Don Johnson doesn't have to travel up Route 1 to hear the clash of football pads and the roar of the crowd, he just needs to go to work.
Johnson, a third-generation resident of North Attleborough, is the head of the high school's history department and its football team. His family history in town begins with his great-grandfather, who moved here from Nova Scotia in the 1890s.
Johnson himself moved to North Attleborough when he was 10, after his father retired from the Marines. He graduated from North Attleborough High School in 1979 and returned to substitute teach and volunteer as a football coach after getting his psychology degree from the College of the Holy Cross.
"I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do when I graduated, so I gravitated back to my roots. North Attleborough will do that to you ... it has its own gravitational pull," he said. "I was drawn back by those people who had been so influential in the formative part of my life.
"It's really the people that make North Attleborough so special," Johnson said. "I had some great teachers and coaches — people who were good at their craft, but also genuinely interested in helping kids succeed. And there were some real characters, many of whom have become lifelong friends."
The residents thrive despite the town's monetary struggles, he said. "North Attleborough has always been financially conservative, and we've always had one of the lowest tax rates around — but it's catching up to us now."
Johnson still has faith in the town's future, though.
"It has always been a great place to raise a family," said Johnson, who did just that with his wife, Patti. They have three children, now adults.
"Despite the rocky road right now, I think it will continue to be a great place to call home."
By the numbers
The year John Woodcock, the first settler in Attleborough Territory, built his home, the Woodcock Garrison House. An addition to the home, built
between 1730 and 1740, still stands.
The number of votes that approved the rezoning of the parcel that would house the Emerald Square mall. The vote, held in 1985, was the largest
in town history at that point. The mall now brings in $1.51 million
in real estate taxes.
Feet above sea level where the World War I Memorial Park and Zoo is located — the highest point in Bristol County. The petting zoo features goats, donkeys, and even emus.
Pros & cons
There's an emphasis on athletics— the high school's track and field and football teams are perennial contenders — but not at the expense of honesty. In 2014, the track and field team received high praise for reporting a scoring error that took the Division 2 championship from them. ... Plus, the Thanksgiving Day game against Attleboro is a must-see. The winner takes home the coveted Hilda trophy, purportedly named for the football mom who agreed to host the first pregame breakfast.
North Attleborough has one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state ($10,898 in fiscal 2014, nearly $2,000 less than neighboring Attleboro). Recent budget reductions have led to higher student fees, the cutting of middle-school language programs, and the closing of an elementary school.