Barbara Braker was born right here in Fairfield in 1930. She has never lived anywhere else. It is something of a family tradition.
Barbara’s grandfather immigrated to Fairfield from Denmark in 1882 and, in 1891; he bought a ranch near Highway 12 in what is now Raley’s Shopping Center. Barbara’s family continued to live on that very ranch until they had to eventually sell it to make room for new housing developments. Her family did not want to move, but they were practically forced to because they needed the money to pay their taxes. Barbara said that it was “a sad day for everybody” when they had to sell their property.
But during the interview, she dwelt mostly on the good times she had had while still living on that ranch. The majority of those good times were spent during the years she was in high school.
Barbara’s mother, along with five of her aunts, attended Armijo High School. One of them was even in the graduating class of 1908, which only had 11 graduates. It was only natural that Barbara went there as well. She graduated from Armijo High School in 1948. One of the teachers who stood out to her most was Ms. Carlson who she “adored.” Ms. Carlson taught language classes, so after spending two years with her in French and Spanish, language ended up being Barbara’s favorite subject. Her least favorite subject, though, was math. Barbara wasn’t much of an athlete in high school. Although she did enjoy volleyball and played on Armijo’s tennis team, she was more interested in horseback riding on her ranch for fun.
One of the things Barbara remembers most about her high school career was the fashions. First, she pointed out, “No girls wore pants”. It was all about pleated skirts and sweaters. She recalled the upper-class girls wearing angora sweaters whereas “the rest of us had wool”. Besides that, other popular styles that most other girls wore included saddle shoes with bobby sock rolled over. Nowadays Barbara claims that she is “appalled at young kids’ clothes today” but she knows that those were “way different times”. Nowadays teenagers take their own money and go down to the mall by themselves or with friends and stock up on various outfits, all at one time, throughout the whole year. When she was younger, Barbara’s mother would take her either to San Francisco or Sacramento - there weren’t many clothing stores here at the time - and buy her three dresses that would last her the whole year.
Once she got older, she’d take a train to Oakland, then a ferry into the city and shop, once again, because of the lack of stores here in Fairfield. Back then the entire business district only filled three blocks.
Barbara was able to shop with her own money after obtaining a job at the pear shed (now the Cordelia Antique Shop). She worked for her friend’s dad, who owned the place, sorting fruit for 75¢ an hour, for three summers, sometimes working 12 hour shifts. (The child labor laws were different back then!)
The prospect of driving one’s own car in high school was different back then as well. Now it is fairly common for students to drive cars once they reach a certain age; back then cars were scarce, and most students didn’t have any. Barbara’s family was lucky enough to have one, though. Having a car made her popular, she added with a chuckle.
Before Barbara was 15, she used to have to depend on other people to go where she wanted, but after that she started driving, Barbara along with her friends, would drive to Suisun after school to get ice cream or go to the skating rink. Once she even drove down to the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with her friends to go see Frank Sinatra live. Barbara and her friends rarely went anywhere by themselves. Even on their dates they’d go as a group, so she never had anyone she considered as a steady boyfriend. Later though, she began dating an older man whom she later married.
Looking back on it all, Barbara has a hard time believing just how much has changed about Fairfield these past 78 years. She describes herself as experiencing culture shock, mostly of witnessing the town grow from about 2,000 people to 100,000 people. She likes to remember the old times, thinking back to the time when there was no crime and barely any cars resulting in no speeding tickets.
What she misses the most is the tranquility about the town and the slower pace. This was reflected clearly when she sadly said, “I can go to the mall…and never see a person I know.”
Not all things are bad, though. Barbara said the best improvement she’s seen so far has been the healthcare, because she didn’t have any growing up. Still, she really enjoyed her youth in Fairfield, especially making new friends and keeping the old. The only thing she regrets is not having studied more and played less, something she advises all young people today to do.