Tag Archives: 1950s

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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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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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.”

The Deadly Mantis

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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Lost Laurel TV: Laurel Shopping Center, Part 1

The latest episode of Lost Laurel on Laurel TV has aired, and is available on their YouTube channel. They’ve given me an HD version to post for my own archive, which is great, since the video includes some fantastic vintage photos!

This is the first of a two-part series on the history of Laurel Shopping Center, which focuses on the 1956 grand opening—including an itinerary of the “Fifteen Fabulous Days” celebration, the incredible promotions created by owners Melvin & Wolford Berman and Arthur Robinson, and an interview with Bart Scardina, Jr., whose father opened Bart’s Barber Shop as one of the original tenants. Of those original businesses, only Bart’s and Giant Food remain open today.

Part 2 will cover the 1966 expansion of the shopping center, the 1971 addition of Georgetown Alley, and the 1979 arrival of Laurel Centre Mall. We’ll also look at Laurel Shopping Center’s day of infamy—the 1972 assassination attempt of Governor George Wallace. We’ll be filming that in the coming weeks.

As always, a special thanks to Laurel Leader “History Matters” columnist Kevin Leonard for his segment, and to Denny Berman and Bart Scardina, Jr. for taking the time to share their memories.

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Laurel Shopping Center… The Theme Song?

Just so you know, you’ll be hearing me talk about “The Berman Collection” quite a bit in the coming months.

The Berman Collection is a treasure trove of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other artifacts from the family of Laurel Shopping Center founders Melvin and Wolford Berman.

While researching the early days of Laurel Shopping Center for a recent 3-part Laurel Leader column, historian Kevin Leonard met with Melvin’s son, Dennis Berman—now General Partner of all Berman Enterprises entities.

Denny proved not only to be a wonderful source of information, but keenly interested in helping us document the history of the groundbreaking shopping center his family built in 1956, which quite literally put Laurel on the map—at least in the eyes of retailers, shoppers, and those not solely interested in horse racing (which, to be fair, put Laurel on the map several decades earlier).

With incredible generosity, Denny Berman decided to donate a massive number of materials to the Laurel Historical Society, including a large scrapbook specifically documenting every phase of the “Fifteen Fabulous Days” campaign that comprised the November 1956 grand opening of Laurel Shopping Center. If you’re interested in such history as I am, trust me when I tell you that it’s the Holy Grail.

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I’ve already shared a few photos on the Lost Laurel Facebook page, but that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Kevin and I have been slowly but surely photographing and scanning every inch of the collection before it goes into the Laurel Museum—we’re working on a book that will showcase the material and the Berman family’s contribution to Laurel.

That being said, one of the most intriguing pieces in the collection is this empty record sleeve:

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What’s interesting about it? According to a description card, the sleeve originally held a recording (no known copies exist) of a Laurel Shopping Center theme song—which played on speakers throughout the center, on TV and radio commercials… even from a helicopter.

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Now, I told you Denny Berman is a wonderful source of information. He’s also a great sport. I had the pleasure of meeting him this week with Kevin, and when I brought up the theme song topic, he not only remembered the lyrics—he agreed to sing it for me.

This will be part of the next episode of the Lost Laurel TV show, which is actually a 2-part series on the history of Laurel Shopping Center. It features many of the photos from The Berman Collection, and Denny himself plans to join us on location for the second part, which I’m really looking forward to filming with Laurel TV in early December.

With the new Towne Centre at Laurel planning its official grand opening this Saturday (despite having been open for quite some time already) on the site of the former Laurel Centre Mall, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at the history of the mall that started it all.

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