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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Alka-Seltzer Advertisement

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.


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.


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.


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Last modified: September 03, 2012