would come on Friday nights, and they would make hours of it.”
Don moved to Homeland after Frances came for rehab. In the months before her death in January 2018, she formed strong bonds with her Homeland caregivers.
“They took terrific care of my mother,” Debbie said. “They were very informative. They genuinely liked her, so there was a rapport.”
Today, Don is the proud grandfather of 11, and great-grandfather of 15, ages 1 to 23. He likes life at Homeland. He enjoys Sunday services. When he can find three other players, he enjoys playing pinochle.
“I have a nice apartment,” he said. “I like the staff here.”