Growing Up In Fairfield

What was it like to grow up in Fairfield in past generations? How has childhood changed over time?

This exhibition looks back at the experience of growing up from the 1940s and 1950s—when the idea of the teenage years as a distinct phase of life first took shape—to the decades that followed. To provide more historical perspective, the exhibition also includes items from the 1800s, showing how nineteenth-century children’s lives compare to those we remember.

While each generation’s coming of age is shaped by the culture and events of its era, many elements of growing up in Fairfield have remained constant: the landscape of beach, woods, and hills; the schools and organizations focused on children; and the places and businesses that became part of daily life. 

Setting the Stage in the 1940s and 1950s

In the post-World War II period, Fairfield grew faster than at any other time in its history, more than doubling in population, as families from Bridgeport and elsewhere were drawn to the town’s suburban lifestyle and quiet neighborhoods. New developments in prefabrication, which reduced the cost of housing, along with government-subsidized mortgages, made it possible for many more people to afford a home in Fairfield.

Around the country, a unique combination of historical circumstances—the baby boom, the affluence of the postwar years, and the migration of thousands of young families—helped create a culture focused on children. Parents whose own childhood had been marked by war and insecurity were intent on giving their children a protected environment and the freedom to enjoy childhood’s pleasures.

During this time, the word “teenager” first came into use. Sharing the common experience of high school, teens developed an identity separate from that of their families, with clothing styles, music, and slang all their own. The teen culture they developed set the pattern for the generations that followed.  


Growing up in Fairfield was on view at the Fairfield Museum from July 3- October 2, 2014.


Andrea Renner and Elizabeth Rose, curators; Catie White, online exhibit