When Oak Park became a city in 1945, the community was not much different from the village that was carved out of Royal Oak Township 18 years earlier. Its population had barely increased, and there was just one paved road connecting Oak Park to Detroit; however, big changes were coming. Thousands of veterans returned home after World War II, started families, and bought homes with the assistance of the GI Bill. By 1950, Oak Park was recognized as Detroit's first northwest suburb. The residential character of the community was attractive to families, and in 1956 Oak Park was the nation's fastest-growing city. By 1976, the city's demographics were dramatically changing. In the 1980s, media stories focused on its extraordinary ethnic diversity within a population of 31,000. When the I-696 Freeway opened in 1990, what had once been a tiny rural village became the center of the region's network of expressways. Through all the changes, the family quality of Oak Park has endured, as illustrated by seven decades of photographs and personal recollections.