The Laurel History Boys are Richard Friend, Kevin Leonard, and Pete Lewnes—three Laurel natives who, in their own distinctive ways, enjoy preserving and documenting the history of Laurel, Maryland. They can often be found comparing notes in the legendary Tastee Diner near Main Street.
Richard Friend is a graphic designer and the creator of Lost Laurel, managing both the retail nostalgia blog and Facebook page that has over 5,000 followers. He also published a book of the same name, which received a 2015 Prince George’s County Historical Society St. George’s Day Award—given annually to honor living individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation of the County’s heritage. His book is available for sale at the Laurel Museum, and inspired the 2014 exhibit, “Lost and Found Laurel.” Rich was elected to the Laurel Historical Society Board of Directors in 2015, and donates design services for the Museum’s annual exhibits and other programs. With the help of the rest of the trio, he also produces a TV show for Laurel TV, which illustrates a number of themes. All of the episodes can be viewed here.
Kevin Leonard, historian and writer of the popular “History Matters” column in the Laurel Leader, is a 1972 graduate of Laurel High School. His column explores long-forgotten events and people from Laurel’s rich history. His company, The Leonard Group, Inc., provides historical research services to book authors and documentary filmmakers, such as PBS NOVA, Life is My Movie Entertainment, P.I.G. USA, Cavelight Films, Woodward Productions, PBS Secrets of the Dead, and the National Geographic Channel. Kevin’s first foray into screenwriting, a biopic about WWI hero Eddie Rickenbacker, won Clint Eastwood’s Monterey County Film Commission’s Screenwriting Competition and was subsequently optioned for production. Kevin has also served on the Laurel Historical Society Board of Directors.
Pete Lewnes is the preeminent collector of Laurel historical memorabilia, and along with his wife, Martha, has amassed over 10,000 pieces in a collection that covers early business and industry, politics, vintage retail, and anything else that pertains to Laurel. A frequent contributor to the Laurel Museum, he has an unrivaled drive to learn as much as possible about Laurel’s people and places past, and deftly finds hidden historical treasures that he enjoys sharing with the public.
The Laurel History Boys was Kevin’s brainchild, and a project that combines the best of each member’s efforts. Here you’ll find extensive research and photos that didn’t make it into Kevin’s “History Matters” columns; Rich will take you beyond Lost Laurel, exploring additional themes like historic crimes and disasters; and Pete will share unique items from his collection, including vintage photos that you may be able to help identify.
It’s an evolving endeavor that will utilize photos, stories, video, interviews, and more—with the hope that anyone with an interest in Laurel’s history will enjoy.