Racing… to close Laurel Railroad Station?

There’s a rather unlikely story in the local news this week—a head-scratcher, really. It concerns two of Laurel’s historic landmarks, and how they’re supposedly at odds all of a sudden. I’m speaking of Laurel Park Racecourse and the Laurel Railroad Station.

I’ll get right into it: Laurel Park, which after decades of hard times is finally seeking to turn the corner with an ambitious plan to build “a transit-oriented development with retail and residential space near the racetrack,” has requested the state Department of Transportation open a commuter train stop in Laurel closer to the track.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Because that would just be too easy, state Department of Transportation officials have said that it is unlikely the state will consider a “dual stop” at both the Laurel MARC station and the racetrack. A train platform is already at the racetrack, mind you, but is listed as a flag stop (where trains will only stop when there’s a specific request) on the MARC Camden line schedule.

So, here comes the head-scratcher: the idea being proposed is that the DoT would close the Laurel Station—which is on the National Register of Historic Places—in favor of building a new stop at the racetrack, a mere 2,500 feet away. Where, again, there is already a train platform in place. I’m not sure there’s a more polite way to put this, so I’ll just ask: Are you f***ing kidding me?

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a huge supporter of both places. More than anything, I’d love to see a resurgence of horse racing in Laurel, and have Laurel Park once again become the premier venue that it can be. But certainly not at the expense of endangering what might be the town’s most recognizable landmark—a landmark that, frankly, has been more functional than the track itself in recent years.

Granted, I can’t see anyone in their right mind coming out and proposing that the old train station be demolished—to my knowledge, nothing like that has been discussed. But what would happen if/when the historic station ceases to be an active stop on the MARC line? We already know how vulnerable the city’s old buildings tend to be, especially when they’re vacant.

Lest anyone forget, Laurel came dangerously close to losing the station to fire in January 1992. John Mewshaw recently shared these photos with me—sobering reminders, all:

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

With the expectation that cooler, more rational heads will ultimately prevail in this, let’s look at some more reasonable options.

First, there’s the basic issue of supply and demand. If enough people genuinely start taking the train to the races again, as they did back in the early-to-mid-20th century, there’s no reason why the Department of Transportation shouldn’t reinstate Laurel Park as an active stop on the MARC line. But even then, closing the town’s historic station wouldn’t make sense, logistically, especially as it relates to everyday commuters with no interest in visiting the race track.

The current station sits in the heart of Laurel at the base of Main Street and provides easy access. From a marketing standpoint, its historic qualities also benefit the commuter rail industry—the classic, Queen Anne styling of the station literally makes you want to take the train… in a way that a new, more modern facility probably wouldn’t.

And marketing is something that Laurel Park obviously needs to do a better job of, too, if it hopes to reinvigorate the track to the point of needing an exclusive train stop to accommodate the masses. For the record, I’m not a fan of their newest logo:

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As a graphic designer myself, I have serious doubts that it was created by a professional. It’s poorly executed for a number of reasons, but I digress. Their logo problems aren’t the main concern here.

But what they should be focusing on—instead of this new train station folly—are unique ways to maximize their exposure (regardless of that hideous logo). And ironically, the old train station is a perfect opportunity for them. I’m just going to offer this up, so Laurel Park Powers That Be, do with it as you please:

Imagine seeing a row of shuttle buses lined up as you get off the train… buses that are whimsically adorned with thoroughbred horse artwork (or, to go even further, imagine the entire bus being decorated to look like a race horse itself…) A row of buses, each designed as an individual race horse, complete with saddle cloth number…

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Much like the old train station invites you to ride the rails, wouldn’t that pique your interest in going to the race track? And imagine the exposure the buses themselves would get just being spotted going back and forth on Route 1—especially when two or three at a time are “racing” there. (Not to encourage gambling, but you could even place bets on which “horse bus” arrives first…)

Keep in mind, I did this in about half an hour. Imagine what could be done with proper time and exploration. (And I’d be more than happy to design it for you, Laurel Park. I assure you, it’d be cheaper than a new train station, too.)

And from a practical standpoint, (e.g. the number of people actually going to the race track from the train station) wouldn’t shuttle buses also just make more sense? At least until Laurel Park starts generating the types of crowds that might require more drastic measures?

For the record, I do hope those crowds eventually return, but only after the race track (and the city) has solid plans in place to accommodate them. First, they need a plan to actually draw them. To paraphrase the Field of Dreams mantra, “Build it, and they will come.”

Source:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/laurel/ph-ll-marc-station-moves-20150616-story.html
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Laurel TV: Date Night in Laurel

Episode 6 of Lost Laurel for Laurel TV has aired, and its theme is Date Night in Laurel—a look at some of the favorite date night destinations Laurelites have enjoyed over the years, including movie theaters, restaurants, and special events.

One such special event was the landmark Laurel Pop Festival at Laurel Race Course in 1969. Kevin Leonard wrote a fantastic account of it for the Laurel Leader recently, and I had a blast accompanying him for an interview with Bruce Remer of e-rockworld.com at the site of the legendary concert. Bruce had been there as a high school student along with friend and fellow photographer Tom Beech—and the two easily mingled backstage with the performers, snapping photos with a Kodak Instamatic. Some of their photos and artifacts can even be seen on Led Zeppelin‘s website, on a page devoted to their Laurel performance.

This being a “date night” theme, I had hoped to have this episode ready in time for Valentines Day… but better late than never. ;) Hope you enjoy it!

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Little Tavern Etching

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting up for breakfast at Laurel’s legendary Tastee Diner with Michael Stewart. Michael is an award-winning photographer and artist, and also happens to be the father of one of my favorite bloggers—Diner Hunter, Spencer Stewart.

Spencer had alerted me to some wonderful new etchings his dad had recently produced, capturing Laurel’s Little Tavern in its heyday. (Spencer has done by far the most meticulous research on Little Tavern I’ve ever seen—be sure to check out his extensive site!)

Michael has been getting back to his illustrative roots with a printmaking class at Montpelier, and he really caught the essence of the memorable little white building with the green roof.

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1997. (Laurel Historical Society archives)

1997. (Laurel Historical Society archives)

Of course, the building is still there at 115 Washington Boulevard—just across the street from the Tastee Diner. In fact, since it reopened as Laurel Tavern Donuts in 2008, it’s the only known establishment that still makes the famous Little Tavern Sliders from the original recipe, which was handed down by a former manager at the restaurant. Laurel’s Little Tavern first opened in 1939, and was among the very last to close its doors.

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(Photo: © Michael G. Stewart)

After a great meal and wonderfully nostalgic conversation, (both of which are always enhanced by the Tastee Diner’s one-of-a-kind ambiance) I had my original etching framed before I even made it back home!

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If you’d like one of your own, contact Michael at michephoto@msn.com or through Facebook.

Here are a few more photos from Michael’s archive, that he shot of the Little Tavern and Tastee Diner between 1987 and 2008:

Inside the Little Tavern in 2005. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

Inside the Little Tavern in 2005. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

Little Tavern 2007 photo Michael G. Stewart

(Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

2008, after closing. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

2008, after closing. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

An aerial view above Washington Boulevard. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

An aerial view above Washington Boulevard. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

1987. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

1987. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

The Tastee Diner's Washington Boulevard sign in 1987. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

The Tastee Diner’s Washington Boulevard sign in 1987. (Photo © Michael G. Stewart)

Oh, and I almost forgot—you can’t go to the Tastee Diner without enjoying copious amounts of good, strong coffee and a slice of pie, even it’s for breakfast.

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(Photo: © Michael G. Stewart)

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The Rest of the Story: Stefanie Watson

It’s still over a month away, but I hope you’ll mark your calendar and join me for a special presentation on July 9th. I’m honored to be part of the Laurel Historical Society’s summer program called “The Rest of the Story | A Series Based on Ripped From the Headlines: Laurel in the News”. It’s a companion series to the current exhibit at the Laurel Museum, which highlights some of the biggest stories that have ever graced the pages of the Laurel Leader (among other publications).

I’ve been asked to give a talk on a subject that’s particularly important to me—the Stefanie Watson cold case.

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I first wrote about the brutal 1982 murder of Stefanie Watson here in 2012, to mark the 30th anniversary of her death and to hypothesize a theory. I was a 9-year-old kid at the time of her disappearance; and while I’d never met her, the sheer horror of the crime—and the fact that virtually nothing had been written about it in the media in the three decades since—had always stuck with me. I decided to write something in the context of Lost Laurel to mark the occasion, never imagining that it would not only have a hand in reigniting the investigation, but that a DNA match would finally lead to her killer’s arrest after all these years.

It was a unique chance for me to reminisce about the people and places of Laurel in 1982, while exploring territory that was entirely new to me: discussing an unsolved murder with the Chief of Police in my hometown… retracing Stefanie Watson’s last known footsteps… comparing notes with Prince George’s County homicide detectives… becoming friends with Stefanie’s family, and ultimately getting that amazing call from her cousin that an arrest had been made.

I’m putting together this presentation to tell the full story in person. It’ll be hosted by the Laurel Historical Society, and for the first time, will be held at the Laurel Police Department‘s spacious Partnership Activity Center—which many of you will remember was originally the First Baptist Church of Laurel.

(Photo: Sgt. Don Winstead, Laurel Police Department. Courtesy of policestationpictures.wordpress.com)

(Photo: Sgt. Don Winstead, Laurel Police Department. Courtesy of policestationpictures.wordpress.com)

If any of Stefanie’s former co-workers at the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital (or anyone else—friends or neighbors—who knew her personally) are interested in attending and possibly sharing your memories of her, that would be wonderful. Likewise, any current or retired police, fire, and rescue personnel who may have had some connection to the case—we would love to hear from you.

This summer will mark 33 years since Stefanie Watson’s murder. It will also mark the beginning of John Ernest Walsh’s trial for this crime that has haunted Laurel now for more than three decades.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Stefanie Watson: Reigniting One of Laurel’s Most Notorious Cold Cases

PRESENTED BY RICHARD FRIEND

Thursday, July 9, 2015
7PM
Laurel Police Department | Partnership Activity Center
811 Fifth Street, Laurel, MD

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My Main Street (Festival) Moment

It’s hard to believe a week has already passed, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a short update about what was, for me, the most memorable Main Street Festival of all. For the 35th anniversary, I got the chance to ride in the parade—and not in just any vehicle…

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(Photo: John Floyd II)

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(Photo: John Floyd II)

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That’s Mike Templeton‘s 1956 Chevy Bel Air, and it is all kinds of awesome.

Before we get too far into this, let me introduce you to Mike:

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The idea actually came from Pete Lewnes, whose enthusiasm for the history of all things Laurel is unmatched. Pete, who shares countless items with Lost Laurel from the massive collection he and his wife have built, mentioned that I should approach a longtime local car dealer like Fred Frederick about riding in this year’s parade in one of his convertibles—which would promote his dealership as well as the Lost Laurel project. Mike got wind of this and said,

“Lost Laurel can’t be in some new car! You need a classic!”

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Mike Templeton and Pete Lewnes

The Laurel Board of Trade liked the idea, too, and put us at #16 in the parade lineup—just after the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department and just before the Knights of Columbus. And I have to tell you, waiting in that staging area along Sixth Street—just a block shy of Main Street, already abuzz with eager parade-watchers—it’s quite a feeling.

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If you’ve ever wondered what the parade looks like from the vantage point of the participants entering Main Street from Sixth Street, wonder no more. Here’s a quick video I shot to capture those first few seconds:

At that same moment, John Floyd II—who’d taken so many wonderful photos of the very first Main Street Festival way back in 1981—was standing directly across the street next to Oliver’s Old Town Tavern, and snapped these pics:

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(Photos: John Floyd II)

I soon realized that there were a lot more people than I expected, and many of them were kids eager to catch candy. Luckily for them, I’d brought a huge bag of lollipops and was getting a workout tossing them to both sides of the street! I teased a few longtime Laurelites I recognized by suggesting that it was “thirty-year-old candy from Woolworth’s” and other Lost Laurel sweet spots like Gavriles’. :)

John Mewshaw, who took the following photo, noted:

“It isn’t easy taking pictures while being pelted by candy…”

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(Photo: John Mewshaw)

Realizing that I couldn’t take these candy-tossing duties lightly, I passed the video camera off to Pete—and he happily filmed the entire length of our ride down Main Street from the front passenger seat of the ’56 Bel Air.

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Laurel Leader writer Patti Restivo, who’d written about the Festival in that week’s paper, was on hand and shouted out, asking if I’d seen her article. She’d called me the week before the parade to get a quote, and we’d talked about several things; at one point, Patti mentioned how a former newspaper editor had once modified one of her stories to include her least favorite word in the English language—the word “utterly”. I told her that she should add it to my quote somehow as an inside joke. Lo and behold:

Richard Friend, of Lost Laurel, is riding in the parade for the first time with Mike Templeton in Templeton’s red 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible.

Friend said he remembers attending the first Main Street Festival in 1981 as a 9-year-old, when just walking in the middle of the street “created a sense of novelty and wonder.”

“When I walk down Main Street today, the ghosts of Laurel businesses past are with me, especially during the festival,” he said. “Riding in the parade is going to be an utterly exciting experience.”

— Laurel Leader  | May 7, 2015

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(Photo: Patti Restivo)

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(Photo: Patti Restivo)

All along the parade route, I saw familiar faces and heard familiar voices—including those of longtime friends and former classmates, as well as those I’d only met before via Lost Laurel. “Thanks for your awesome page,” someone shouted out; and if my day hadn’t already been made, it certainly was then.

(Photo: Billy Wellford)

(Photo: Billy Wellford)

(Photo: LaDonna Kane)

(Photo: LaDonna Kane)

After the parade, in between funnel cakes and lemonade, several people asked about the vintage Laurel baseball jersey I was wearing.

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Actually, it’s the shoulder patch that’s historic. The jersey itself is a brand new one I had custom-made by Ebbets Field Flannels to go with this original 1930s Prince George’s County Police Boys’ Club patch. This was the little league that preceded the Laurel Boys & Girls Club.

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(Photos: Mike Templeton)

The weather started out a bit sketchy, with light rain that wasn’t in the forecast whatsoever; but man, did it turn out to be a nice day. And even if the rain hadn’t let up, it wouldn’t have dampened it for me one bit. After the festivities, I learned that we’d even won a trophy!

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(Photo: Mike Templeton)

I saw a lot of folks taking pictures along the route. I’d love to see them, so if you could, please post them on the Lost Laurel Facebook page or email them to me at richard_friend@mac.com. Thanks to everyone for coming out and truly making it an extra-special Main Street Festival!

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The End of the Library

By now, many of you already know that the Stanley Memorial Library has always been a very special place for me.

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It was the first library I can remember ever going into as a child, and I still vividly recall my amazement at learning that there was no limit to how many books I could check out at any given time—and that it was all completely free. What madness! “How do they stay in business?!” I asked my mom.

Fast-forward a few years; and as a not-quite-fifteen-year-old kid in 1987, I got my work permit and was given my very first part-time job: manning the desk at the “Computer Connection“—the library’s small public computer lab. I scheduled reservations for people I can still picture to this day, including Mr. Anderson, the budding fiction writer who plugged away at the Apple IIe at least twice a month. Other, more utilitarian types booked time on the IBM PC; and surprisingly, hardly anyone ever used the Macintosh. Librarian Carl Keehn, who’d hired me, was the first to encourage me to take advantage of any downtime by learning all I could—particularly on that Macintosh. (As a graphic designer today, that’s my primary tool).

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As I recently learned from Carl, I almost didn’t get that job. Not because I wasn’t qualified, but because I was still underage. The law didn’t allow me to work past 8:30, and the job required me to stay until 8:45. The library actually ended up applying for a waiver, and the rest was history.

The Computer Connection gig only lasted a couple of years, though, as the first of many county cutbacks began to loom. Nonetheless, while the computers were going bye-bye for the 1990s, I was glad to learn that my job wasn’t. In fact, it was really just beginning. I was reassigned as a clerical aide, or page—where I got to re-shelve books and locate back issue periodicals for patrons.

Well, I’m not going to bore you with my whole employment story again. Suffice it to say that I grew up in that library. Not only was it my first job, I ended up working there all throughout high school and college. I can’t begin to count how many good memories that place holds for me. Even the very first date I ever went on—the library is where I met and nervously asked out that first girl I really liked, right there in the parking lot.

Even after starting my first full-time graphic design job in 1997, I clung to the library; I continued to work part-time on the weekends, not because I needed to, but because I guess I really just didn’t want to let it go.

And that feeling that crept back again, nearly 20 years later—with the announcement of a new Laurel Library branch now due to be built on the site by 2017. Yes, even in spite of the 1993 expansion which nearly tripled the size of the original building, the old library had far outgrown the space. But to imagine those old walls, the sight of which conjure so many fond memories, being torn down—it was a tough pill to swallow.

The demolition was originally scheduled for last fall, I believe; but for one reason or another, there were delays. The library’s last day of operation in this building had been March 8, 2014. Shortly thereafter, a temporary (and much smaller) facility was established behind City Hall at 8101 Sandy Spring Road. But the old building sat empty and untouched for over a year, until finally, the familiar signs of pending destruction began to emerge: construction crew trailers were installed in the parking lot, and a chain link fence went up around the perimeter. Each weekend, I’d make the drive from Centreville, VA to Laurel, hoping to catch the first moments of it on film, but dreading it at the same time. Worse, I feared that one day soon, I’d approach that familiar corner of Seventh Street and Talbott Avenue, and the old library would be nothing more than a pile of rubble.

Finally, I got word that NARDI Construction, Inc. was ready to start. On May 6th, 2015, I drove to the site and met foreman Chuck McNulty, who regrettably told me that the excavators they were expecting that morning hadn’t showed up after all—it looked like they wouldn’t start tearing the building down in earnest until the next day. But it was hardly a wasted trip, as Chuck asked if I’d be interested in taking a few mementos his team had salvaged. Little did I imagine these would include the original, complete set of blueprints from 1965—blueprints I remember hanging in the basement office of the late Tom Acra, the library’s beloved maintenance man.

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Chuck told me they should be good to go the following day, so on May 7th, I made the trip back. The smaller Bobcats were hard at work inside, doing some final interior gutting before they’d start knocking down the walls. While I was taking photos on the corner, Chuck appeared in what had previously been one of the windows—it was now more like an open bay door. I’ll never forget what he asked next:

“Wanna come in and see the inside one last time?”

He told me it was okay to film and photograph anything I wanted (with the exception of the workers themselves, some of whom may not want their pictures taken). I grabbed both my video camera and the still camera, stepped over the caution-taped hard hat area, and into the vacant shell of the Stanley Memorial Library one last time.

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It didn’t occur to me until I’d gone home and started sorting through my photos that the demolition came on the anniversary of the library’s official dedication. While the building had opened in 1965, the dedication didn’t actually happen until May 7, 1967.

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Forty-eight years ago to the day, future U.S. Congresswoman Gladys Noon Spellman, Laurel Mayor Merrill Harrison, and other local officials had assembled behind the original circulation desk and delivered the dedication.

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And now, there I was at the same spot, moments before the building would finally meet its end. For 50 years, this library had stood here; countless patrons milling about its shelves for bestsellers and all sorts of media… (I’ve even heard stories of an actual art collection being loaned out in the ’70s—you could borrow a new painting for your living room wall every couple of weeks!) And of course, my thoughts went to the many people who worked here, both before and after my time as a staff member. That’s when it dawned on me that of all those people, I suddenly found myself being the last one who’d ever walk through it again.

It was about a half hour later that the first of the walls started coming down—the vestibule roof that had originally covered the Seventh Street entrance, the original circulation workroom, and most recently, the quiet study room—crashed to the ground in a cloud of beige dust. After that settled, I got to witness the center wall that was the heart of the 1965 building fall:

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Chuck said that they wouldn’t likely get to the other major sections that day, but I’d seen enough. I’m not sure I wanted to see the expansion side come down—the section that was brand new in 1993, which seems like just the blink of an eye ago.

The construction crew took a brief break over the weekend (the Main Street Festival proved a welcome distraction to any other nostalgic library types like me) and was back at it on Monday, May 11th. By the end of this week, if not sooner, the rest of the library will be leveled.

You can peruse my full set of photos on Flickr, which includes several days leading up to and during the demolition. I’ll be adding to it in the weeks to come.

Many thanks again to Chuck McNulty and NARDI Construction for going above and beyond in providing me access to document the building’s demise, and for saving some one-of-a-kind historical mementos. The cornerstone and dedication plate will be preserved in the Laurel Museum.

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He also set aside several bricks for me, and even helped load them into my truck—bricks that I’ll be distributing to former library colleagues as one last little piece of this place we loved.

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Brick by Brick

I still occasionally get comments from new Lost Laurel Facebook readers, asking why certain businesses don’t seem to be featured. One that comes up quite often: “What about Dottie’s Trophies?” And I have to explain that A) the concept of Lost Laurel is that these are all places that are no longer in business. And B) Dottie’s Trophies—sometimes to the surprise of many—is indeed still open for business. Since 1968, in fact, they’ve been continuously producing countless trophies and awards for sports teams and corporations in the Laurel area and beyond.

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It also dawned on me recently that I’d never actually been to Dottie’s Trophies in all these years. I’ve driven by it at least 1,232,000 times; and I’ve had at least a couple bowling trophies as a kid with Dottie’s name on the bottom. I decided to remedy that, and came up with what I think was a unique way to utilize their craft.

Let me backtrack for a moment.

A little over a year ago, I was giving a presentation for the Laurel Historical Society when I met Mike McLaughlin—and he gave me a wonderful surprise gift. A pair of them, actually—pieces of concrete from the recently demolished ruins of two of my favorite Lost Laurel sites: the Tastee-Freez and the Laurel Centre Mall. Mike had taken and shared some wonderful photos of the demolition process of both, and managed to salvage a few pieces of the buildings—literally—before they were gone for good.

The amazing thing about the Tastee-Freez coming down was the reemergence of the red and white tiles underneath the exterior facade. The tiles were from the 1960s, when the building was originally Laurel’s first McDonald’s.

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The white brick from the Mall still had those tiny flecks of crystal that would catch the sunlight on the Hecht’s/Macy’s side. It’s funny how even a single brick can still trigger an image of the Mall as a whole.

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I thought of these bricks recently when it became apparent that demolition work on the Stanley Memorial Library is finally imminent. (As of this post, the building is still standing; but it’s surrounded by chain link fencing and work is likely to begin any day now.) My very first job was as a clerical aide at that library, and I ended up working there all throughout high school and college. It was and will always be a special place for me. When the building comes down, I’d like to get a few bricks for myself and some former colleagues.

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It turns out I didn’t have to wait for the library to fall down to get my brick, at least. On a recent stop to photograph it, Pete Lewnes noticed one just sitting there loose near the missing cornerstone, (which I’m guessing either Prince George’s County Memorial Library System or the Laurel Museum had removed for posterity) and grabbed it for me.

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So, getting back to Dottie’s Trophies…

Because these old bricks and shards of masonry mean something to me—and hopefully to anyone with fond memories of the buildings they once comprised—I decided to have small, engraved name plates attached to them. And who better to do that than Dottie’s Trophies?

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It adds a sort of reverence even I wasn’t quite expecting. It also makes me wish I had a brick from all of the legendary places that have vanished from the Laurel landscape over the years. I could put them all together to form an actual Lost Laurel wall… if not an actual Lost Laurel Museum.

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Lost Laurel in the Main Street Festival Parade!

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I was at the very first Main Street Festival back in 1981 as an 8-year-old kid, stopping at a crowded Keller’s News Stand for a cold Orange Crush before continuing up the full length of Laurel’s most storied street.

And while I haven’t been to all of them in the years since, I’ve been to many. But this year’s will certainly be a first for me—I actually get to ride in the parade!

Not only that, but I get to ride in a bonafide classic that epitomizes the Lost Laurel spirit—a cherry red 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible owned and driven by Mike Templeton!

Mike Templeton and family leading the 2014 Laurel 4th of July parade

Mike Templeton and family leading the 2014 Laurel 4th of July parade

Mike’s ’56 Chevy is no stranger to the big show; it lead the festivities at last year’s 4th of July parade, as well. Looking ahead, you’ll also be able to see it and other local hot wheels at the Sons of the American Legion Car Show & Family Event on August 8th, which Mike is organizing. I’ll share more details on that event as the date draws near.

But for now, I’m really looking forward to experiencing the Main Street Festival from a whole different vantage point, and hope to see lots of you out there filling the street! Laurel’s 35th Annual Main Street Festival is just two weeks from today: Saturday, May 9th, 2015. The parade begins promptly at 9AM.

I want to give a big thanks to Mike for the invitation, to Pete Lewnes for the idea, and to the Laurel Board of Trade for making it happen. Please join us for what’s always a fun and memorable parade!

(P.S.: I’ll need some of you to kindly take and share photos, please!) :)

The Year of Tastee-Freez

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The Nickell family celebrating 25 years of Tastee-Freez ownership in 1999. (Laurel Leader photo by Jason Lee, 8/5/99)

It was 1974 when James Nickell took over the Tastee-Freez from its original owners, Mr. & Mrs. James DeLorenzo—who’d opened the franchise in what had previously been Laurel’s first McDonald’s.

So, it’s fitting that the first and only Tastee-Freez/Big T calendar I’ve come across would be from that very year. Here it is, scanned in its entirety.

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Lost Laurel Wins St. George’s Day Award

This afternoon, I had the honor of receiving a Prince George’s County Historical Society St. George’s Day Award at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, MD.

According to PGCHS:

Established in 1974, these awards are given annually to honor living individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation of the County’s heritage.

Some of the names I recognize as past recipients include longtime Laurel Leader editor Gertrude Poe, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, and Comptroller Louis Goldstein. Just to be mentioned in such company is a huge honor; and I’m so pleased that those who study and preserve the history of both Laurel and Prince George’s County consider my humble Lost Laurel project to be so worthy.

Prince George’s County Historical Society Board Member Lynn Roberts made a terrific presentation, reading a statement from Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Lindsey Baker.

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Laurel Historical Society President Steve Hubbard was there, explaining the premise of Lost Laurel and the work that went into producing the book.

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I want to thank the Prince George’s County Historical Society again for this award, which is a wonderful acknowledgement of a project that has truly been a labor of love. And a super-thank you to everyone at the Laurel Historical Society for nominating me in the first place (which I also just discovered today!) Thank you, all!

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