To the Right of Attila-the-Hun

Feb 7, 2017 | 4 comments

1320 Versailles Avenue – ‘Home’ 1941-1947

The phone rang about ten o’clock yesterday morning.  A deep, pleasant voice said, “Is this Sydney Little of Versailles Avenue in Alameda?  This is Bob Reading.”

“Oh! My! God!” (Did I say that out loud?) “Robert?  Robert Reading?”  I’m so glad I had reached out to a nice-looking guy named “Bob Reading” on FaceBook a year or so ago — even if it did take him so long to read his messages!

The next hour sped by as this man I’ve never met – he was a little boy when last we played together in the 1940s – talked down memory lane.  I can’t remember when I’ve had more fun!

It was his sister, Jackie, who was my best friend in the neighborhood.  And Joyce who was a couple of years older but I remember them all in one breath – “Jackie-and-Joyce” because we did most things as a threesome.  Robert (“Can I call you Robert?  I can’t think of you as ‘Bob’,” I said) who was MUCH younger is clear in my mind, too.

Home-made crate Scooter

He’s the one who broke his leg trying to climb their pointy wrought iron fence.  And he’s the one who fell out of our sunroom window into my dad’s cactus garden (“I think one of my sisters pushed me,” he laughed.)  As it turns out, he’s only a year and a half younger than I.  But, when you are seven or eight and you are a girl and he is a boy and a younger brother of your friends at that… as I said, MUCH younger.

We talked about our families.  Jackie died a few years back.  Joyce, at almost 84, is doing well and “feisty as ever.”  They both married which sort of surprised me because when we moved away in 1947 they were both planning to become nuns.  The Reading kids went to St. Joseph’s not to Edison School like I did. They taught me how to say a rosary and I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I was allowed to help them clean the house on the Saturdays before “Father” came to dinner!

We talked about homemade crate scooters, getting ice from the iceman’s delivery truck, and about the neighbors we remembered – scary, old Mrs. Musso with her goiter and the young woman who lived in the little house behind the Readings – the one who was always pregnant and who taught me how to iron.  And about my dog, Zipper.  (“Zipper was your dog?  I didn’t know that!  I thought he was the neighborhood dog!”)  And we laughed.

Robert — a bit older than in my memory

We laughed a lot throughout the entire conversation.  And we caught up a little with our current lives.  He told me about his two daughters and his only granddaughter.  And that he had married a girl he’d known since his grammar school days, and that he’d served in the Navy and then had been a cop in Contra Costa County.  I told him about my life over the last seventy-or-so years and we promised to stay in touch.

“We probably shouldn’t talk politics, though,” he said.  “I don’t think we’d agree.  I’m probably to the right of Attila-the-Hun.  But Joyce is a different story.  She’s somewhere to the left of Jesus Christ!”  And we laughed some more.  As I hung up the phone I thought that maybe we should talk a little politics sometime.  Robert Reading from Versailles Avenue just might be able to help me understand… or vice-versa.


  1. Janice Leonard

    How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall listening to both of your stories! It would be nice to hear his perspective of how you older girls treated him!

    • sydney

      Surely you know we were kind and generous and included him in all our secrets??? lol

  2. Bob Reading

    Man!! what a good looking sailor. Sydney, I went to costco and had some prints made. Should I send them to your PO address?

    • sydney

      Yes! I think so, too! I can’t believe you’ve already gotten CostCo copies and I’m still looking for that Zipper Christmas card!
      Sending them to my P.O. Box would be perfect! Thanks.


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