The Good Neighbor
My friends, family and I grew up in a great neighborhood. Driveways only the width of a car separated all of us on Banks Road and all the other streets for blocks. Doors were never locked, there was a basketball hoop on most garages and there was always a mom home to watch you if your mom had to run an errand. In the fall the most popular house was 4 Banks Road, the Faulkner’s house, where the backyard appeared to be the size of a regulation football field - even though it was roughly 30 yards long and 15 yards wide - but it was perfect for anyone aged 8 through 12. When school ended each afternoon we headed to Faulkner’s backyard. We never knocked on the door or asked permission, we just showed up. Soon four of us grew to six of us and probably as many as twenty would show up seven days a week.
It started out as touch football. Eventually most of us scrounged up a used helmet and an over sized pair of shoulder pads. We were the Giants, Eagles, Bears, Packers and sometimes that new team from that new league, The Patriots. There was an old chicken coop which served as our locker room. At one end of the field was busy Paradise Road, Route 1A. At the other end of the field there was a grapevine that we decided would make a great goalpost. One of us would kick an extra point after a touchdown or attempt a field goals on fourth down. Directly behind the goalpost was Mrs. Faulkner’s clothesline. With five children there was always a lot of laundry. Each time the football cleared the grapevine it would take down clothes on that line. We would use the clothespins to hang the laundry back up but the shirts, socks, pants and other garments usually fell in a pile of dirt, mud or wet grass.
Mrs. Faulkner never complained - EVER. She would laugh even as the old, worn football cleared the grapevine and meant another load of wash. Marilyn Faulkner would bring out Kool Aid, High C or offer the garden hose to quench our thirst on those warm late summer and early autumn days. Faulkner’s backyard soon became THE place to head after school. Players from other parts of town began showing up and nobody was ever turned away. Mr. Faulkner was a pharmacist who worked in Salem. His heart and generosity was as large as his wife’s. His solution to the grapevine/laundry issue was simple. He showed up one day while we were playing with three 2 x 4’s, a hammer, nails and a post digger. Soon we had our own, real goalpost and the laundry stayed clean as it dried.
One Saturday we decided to play a football game for charity - to benefit the David Coughlin Fund - David was a Swampscott High School football player who died unexpectedly after a game. Mr. Faulkner took all of Mrs. Faulkner’s baking flour and lined the field. We drew spectators and a traffic jam at the juncture of Banks, Farragut and Paradise Roads. There were probably fifty people who showed up to watch Iowa play Navy but it felt like 50,000. We passed the hat and I still have the article from the Lynn Item with the headline “Small Fry Grid Classic Nets \$9.32.” It was the highlight of our lives with Mrs. Faulkner sitting in her folding chair on the sideline with a tray table full of cups of Kool Aid for us and any of the spectators who trampled her lawn to come and watch us play. Faulkner’s backyard was the center of our lives where we argued, fought, grew up and developed character.
Dick Faulkner and his family live at 4 Banks Road now and the grapevine is still standing but the clothes line has been taken down. Marilyn Faulkner passed away the day after the Super Bowl. She watched the Patriots win surrounded by her family. Those of us who played in her back yard and soiled her laundry were always made to feel like family. Over the years each time one of us would make news in high school, college, get a job, or raise a family - Marilyn would always take pride and boast that “he’s one of my guys. He played in my back yard.” Thank you Mrs. Faulkner, you were always a good neighbor!