Thursday, April 21, 2005
Original 'Candy Lady' Also Helped the Needy
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
Diana Davis was the original "Candy Lady," the creator of such famous treats as "peanut butter crunch."
To this day, it remains one of the best selling items at The Candy Lady shop in Old Town.
Davis, a technical writer/editor who after retirement partnered with her daughter, Debbie Ball, to run the candy shop, died Saturday. She was 79.
"She was the other half of the business," Ball said. "There was no way to do it without her."
Later, Davis was known for her work with causes to help the needy, her daughter said.
Residents might remember her as the lady who in recent years could be seen riding on the streets near her Lomas and Seventh Street home in Albuquerque.
"She used to run around Downtown in her little scooter," Ball said.
Born in Atarque, in McKinley County, Davis' family moved to Albuquerque when she was 3 years old.
By 12, it was said, she sold and made candy at the Woolworth's Downtown.
Davis was schooled at St. Mary's in Downtown Albuquerque and later attended a business college.
Eventually, she became a civil service worker on what is now Kirtland Air Force Base.
She edited the Sandia Base News and various technical manuals, as well as the Health City Sun and later the Albuquerque Crier, her family said.
Though she retired as a civil servant, candy is what she became famous for.
"She worked out at the base, and in order to make some extra money, we used to make candy at night and she'd take it and sell it at work," Ball said.
"And then, after she retired from the base in the mid-'70s, we started making candy out of an apartment ... She would walk around Downtown to the Sheriff's Department and then down to some of the city offices and she would just take her basket with her and sell candy to make ends meet."
She also would sell her confections, which were made from recipes handed down, at the Convention Center and at the State Fair, Ball said.
Above all, her daughter recalled a great work ethic.
"She always worked because she knew that she was the only one who could support herself," Ball said. "And that's what she instilled in me: Don't depend on anybody else to support you because in the end, it's just you."
By 1980, The Candy Lady opened, though it later moved to its current 524 Romero NW location.
"We actually went into business together," Ball said. "It was my idea to open the store. ... But in order to make it work, we had to have both of us there."
The two women did the cooking at the store. Some recipes such as fudge and brittles, require cooking, Ball said.
"All the ones that are special recipes, I do," Ball said. "And she passed that on to me."
It was through good fortune that Davis concocted her famous "peanut butter crunch."
"It was a mistake years ago," Ball said. "She used to make hard candy, and she ran out of flavoring for her hard candy and she threw peanut butter in them. It tastes like a Butterfinger. It's so good."
The store became famous for its chocolates, licorice, hard candies and, of course, the "naughty candy," as Davis put it.
"The X-rated candy was my idea," Ball said. "She was actually pretty shocked when I decided to do it."
The store became the center of attention in 1982 because of the adult-themed candy.
City zoning officials threatened to close the shop and a local church picketed the site, among other things. The issue blew over after it was determined the store was not violating any zoning ordinance.
Davis left the candy-making business by the early 1990s, turning her attention to charitable endeavors, such as collecting items for the needy.
"The last few years, the major (charity) she was involved in was called Angels Acts of Kindness."
The group helps people who might not make enough money to qualify for public assistance, but do not earn enough to pay for food all month long, Ball said.
"She was very giving," her daughter said. "She was very kind to people and tried to brighten people's days."
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. today at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 619 Copper NW. Interment of the cremains will take place at Mt. Calvary Cemetery. Memorial contributions can be made to Angels Acts of Kindness, 524 Romero NW, Albuquerque, NM, 87102, or to Acoma Pueblo Boys and Girls Club, P.O. Box 126, Acoma, NM, 87034.