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Diner Appreciation Day

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Join us Saturday morning, January 19th from 9:00–12:00 PM at the Tastee Diner, as we hope to draw an an extra-large breakfast crowd of Save the Diner supporters! It will be the last weekend before the pivotal Board of Appeals meeting that will decide whether or not Pure Hana Synergy can purchase the site and convert it to a medical marijuana dispensary. That hearing is tentatively set for Thursday, January 24th at 7 PM at the Laurel Municipal Center.

The hearing, originally scheduled for December 20th, was delayed by over a month at Pure Hana’s request after the Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny their application at the December 11th meeting.

While it’s expected that the Board of Appeals committee will uphold the ruling, Tastee Diner owner Gene Wilkes has made it clear that he still intends to sell the property. After nearly 43 years of operating the Laurel location, he’s earned the right to retire.

When Mr. Wilkes took over the diner in 1976, he technically saved it, himself. Had it not become part of his Tastee Diner chain when it did, there’s a very good chance that it wouldn’t have survived into the next decade. Much like Outrider’s Diner just up the street in North Laurel, it would have disappeared from the landscape before generations of Laurelites could enjoy its affordable fare and authentic 1950s ambiance.

As a way of saying thank you to Mr. Wilkes—and showing the City of Laurel that the diner remains a relevant and vital part of this town—we’re asking you to come out to the diner in force Saturday morning, January 19th.

Whether it’s just for a cup of coffee or a full-blown breakfast, please come support the diner and its hardworking staff. With over 2,300 petition signatures, we’ve already shown the City leaders that people want to save the diner. Now let’s show them in person, en masse.

With the Pure Hana deal out of the picture, this is the opportunity for the City of Laurel’s Community Redevelopment Authority to step in and make an offer for the property—or, at the very least, to negotiate a purchase of the diner itself—in order to relocate it to property that the City owns at 312 Main Street.

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Adding the diner to the Historic District would bring long-term benefits the likes of which the CRA will probably never see again. Once it receives historic designation, the diner would qualify for state and county preservation grants, among other funding. The Maryland Main Street Program, which Laurel is now a part of, would provide further aide in this transition.

But most importantly, the City should, by now, see the economic potential that this diner would bring to Main Street. If they don’t, a large turnout with media coverage will make the picture even clearer.

Diner Appreciation Day
Saturday, January 19, 2019
9 AM – 12 PM
Tastee Diner Laurel
118 Washington Blvd.

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Real Men Wear Pink

A very special “Thank You” from Pete to a good friend—former Laurel police officer and newly-elected city councilman Carl DeWalt for this special addition to his collection:

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Pete & Martha (Kalbach) Lewnes Collection

In October 2013, the Laurel Police Department went pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to raise awareness and support those with the disease.

On a related note, the Laurel History Boys are excited to announce the formation of our team in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life—a tremendous event held in Laurel on Saturday, June 8th. You can help us raise proceeds for the American Cancer Society by making even a small donation. We’d also welcome you to join our team, or volunteer in any capacity.

Can you help us? The “Donate” button below will take you to our team page.

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Thank you!

A Busy Week For the History Boys!

We’ve had quite an eventful week! It started last Friday with an invitation to kick off Fox 5’s Zip Trip to Laurel. We filmed a quick segment bright and early at Towne Centre Laurel with Maureen Umeh, showing a few artifacts from Pete’s collection and explaining the interest in hyper-local history.

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Photo: City of Laurel

Maureen asked, “What makes Laurel so special? A lot of people pass through and probably don’t realize the history here.” Rich responded:

“There’s a lot of nostalgia…You think about the past, and the places you remember—but there’s a lot going on today that evokes that past. New places on Main Street like More Than Java Cafe—where I think, fifty years from now, people will still be talking about what a great cup of coffee they had there.”

We gave Maureen and the Fox 5 team t-shirts, and named them honorary Laurel History Boys!

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Photo: Carl DeWalt

The following weekend, we hosted our first ever Laurel History Trivia Night at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern. The event, originally scheduled for the previous Saturday, had been postponed a week when our beloved Washington Capitals were playing for their first Stanley Cup!

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We set up the game with six rounds of six questions each, followed by a bonus round. The questions got progressively harder as the game went on, and were worth more points.

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Photo: Rodney Pressley

The turnout was fantastic, with a great mixture of teams that included the likes of former mayor Joe Robison and family, current mayor Craig Moe, and City Council Members Carl DeWalt, Mike Leszcz, and Eddie Ricks. There was also a contingent of longtime Laurel Volunteer Firefighters, as well as the Laurel High Class of 1972.

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The event was free, and prizes for the winning teams included Laurel History Boys t-shirts and stickers, vintage 1984 illustrated merchant maps of Laurel, and Laurel History Bucks—$12, $18, and $24 dollars off their teams’ tab, courtesy of Oliver’s!

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Pete displayed a number of items from his collection, including one that folks were encouraged to interact with—the original Laurel Police Department mugshot slate board from the C Street location in the 1970s–80s!

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We want to extend another huge thank you to Lenny Wohlfarth, Pamella Thompson, and everyone else at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern for graciously hosting this event, and working so hard to ensure that everyone had a terrific time.

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Trivia Night at Oliver’s!

UPDATE: Due to the Washington Capitals playing in the Stanley Cup Finals on June 2nd, (go Caps!!!) this event has been rescheduled for June 9th.

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The Laurel History Boys will be hosting our first-ever Laurel History Trivia Night at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern on Saturday, June 9th!

Think you know your hometown history? We’re talking about the people, places, and things—including the little details—that have defined Laurel over the past century.

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Put together a team of friends (maximum team size is six people) who know Laurel extremely well, and head to Oliver’s on June 2nd. First, second, and third place winners will receive Laurel History Bucks—good for up to $24 off your food/drink tab!

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There will be some other cool prizes, too, including t-shirts and vintage Laurel merchant map posters—just like the one at Oliver’s! (And if any other local merchants would like to donate gift cards, swag, or other prizes to be awarded, please contact us!)

Do your homework by studying your Lost Laurel book or blog, and reading Kevin Leonard‘s past “History Matters” columns. We’ll also have plenty of sample questions (and maybe even some clues) in the days leading up to the contest, so make sure you like and follow the Laurel History Boys on Facebook.

This is a totally free event—just be sure to order something from the wonderful Oliver’s menu/bar and tip your waitstaff well!

We’ve heard that there may be some heavy competition in the crowd that night, including mayors, city council members, retired police officers, and others who truly know their stuff when it comes to Laurel history. So, choose your team wisely (or show up early and try to join one of theirs!)

Saturday, June 9
6 PM
Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern
531 Main Street (at Sixth & Main Streets)

The Early Days of Public Transportation

Pete has added a sampling of some rare public transportation cards—early equivalents of a Metro SmarTrip card, if you will—that feature some well-known family names from Laurel’s history. Check them out over on his page.

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An 1865 commutation ticket issued by the B & O Railroad to Charles F. Shaffer just less than 5 months after the Civil War had ended—and five years before the city of Laurel was formally incorporated.