WALLA WALLA — They’ve always called it “The Story of the Blue Door.”
When Jessie Huntington learned the former Walla Walla Public School District’s support services building — and bus parking area — was heading for expulsion this month, she knew her children’s story had to be told.
Huntington has been a bus driver for the district for three years, but her family’s association with the building on South Park Street goes back nearly three decades, in a story she feels is symbolic of Walla Walla back then.
She’s not exactly sure when it started, said Huntington’s daughter, Melissa Randazzo, from her home in Port Angeles, Wash.
“My little brother and I took the bus from Berney (Elementary School) after school and would walk to my grandmother’s condo at All Seasons Condominiums. For 10 years, at least.”
From the bus drop-off point, the siblings would wander a path down an alley that took them past the facility on South Park Street, she recalled. At some point, they spied an opening meant for letters and the like. “We were always very curious and we saw that mail slot in that blue door.”
Randazzo, 32, was about 9 years old, her brother Andrew was “probably 6 or so” and neither knew fear, she said. “So we put our hands into the slot. We were about at eye level with it.”
The first few times, the short duo ran after spotting through the slot a man working at a desk to the right of the door. One day, however, their afternoon ritual sweetened. That time, the man asked them to wait just a minute.
“He said, ‘Hold on,’ then he put candy bars through the slot,” Randazzo said.
From that day on, the treat giver would push through the candy of the day, mostly Hershey’s chocolate bars, but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on occasion. “The full size Hershey’s bars. How often do kids get those? My brother was so excited.”
The tradition continued into Randazzo’s teenage years, Monday through Friday. It was the 1980s and Walla Walla was “really a safe place.” Her parents, far from being alarmed, thought the man’s gestures very, very sweet, she said. “It was such a beautiful time growing up there, with all these adventures for kids and so peaceful.”
From the perspective revealed by a mail slot, the candy man was of average build, in his 50s and had short, gray hair, Randazzo said. The children never spoke to him except to offer up thanks, she said. “My mom always wonders if we could find him.”
From the bus barn, Andrew and his sister would continue on to where their grandmother was waiting to dote on them. There more treats would be supplied, she noted with a laugh. “We got spoiled rotten there and on the way there.”
It was a magical childhood, certainly, and Randazzo is grateful her brother’s daughters saw the blue door for themselves on a visit to Walla Walla two years ago. Andrew, 29, wanted to show his children a piece of his past, she said. “We took them down the alley and let them look through the mail slot.”
Upon reflection of the blue door story, Jessie Huntington finds it funny that she never thought to go see who was giving candy to her kids, she said this morning as she prepared for the day’s bus duty. “I knew it was the school district building and I didn’t have any worry about it.”