Buckhead Tales: The Candy Man

Growing up I thought every neighborhood had one. A ‘Candy Man.’

Back in the 1950s on Wieuca Terrace in Buckhead you bet we had one. I sing the praises of Mr. Daley, Candy Man supreme. He lived down the street in a little white house with his sister and seemed old, but I was 8 and anyone over 40 seemed ancient. His yard, unlike the rest of the pristine lawns on our street, was unkempt. He was the only neighbor that would let us play football in his front yard, everyone else would scream out their windows for us to “get off the grass.”

Our Candy Man was a touch on the eccentric side. In the seven years I lived on his street I only saw him wear one ensemble. He had a sparkling white terry cloth bathrobe he wore as proudly as if it were a royal cape. I can’t remember if there was anything under that robe. On summer mornings he would stand on his tiny back porch and belt out opera tunes. His arias would start out quietly until his tonsils warmed up and then after about 30 minutes he would build to a crescendo that shook the English ivy on the trees.

OK, let’s get back to the candy. The process was simple: go to the front door and ring the bell. That was it. The Magnificent One would come to the door, look to see if the supplicant was of the proper age, then turn and say, “Well, let me see if I have a little something for you.” He didn’t fool around by handing us little mints or candy corn. No, our man delivered a full-size Snickers or Baby Ruth to outstretched and clamoring paws. A quick thank you and then we were back playing football. My gang and I probably hit him up at least 3 times a week. On special occasions we would be graced with possible the greatest gift of all when he would retreat to his freezer and return with childhood’s holy grail – frozen Reese’s peanut butter cups.

One time on Halloween my brother had the flu and could not assault our neighbors with the usual trick or treat demands. He was so morose that my father asked him what would make him feel better.

“Take me to the Candy Man” was his only plea.

My father bundled him up and carried him down to Mr. Daley’s. When they returned Steve was clutching a full half gallon of Foremost fudge ripple ice cream. He ate it in one sitting and hasn’t had the flu since.

Nowadays everybody fears everything and everyone. Even those institutions who should be the most trusted have betrayed us. You know who I’m talking about. Today if some guy started handing out candy to kids you bet the phone would be ringing off the hook down at the police station. Maybe it should.

Our parents didn’t seem to be alarmed by our Candy Man. Maybe they should have worried and I guess we were lucky that our man had no other motive other than he liked kids playing in his yard. For us it was a simpler time when a neighbor could randomly hand out treats without it being a big deal. My wife tells me they had two Candy Ladies in her childhood neighborhood. I hope you had a Candy Person. My kids have never known a Candy Man or Lady. They are all gone, gone away. They have gone the way of the dodo birds.

Jim Tate
Author, Buckhead Tales

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