She Said–Introductions–Meet our Neighbors–Mrs. Thelma

I know.  You have already met Mrs. Thelma, but since we are making introductions all around, let me tell you more about her.

Mrs. Thelma is an “original owner.”  She says this with pride.  She lived up near Charlevoix, [shar-lu-voy],Michigan, and came down to Cleary College to be a secretary.  She came on the train with her trunk.  And she stayed.  She stayed because she fell in love with a man who fixed typewriters and adding machines.  They married and bought the house just diagonal across the street from us before it was even finished.  She is one of the Originals in this neighborhood.  There is only one more left on our block.  The other one just moved to a nursing home this past winter.

So she raised her two boys in this neighborhood, and can tell you about most of the original owners.  She moved here during World War II when our town was making B-24’s for the war.

File:B-24 bomber at Willow Run.jpg

(from Wikipedia)

8,685 bombers were made and during peak production in 1944, that meant one bomber every hour. (from here.)

“The plant held the distinction of being the world’s largest enclosed “room.” At its peak, Willow Run produced 650 B-24s per month by 1944. By 1945, Ford produced 70% of the B-24s in two nine hour shifts. Pilots and crews slept on 1,300 cots waiting for the B-24s to roll off the assembly line at Willow Run. Ford produced half of the 18,000 total B-24s at Willow Run. The B-24 holds the distinction of being the most produced heavy bomber in history.[1]

An interesting feature of the Willow Run plant was a large turntable two-thirds of the way along the assembly line where the B-24s would make a 90° turn before continuing to final assembly. This arrangement was to avoid having the factory building cross a county line and be taxed by two counties. The neighboring county’s taxes were higher.”  (from Wikipedia)

Mrs. Thelma lived here in the 50’s when the post war boom hit America.  That is when our neighborhood was built.

Like most, Mrs. Thelma had two kids and stayed home to be with them.  At that time,  most of the owners were young families.  There were no fences and the neighborhood kids had the run of the block.

 (photo of Ypsilanti 1950 from here)

Mrs. Thelma took a bus uptown to Main Street where she bought her boys their clothes, school supplies, toys, and her groceries.  Here they visited their eye doctor, dentist, and physician.  Here they also ate out and went to the movies.  And just a little down the road, they could buy furniture and carpet and linoleum and paint.  (

Mrs. Thelma lived here during the 60’s when people did their hair like this.

(photo from here.)

When the Berlin Wall was built, when JFK was president, when Martin Luther gave his speech, when the Vietnam War was fought, when surgeons performed the first heart transplant, and when Man walked on the Moon. (timeline from here.)

That was also when there were no blacks in the neighborhood.  That was when Detroit had major riots, that is also when Mrs. Thelma went to work at the postoffice.

Then came the 1970’s and Mrs. Thelma and her husband were able to buy a second car.

Kroger, 1977

(photo from here.)

Mrs. Thelma’s kids were Boy Scouts and played some sports.  They also brought home animals–mostly live ones, but occasionally a skeleton or two.  Mrs. Thelma’s boy grew up to be a veterinarian.  He is one of the horse vets on Mackinac Island in Michigan.  [mack-u-naw].

 (photo from here.)

Mackinac Island is a unique destination as it is an island completely run and maintained without automobiles. (You can get there by private boat, ferry, or airplane.)

(photo from Wikipedia)

Everything is horse-drawn, bicycled, or carried.  Even the UPS man drives a horse.  There are about 600 horses on the island during tourist season, and they keep Mrs. Thelma’s son busy.  The few exceptions are an ambulance, fire truck, and the needed construction vehicles.  There is a school on the island, and they have a school bus, BUT it is on the mainland and used for field trips and team sports.  All the kids walk to school all the time.

We visited there a few summers ago when Eloise was only 7 months old.  We all biked around the island.  Although the bike traffic causes congestion in the downtown areas, once you are out-of-town, the biking is wonderful.  It is so much more relaxing for a Mom when you don’t have to watch for cars!!  Also, we let the kiddos bike way ahead out of sight since we decided that no one was going to pay the costly ferry ticket to abduct our kiddos.

The 1970’s gave us the first pocket calculators, floppy disks, the formation of Microsoft, the first test tube baby, and more.  The day of typewriter and adding machine repairs was beginning to wane.  Mrs. Thelma’s husband found himself without a job, and started working from his basement on typewriter repairs.

The 80’s came, and Mrs. Thelma sent her two boys off to college.  One got married and one did not.  A during that time we thought hair that looked like this was beautiful.

 (photo from here.)

The 1980’s brought us personal computers, the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, Sally Ride riding into space as the first woman astronaut, famine in Ethiopia, Cabbage Patch Kids, the Rubik Cube, Chernobyl, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and AIDS.

And Mrs. Thelma lost one of her sons to AIDS.

During the 1990’s Mrs. Thelma still lived here.  She became a grandma, then she lost her husband.  Then her son got divorced.  Mrs. Thelma retired from the post office and moved to Florida for the winters.  She became a snow bird fleeing Michigan winters.

In the 1990’s we saw, Desert Storm, the end of the Cold War, Nelson Mandela freed, the internet usage explode, Sept. 11, two royal divorces, a cloned sheep, and fear of the Y2K bug.

In 2004, we moved across the street from Mrs. Thelma.  Our lives began to overlap as we visited back and forth.  I have enjoyed many visits at the kitchen table.  I only wish I had a front porch where we could sip iced tea.  Mrs. Thelma has crocheted my baby a baby blanket, and taught Scout how to crochet.  She is one of my biggest supporters of homeschooling.  When we started homeschooling, we decided that we would let our neighbors know why our kids might be playing in the yard during school hours.  Mrs. Thelma had the most questions, so I invited her over to see our classroom.  Since then, she has brought us some of the best crafts and science project ideas.

This week we visited her in the hospital.  Thankfully, she is back home again, and seems to be feeling a little better.  The girls went over and sat on her front porch this afternoon and crocheted a long chain.  We consider her an extension of our family, and at the hospital, she introduced us a her family.  I felt honored.  We love her.  We love our Mrs. Thelma.


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11 Responses to She Said–Introductions–Meet our Neighbors–Mrs. Thelma

  1. bethany says:

    she sounds like a doll! just spent another hour + on the porch of the only “original” on our block, such a delight :). getting the history from them is so fascinating!


    • whitsendmom says:

      Before you leave, INTERVIEW HER!!!! And write a blog post!!! I would love to “meet” her. I bet my reader would also!!!


  2. Dad and Mom Whit says:

    What an interesting lady. Looking forward to a visit with her soon. Did she mind the snakes?


    • whitsendmom says:

      I haven’t asked her about the snakes, but she is a pretty & “tough” lady, so I am guessing that she doesn’t mind. We will have her over for a meal when you come. Hopefully, the weather is cooler, and we can eat outside as we don’t really all fit in the kitchen. . . .counting the days until we see you.


  3. Bel McCoy says:

    Sounds like a very special neighbor!!! Sure didn’t realize B-24 were produced there… Boeing is just Seattle in my mind. My brother was a co-pilot on a B-29 in WWII, till being shot down over Tokyo in April 1945.


    • whitsendmom says:

      Did your brother survive? Have you told your kids and grandkids what it was like growing up during that time period? That generation facinates me. I LOVE to hear all the stories. Even “boring” ones about what it was like to shop for shoes.


  4. Christie says:

    Glad to see a post from you today and I really enjoyed the tour through history, especially the hair styles.


  5. Lisa Buchanan says:

    You’re making me want to move into your neighborhood! (That is now that Snake Man’s 19 foot snakes have died!) I’m sure she’s just as thrilled to have you all as HER neighbors! Very sweet post!


    • whitsendmom says:

      I just ate lunch on her front porch with her, and I don’t think she is going to be with us too much longer. She just seems tired this year.


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