‘Good-bye, Nancy Little’

by on March 21, 2010 · 8 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach


Nancy Little and Genie Zuchinni, Tijuana 1974.

by Genie Phillips aka Zuchinni

If you look at the March 1975 cover of the O.B. Rag – which was just recently posted online here – with the caption ‘International Woman’s Day’, you see a group of women, and one small kid waving a flag, marching on the O.B. pier in support of International Women’s Day.

Rag cover Int Womens Day

OB Rag cover for International Woman's Day 1975 on the OB Pier. Nancy Little is on the very far right of the cover photo. Her son Paul is in front of her with a flag.

To the far right is Nancy Little, in her often-present overalls. At her side, her seven-year old son Paul is merrily waving his flag, just having fun in the festivities.

Joe Cocker sang, “And Every Picture Tells A Story Don’t It…..”

How telling that Nancy should pass on one week after her picture appears once again on the pages of the OB Rag some 35 years later. I wonder if she saw it. I hope so. She loved Ocean Beach.

This picture tells the story of a courageous group of women. These women, and others that sprouted up all over the country, and world, were saying ‘no more’. They faced ridicule and condemnation in order to promote the plight of equality for women everywhere. Yes, they burned their bras, quit shaving their legs, and refused the powder, paint and high heeled shoes. And indeed, this drew attention, not always or nearly ever positive.

These Feminists, Women’s ‘Libers’, usually referred to as ‘dykes’, were sending a message, in essence. I’m not a doll, I’m not a ‘chick’, not a trophy or sex object. I cannot be bought, sold, or owned. I am a human being, and deserve respect and privilege afforded the other half of society. They bound together in ‘sisterhood’ and fought the battle on all grounds, political, as well as legal, but especially personal.


Genie Zuchinni and Nancy Little, circa 1975.

Nancy Little was one of those stouthearted women.

Her wry sense of humor was stunning. With her southern drawl and simple blunt delivery, one never knew if she were joking or not. Most of the time, I believe, it was just her telling her truths, that perhaps others were hesitant to express. She also was absolutely brilliant. Her knowledge of history and politics was awesome to me. She read books that befitted a college professor. I was in complete admiration of her intellect.

We came together in the early 70’s through our involvement in the anti-Vietnam War Movement, when Ocean Beach was a haven of counter-culture activity. The O.B. Rag, People’s Food Store, O.B. Free School, and the movement to stop O.B. from becoming Miami Beach, were a few of the many activities of the day. But one of the things that drew us together was the fact that we were both struggling single mothers.

Being in Ocean Beach at that time enabled us to have the support and extended family we were lacking. All of those activist people took our boys, Paul and David, under their wings and showered them with love and security. They became brothers, and Paul became my #2 son, lifelong.

I have more memories with Nancy during those times we were together in the 70’s than I have with nearly anyone. Some are wonderful, some are painful, but all of them are precious, if only for the lessons learned. We were partners in crime, and sisters in solidarity. She owns a piece of my heart, and always will, whether I like it or not. She was just like that.

Nancy loved to have fun, loved adventures, and was always ready to listen to music long into the night. I think she knew the words to every Joan Biaz song there was, and would sing along, (a little out of turn! she didn’t care). If I listen carefully I can hear her sing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, or bellowing out Rockie Racoon, emphasizing the line…”and everyone knew her as Nancy”.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights was also a favorite of hers, and once when I heard it I dropped off an e-mail to her, saying, “Hey, remember this?” The following is her response I found in my old e-mails:

Hello!Never will forget!Details?What?Really glad at this time in my life that I’v had some wasted days and wasted nights.That don’t seem so wasted at this time in my life.Have met more than a few women over the years that can only wish for a few wasted nights in Mexico or a warm beach. Still have some room left in this life for a few more adventures.Oh!Yes! Next time that you come to the Bay Area come on out to the Island . Thanks for writing.

Love Little

Here’s another one I found, and if you knew her, you can probably hear her:

Hello!How are you?

Looks like I’ll still be here in Alameda in Sept.Are you still heading up here?If so hopefully you can find some time to come over a bridge or through a tunnel to get together.I still am staying in the same place.One room but one of the very few places I can smoke and watch TV sitting on the bed at the same time.Don’t ask much from live but it’s sure hard to find it anymore.

If you wanna spend the night ut will give me a reason to go get a blow up bed that plugs into the wall.Had a pump one in Oregon my foot got tired.

My usual days off from work are Tue,Wed and Friday.I’m able to trade days or get sick. Write Back.

Love Little

I never did make it up there, but the night before she passed, her son Paul called me and put her on the speaker phone and I got to hear her voice for a moment. Thank you Paul. I wish I had gotten the chance to say “I love you”.

So the page turns, and the story continues. Nancy gave so much for the rights of the down trodden and justice for all. We have much to thank her for. She may have not done everything right, or conventionally. I certainly have not. But she left us with so much. Her legacy, (fondly referred to by many), the “Incredible ” Paul Little.

Paul Little, often used as one word, “paullittle” was the kid with the deep voice, and the high water pants, cruzin around O.B. and a stranger to none. Who would have ever dreamed he would turn into the man he has, under the sometimes difficult circumstances. I am so proud of him. He lives in the Bay Area, has been working as a grounds patrol officer at the San Francisco Library since 1997. His wife Monique is in graduate school, and a real jewel. They have two sons, Tristan, 17, and Julian 15. Tristan will be attending college next year.

Paul and I have communicated this foreseeable event for quite some time. He told me Nancy’s wish was that her ashes be brought back to O.B., and he would fulfill that dream.

The plans now are that he and his family will come down on the weekend of April 22. He wishes to have a ‘gathering’, or party on that weekend for anyone who wants to attend.

Nancy had her troubles at the end of her life. As some know she lived at a homeless center. She left no provision for Paul to deal with her ending, nor for the trip.  I have received permission from Paul to attach his “paypal” account for anyone else who would like to contribute. I know he would love to see any of you that can or want to attend.

You have touched many lives Nancy Little. I don’t think you ever knew how much you were loved.

For the Paypal account for Paul Little, please go to his email address:  paullittle2@yahoo.com – go to PayPal and select the “send” tab.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dickie March 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Thank you so much for this remembrance of Nancy Little. You have said so much so well to evoke her very special character and the times many of us shared. The picture of you and Nancy in Tijuana is a classic and looks so much like the way I remember each of you.
I was especially moved by what you wrote about “. . .she also was absolutely brilliant. Her knowledge of history and politics was awesome . . .” I remember when I first settled in OB Nancy and Paul Little were neighbors during the years I lived on the last block of Cape May. I lived in Red House next door and then the “Barracks” across the street. She was a pal and a frequent late night companion, talking in Red House living room or out on her steps. And I also knew how smart and knowledgeable she was about so much . . . she would blow my mind with her insights . . . I could only wonder why she spoke up so little in other circumstances . . .
And finally, Genie, thank you for some of Nancy Little’s later words in messages to you, and yes, I can hear her saying: “Don’t ask much from life but it’s sure hard to find it anymore.”and: “My usual days off from work are Tue,Wed and Friday.I’m able to trade days or get sick.”
She was an original and a beauty . . . and will always be a wonderful memory in my heart


Genie March 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Thanks Dickie, …. She was quite unique, and could come up with a solution to most situations, (not always mainstream, to say the least). Here’s one; Being a strick vegetarian, and limited on funds and food stamps, she would come up with these incredible receipes, the one that has always stood out in my mind was making Halvah from Cream of Wheat! what the *……???? I brought it!
We had some fine ‘0l times didn’t we brother.


Diana Tumminia March 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Nancy was my best friend and our kids spent all their play time together in magical warp called the early 1970s. It was the worst of times and the best of times, to quote Dickins. We bonded because we were vegetarians, and our kids, who hated zucchini, went to the same preschool. Both of us had very little income, had disabilities (and ideologies) that precluded working in the capitalist labor market. We lived partly off the OB diet (whatever you could find in the Safeway dumpster), partly off welfare, and, yes, partly off the intellectual stimulation of the times. Poor in cash, we were rich in friends and the natural world. We could had community and human connections with other people that can hardly be found today. Paul, Domi, and Tony romped in the surf, scaled rooftops, and devoured avocado sandwiches. We planted sunflowers and watched sunsets. We weren’t single-mothers in my sense of that time, but women with children embedded in many concentric circles of caring loving communities intermingled with other caring loving communities. Nancy always made me laugh even in those best of worst times.


Tara Bicks Robosson March 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

“Hi Paul. This is Tara Bicks (Robosson). Do you remember me and my brother Randy. We sure remember you. So sorry to hear about Nancy. The write up Genie did is really moving and totally brought me back. I’ve stayed in touch with a few people from OB. Hope you feel life has been good to you. I dont know about you, but I feel very rewarded for having had our experiences that our wonderful family gave us as kids. I have kept the spirit alive within myself and hopefully passed it on to others. Drop me a line if you can. Hang tight and celebrate. Love Tara. ”

This is me getting in touch with Paul and that was my second reply and we are still chatting. Genie thanks. Cant wait to reunite with all of you someday. would certaintly love to be there on the 22nd


lane tobias March 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm

very moving genie. although im not an obecian of that time, i can taste and smell and hear your conversations, the stimulating conversation between two rebels and the rest of the world…..i hope that everyone who knows nancy can find some solace in this piece.


Dominic Tumminia March 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I’m so sad at her passing having expienced many passings lately. Steel yourself Paul and continue. I know it’s hard and I feel you. Old bud -Domi

P.S. Love to all the O.B.ceans.


Frank Gormlie March 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Dominic, it was good to see your words. I’m trying to make sure that Paul sees them.


susie bench harpine March 29, 2010 at 8:04 pm

dear big sister Nancy, may Great Spirit bless you and guide you on the next chapter of your spiritual journey. We are here for such a short moment, and you touched many people, with your laughter and joy, and i remember your down to earth sensibility and your no frills frugality ! Nancy is the one who showed me the free box when Adrienne kept throwing her clothes in the ocean… bless you Paul and all who love her in this time of solemn reflection. we are all better for knowing this beloved warrior woman! peace and love to all O B forever……….Susie Bench Harpine


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