Rainier Fruit Company exists today as the marketing arm of Zirkle Fruit Company.
Lyman Bunting was a 13-year-old orphan in 1904 when he arrived in Yakima, Washington, from Utah to live with his older brother Charles and finish school. Almost immediately, he secured a job with the newly formed Artificial Ice and Cold Storage Company, which was then primarily a supplier of ice for residential customers.
Before school, Bunting fed and hitched the horses used by the ice wagons, and after school, he returned to care for the animals when the drivers had finished their routes for the day. Bunting graduated from North Yakima High School in 1910 and was determined to have a career in helping develop the valley’s burgeoning orchard industry. But he needed a college degree in agriculture. He chose the University of Illinois, which had an outstanding reputation in this field. He was quickly accepted, but he had no money for an expensive college education. Undaunted, Bunting asked a local bank to finance his way through the university—with only his character and reputation for collateral. He got the loan.
After college graduation and with a college loan to pay, he returned to Yakima and secured a job teaching and coaching football at his high school alma mater. At the same time, he and his brother Charles cleared and planted a 20-acre orchard on Naches Heights. Bunting now had his goal in sight. His teaching income helped pay back his bank loan, and he now had his start as a grower in the apple industry.
His life was interrupted by the country’s 1917 entry into World War I. He received a commission as First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and was given flight training; he then went to France where he flew a biplane as an artillery spotter. Fortunately, he returned in good health to Yakima after the war ended and quickly slipped back into the fruit industry. He formed a partnership with Fred Raymond, and the two men acquired the Artificial Ice and Cold Storage Company—the same place he had hitched and fed horses for school money when he had arrived in Yakima as an orphan 15 years earlier.
The new partners soon realized that their new company could fill a need in the Yakima Valley fruit industry. Local fruit was increasingly sought after in markets that required shipment over long distances by rail. Such shipments in unrefrigerated rail cars would have destroyed the tender produce long before it reached an East Coast buyer. Cooling the cars was necessary during much of the year. Raymond and Bunting changed the direction of Artificial Ice and Cold Storage Company from primarily a residential supplier to a critical component of the fruit shipping business.
The partnership negotiated a contract with Pacific Fruit Express for railcar icing; and this contract lasted 50 years until refrigerated cars replaced the "icers."
Concurrently, Raymond and Bunting founded Rainier Fruit Company, first as a marketing agency, and then as a packing and cold storage firm. This company did a complete job of moving apples from the orchards to buyers in the East. Soon, Bunting became a leader in local, state, and national fruit industry interests. His efforts were, to a large extent, responsible in the mid-1930s for the establishment of the Washington Boxed Apple Commission, which was a forerunner of the present Washington Apple Commission. The Boxed Apple organization was the first organized statewide effort to establish a national market for the state’s apple crop—a marketing shift that helped contribute to the ultimate demise of the fruit box label. Over time, and continuing to the present day, quality fruit came to be distinguished by its source in Washington State rather than by the label of a particular grower.
Bunting and Raymond, of course, made great use of the label in marketing during its heyday in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
The Rainier Fruit Company marketed under the Rainier, On-Ice, and Bunting labels, and the company name and label design live on today as the marketing arm of Zirkle Fruit Company.
Lyman Bunting retired from business in 1964. The orphan had come a long way from an ice wagon horse-hitcher to a successful businessman and community leader.
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