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: 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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Laurel Elementary

Admittedly, I don’t often focus on Laurel’s schools and other municipal buildings; but every so often, I’ll come across something particularly interesting that I feel should be on this blog. More than likely, it will come from someone else who’s taken the time to share special family photos or artifacts.

Such is the case with the following class photos from Laurel Elementary School on Montgomery Street in the 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Janice Kaifer.

These are good quality scans, so be sure to click on the photos to view them at full size. Perhaps you’ll recognize someone!

This first pair dates to 1932:

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Next, we skip forward a bit to 1953. This is Mrs. Strasser’s 2nd grade class:

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A 3rd grade class in 1954:

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Mrs. Schlosser’s 4th grade class in 1955:

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5th grade, in 1956:

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Another 5th grade class, circa 1957:

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Next, we get into some color photos! This is Mrs. Birdsong’s kindergarten class in 1960:

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Mrs. Schlosser’s 3rd grade class in 1963:

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Mrs. Wootten’s 5th grade class in 1965:

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Mrs. Johnson’s 6th grade class in 1966:

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And last but not least, Mrs. Weagley’s “GOLES”—Girls of Laurel Elementary School—in 1966:

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With any luck, some readers may find themselves, and/or family and friends in some of these photos. Many thanks again to Janice for taking the time to scan and share them!

The old building was replaced with a more modern facility a few years after these class photos were taken. If anyone knows the year the current structure was built, (or can elaborate on the history of the original building) please leave a comment below.

And while we’re on the subject of the old Laurel Elementary School, here’s a pair of vintage postcards from John Floyd II‘s collection:

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R.I.P., Two of Laurel’s Finest

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Unless it involves a particular photo or artifact that’s relevant to the retail history of Laurel, I really don’t write a lot about the town’s police, fire, or rescue personnel. But I’ve certainly always had the greatest respect for them all.

This past Sunday, I had the chance to chat with Chief Rich McLaughlin at the city’s annual Mayor’s Open House event, and learned some sad news: the Laurel Police Department had just heard of the passing of not one, but two important members of their family: retired Chief Archie Cook, and retired Captain Philip Pollack.

Both have always been very familiar names to me, having grown up in the era in which they served. I remember Archie Cook’s name being in the Laurel Leader perpetually; and Phil Pollack was the officer I’d most often see cruising through my Steward Manor neighborhood in the early 1980s, keeping a kind but watchful eye on things.

Both of these gentlemen dedicated years—some of them dangerous years—keeping Laurel’s residents and businesses safe. When you reminisce about the places you frequented between the 1960s and 2000s, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember Chief Cook and Captain Pollack, who collectively served in Laurel’s line of duty for nearly half a century.

My thanks to them, and my condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues. Many thanks also to Chief McLaughlin for supplying photos for the above tribute graphic, and the following information on both men’s careers and respective funeral services:

Chief Archie Cook started his career at the Laurel Police Department in August of 1965, being promoted to Private First Class in 1968 and Corporal in 1969. In 1972, Cook was one of the officers who threw themselves on Alabama Governor George Wallace after an assassination attempt during a presidential campaign event at Laurel Shopping Center. Cook was promoted to Sergeant in 1976, Lieutenant in 1981, acting Chief in 1986, and was appointed Chief in July of 1987. He served as the Chief until his retirement in September of 1994. After his retirement, Chief Cook continued to serve the Laurel community as a security officer at Laurel High School. He later became the program coordinator for the Leadership Development Institute at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. Chief Cook was a well-rounded and highly respected officer and administrator, earning many awards and praise throughout his career. Chief McLaughlin said “Archie was a true leader, he was great friend who was always available to provide advice and guidance. He helped to make the Laurel Police Department what it is today.” Chief Cook is survived by his wife Deborah, his daughter Shannon Stastny, and granddaughter Michelle Stastny.

Funeral services for Chief Archie Cook
Thursday, March 26, 2015

2–4 and 6–8 PM
Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk
7110 Sollers Point Road
Dundalk, Maryland

A service to celebrate Archie’s life will be held on Friday, March 27th at 10:00 AM, also at the funeral home.

Interment following the service will be at Gardens of Faith Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital: 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

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Captain Phillip Pollack began his career as a police officer at the University of Maryland College Park in November 1976 when he left to join the Laurel Police Department in the spring of 1980. He was promoted to Corporal in 1986, but left the department to pursue business interests. However, he returned to serve Laurel in 1990 and was again promoted to Corporal in 1995. He quickly advanced to Sergeant in 1998, Lieutenant in 2000, and Captain in 2007 before retiring in June of 2008. After his retirement, Captain Pollack worked as a project manager for a private security company. During his career Captain Pollack was a highly decorated officer and served in almost every unit of the agency, including the Emergency Response Team, Criminal Investigations, and Community Policing. Chief McLaughlin said “Phil will truly be missed, he was a great police officer, mentor and friend. He will never be forgotten.”

Captain Pollack is survived by his wife Carolin, children Matthew (Jen), Kimberly (Pat), Nathaniel (Kristen), and six grandchildren.

Funeral services for Captain Philip Pollack:
Wednesday March 25, 2015  
1:30 PM
University of Maryland Memorial Chapel – College Park
7600 Baltimore Avenue
College Park, Maryland
Inurnment will be private at a later date.

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Lost Laurel TV: Revisiting the Lost & Found Laurel Exhibit

Due to a busier-than-usual schedule, (and a few technical difficulties on my part) this newest episode of the Lost Laurel show for Laurel TV is a bit late… but it’s done—and better late than never!

I filmed it in December, just as the Lost & Found Laurel exhibit was about to close at the Laurel Museum. The idea is that if you didn’t have a chance to experience it in person, (or if you overlooked some of the pieces during what was the museum’s busiest opening day of all time) this episode will give you a chance to see it in full detail.

It also includes an interview with Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Lindsey Baker, who not only gives an overview of the show, but a preview of the new 2015 exhibit, Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News—which has since opened. (Go check it out—it’s awesome!)

You can watch the episode below, or view it directly on YouTube at full size. Enjoy!

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The Deadly Mantis… In Laurel!

While chatting with guests at the wonderful new Laurel Museum exhibit, “Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News” this past Sunday, (more on that in a near-future update, by the way) an interesting topic came up. My friend, Clark Shaffer, reminded me of a classic B-movie in which the town of Laurel played a cameo—“The Deadly Mantis.”

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This also reminded me that, somewhere under piles of paper (and God only knows what else) in my office, I actually have a copy of this on DVD. I’d found it well over a year ago on eBay—after somebody else on Lost Laurel had mentioned the scene.

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And all this time, I’d never watched it. So, without further ado, let’s have a look!

Of course, none of this was actually filmed on location in Laurel; but rather, some Universal Studios sound stage. (Much like the 1997 Gary Sinise film, “George Wallace”—where the attempted assassination scene looks very much like the parking lot of Laurel Shopping Center… until one notices palm trees in the background.)

But imagine the unexpected excitement local residents must have felt some 40 years earlier, just upon hearing our little town mentioned in a real Hollywood movie! It was only late the previous year (1956) when Laurel Shopping Center first opened, and now this.

I’m just going to throw this out there: I doubt Laurel has an “official insect”, but clearly it needs to be the mantis.

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