Roberta Naiman’s middle name is Joy, and that’s what she brought, and continues to bring, to her family and friends. Throughout life, she found her own joy in varied interests, but she especially loved to jitterbug. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh achieved his transatlantic flight, inspiring the jitterbug dance known as the Lindy Hop. On June 13 of that same year, Roberta Joy Kantor was born to Mary and Phillip Kantor of San Diego. When she wasn’t lindying, swing dancing, or jiving, she attended Hoover High School and worked with her mother Mary at Gladys Scott Smart Shop, her mother's sister’s dress shop. Every Saturday, she took time off to go to downtown with her friend Barbara Cooper. They’d order grilled cheese sandwiches and strawberry malts at a malt shop called Sheetz.
She met her husband, Morris “Morrie” Naiman, while on a date with her steady beau, Harold Leher, at the Pacific Square Ballroom. Morrie asked her to dance and the rest is history. Harold was history. Roberta made family her top priority throughout her childhood, and as a wife and mother, this remained true. She proudly became Mrs. Morrie Naiman on March 7, 1947, three months shy of her 21 st birthday. Just as proudly, she took on the role of homemaker and mother to Mike, Randy, and Phyllis, whom she gave birth to when she was 23, 25, and 27 years old, respectively.
Every Saturday night, she and Morrie left the kids home with a sitter. The couple might have dinner, maybe see a movie. The Sound of Music was one of their favorites. Roberta never stopped loving to dance. She taught the neighborhood kids The Twist when Chubby Checker came out with the song in 1960. “Move your foot like you’re smashing a cigarette on the ground,” she’d say. “Then move like you’re rubbing a towel behind your tush.”
Sadly, her favorite dance partner passed when she was just 47. Roberta and Morrie had been married 27 years when she was forced to take on the greatest challenge of her life. She became both mother and father to her three children, who have since blessed her with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Without a dance partner, she developed new pastimes: Friday mahjong with her girlfriends, visiting her box in The Turf Club at Del Mar, and playing the odds at Barona Indian Casino. Her family still makes a fuss about her birthdays, competing to see who can give her the most and best cards. Because everyone knows you can’t give Roberta Joy Naiman just one. She may be one of a kind, but when it comes to birthday sentiments, the more the better.