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Memories of Wyoming in the 1930s and 40s from a life-long resident

Phyllis Strauss has documented all her 92 years living in the Wyoming area, and she's looking for help managing her immense collection.

WYOMING, Mich. — "When I was born, my mother's father said, 'Name her Phyllis Joy, and she will fill us with joy!'"

There has been a lot of change in Wyoming over its history, and one woman has lived through and documented a lot of it. Phyllis Joy Hudson Strauss has lived in the Wyoming area since the 1930s. She and her husband bought the first lot in Chateau Estates where she still lives, but she's had homes all over the Wyoming area, including the her first one on Berkshire Boulevard.

The house was known as a 'garage house', a tiny house consisting of a living room, bedroom and kitchen built at the back of a deep lot with the expectation of building a bigger, nicer house at the front. Eventually, the small back house would become the garage.

"It had a pump in the kitchen sink with well water. No bathroom. And my mother paid 50 dollars down and 10 dollars a month no interest."

Phyllis said the boulevard name was "fancy" though the street was nothing more than a block-long dirt road. While the boulevard may have been dirt, the memories were golden. 

She clearly remembers all the excitement of watching the planes come in at the old airport nearby.

"We would climb up on our flat roof and watch the airplanes," Phyllis said. "People would come from all over and park along the fence on Jefferson Avenue. A popcorn wagon would park there, and that really made it festive. That was our entertainment. Watching the planes fly in and out. And they were small planes."

But, the big excitement came when they headed downtown.

“The ladies wore hats and gloves when they went downtown to shop," Phyllis remembers with a smile. ”Dimestore row. We would go there and sit at a stool at Woolworths and have a hotdog and fresh squeezed orange juice. That was our treat when we went downtown.”

Her full life of memories fill books, binders and dozens of journals, and though she’s traveled all over, she has never strayed too far from home.

“We were in Wyoming. We’ve been here most of our life. First as a kid, and now it boggles my mind that we’re living just a short distance from there.”

Phyllis has documented everything. She began a daily journal in the 1960s. 

"I got about two years out of each five-year journal," Phyllis said while holding one of them. As her family grew larger, so did the journal. Eventually she switched over to big, 3-ring binders. 

When she was 78, her children convinced her to write down everything she could remember up until the time she started her journals. So she wrote a book. Her collection is a historians dream. She has newspaper clippings, photos and videos throughout her life. And she’s looking for help to archive it all.

"I need those organized and put together. And I need to get all this on the computer," Phyllis said.

She is also no stranger to 13 ON YOUR SIDE. We were there in 2020 when Phyllis and her husband Roger had to change their plans to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary because of the pandemic. Check out their love story here.

If you want more of Phyllis's recollections, you can watch them below:

Remembering that garage house on Berkshire Boulevard.

Woolworths, Dimestore Row, and other big city adventures for this Wyoming girl!

Horse-drawn wagons, dresses from feed sacks, and many other memories  of the stores and shopping around 28th Street and Division Avenue.

Division Tunnel and Mr. Rackett: A story about that scary-looking house kids make legends about and the surprise reveal. 

Woolworths, Dimestore Row, and other big city adventures for this Wyoming girl shopping in downtown Grand Rapids! 

A few WWII-era memories from Wyoming.

Phyllis explains all the documenting of history she's done, and how she can use some help.

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