Candy maker Frank Martinez came from San Juan De Los Lagos, Mexico where he had learned his trade as a youngster from his father who came from a long line of candy makers.
Francisco Atilano 1896 1992 was barely fifteen years old when as a loyal "Federal" he was fighting during the fall of the city of Paral, Chihuahua to Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolutionaries. Villa had one question to ask the "Federales" captured after the bloody battle. "Are you with us or against us?" Atilano was not asked the question because during the battle a bullet had gone clean through his boot and right leg killing his horse from under him. He was taken to the hospital where the question would be unasked of him until he had significantly recovered.
Carlotta Sanchez, a young sixteen year old girl from the town was helping with the wounded when she fell in love with the young man. Within a week of meeting each other they devised a plan to escape from Mexico and the sentence of death that surely awaited the young soldier. The two traveled north knowing that if they were caught, Francisco was as good as dead. By the end of 1916 they had crossed into Texas, and kept on going till they reached the state of Colorado. Once there Francisco Atilano changed his name to Frank Martinez and worked at anything he could find.
Originally Frank came from a family of candy makers in San Juan De Los Lagos, Mexico but in the north he worked in the fields and in the cities to support his young wife. They lived in Joplin Missouri for a while but finally settled in Colorado. For many years he followed the crops in the "Valle de San Luis," the "San Louie Valley", Colorado. Later he worked repairing antiques and other furniture in Denver. They had settled down to a home and quite family life and developed their own furniture business when in 1939 Carlotta came to California to visit relatives. She was so relieved to avoid the harsh Colorado winter that she called Frank and told him to sell everything and move the family to California. The doting husband could not refuse his wife anything so Frank Martinez came to California to start all over again.
In 1940 Carlotta walked into the offices of Mrs. Christine Sterling on Olvera Street to ask for work. When Mrs. Sterling heard of Frank's candy making skills she immediately offered the family their choice of available puestos for the purpose of selling original old style home made Mexican candy. Things went very well until the start of World War II when sugar and other groceries on the home front became rationed. Sugar, the key ingredient for the home made candy was in scarce supply. Mrs. Sterling told the Martinez family to hold on and not to worry, she would think of something. True to her word, Mrs. Sterling would give Frank her personal sugar ration books and cajole her wealthy friends to give her their valuable sugar ration books in order to keep the candy shop going. It was an open secret that the lovely little houses made of sugar that Frank so carefully crafted were snatched up by shrewd customers only to be melted down by the war weary housewives in need of sugar for their families.
Frank was the first Mexican style candy maker on Olvera Street and indeed in the whole state of California. He invented the "Piruli," by wrapping left over red sugar from the candied apples in paper. These became an instant hit with youngsters who grabbed up the tasty suckers.
Other Candy shops later opened on Olvera Street but Frank was the master who was always willing to answer another candy merchants questions about making candy. He was the first to sell peanuts, popcorn and a variety of nuts at his puesto.
A fond memory for the family was staying open very late to get the customers leaving "El Paseo Inn," at closing time when it was located right in front of the Candy Shop. Many a happy customer was tempted to buy candy late at night to satisfy a sweet tooth after a long night of celebrating on Olvera Street.
In 1985 Reynaldo Salazar took over the shop from his ailing grandfather. He had learned the art of candy making early on from Frank. Rey's after school chores included making sugar candy apples, Pepitorias (Pecan Pralines) and Cocadas (hand made coconut candy). These and other delicacies were all made with pride and loving attention to the fine intricate system that was needed to turn out each batch just right in the little converted kitchen in East Los Angeles. He remembers being one of the many children who was raised on Olvera Street while their parents and grandparents worked 10 and 12 hour days on beloved Calle Olvera
Rey, his wife, and children spent many years working the puesto. Even though by the 1980's things had changed and the hand made delicacies were no longer made by the family, he continues to provide his customers with the highest quality Mexican candy available.