Roland Winslow Junkins

Roland Winslow10 Junkins (Ralph Chester9, Charles Wilbur8, Charles H.7, James6, James5, Daniel4, Daniel3, Daniel2, Robert1)

By Donald A.10 Junkins

"My brother Buster was born in the fall in early October, the loveliest month, and it is fitting that he died in the spring, in the next to lovliest month, in May, the month of lilacs and New England dooryards, and Memorial Day. Our New England poet Robert Frost said it best:

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
her early leaf's a flower
but only so an hour.
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

"The two words most on Buster's mind in these last few months have been 'Mama' and 'Betty.' For some time now he has been in that final comforting family dream, although he woke out of it a couple weeks ago for a few seconds to look at me and focus and say, 'Where the hell have you been?' I started to tell him but it wasn't a question, only his sense of humor, and he drifted off. Two days later, he came out of his drifting again and looked at me and said, in case I didn't get the point, 'I missed you.'

"My brother's early family nickname that stuck with him all his life: 'Buster.' Only a few outside the family, neighbors from Lynnhurst, called him that. Bobby Hammerstrom, the Bloods, Ray Maes. His two best friends, Joe Crocker from Saugus, and Tom Piech from the army, called him 'Junk.' To most of the world, he has always been 'Roland.'

"On Ontario Street in Lynn, just a mile or so through Pine Grove cemetery, fifty yards beyond the west wall, across from grandmother Junkins' house at 118, where my parents lived next to the Crompton's before moving to Lyndhurst in Saugus, about a football field's length from the Lynn line, in 1931. When Buster was a little boy on Pine Hill, he would walk a stone's throw distance down Ontario Street at noontime and sing songs during lunch hour for pennies from the workers at Crompton's Laboratory. Buster had a fine singing voice from the time he was a little boy.

"The family returned to Ontario Street often during the next twenty or so years, always to celebrated Christmas and the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, and usually to visit every Thursday night until both Aunt B and my grandmother died, and the Whites moved to Mousam Lake and Sanford in Maine. For my family, the family itself was the most important thing in the world. All of you know that my brother's family held the central meaning in his life.

"Christmas Day, 1939: Buster, 14, and our first cousin Bob White, 17, set out through the cemetery with new Christmas skated for Flax Pound, just down the street a ways, and went through the ice together in Coolidge's Cove where the water is 60 feet deep. While they treaded water, breaking the edge ice trying to get back to safety, Buster said to Bobby, 'Do you think we'll get our picture in the paper?'

"Another cold February day in the mid-thirties in Lynnhurst, so cold that Superintendent of Schools Vernon Evans called off school in Saugus: it's 20 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. I'm sitting beside the blackboard at our kitchen table, reading Big Little Books, Andy Gump, the Katzenjama Kids. I have no intention of going outside, but Buster has been outside 'exploring' with Bobby Hammerstrom all morning, then bursts through the kitchen door with Bobby, red-cheeked, with the news that Urqhart's house down in Blue Ridge burned down and they watched it.

"That kitchen door at 82 Cleveland Avenue leads down three steps to the landing and the outside door: January 7, 1942. My mother is cooking supper. Buster bursts into the kitchen, crying, 'Midgie's dead!' Walter South, our neighbor and Buster's best friend who lived over on Fairmount Avenue in a white house in back of the Blood's barn, had drowned in Birch Brook Reservoir. Buster had taken the Eastern Mass. bus to Lynn for his organ lesson. Before boarding the bus at the foot of Washington Hill, Midgie and Charlie Wormstead had come by carrying skates, and Buster had said, 'Don't go on the Rezzie,Midgie.' About an hour later, at the other end of the pond, about 50 yards out from Walnut Street, they both went through the ice and Midgie drowned. That evening my sister Betty sat next to Buster as he played church hymns on the organ in the dining room, and she wiped the tears from Buster's cheeks as he played. I was eleven.

"Buster had always been a working boy. He got the job at the Co-op store at the foot of Jefferson Avenue in Lynnhurst when in high school and delivered groceries for Russ Ricker all over Lynnhurst on his Elgin bike, after school and Saturdays.

"Saturday nights and Sundays, he was at Dorr Memorial Church, cleaning, stoking the furnace in winter. One Saturday afternoon before he got the job at the Co-op he bribed me into going to 'the show' at the Olympia movie house in Lynn to see the Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney. I said I'd go if he put a pillow on the double bar between the seat and the handlebars of his Elgin bike. He pumped me all the way to Lynn and back, but it was dark when we got home, him pushing his bike up Washy and then coaxing me to come into the church with him while he stoked the fire for the next day's Sunday service. (Remember, we had just seen the Phantom of the Opera.) There were a few forty-watt light bulbs in the basement of the old church, but behind the boiler at the far end, it was dark, especially inside the walk-in coal bin. I waited until he got into the bin, and rumbled the bass notes of the piano just to taunt him. He came out each time yelling, but I remember deviling him until we got home and I had to face his version and my mother.

"Buster cut the beanpoles out in the Lynnhurst woods for my father's garden. Buster dug a new cesspool and trench in the backyard when Charlie Sellick finally gave up on emptying the old one.

"Buster graduated from high school in June 1943. He wouldn't be 18 until October, so he got a job at the General Electric in Lynn on the 3-11 shirt. He walked to and from the River Works six days a week, down and back through the woods behind Ahl's house. When he was drafted, he was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, then to Camp Atterbury in Indiana. The night before his unit sailed for France shortly after the invasion of Europe he was taken off the ship because he was still eighteen. That unit was decimated during the Battle of the Bulge.

"In late October of '44, the night before he finally sailed he came home for a six-hour leave and we all stood around the piano as he played, and sang popular songs and hymns. When my mother and father took him to the train he disappeared in the crowd before they could say goodbye.

"On the troopship to Europe he stood alone at night in the bow of the ship, rising and falling in the North Atlantic swells. When he was a teenager he would sit on the porch at 82 Cleveland Avenue during thunderstorms, all bundled up, watching the lightening. My mother wrote him a letter every day he was in the army. Those letters are permanently housed in the Old York Historical Society, along with war mementos and family photos and furniture, in the Scotland Parish Room created by Buster's legacy gift to the town of York where the original Junkins ancestor built a homestead in 1657, after being sent as an indentured servant to the colonies by Oliver Cromwell. Robert Junkins had been capture by Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. In the town of York there are nine Junkins family cemeteries, and Buster's legacy insures permanent upkeep of those cemeteries, in perpetuity.

"Buster came home from the war in 1946 after serving in the Army of Occupation in Zellam Zee, Austria. He had driven a reconnaissance jeep ahead of Patton's 3rd army and the main attack force, and had to bail out twice when the protective armor plate on the front of the jeep was riddled by German machine gun bullets. He was the first Allied soldier inside a liberated German prison camp housing men from some eastern European countries for eight years. He had just received a food package from my mother and brought it from his jeep and gave it to the former prisoners. He earned the combat Infantryman's Badge and the European Theater of Operations ribbon with two battle stars.

"When Buster came back from the war in 1946, he got the train to Lynn and called home for Howie Leck, our brother-in-law, to pick him up because he knew there would be a celebration. When he came through the kitchen door we all hugged him and it was an emotional moment for us all. My father held him and sobbed, one of the only two times I ever saw my father cry, the other being when Buster preached his first sermon at the little Dorr Memorial Church in Lynnhurst. While we crowded around and hugged him in our kitchen that night in 1946, I remember Buster smiling through his own tears, saying, 'You're not supposed to cry.' My father had lain awake nights after Buster arrived in France, imagining him in the trench warfare he himself had experienced there in 1918.

"Many Lynnhurst boys came home from the war, but some didn't make it home, Charlie Maes, Roger Whipple down in the flats. Our little community grieved these losses, and celebrated those who made it home.

"Buster was never happy unless he was working. He came back from the war and the first thing he did was give most of his back army pay, almost $600, to renovate the little Lynnhurst Mthodist Church. He built a wing bedroom on our parent's cottage at Great East Lake in Maine. He and I built his own lake camp next to Bob and Pat White's.

"My brother was a mender, a fixer, a renovator, a repairer, a preserver. He made that old Lynnhurst church better; it's gone now, somebody burned it down when my brother's back was turned. But he made it shine for a long time. He and Joe Crocker fixed up an old house in Salisbury, New Hampshire; Buster totally renovated his eighteen century farm in Sanbornton. It's clear now he entered the ministry and made churches grow, in Allston with Joe Crocker, in West Roxbury with Joe and later by himself, in Auburndale. But it's also clear how he grew into the classroom, how he took another university degree and began to teach Russion history, how he grew closer to the land and labored for the Cancer Society and then cared for his 100 acre farm full time.

"Buster never stopped growing. He traveled all over the world. He visited the Soviet Union and stood on a Russian boat next to shore one morning and drank a toast or raw fish with Russian fishermen. Those who know about Buster's aversion to anything raw, to anything fishy, know what that took. He visited me three times in Germany; once, from Frankfurt with our sister Betty, we traveled back to the little German church near the Eastern Zone, a town called Binsfeld, where he had cleaned the bombed sanctuary and played the organ while the war was going on. He played the organ gain that day with Betty and me.

"Another year, he visited me in Italy and we drove to St. Francis's Assisi, and then to Pompeii and Herculaneum, covered by the lava of Vesuvius in the 1st century, and the island of Capri where on the small boat we ducked our ehads to pass into the Blue Grotto. He came to China with Kaimei and me and we stood in Tiananmen Square at six o'clock one sunny morning in July and he looked around and said, 'I can't believe I'm here.' We went to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Buster would go anywhere, anytime; with me.

"For twenty years every fall we'd cut and split ten cords of wood for his winter burning at the Sanborton farm. Sometimes others from the family joined in, and neighbors. He cultivated two acres of high bush blueberries where his neighbors and his family could pick. He drove to York, Maine once a month for twenty years and resurrected and cared for nine Junkins family cemeteries.

"After the war he spent his first year in college at Simpson College in Iowa where my mother had written many letters and completed his application. The next year when he transferred to Boston University he discovered The Junkins Family of York Maine, a history book of the family in the Boston Public Library. He further researched and discovered that the family was descended from seven passengers on the Mayflower. He joined the Mayflower Society.

"Through that kitchen door again at 82 Cleveland Avenue—I remember Buster and Joe Crocker in 1950 coming through, smiling, Buster was holding his church history paper back from Professor Edwin Prince Booth. Of course he got an A.

"Flash back to the late '30s. I'm riding with Buster in the back seat of the old Packard car on route 1 on the way to Maine. We're in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Around the next turn we'll see the barn with the half figure of the Old Man of Seabrook climbing up the side of the barn. We are on our knees peering across the front seat, each vowing to see it first. I see it! We both shout at the same time, we're having a fight in the back seat. 'I said it first!'

'No you didn't,, I said it first! Didn't I mama!'
'No I said it first! Didn't I mama!'

"And so it went until my father threatened to stop the car.

"One summer day in 1940, Buster and Bobby White bicycled to the lake in Maine, one hundred and three miles. They stayed a few hours at camp and bicycled back. Buster went over to tell Bobby Hamerstrom next door what he had just done and Bobby said, 'I'll do it!' So they packed a lunch and Buster set out again with Bobby. They made it, staying long enough to get a breath and peddled back again. Remember those balloon tires on bicycles in 1940? Just one gear? Remember those old hills in Topsfield?

"When Buster completed the twenty-five mile forced march with full pack at Camp Blanding during Basic Training, he told me later he was thinking of my father. He wanted dad to be proud of him. Buster was one of three or four that completed the march.

"After the war, Buster got a job in a print shop in Lynn. He had spent some time before coming home from Germany guarding German prisoners who were waiting for repatriation and he befriended two of them and began to learn some German. When they told him of their families he wrote my mother about them and she sent food and clothes packages to the families in Germany. In the print shop Buster printed a poem written by the German poet Goethe, and he put it on the wall of his camp at the lake, 'The Wanderer's Night Sons' that went like this:

Across the mountain tops there is peace,
hardly a breath in the tops of the trees—
the birds in the woods hush their songs.
Wait just a little while,
soon you will be peaceful also.

"In 1997, a little more than a year before he left the farm for the rest home in York, Maine, Kaimei and I took him back to Zellam Zee in Austria where he was stationed in the Army of Occupation after the war. As we drove across Austria, we stopped the car to look southward at the Alps, and Buster recited that poem to Kaimei. Bald ruhest du auch. Soon you will be at peace.

"On his seventieth birthday, thirty of us surprised him at the Homestead Restaurant in Bristol, New Hampshire, within twenty minutes of his farm. Neighbors, relatives, close friends were there. I had written a poem for the occasion, and everyone had signed it, and Buster kept it on the wall of his kitchen at the farm. It comes full circle now, and it will go into the Old York Historical Society in Maine, with all those names which are now his forever, and somehow in the way of things of the heart, all those other names that meant so much to him will be there too:

Roland Winslow Junkins

Something goes with him across the fields
as the seasons turn,

something from Massachusetts
and Maine, something to do with glades
and old meadows in the sun,

the old poetical lea (from the German -loh,
as in Waterloo) meaning 'grassy field,'

but something also in the other lee,
the quiet in the middle of the storm, rocking
alone on a childhood porch in the lightning

gale, standing alone in the bow of the rising
and falling transport ship

heading into the dark of Europe;
something goes with him in the war
and in the peace, in Iowa and Boston,

in the corner of the field where the deer
stands at dusk, where the markers

shield the dark from the names, deeper
than Scotland and Denmark, this keeper
of the fields, tender

in his care, steady in his touch, something
goes with him from the start.

He knows the long walk home through the woods
by heart.

Donald Junkins
Lynn, Massachusetts, May 2002

Note: See also, Roland Winslow Junkins, Caretaker, an article about Roland's tending of the Junkins' burial grounds, Roland Winslow Junkins, Brother, an article written about Roland's 70th birthday celebration, and True Grit on a Sunday in January.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License