Bill Wallace, Berkeley, CA

When I was 3 or 4 years old, my family lived in Berkeley, California, on Allston Way.  I don’t recall the house number, only that we weren’t far from the railroad tracks (and yes, we put pennies on them!) and the PG&E lot.

For a time, my family had a boarder who lived with us.  He was a college student and his name was Bill Wallace.  I recall him as being tall, but at 4 years old, probably most men were ‘tall’ to me.

I also recall that he gave our dog, Diddle, flying lessons. She was a small, shaggy dog, and Bill Wallace would go to the top of the stairs with her, support her on the bannister, and run down the stairs beside her.  Her shaggy little ears would flap in the breeze and she apparently enjoyed these ‘flying lessons’ though she never did manage to leave the ground on her own.

Bill Wallace was responsible for several rituals in our family.  At odd intervals, he would command us, “All please announce your home towns!”

And all of us kids would shout, “Cucamonga!”

I have no idea why this was so hiliarious.

At that time, there was a comic in the newspaper about The Phantom.  And at appropriate times, the line “The Phantom strikes again!” would be used.  My mother began to discover small notes around our house.  If the last cookie was gone from the cookie jar, it would be explained with a note: “The Phantom strikes again!”  Again, this was absolutely the funniest thing that could be imagined, and we kids were always delighted by it.

Time has passed.  I have never given any of my dogs flying lessons. But in the company of my siblings, if anyone demands, “All please announce your home towns!” the cry of “Cucamonga!” is still heard.

And the Phantom notes still appear in our various households, to explain anything from there being no toilet paper left on the roll to no milk in the fridge.

Bill Wallace, I don’t know where (or if!) you are these days.  I’m 58, so I’d put your age at 75 or so.   I have no idea what you went on to do with your life.

But I think it’s pretty wonderful that all these years later, I think of you and smile.  You left something with those Lindholm kids from Allston Way, and we’ve carried it with us, fondly, for all these years.

Blessings on you, college boy forever.

Megan

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