ON THE FIRST DAY OF JULY JERRY HAYNES will have hung up his skimmer, candy-striped jacket, and magic cane, bringing to a close his long run as Mr. Peppermint, one of the founding fathers of children’s television. Retiring too is his partner, producer, and puppeteer, Vern Dailey, with whom Haynes worked at WFAA in Dallas beginning in 1961 and with whom he created Mr. Wiggly Worm, Captain Candy, Muffin the Bear, and the other characters who lived at Peppermint Place. Bridging the black-and-white era of Romper Room and Icky Twerp to the modern age of Barney, Peppermint Place baby-sat three decades of children in Texas and across the country (at its peak, in 1993, the program aired in 108 markets nationwide). Although the 69-year-old Haynes will continue to make appearances as Mr. Peppermint, he’ll concentrate on his acting career in entertainment for grown-ups (he plays Faye Dunaway’s husband in an upcoming CBS made-for- TV movie). But, as he told me before signing off, he will still be Mr. Peppermint, in life and in reruns.
How would you describe Mr. Peppermint to someone who hasn’t seen the show?
He’s a happy person. He is quiet and friendly. He is always himself and never forces the moment. He presents a program that is like a good book on the shelf. It’s there for the taking. And yet with this quiet comes a bright costume and a magic cane. A striped magic cane that has always enabled him to turn out the lights, make a telephone call, see great distances, and make colors appear.
Where did you get the name Mr.Peppermint?
It was early March, 1961. I was driving to work two weeks before the show was to begin. The costume had been decided upon, but I didn’t have a name. One