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My First Home: Pop culture and ‘Friday Night Fights’ in North Attleborough

My First Home
my-first-home-robin-heighway-bury
. —Robin Heighway Bury for The Boston Globe

It wasn’t the house, it was the people — those who lived there, those who wandered into it regularly, and the neighbors who orbited it like satellites.

My father’s family had grown up in the house on Franklin Avenue in North Attleborough. Even after we took ownership, his siblings entered without knocking, opened drawers and doors as if they still dwelt there, and even felt free to take unannounced naps. My mother once commented that it was definitely a group home of sorts. To my young mind, though, it was the people who inhabited the house that made it home.

The house also came with my grandfather. He was widowed and in poor health, so from what I understood, the progeny who volunteered to care for him got the house, and my father had stepped up. But it was my mother who was present for most of his daily care, a job she performed with compassion and welcomed companionship.

In the early 1950s it was a modest place, a smallish nondescript house that sat at the midpoint of a dead-end among houses of the same ilk. Some of the neighbors had been born in the homes they occupied and knew the street stories as well as my father did.

The house was sporadically occupied by a few transient uncles. One was Uncle Moe, the youngest of my dad’s clan, who stayed with us for periods of time between his Merchant Marine travels. He was fun, could draw cartoons, and provided the household with more than a few shenanigans.

The “parlor’’ was Uncle Moe’s favorite spot, and it also showcased the miracle of that era, a tiny-screened black-and-white TV, the only one in the neighborhood and a treasure, since pennies were pinched. Neighbors and relatives were welcomed to view the wonder whose case was five times larger that’s its screen. The “Friday Night Fights’’ were an institution, one my grandfather especially enjoyed. I can still clearly hear the theme song and the ding of the end-of-round bell. My uncle amazed my grandfather with his predictions of the winner of each bout. “He’s uncanny!’’ Pop would exclaim, having no knowledge of the concept of the rerun, while my uncle hooted with laughter every single time.

There was the family doctor, who made house calls, of course, and was summoned to our home on many a winter night for my grandfather. Dr. Loeb would administer a shot to Pop in his bed and then crawl in beside him to chat and ward off the cold while he waited to monitor the results.

And the neighborhood, it belonged to us all. Entrance to neighbors’ houses was casual and common. Even requests for a sandwich were complied with on a regular basis.

Toddlers were sometimes harnessed and tied out in the yard at the just-walking stage of life. How else was coal shoveled and laundry done? (Remember the hand-fed wringers and the clotheslines?) Some of us managed to wriggle out of the harness, sacrificing clothing to execute the escape, only to be returned by a neighbor, nary an eyebrow raised.

Decades later my family fondly remembers the humble Franklin Avenue house, but for me, it is not the structure that brings on nostalgia. In my mind, the house represents a data file, a storehouse for the memories of the people who so deeply shaped my earliest years.

Nancy Driscoll is a retired teacher living in Attleboro. Send comments and a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue. Subscribe to our newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.