A Chattanooga Little Known Black History Story

Diane Leslie Mason quit her corporate job at Xerox in 1974 and opened a small daycare in the basement of her parents’ home (Kandy Kastle Daycare).

She was motivated by a documentary she saw on television that featured two children; one a white child and the other a black child.

The white was very comfortable speaking and expressing himself. The black child was just the opposite. He lacked confidence and didn’t project himself well at all.

This picture stayed in her mind so vividly that she made up her mind to start a daycare emphasizing cognitive readiness, nurturing and making black boys and girls feel good about themselves.

She started her business with only four children in July, 1974 (the worst time of year for daycare enrollment) with only her mother and her self as worker. The rest is Chattanooga Black History:

In the next five years her business was the talk of the black community: her little daycare grew to its capacity with a waiting list of 50 or more children. Diane along with her new husband expanded her business in 1983 by purchasing a commercial building on MaCallie Avenue with a capacity to serve 169 children. It took her just two years to reach her capacity. Her children were preforming on programs throughout the community projecting their readiness in public speaking, singing and confidence within themselves.

By 1990 the Masons had bought the two adjacent buildings and raised their capacity to 325 children. They added after school, summer enrichment and cultural enchanting programs. They became the largest comprehensive daycare in the city.

Diane wasn’t finished. She convinced her husband, Gerald Mason, to quit his employment and come in with her in 1989. By 1992, they expanded their business to 1200 Dodson Ave and 300 Highland Park with a combined capacity of 700 students. The demand for their services continued to grow past their capacity so over the next three years they expanded their business to include the vacant gym at East Side Elementary School and leased the East Lake Baptist Church – giving them a total capacity of 1,200 students. They also added new programs: Second Shift, Leadership Development and Parenting Classes for Single Mothers. Their five centers also became more age appropriate with the Dodson Avenue site becoming the Infant Center, McCallie sites becoming the Toddler and Early Grades After School Center, and Highland Park site becoming the Preschool Center. The East Main School Gym became the School Age Program site for Grades 4 through 6 and the East Lake Baptist Church site became the total comprehensive center for all the program offerings.

We employed over 300 people both full and part time with an annual payroll of over $ 2 million plus new businesses started in 1994 and 1995: Kastle Car Care on East Third Street and Kastle Transportation Services on Brainerd Road. These additions made us the largest black company in East Tennessee.

Our business also supported Black churches, cultural programs and athletic programs such as: A Night To Remember, Black College Extravaganza football games and the United Negro College Fund.

In 2016, Diane Leslie Mason was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and closed her business in 2019 after graduating over 5,000 students. She died on November 29, 2021.

Her impact is felt throughout our world with her graduates making their presence felt in most every occupation and service you can mention. She truly made Kandy Kastle Daycare: “ A Place To Grow.“

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