THE LAUREL CHRONICLES
History Crumbs, Vol. 3
By Kevin Leonard | October 25, 2021
These short bits of history tend to pile up as I do more research on various topics. Unless otherwise credited, all quotes are from the Laurel Leader.
In April, the Town Charter had numerous sections dealing with keeping hogs confined. Section 22 gave the Town Commissioners the authority to “pass ordinances to prevent horses and swine from running at large” within the town limits. Section 23 prohibited citizens from allowing “his or her hog or hogs to run at large” in the town, with such runaway hogs subject to impoundment. The fine for impounded hogs was fifty cents a day for a maximum of three days. After that, the Town Bailiff held a public sale of the hogs. And Section 26 empowered the Commissioners “to erect a suitable enclosure for the impounding of all hogs found running at large” within the town. Using the powers granted to them, the Town Commissioners passed the first ordinance in the new town of Laurel that established a $2.00 fine for permitting hogs to run wild in the streets.
In February, the following notice was published in the Leader: “Will the handsome young woman in blue dress and jacket, who arrived in Washington by train, at 1:40 o’clock, Tuesday, February 4, kindly send an address or acknowledge this by a line to the respectful admirer, whom she noticed? Address, Henry Marchell Clayton, General Post Office, Washington, D.C.”
In November, the Bull Moose party’s “flying squadron” stopped in Laurel for a rally. The Bull Moose party, a nickname for the Progressive Party, was a third political party formed by former president Theodore Roosevelt after he lost the Republican party’s nomination to incumbent president William Howard Taft. Accompanied by a band, the “squadron” was making campaign stops throughout Maryland led by George Gaither, the Republican candidate for Governor and a Roosevelt supporter. After the rally, “the speakers, the band and followers of the Bull Moose went to the Clover Leaf Inn where lunch was served.”
In February, the Women’s Civic League sponsored a public lecture by Brig. Gen. E.S. Godfrey, who was one of the troop commanders at the Little Bighorn Battle where Custer and his men were slaughtered. Gen. Godfrey was 72 at the time of the lecture.
In March, the Leader published an editorial titled “Airplanes of Little Value.” The newspaper declared “an examination of these machines soon discloses the fact that they are of little practical value. They are too small to be steady in flight, too low-powered to fly under moderately adverse conditions, too flimsy to last long, and, taking it all in all, absolutely worthless for serious work of any kind. They should generally be treated as novelties.”
In March, some residents circulated a petition asking the Mayor and City Council to approve movies being shown at the Laurel Theater on Sundays, which was prohibited.
More than half of Laurel’s volunteer firemen were sent off to war, so 11 members of the Ladies Auxiliary stepped in and trained as firefighters to supplement the firemen still in town. The women were led by Goldie Hoffman, who was a member of the Auxiliary since 1929, and frequently drove the hook and ladder truck to fires.
In November, a video production company came to Laurel to film a Coast Guard recruiting film. “The story centers around a local high school senior who has enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and Laurel figures in the story as he departs for basic training and later returns.” Laurel was chosen to be the location of the film by the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Receiving Center at Cape May New Jersey, Capt. T. Young Awalt, a former resident of Laurel. Three Laurel High School seniors—Elizabeth Loveless, Robert Harmon, and John Weagly—had minor roles in the film.
In November, eight stores in the Laurel Shopping Center were burglarized overnight. Laurel Police Chief Malcolm Brown said the burglars entered each store “by ingeniously manipulating the front door with a pry bar” and that “no glass was broken in any of the stores.” The stolen loot, estimated to be worth $1,300 by police, included cash from registers, two 12-lb. bags of coffee from White Coffee Pot, a Polaroid camera and tape recorder from Howard Studio, costume jewelry from Shirley’s, and five straight razors from Bart’s Barber Shop. Only cash was taken from Terry Shop, Lili’s Children’s Shop, C.A. Leppert, and High’s. Three weeks later, three men from Montgomery County were apprehended in Ohio while stealing a safe. The men confessed to numerous burglaries, including those at the Laurel Shopping Center. Chief Brown reported that the suspects “all come from fine, respectable homes.”
In October, a group called Project Commitment, which worked toward “interracial understanding,” unveiled the first of a series of exhibits at the Stanley Memorial Library detailing the “American Negro’s contributions” to society. The first exhibit highlighted “The Black American’s Contributions to Science and Technology.” As reported in the News Leader, “In their research, Project Commitment learned that American Negroes should be credited with such contributions as the golf tee, potato chip, the light bulb socket, the paper bag ice cream, and the shoe last.” Future exhibits were planned to highlight “the American Negro’s contributions to culture and his role in Colonial America.”
In December, Mary Bedford Snowden, the last of the Laurel-born Snowdens, died. She was born at Snowden Hall, which is now located within the boundary of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. She was a direct descendant of Richard Snowden, one of the original settlers of Laurel.
In December, a man stopped at the Holmes Oil Company gas station on Route 1 with car trouble. Holmes didn’t offer mechanical services—it only pumped gas. The man called a mechanic from a pay phone, but after 45 minutes, he apparently got tired of waiting for the mechanic. So he apologetically held up the gas station. “I hate to do this to you, but give me the money,” he said to the gas attendant, brandishing a handgun. Laurel Police said he ran north on Route 1, with $60 from the station’s till.
In July, the first recorded tornado to ever strike Laurel downed about 50 trees on Patuxent Greens Golf Course and damaged houses in the Oakcrest neighborhood. Janet Andreone’s home was demolished by a large oak tree that split her house in two and blocked both doors leading outside. There were no injuries reported.
In September, just weeks after the 9/11 attack, another tornado swept through the area on a northward route, tearing off roofs of Laurel High School on Cherry Lane, the Westgate apartments, the Harrison-Beard Building on Montgomery Street (the old Laurel Police Department headquarters), and the Settler’s Landing townhouse development off Route 216 in North Laurel. Houses in Fairlawn were in the path of the tornado and many sustained major damage. Officials said almost 175 houses in Laurel were damaged. The tornado, a spawn of a much larger weather system coming from Virginia, was believed to have started in College Park, where two sisters from Clarksville, both students at the University of Maryland, were killed when their car was picked up and tossed into a tree. After Laurel, it continued north into Howard County, where it finally petered out northeast of Columbia. The tornado travelled more than 17 miles. This time there were over 50 injuries in addition to the two students’ deaths.
In 2002, after years of negotiations with Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel, the Laurel Boys & Girls club took ownership of the Edward Phelps Community Center, which was housed in the old Laurel High School on Montgomery Street. The club had been using the building since 1974 for $1 a year. The county initially offered the building to the city, but the extensive repairs necessary to keep the building open caused them to turn it down. Four years later, in 2006, Patrick Reed, the Executive Director of the club, searched club property records and discovered that the county had accidentally deeded the adjacent McCullough Field along with the building to the club. The city had entered into a 98-year lease for the field with PG County in 1977. But Club President Levet Brown would not acknowledge that a legal error had been made, and went so far as to announce new plans for the field: a sports park with artificial turf and lights, with existing city-run adult leagues and Pallotti High School teams taking a backseat to Boys & Girls Club programs. In the end, the club extorted some concessions to allow the city to have their own field back. Specifically, the city agreed to pay $183,000 to replace the basketball floor in the gymnasium and $35,000 each year for the next three years towards operating funds, extend tax credits to the club, continue to maintain the property as it had been, and various other usage arrangements.
Richard Friend and Rick McGill contributed to this article.