SUBURBIA: THE GOOD LIFE IN CT?
Produced, Written & Directed by Kenneth A. Simon
NARRATOR: More than three million of us call Connecticut home, but who are we? Who do we think we are?
CHARLES MONAGHAN (Editor, Connecticut Magazine): Connecticut has always had an identity problem. We've never known whether to be the big-city sophisticates of New York or the Calvinist farmers of New England.
NARRATOR: What do we have in common and what divides us? Do we share a sense of place?
MICHAEL STERN (Connecticut Author): When people think of Connecticut, they think -- they don't think of anything in particular and I think that's fine. I mean, there's no reason for us to get chauvinistic and say we in Connecticut all believe in one thing or another. Ah --
JANE STERN (Connecticut Author): It sounds like a roadside attraction. Connecticut -- the mystery state.
MICHAEL STERN (Connecticut Author): What is it? Who are they?
JANE STERN (Connecticut Author): What is it?
HERB JANICK (Historian, W. CT State U.): People kind of identify Connecticut with the white picket fences and the small town, but in reality, Connecticut from the mid nineteenth century on has been a very urban, very ethnic, a very industrial place, a varied kind of a place, even though it's small.
NARRATOR: Not entirely New York. Not entirely New England. Is Connecticut after all just a place between Boston and New York or is there more to it than that?
CHARLEY DUFFY (Exec. Dir., Council of Small Towns): Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the country, which makes it the wealthiest place on the face of the earth. Now, the economy of this state and the region is crumbling and that may bring about some fundamental changes.
ELIZABETH SHEFF (Hartford City Council): We are really in most people's minds 169 little solvent states. What I see is a state that's fractionalized by the tradition that we hold.
NARRATOR: The search for our shared identity is far from academic. As Connecticut turns the century, it faces many economic, social and political challenges that will demand of its residents a shared sense of place and a common purpose.
JUAN FIGEROA (Connecticut State Representative): There are a number of issues that I think exists these days that bring to the forefront the fact that Connecticut today is very different than it was a hundred years ago or whatever. Income tax is one of them. Can we have a state that successfully deals with some of the political challenges that face it, all of which call for widespread sacrifice and concession and some sense of mutual obligation when in fact we have no common sense of who we are or what we want to be?
NARRATOR: Connecticut's financial troubles have been particularly unsettling, because the state has so long been associated with affluence. Until very recently, Hollywood portrayed Connecticut as a place apart, wealthy, well heeled, genteel.
COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): You know, you say, "I'm from Connecticut," and they picture you spending your weekends racing at Lyme Rock with Paul Newman and your evenings around the fireside in Cornwall with Mike Nichols and Francine Duplice (?) Grey chatting about literature.
Clip from Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, 1948: '
HUSBAND: Mary, would you spend $7,000 to tear out someone else's walls when for a few thousand more you could find a nice old place in Connecticut, fix it up and have the kind of dream house you've always wanted?
WIFE: I beg your pardon?
MICHAEL STERN (Connecticut Author): I came to Connecticut from Illinois and my image of Connecticut before I got here was extremely vague. I think when I thought of Texas, I thought of a cowboy in a cowboy hat or when I think of Iowa I think of a strapping farmer or a brash New Yorker. My image of Connecticut I think was of a man in plaid pants in a country club sipping a martini.
Clip from Christmas in Connecticut, 1945:
BUTLER: Pardon me, Mrs. Lane, but I'm planning on having a farm in Connecticut myself one day. I'd like some good bottom land.
MRS. LANE: Bottom land?
BUTLER: Yes, that's best kind for farming, isn't it?
MRS. LANE: Oh, some people say yes and some people say no.
BUTLER: But, what do you say?
MRS. LANE: Ah, I'm inclined to agree with them.
BUTLER: Oh, thank you very much.
JEANINE BASINGER (Curator, Wesleyan U. Film Archives): I grew up in a movie theater in South Dakota and I had a very clear, very specific image of Connecticut from the movies and that was why I really wanted to come here. When I was offered a job here, I thought, great! I'm going to that place where they have those beautiful homes in the country with tennis courts and swimming pools and those old station wagons with wood that have two matching dogs in the back and they have those kitchens so big you could land a helicopter and everybody wears tweeds and everybody is well dressed and elegant and rather ritzy and at night they put on tuxedos and I thought, this is great. This is for me. I can go live there like being in a Hollywood movie.
Clip from Adam’s Rib, 1949:
MAN SHOWING HOME MOVIE: Pretty country up there! Tree kissing, a famous old Connecticut custom. Barn kissing, a famous old Connecticut custom.
PAUL STACY (Cinema Prof., U. of Hartford): Usually it's a place to escape from. You escape from the City, ugly corrupt New York and you come to the country and you expect the uncomplicated pastoral life.
Clip from Adam’s Rib, 1949:
MAN SHOWING HOME MOVIE: Wife kissing, a famous old Connecticut custom!
PAUL STACY (Cinema Prof., U. of Hartford): You got the idea that people were aristocratic, artistic, theatrical and they lived well. You look at their homes and you think, well, everyone in Connecticut's a millionaire, but that's the Hollywood image and it's a nice image, but completely false.
JEANINE BASINGER, CURATOR (Wesleyan U. Film Archives): The first thing I noticed when I got here, which I wrote home back to the folks in South Dakota was, guess what, this place is full of pizza parlors. I mean, who knew there were Italians here? You didn't know that from the movies. You really didn't know from the movies of my childhood anything ethnic about Connecticut and now the films that are made about Connecticut frequently focus on the working class as you see in Mystic Pizza.
Clip from Mystic Pizza, 1988:
GIRL: Greenwich, my ass!
BOY: Daisy, look! Daisy, this is Serena Windsor, my sister. Serena, this is Daisy Arroshuo.
SISTER: Daisy, Hi!
PAUL STACY (Cinema Prof., U. of Hartford): You have the wealthy boy who's thrown out of Yale for being dishonest or cheating on an exam and he has trouble with his father, but his father's extremely wealthy. You should see their home.
Clip from Mystic Pizza, 1988:
GIRL: They were being real jerks! The only jerk at that table was you. They were just being themselves. Bringing home your poor Portuguese girlfriend for dinner.
PAUL STACY (Cinema Prof., U. of Hartford): So you have representatives of the upper class and then you have the people who own and run, who work in the pizza place, so the clash between the classes is a wonderful opportunity showing you how they work, how they live. It's almost a course in sociology.
YE OLDE CONNECTICUT
NARRATOR: Connecticut's tourism department affectionately promotes an image that evokes the state's colonial past. It's a powerful image, one with which many residents identify.
Commercial, CT Dept. of Economic Development:
Looking for a special place to spend your vacation? Come to Connecticut! You'll find 350 years of classic vacation ideas.
BARNEY LASCHEVER (Dir., “Classic CT” Campaign): We're promoting Connecticut as quintessential New England. As example, this beautiful New England style church behind me on the Litchfield green, classic Connecticut, the side of New England. We feel we’re very much a part of New England, classic state, classic colonial villages and classic attractions, classic landscape.
Commercial, CT Dept. of Economic Development:
The coast, the city, the country -- classic Connecticut -- the pride of New England.
BARNEY LASCHEVER (Dir. “Classic CT” Campaign): Our problem with promoting and selling Connecticut is that people have their own image of Connecticut who have never been here before and a great many of them unfortunately don't associate Connecticut with New England or else they think that we're just a suburb of New York.
Commercial, CT Dept. of Economic Development:
What's a classic vacation? One that's a sure fire hit.
CHARLES MONAGHAN (Editor, Connecticut Magazine): We've always been between New York and New England, caught between in many ways, and it's been difficult for us over the years to forge our own identity and you can see what difficulty we've had if you just look around. You see that our state song, for instance, is not even about Connecticut -- Yankee Doodle. It's about a person. We've got to be the only state in the nation who's song isn't about itself.
THE SEARCH FOR A STATE SONG: PART ONE
TOM CALLINAN (Connecticut State Troubadour): The purpose was back in early 1977 to establish a state song. They felt that there was a need for a state song to give us identity when the governor and other dignitaries would show up at events, so a hearing was held and many people wrote songs and had all kinds of different people performing them. Some were on recording and some were live and I spent a whole day in the hearing. Some of the songs were great and some of the songs were not so great, but everybody put their heart into it.
“Hail To Connecticut” by Rose Perotta & Young At Heart
Nathan Hale, the Charter Oak, a history of pride and pain.
Through the years and for all time, Connecticut, we praise your name.
Hail to Connecticut with a heritage so grand.
Hail to Connecticut, to the Constitution state.
Down through Connecticut where the mighty river flows,
So moves Connecticut as are mighty nation grows.
Home of the Mountain Loral,
And the robin on the wing,
To you we lift our voices,
And praises we sing.
Hail to your rocky shores,
Your hills and valleys too,
Hail to Connecticut, America loves you.
NARRATOR: Our identity today is deeply rooted in our history. Our sense of place over the past 350 years has grown much more complicated. To really know ourselves, we need to know our past.
Just two years after the violent displacement of Connecticut's native American peoples in 1637, the general court of colonial Connecticut drew up the fundamental orders. The orders both established a government and defined our first common identity derived from a central authority.
RICHARD GRIFFIS (Sr. Minister, Immanuel Cong. Church): The state really begins with the coming of Thomas Hooker and a group of people from Massachusetts who came here for economic reasons, but also and very predominantly for religious reasons.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): The Puritan was high thinking and plain living. The Puritans were also very community bound. They weren't always concerned about their community out of a sense of community. They were concerned about the community because if somebody in the community sinned, the whole community was going to suffer.
BRUCE FRASER (Exec Dir., CT Humanities Council): The land of steady habits goes back to old colonial notions of stability and of that Puritan commonwealth, which is very collective in its approach, and every time the Department of Tourism puts a congregational spire on some tourist document, whether they know it or not, what they're saying is -- what they're suggesting is that collective sense of mutual obligation, shared belief of mutual commitment that was the hallmark of Puritans.
RICHARD GRIFFIS (Sr. Minister, Immanuel Cong. Church): They established the commons in the midst of many of the towns, a shared space, very practical for grazing animals, but it also had a symbolic and a beautiful quality to it. The church was put on the green.
NARRATOR: If there was a time when Connecticut had a clearly defined self-image, it was this puritan era. Puritan Connecticut was collective, but it was also suspicious of change and insisted on conformity. Congregationalism was the official state religion until 1818.
ELLSWORTH GRANT (Fmr. Pres., CT Historical Society): It was an exclusive society, only God-fearing Congregationalists would survive here or be accepted. If anyone moved in to Connecticut, he had to be voted on by the community to become a citizen and a member of the church.
COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): Well, actually, the very first European people who came to Connecticut actually were the Dutch who sailed up the river looking for chocolate and so far no one has ever actually found any in Connecticut, which I think maybe accounts for the sense of blended frustration you feel here. As for the original Puritans, a lot of those were my ancestors and of course they were opposed to fun and we thought to carry on that tradition here in Connecticut too.
CHRIS BICKFORD (Exec. Dir., CT Historical Society): The Blue Law State, and that was an expression that was coined about Connecticut in the 19th Century, and was to a certain extent true. We still have Blue Laws for Connecticut that are residue of that Puritan tradition. People use this expression "banned in Boston", but the fact is that Massachusetts legalized theater in the 1790s. In 1800 Connecticut banned theater altogether and that law remained on the books in Connecticut until 1952 which was remarkable. No other state had a law forbidding theater.
COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): I can remember a few years ago the Hartford Office of Cultural Affairs was talking about having sort of a law that allowed sort of mummers and buskers and spontaneous street performers out there on the street that would allow sort of street musicians to be around and magicians and stuff on the sidewalks and the City Council voted it down because they thought it would be a little too spontaneous. You can imagine what would happen if things got a little too spontaneous in Hartford. I mean things would just spiral out of control in no time whatsoever.
FROM PURITAN TO YANKEE
NARRATOR: The early 19th Century saw dramatic change in Connecticut as a growing emphasis on the importance of the individual marked the advent of the Yankee era. Our colonial roots actually contained two distinctly opposite ways of looking at ourselves. The Hallmark of the Puritan Age had been communalism. This legacy of this new era was individualism.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): What happened over time is that this other worldliness, this community sense, this willing to accept the authoritarian, social and political structure, these became deluded and then sharply undermined and the Yankee then becomes a person whom we think of as materialistic. This worldly, out-for-the-main-chance --
BRUCE FRASER (Exec Dir., Ct Humanities Council): We think of the, you know, the Yankee trader -- the Yankee tinkerer -- the individual, the entrepreneur, the self-made man, that sense of ourselves which is organized around entrepreneurship or hard work around seizing the main chance. Those kinds of values are completely opposed to what we inherited from the Puritans. That was a great see-change in Connecticut history was that transition from Puritanism to individualism.
BARBARA TUCKER (Dir., Ctr. for Connecticut Studies): And I think that in Connecticut as well as a practicality, goes the whole notion of the Connecticut Yankee here and the inventiveness of the Connecticut Yankee because again, the terms, "Who is a Yankee?" You always put Connecticut in front of it. It's not merely just New England. It's the Connecticut Yankee for the most part and even Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court -- terribly inventive person.
Clip from A Connecticut Yankee, 1931:
YANKEE: You got the biggest bad guy I ever saw on any cop in my life. Am I -- am I in my right mind? And if I am, can'st telleth me where in the helleth I am?
KNIGHT: Now I know that thou art mad. Yonder lies Camelot Castle. King Arthur's Court. Thou art in his vast domain.
YANKEE: One of us is cuckoo. It -- it can't be you. It -- it must be me, cause that -- that certainly ain't no part of Connecticut.
COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): I come from a family which regards itself as an old Yankee family and I think one thing that is sort of a Litanus test is you have to have sort of a very pinched crab attitude towards money and you have to have a lot of digestive troubles. Usually Yankees because they worry a lot and they're concerned about everything and it's difficult for them to enjoy life.
NARRATOR: It was during the Yankee era that Connecticut acquired one of its more enigmatic nicknames -- the Nutmeg State. Nutmegs imported from Southeast Asia were hard to come by and expensive. Devious Yankee entrepreneurs earned a reputation for themselves and the State by selling fake nutmegs carved from wood. It was clearly not the Puritan thing to do.
JANE STERN (Connecticut Author): The Nutmeg State, I can't think of a less kind of sexy and tough and big image or state as the Nutmeg State. Then when you dig a little deeper into Connecticut history and you realize that it was not because nutmegs were our native crop here, it was because the people in Connecticut were such shady characters that they carved fake nutmegs to sell. And that even sort of brings it down another notch. I mean it's the fake nutmeg state.
CHARLES MONAGHAN (Editor, Connecticut Magazine): To some degree we tried to hold onto the idea that despite how many races and cultures have come to settle here, we still try to hold on in some ways to the idea that we're Yankees and that we somehow embody all the virtues that the old Yankees did -- thrift and industry and self-reliance and we do as individuals. It's just that as a society it's sort of ridiculous at this point. If you look around and examine the old virtues compared to what we have here, it just doesn't hold up.
HERB JANICK (Historian, W. CT State U.): We have lost the unity of the Yankee past, but have we replaced it with another kind of unity? I don't think we have. I mean we've replaced it with a lot of diversity and some it's for economic reasons. You know, some of it's from ethnic and racial reasons.
NARRATOR: Although we think of hard work and thrift as Yankee traits, they are in fact common attributes of immigrants to Connecticut. Laotian refugees, Samay and Chansamone Phomphakdy, moved to Connecticut in 1987.
KEN SIMON: Why did you come to Connecticut?
CHANSAMONE PHOMPHAKDY (Factory Worker): My friend told me that there are a lot of jobs here and I need a job.
KEN SIMON: How hard did you work when you got here? How many hours did you work a day?
CHANSAMONE PHOMPHAKDY I work fourteen hours.
KEN SIMON: Fourteen hours a day.
SAMAY PHOMPHAKDY (Factory Worker) When we first came felt we cannot have anything like the people had. They have car. They have house. They have a TV -- everything. We started to work.
KEN SIMON: Do you know what a Connecticut Yankee is?
SAMAY PHOMPHAKDY (Factory Worker): I don't know ah who's Yankee? I didn't know. I didn't know. I just -- I just -- I just knew Yankee, Yankee, but I don't know who was Yankee.
ARMS & INDUSTRY
NARRATOR: The Yankee Era was characterized by rapid industrialization. In top soil poor Connecticut, industry was a source of new found affluence and a new identity. By the start of the 20th Century, Connecticut was the most industrialized state in the nation.
ELLSWORTH GRANT, (Fmr. Pres., Ct Historical Society): Connecticut industry has played a great role in the development of the Country and what Connecticut contributed was really the development of mass production, the idea of the interchangeability of machine parts so that in Connecticut you had the development of mass production successively from guns to clocks, the sewing machines to bicycles, to automobiles and finely to aircraft engines, all of which took place in Hartford and New Haven and cities like that.
CHARLES MONAGHAN (Editor, Connecticut Magazine): And as time went on, these cities developed very strong identities. You have the hat city. You have the silver city. You have the brass city. You have the rubber city. And people tended to identify with those industries and to identify very strongly with those cities.
News Reel Footage Connecticut Answers, 1941
Today as new storm warnings are raised, our country, our way of life must be defended.
NARRATOR: We have always thought of ourselves as being the front line of our nation's defense, but here too are self images under stress.
Time is short. The all-out for defense has sounded and there's the youth of Connecticut, answer the call to arms. The industries of Connecticut, answer the call for arms. All-out defense means all out production and this is a job that Connecticut well understands.
CHARLEY DUFFY (Exec. Dir., Council of Small Towns): It's been very strongly defense-based since the beginning of this country. You know, one of the other names for Connecticut is the Provision State. Provisions in that sense means providing for people who are at war. You know, the most sophisticated weapon in the world is made here, the Trident submarine in Groton, but throughout our history, we have been a provider of lead for bullets and uniforms for soldiers and guns for soldiers and that has made us different than the rest of New England and allowed us in many respects to develop sort of a unique economy here.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): We have had a tremendous amount of federal government money spent in this state on armaments. Our dependence upon armaments has been bad for the state in the long picture. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s we felt it very, very much as the defense budget began to shrink.
NARRATOR: Since early in the 19th Century, immigration has been an enormous force in the life of our state, both enriching it and creating new tensions. By 1910, 70% of the state's population were either first or second-generation immigrants.
JOHN SUTHERLAND (Dir., Institute for Local History): The Connecticut Yankee really lost his homogeneity in the mid 19th Century as the Irish and then the Germans and the Scandinavians later in the 20th Century, southern and eastern Europeans, Italians, Poles, Russians and others all came and when they came to these shores, they came to where the work was and a lot of the work because of the Industrial Revolution was in Connecticut and they came to mills like these to find jobs.
NARRATOR: Leo Tetreault grandfather left Canada for Connecticut at the turn of the Century. His was typical of the Connecticut immigrant experience.
KEN SIMON: What drew the French Canadians to this area? was it work or --
LEO TETREAULT (Former Putnam Mayor): Work, no question about that. It was work. Ah, the French people have the hard work culture and of course the people in charge of the mills recognized that and as a result, of course, it was easy to get a job. Didn't pay much -- $2 a week. In fact, I worked for as little as five dollars and a half a week for 48 hours of work, but the wages were enough for these families to survive, but they knew how to make the most of any -- every penny that they had.
HERB JANICK (Historian, W. CT State U.): What happened in Connecticut also happened lots of other places. Alright? Waves of similar immigrants. I think what happened in Connecticut is maybe a little bit different as it happened in a very small place. Alright? And it happened not in one huge city. It happened in many cities all over the state. Each one with its own ethnic mix. To me, it's the variety in such a small space that is unique to Connecticut.
NARRATOR: For some, the changes that accompanied immigration seem to threaten the essential order and stability of community life.
BARBARA TUCKER (Dir., Ctr. for Connecticut Studies): What happened in the 19th Century, especially the late 19th Century, as you have immigrants coming into Connecticut, you also have people in Connecticut becoming very anxious about all the change that's taking place and what you have beginning around 1876 is something called the Colonial Revival. The Colonial Revival is an attempt to look back at what people conceived as a much more stable, tranquil, peaceful, restful time and they look back to the village and what they did is not take the village as it was, but as they wanted it to be. They literally built up a new concept of the New England Village and Litchfield is the prime example.
CHRIS BICKFORD (Exec. Dir., CT Historical Society) I think our image of New England is drawn from a sort of mythical colonial past. When we picture a New England town, we think of the common, the green. We think of white colonial structures. We think of sort of orderly existence. This is mythical because Connecticut was really not that orderly. There was a lot of contention on the local level, but that is our sense of our past and I think it's precious to us. I think we value colonial buildings and small towns.
SEPARATE & UNEQUAL
NARRATOR: This period of rapid industrialization and immigration was also characterized by heightened racial and ethnic tensions. Hostility and suspicion towards those perceived as different had long been a part of Connecticut life.
BARBARA TUCKER (Dir., Ctr. for Connecticut Studies): Connecticut has a very long history of racism, beginning with the Indian wars -- the Pequot wars. We had slavery in Connecticut. One of the major slave ports was Newport and the whole area around Narraganset into New London into Norwich, up even into places like Hebron -- major slave areas. Whenever abolitioners came and wanted to speak, you had riots -- wholesale riots.
MARIA TORRES (Bridgeport Police Commission): Coming from Puerto Rico, you don't even think about, oh, they're an ethnic group, because, you know, there are none, but you tend to feel that everybody's treated the same when there's no reason white color should come into the picture as far as treating other people, so I would say that was probably the first thing that surprised me when I came to this state back then when I was nine years old, is the fact that because people were black or Hispanic, I found they were treated, you know, a little bit different and I had a hard time understanding that.
NARRATOR: Today racial minorities remain concentrated in Connecticut's urban areas. Three of these cities are among the ten poorest in the nation. Despite our self-image of affluence, there are two Connecticuts, which rarely come in contact with each other.
BARBARA TUCKER (Dir., Ctr. for Connecticut Studies): While I think we're ethnically and racially diverse, we're certainly not integrated. Our communities aren't integrated. Our school systems are not integrated. Various racial and ethnic groups live in pockets all over the state.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: It's like Fairfield at the state represents the tooth, amford and New London and Waterbury and Bridgeport and New Haven and Hartford. Somehow this contradiction must be exposed and it must come to an end.
NARRATOR: Thirteen year old Milo Shaff goes to school in Hartford where 90% of public school students are minorities. Just over the border in suburban West Hartford, the student body is 84% white. To integrate Connecticut's racially segregated urban and suburban schools, civil rights groups sued the state in 1989. The suit, filed on behalf of Milo and 17 other students is now making its way through the courts.
ELIZABETH SHEFF (Hartford City Council): We are moving toward a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic globally connected world. Our children must be prepared to live in that world. They can't be prepared to live in that world if they're segregated -- if all they know as Milo said is they're own little home town theory.
MILO SHEFF (Hartford Student): You just can't like go to one school and have all of the same race. You need to have different races, so we can learn about each other and instead of saying, well, I don't like this whole race because of one person did something to you, you need to learn about all the other people.
JERRY WATTS (American Studies Prof., Trinity): And where do people ever acquire a unifying identity that comes from interacting with each other, some commonality of interest, right? Whether there's a member of a -- some labor force—but to the extent that these things are declining as the sites of occupation, these factories and so forth, to the extent that our cities no longer are places where there's ethnic interaction and more kind of ethnic onclays under siege in some sense, right? We don't have the mechanisms that generate that type of ah common ah identity.
JUAN FIGEROA (Connecticut State Representative): Who we are is just sort of in a state of flux We're heading towards reality and that is that Connecticut as most of our folks pronounce the name, is a place -- is a home for a lot of our folks and will continue to be a home for a lot of our folks and will continue to sort of be the place where our folks want to bring up their children, have them go to school, have them get a good job, contribute to whatever it may be, everything from Desert Storm to working in a school. This is our place.
THE SEARCH FOR A STATE SONG: PART TWO
CAROL KEUHL: The song I have written illustrates the fact that people have come from all different walks of life and from many lands to make our state as great as it is.
“Connecticut Patrol” by Carol Keuhl
I love Connecticut with its heritage,
It's called the Constitution State.
Where histories of great proud men all came to this land so brave.
And then with grace-filled cities did build where our dreams would be fulfilled.
Connecticut was born to stay the pride of the U.S.A.
So come Nutmeggers heed the call to keep Connecticut from harm,
A place where men with hearts free can share the opportunity.
Let's keep her strong and work each day so future men will proudly say,
Connecticut was born to stay the pride of the U.S.A.
NARRATOR: Another force that fractures our sense of state identity is geographic segmentation. Although Connecticut is the third smallest state in the nation, most of us see it as a collection of several smaller and distinctly different regions.
TOM LEWIS (Geography Prof., Manchester CC): In spite of the fact that the state is roughly a hundred miles east to west, 60 to 80 miles at its widest north/south extreme, the concerns and the interests and the focus of dairy farmers in the northeastern part of the state in a town like Thompson are far, far different than the concerns and the interests and the focus of an urban/suburban population like what we find at Fairfield County or in Bridgeport for example.
“The Constitution State”
Tens of thousands every day pass through the Constitution State,
In their rat race from Boston to New York.
To them it's just 200 miles of winding highway snake,
Or the train's along the northeast corridor.
NARRATOR: Connecticut has always been deeply influenced and divided by its location between its two powerful neighbors. For some, Connecticut has a decided New York vent. For others, a New England flavor.
JIM SHELTON (Reporter, New Haven Register): A lot of people in this part of the state talk about the Q Bridge. The Q Bridge is a main part of their life. They sit in traffic ah for a long time on the Q Bridge and it sort of separates New York from New England in a lot of people's minds. When you're waiting in traffic on the bridge, you are still stressing out about your job. You are still worrying about what you're going to fix for dinner. You're still worrying about whether it's going to rain or snow before you get home. You get over the bridge and the farther away from the bridge you get, a lot of people tend to relax. The traffic eases up a little bit. The view gets much nicer. The Q Bridge separates New York from New England for a lot of people.
NARRATOR: The most often noted border is the one that separates Fairfield County from the rest of the state. Our image of affluence is derived largely from wealthy Fairfield County communities.
CAPT. JAMES GLEASON (Greenwich Police Dept.): Greenwich has a different class of people in many respects in that a large number of our population earn their livelihood in New York City and they, on a daily basis, take the train into New York City and are in the City for a good 10 or 12 hours a day and return here to live. Greenwich has been known in some cases as a bedroom community for New York City, which is very true.
KEN SIMON: Do you feel that you are a Connecticut resident?
MALCOLM PREY (Greenwich Car Dealer): I'm a Connecticut resident. My driver's license says so, but ah if you -- if I'm traveling some place in the world and somebody asks, "Where are you from?", I say I'm from the New York area. To say Greenwich, Connecticut is unknown. People envision wooden bridges and back country areas, which Greenwich is not. Greenwich is basically a suburb of New York, as is the better part of Fairfield County.
NARRATOR: As some see it, Litchfield County is on its way to becoming an exurb of New York.
CHARLES MONAGHAN (Editor, Connecticut Magazine): In recent years, you've had a lot of New York people, as we call them here in Connecticut, ah, moving up into Litchfield County as well into second homes or just going to live there and really transforming a lot of formerly utterly unselfconscious farm towns into these sort of sleek bastions of exurban New York. You've got fancy restaurants up there now. You've got fancy shops. You've got a lot of people driving around in fancy cars and those Litchfield County towns were so quintessentially Connecticut and now they've got such a strong New York influence that it's changed quite a bit.
ROBERTA SATOW (Soc. Prof., Brooklyn Coll.): They love the sense of history here and Americana here and rootedness here and this is what America's all about. They love the small town rituals and so on that they're not a part of. They're not really part of it, but they like being in a place where it's happening.
NARRATOR: As a sense of place just 125 miles on the other side of the state is quite different.
KEN SIMON: There's a nickname for this part of the state.
ROBERT MILLER (Putnam Town Historian): The quiet corner. Some people laugh at that. It isn't that quiet, but I think it's well named. If you fly over here in an airplane from Washington to Boston, you will find this is still a dark area in the whole eastern megalopolis.
KEN SIMON: Do you think that people feel that they're in the same state as say Fairfield County?
ROBERT MILLER (Putnam Town Historian): I think sometimes they feel they're in Massachusetts, because it's so close to the media there. Even politics -- they're more worried about who's going to become governor up there about their budget than ours and knew more about it, but it's sort of a natural thing.
Commercial, CT Broadcasters Association
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LEW FREIFELD (Vice Pres., WTNH): The basic underlying reason was to get more viewers who were watching outside television stations to start watching Connecticut television stations. We have an enormous number of television households that even though they're physically located here in this market place, are watching New York television or Providence, Rhode Island television, Springfield, Mass.
Commercial, CT Broadcasters Association
It's news about your town, not the Bronx. It's the weather here, not in Boston.
LEW FREIFELD (Vice Pres., WTNH): And what we found was that these people felt for some compelling reason that New York television had greater authority.
Commercial, CT Broadcasters Association
Watch Connecticut TV, Channels 3, 8, 20, 30, 61 and CPTV. Get connected to Connecticut TV.
NARRATOR: The influence of both New York and Boston can be seen even in the state's divided sports loyalties.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR: The players may say the rivalry is dead, but don't tell the fans.
RED SOX FANS #1: The Red Sox -- Yankees --
SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Face it left field -- for there are scores --
YANKEE FAN #1: Yankee fan all the way.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR: And gone for a home run.
YANKEE FAN #2: Being a Yankee fan, I hate Red Sox fans. They're arrogant.
RED SOX FAN #2: Yankee fans are known to talk out loud.
Up the middle and a base hit.
RED SOX FAN #3: I like the Red Sox. I really hate Yankees, but I'm a Giants fan, so that's kind of a contradiction. I like post seasons.
SPORTS COMMENTATOR: And a looper to center field and that is going to be trouble.
SPORTS FAN #1: Well, see, now, that's the problem there, because Connecticut …
SPORTS FAN #2: There is no Connecticut identity.
SPORTS FAN #3: I think the only -- the longest game that Connecticut roots for is the Celtics of any sport. Well, ya, you have the Giants --
SPORTS FAN #1: But as in baseball, your -- you're divided.
YANKEES FAN #3: It's gotta be the Yankees, definitely.
METS FAN #1: I root for the New York Mets.
RED SOX FAN #4: Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, cause that's where we live.
THE REAL CONNECTICUT: PART ONE
BOB ENGLEHART: Connecticut, yes, Connecticut. What exactly is Connecticut? Let's see if we can find out. The state can be divided into seven geographical areas. This area right here is the New York suburbs. This is not really Connecticut. They identify completely with the Big Apple. When they say the City, they're not talking about Hartford. It's very expensive and exclusive down here. The average price of a home is several hundred thousand dollars. That's not really Connecticut. This area is Litchfield County, the playground of the stars. A lot of artists and celebrities from New York summer here. Many live year round. Lot of money here. Out here people pay high prices for antiques. You can get the same thing cheaper in the real Connecticut.
ROOTED OUT OF THE LAND
NARRATOR: Until the mid 1800s, Connecticut, like other states was primarily agricultural with most people sharing a rural culture, but its poor and rocky soil made farming a losing proposition. When the American frontier moved west, many of Connecticut's farmers followed. Into the early 20th Century, small town rural values still prevailed as many Connecticut residents either lived on or had grown up on farms, but by 1950 there were only 16,000 working farms in Connecticut. Today there are 4,300.
ARTHUR MILLER (Connecticut Playwright): When I first came around here about 40 years ago or more, it was a very different culture. It was agricultural basically and there were traditions that were carried on from generation to generation. They shared the same work basically. They were farmers and that creates of course a culture all its own. This is the 20th Century. What it's done basically is to root people out of the land and it will more and more.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): You move into cities. You have vast numbers of face to face relationships in a day. Most of these become anonymous. In the days of the little village, you only saw 20 people a day. You knew all of these people. You greeted these people. You stopped to talk to these people. You cared about them. You hated some of them. You loved some of them. You are probably not neutral about any of them. You move into cities. You're neutral about almost everybody and you don't care, so that City living, which comes with industrialization makes a tremendous difference.
MOVING IN, MOVING OUT
NARRATOR: As industrialization and urbanization continued, Connecticut' population became more mobile. With the demise of company dominated towns and the emergence of multi-national corporations in the 20th Century, the trend became more pronounced, further cutting us off from a shared vision.
JOHN SUTHERLAND (Dir., Institute for Local History): I think we're standing in a place that reflects in some ways, in fact a great many ways, what Connecticut's identity has become. What you're looking at is the yarn mill at Cheney Brothers, one of the largest silk manufacturing companies in the country. That yarn mill produced yarn and therefore produced jobs, thousands of jobs -- thousands of jobs in this entire mill area. Today, it's apartments, because today we have moved from being a primarily industrial economy to a postindustrial mixed economy, much greater alliance in service jobs.
BRUCE FRASER (Exec. Dir., CT Humanities Council): There is, I suspect, a substantial number of folks in Connecticut who are here for a few years and then gone somewhere else. How many of us stay here long enough to have a sharp sense either of the history of the place or any sense committed to its future.
ARTHUR MILLER (Connecticut Playwright): I don't see a commonality in the cultural attitudes, at least in the big middle class, which is what dominates this state. All that holds them together is the sunshine. They are all sitting in the same sun, but not as much, so it lacks character which comes from a tradition and tradition comes from people who have lived in the same place for a long time.
NARRATOR: In 1991 for the first year since the boom years of the 1980s, more people moved out of Connecticut than moved into the state. Many left in search of jobs. Unemployment has risen dramatically since the recession came to Connecticut three years ago. The state historically's strong economic main stay, manufacturing and insurance, have both hit hard times. The insurance industry, which once virtually guaranteed a job for life, continues to lay off workers. Manufacturing, beset by out-of-state competition and defense cut-backs has been steadily declining. At the Polish-American Falcon's Club in New Britain, the search for jobs has affected both family and state ties.
GROUP FROM POLISH-AMERICAN FALCON’S CLUB
SPEAKER #1: My son just moved out to Texas. It's the job market. The job market motivates them to go.
SPEAKER #2: My son's out in California. He left for the same reason. The job market was better out there than it was here and I have a daughter in Florida also who left because of employment.
SPEAKER #1: When you're young -- when you're 22 years of age, you don't worry about the state, do you? No. You know, he's worrying about the job. He can always make new friends and meet new friends. The social life is there. What else does he need?
NARRATOR: Promising job prospects brought Maria Tores and her family to Bridgeport in the 1950s.
KEN SIMON: Do you plan to stay in this state for the rest of your life?
MARIA TORRES (Bridgeport Police Commission): Honestly, with the budget crisis that the state of Connecticut is going through now and the bankruptcy issue that the City of Bridgeport is facing, my husband and I are seriously thinking of relocating. For instance, I find myself in a very difficult situation, cause I have a son who's going to be going to college next year and I'm also facing, you know, a very high mill rate coming up next year, so I would rather spend the money on my son's college education somewhere else where the cost of living is less than to spend an additional $300 on my mortgage.
THE REAL CONNECTICUT: PART 2
BOB ENGLEHART: The search for Connecticut continues. This is the capitol, Hartford. It looks like a cross between New York, Boston and Newark. Centrally located, a lot of people like it because it's half way between New York and Boston. I like it because it's halfway between Providence and Albany. The suburbs of Hartford, they're like any other suburb and any other town in the country. A lot of people who move here from other states like to live in the suburbs. That way they feel like they haven't moved. It looks like the last suburb they moved in, same McDonalds, same mall, same stores. It's familiar. This area, New Haven, is academia -- Yale, Wesleyan University plus a bunch of other colleges and schools are down here. A lot of analyzing and heavy thoughts are being thunk down here. These people talk in a multi-salavic pentrimetricals. That ain't really Connecticut.
NARRATOR: Clearly Connecticut's identity is fractured, complex and changing. In the midst of change, is there anything that can bring us together with which we can all still identify? Is our identity our lack of identity?
MICHAEL STERN (Connecticut Author): I enjoy being in a state that doesn't have a clear identity to the rest of the world. I think because that means we're not pigeon-holed. We're not stereo-typed and I think that's -- that's a very good thing. I mean there is something very obnoxious about that image of the classic tax center or the guy from Missouri who says, show me, or the New Yorker or the Californian or almost any state you could name has this very annoying person who symbolizes that and I think we in Connecticut don't. If we do have a person who symbolizes us, he is an insurance salesman, which can be pretty annoying too, but I think basically we don't. When people think of Connecticut, they think -- they don't think of anything in particular.
JANE STERN (Connecticut Author): I mean there are probably hundreds of Connecticuts. I mean I think the rest of the world might think of Connecticut as the Martha Stewart state where everybody walks around in a white linen dress with beautifully arranged flowers on their table and make goat cheese appetizers and lead this country sheik life, but when you go to Derby, it's -- you could think Martha Stewart did not exist and similarly if you go to Greenwich, you have that -- or New Caanan or Darien or Hadlyme -- I mean, every place has its own take on what Connecticut is and it's a state that I think in a way reinvents itself every time you cross a border.
ARTHUR MILLER (Connecticut Playwright): I don't know what Connecticut is. It's a nice place to be and it's a beautiful day today -- quiet -- here -- and I just hope it finds its way to something more integral and so it does create great -- more of a character. By the way, the mere fact that we can't name what it's character is doesn't mean it doesn't have one. It may simply be that we're in the middle of it and don't see it.
NARRATOR: J. Roy Grace is a marketing expert and advertising copywriter who lives in Connecticut. He's made a name for himself writing ad campaigns that make us think of one thing when we hear another.
Mama Mia, that's a spicy meatball.
KEN SIMON: If I name a state, would you name products --
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): Sure --
KEN SIMON: -- that you think might be well associated with that state or benefit from it. California.
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): Ah, surfing, sun products, wine, fruits, vegetables, clothing, fragrances.
KEN SIMON: Texas.
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): Texas -- ah, chili, barbecue, beef, boots, cowboy hats, horses.
KEN SIMON: Louisiana.
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): Ah, Cajun cooking, jazz.
KEN SIMON: Maine.
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): L.L.Bean, skiing
KEN SIMON: Florida.
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): Sun, surf, vacations.
KEN SIMON: And Connecticut?
J. ROY GRACE (Chairman, Grace & Rothchild): You got me. You got me. There's nothing there -- as Gertrude Stein once said, but I don't mean that. Connecticut's a great state, but, you know, it's like anything that doesn't have that high profile. You know, some -- I'm sure if you did this about New York, you'd have people talking forever, but nobody wants to live there.
THE SEARCH FOR A STATE SONG: PART THREE
“Connecticut, The Constitution State” by Albert Hurwit, MD
There's something in the name,
That makes us want to stand and cheer.
It's glory and it's fame,
Have made a story that is grand and very dear to us.
Rebirth of freedom, a helping hand,
From this rougher, a gentle land,
It's Connecticut, Connecticut, Hail Connecticut, the Constitution State.
A NICE PLACE TO LIVE
Connecticut Promotional Film
What makes an area a good place to live? A number of things probably. Pleasant residential districts for varying income groups. Good schools, centers for cultural programs, excellent medical care facilities, recreational opportunities the year round.
Man on the Street Interview (MOS) #1: It's a nice place to live and it's a good place to raise a family.
MOS #2: Connecticut is a sophisticated, desirable place to live.
MOS #3: It's got a lot to offer and from corner to corner it's quite diverse.
MOS #4: Money, money, money. You think Connecticut, you think money. Um, nice country living and nice place to raise a family.
NARRATOR: For many, Connecticut is simply a nice place to live, the quintessential suburban state.
HERB JANICK (Historian, W. CT State U.): I think we lose sight of a very important element of Connecticut if we don't think of the fact that very early and maybe much more complete than other states, we invested in the suburban solution to our problems. The suburb has the perfect environment where we have all the benefits of urban life without the disadvantages and we have the benefits of rural life without the disadvantages. It has lots of problems too in the 20th Century.
COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): I don't know what it's based on, but there's a sense that, you know, we don't want to go any place else and we don't want to be any place else and we want everything here exactly the way it is here and we don't want anything to change.
JOHN FIGEROA (Connecticut State Representative): There are a lot or people here who think, boy, this is a great place to live because I am able to live in a community where there's no crime, where my kids can go to school well fed. Ah, everything is taken care of and they're a lot of people I think who in addition to, you know, have a nice picturesque surrounding. On the other hand, you may have -- you have in Connecticut a group of people who's reality and who think of themselves as, when am I going to be able to get my next in order to cover my rent. What am I going to do if my son or daughter gets sick and has to go to the hospital and not only that, but then there are, you know, there are people who are even questioning even more basic things than that. Where am I going to live next week? It is part of what we are here in Connecticut that we live in two very different realities.
BRUCE FRASER (Exec. Dir., CT Humanities Council): One of the things about Connecticut that flows from this sense of it as a great place to live is that it's a great place to live by yourself and to retreat to some individual agenda.
ARTHUR MILLER (Connecticut Playwright): There are a lot of people who admire it because it cuts them off from other people and they don't want to have anything to do with other people and that's one of the attractions of living this way. You take care of yourself. And that is enviable for a lot of people in many places. They’d love to do that if they could. That is certainly not the classical idea of mankind, which was always social.
BRUCE FRASER (Exec. Dir., CT Humanities Council): Other than a nice yard and access to a wonderful mall, good shops, decent schools in some places, that's it. Is that it? It can't be it.
THE REAL CONNECTICUT: PART THREE
BOB ENGLEHART: We're still searching for the real Connecticut. Let's look in this area right here along the Rhode Island border. These people identify with Providence and Boston. Some of them even speak with a Rhode Island accent and eat clam chowder with a clear broth. This isn't really Connecticut. This part of Connecticut is called east of the river. It's rural and very and very quiet, economically depressed, even in good times. It's like Maine. We're supposed to be in the wealthiest state in the Union, so ah, this must not really be Connecticut. So where is the Connecticut you've heard so much about? The Connecticut of books, movies and fables. In here (He points to his head) and in here (He points to his heart).
169 SOVEREIGN STATES
NARRATOR: Where then do we find Connecticut? What does hold us together? Ironically, one thing that all Connecticut cities and towns have in common is a strong strain of localism. When Connecticut does think of itself, it does so primarily in local terms.
“The Constitution State”
There are a hundred and sixty-nine towns in Connecticut,
And thousand of sites along the way.
So come and get acquainted with the Constitution State,
In Connecticut there's nothing far away.
And you might like it so you'll want to stay.
COLIN MCENROE (Columnist, Hartford Courant): I think there's a 169 towns or something like that and really if you talk to people in Old Saybrook, they are mortally offended by the idea that anything happening in Old Lyme has anything to do with what's happening in Old Saybrook and I don't think there's another place in the world that has that kind of town identity.
CHARLEY DUFFY (Exec. Dir., Council of Small Towns): You know, Connecticut had county government for awhile and then they got rid of it. The tendency is to sort of add government as you go along. Connecticut I think is unique in that respect as having eliminated a layer of government, which indicates that this state and small town relationship and identity is very important to people.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): Perhaps one of the greatest myths about Connecticut and indeed I'd say about most of New England is the idea that we are a society run by our town governments -- that the towns are the locus of power, original power, laying in the towns that are states are mere confederations of autonomous towns. That's a potent myth for 200 years. It is a myth, however. In fact, the towns in Connecticut historically and legally and constitutionally have never been from 1633 to the present autonomous in any sense of the word. They have always been agents of the state.
NARRATOR: The limits of localism have come into sharp relief lately as Connecticut grapples with problems that defy solution at the local level. As state wide obligations have increased, federal revenue sharing has declined. Can a clear sense of state identity lead to greater sacrifice for the common good?
HOWARD RIFKIN (Prof., UCONN Institute of Public Serv.): I don't think that there's going to be a trend back to looking to the federal government for solutions to problems. The financial requirements are really going to be at the local level and the state level. I think it in large measure sharpens the issue and really demands that the people have a debate about what an identity is being from Connecticut means.
HOWARD RIFKIN (Prof., UCONN Institute of Public Serv.): Perhaps the latest debate on whether we ought to have a state income tax is somewhat symbolic of this notion that we don't yet have a sense of real community and a sense of sacrifice.
BRUCE FRASER (Exec. Dir., CT Humanities Council): Not in my town you don't is the explanation for a lot of the disasters that we face as a society. This goes back to that issue of what is it that ought to link us with those around us and if that link is solely on a town by town or a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, none of these problems are going to have any resolution.
JUAN FIGEROA (Connecticut State Representative): The reality in which we live today demands that we have an income tax, demands that we look at regional solutions to problems, demands that we look at schools desegregation, demands that we have common solutions to common problems that we all share, whether we like it or not. That's where we're heading and that's what's going to produce, hopefully sooner than later what we are all about.
NARRATOR: Our devotion to our towns has been our common ground for much of our history. The challenge is that we now need to extend that commitment beyond town lines.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): To the extent that we can preserve the feeling of community that I think grows out of the town, grows out of face to face contacts that you find only in the town, that would be a great thing to do if we're going to have a revised sense of responsibility, which surely we must have. Perhaps it will come out of the town. Towns can no longer act as islands. They have to recognize higher responsibilities and they don't.
BRUCE FRASER (Exec. Dir., CT Humanities Council): If our sense of identity is in fact individual rather than collective, that the function of our society is to let me get what I want, then we've lost that opportunity to work together around something like that. What do I owe this person that makes me willing to sacrifice something of my own for his benefit is one of the questions that a sharper shared sense of identity might help resolve.
CHRIS BICKFORD (Exec. Dir., CT Historical Society): I think the challenge is to find in our political history an area which we can come together and understand how it all fits together, cause it does in some sense, the towns and the counties and the state as a whole.
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER (Connecticut State Historian): My sense is that a positive self-identity is a very good thing and that it should be informed by a sense of history. Any kind of change discomforts people. That's where tensions arise and I think that's what we see today is that these changes are occurring and some people don't like them and they have a number of choices. Either they can go on and live in their little dream worlds and spin their world of myth and try to stay there and live with the tension that that creates or they can recognize what's there and try to help the transition, which is a continual transition, never stops.
THE SEARCH FOR A STATE SONG: PART FOUR
TOM CALLINAN (Connecticut State Troubadour): It's near the near the end of the day and Mr. O'Neil who was Speaker of the House at that time had a suggestion, so he brought in the East Hampton Fife & Drum Corps to play Yankee Doodle out in the corridor and proposed right on the spot that Yankee Doodle be the state song and everyone said that's a great idea and after a whole day of waiting around that was the end of our efforts, Yankee Doodle.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Yankee Doodle came to town,
Riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle Dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And let the girls be handy.