My home town, Stamford, Connecticut, was a dying factory town when I was growing up in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.  Most of the factories had moved south for cheaper labor.  Today, 50 years later Stamford has one of the largest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the US.  The median family income is $88,000.  A lot of people got rich when urban redevelopment transformed the city.  However most of the retired factory workers and their families did not share in the this bounty and have long since moved on to Florida and Arizona.

Stamford was first settled by the Puritians in 1640 when Capt. Nat Turner “purchased” land from Chief Ponus, of the Rippowams, for 12 coats, 12 hoes, 12 hatches, 12 glasses, 12 knives, four kettles, and four fathoms of white wampum.  Three hundred years later my grandfather did not get a better deal when he lost his home, that had been built by his father in 1890, to eminent domain, so the town could build an exit ramp for the newly constructed 1-95.  He had lost his wife, my grandmother Nell, a few years earlier.  He became severly depressed and spent his last years in a health care facility, where he took his own life.

We lived with my grandparents when I was born.  My father served in the Navy during World War II and he bought the house I grew up in for $1,400 in 1949, with a government loan from the “GI Bill”.  Ours was only the second house on the street, a two bedroom cape cod.  There were trees all around the house, now all gone.

It was President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” program in the 1960’s that provided the funds for the city fathers to transform Stamford.  As I said many of the older retired residents were forced to move out because they could no longer afford to live in the city.  However the redevelopment also provided the jobs for young people like me.

It is interesting to see the difference between Stamford and “Historic” New Haven, 30 miles to the east, home to Yale University.  New Haven has a town park with 300 year old churchs, and empty stores fronts on Main Street.   Stamford has no sense of history. What it has is jobs and money.

For the first twenty years of my career I lived within a 10 minute walk of my job, with what was then The Fairfield County Trust Co.  A bank merger changed the name to The Union Trust Co. and my office was moved to a town 30 miles away, where I bought my condo.  Just two years later I was transferred back to Stamford and faced a 90 minute commute each way to work.

A few years later a New Jersey Bank, First Fidelity, bought Union Trust and now every Monday and Friday I had a three hour commute to New Jersey.   On friday night it could take five hours to get back home.

First Fidelity was bought by a North Carolina bank, First Union, and now my commute was to Newark Airport where I would fly south on assignment for six to eight weeks on the road in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

When I finally reached early retirement age I was offered a package or severance.  The choice was an easy one.  I don’t know how much longer I could have dealt with the stress of the job.

That first Monday when I could roll over at 3:00 am and not get up and face the commute was one of the happiest days of my life.  I have had a smile on my face ever since.

I don’t get into Stamford much anymore.  My house is still there on Cold Spring Rd.  The only difference I saw the last time I drove past was a BMW parked in the drive way.  That car probably cost 40 times what the house cost my father.

I would be interested in hearing anyone else’s story about the last time they visited the town they grew up, and how much their hometown has changed

Advertisements