Voices of Laurel

We are thrilled with the reaction to our newspaper, Voices of Laurel. We’re already at work on the Spring issue! Our intention has always been to produce a free digital newspaper to reach as many people as possible. Frankly, we didn’t expect that printing would even be an option, (at least not anytime soon) so you can imagine how excited we are to have partnered with Laurel-based newspaper printer, Comprint—a terrific organization that has also printed Laurel High School’s student newspaper. They enthusiastically agree with our philosophy of promoting local businesses, and as we are a nonprofit organization, they graciously agreed to print a limited number of copies at a reduced cost. At this early stage, we haven’t received any grants or advertising money, so this printing cost was paid out of our own pockets.

This weekend, we will begin distributing quantities of this inaugural issue to small, locally-owned businesses—and we’ll let you know where you can pick up a free copy. It’s our hope that this will help to further drive customers to support Laurel’s merchants during this tough time.

After the bulk of the newspapers have been distributed locally, we may have a few copies available to mail out to those of you requesting them who no longer live near Laurel. For that, we’ll ask for a small tax-deductible contribution to cover mailing costs and to help support our mission of bringing history to you. However, complete digital issues (PDF format) will always be available on our website, free to download.

For those who are new to our work, we are literally a three-man shop: Richard Friend, Kevin Leonard, and Pete Lewnes do everything—there’s no staff or anyone else. Please also note that we do this in addition to our day jobs, so we greatly appreciate your patience and support. The Laurel History Boys don’t charge for anything, except the books that we produce (such as last year’s Laurel at 150.) We rely on crowdfunding and sponsorship ads to cover printing expenses, and we’re actively seeking any businesses or organizations that would be interested in sponsoring tax-deductible ads or grants to help fund the printing of future issues of Voices of Laurel. If you have any connections or ideas, please contact us at laurelhistoryboys@gmail.com.

On a related note, those businesses and organizations that kindly supported our Laurel at 150 book will each be receiving free ad space throughout this year’s quarterly issues of Voices of Laurel as an added thank you.

A special note to the small business owners of Laurel: people have already started asking for Voices of Laurel, and we’re looking forward to telling them to visit YOUR restaurant, bakery, barber shop, etc. to pick up their free copy while supporting local small businesses! We’ve got a limited quantity, so please contact us soon if you’d like a few copies to make available for free to your customers.

Many thanks again for your kind words about our work. It’s very gratifying to know that so many in the community support what we do!

Laurel at 150 is Here!

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know by now that our new book, Laurel at 150: Celebrate Our History, Anticipate Our Future has been printed and we finally have the full inventory in hand. Kevin and Rich have been hard at work over the past few weeks, packaging and mailing (and often delivering in person) books to all of the early Kickstarter project backers and website pre-orders.

Social distancing, aided by vintage Laurel advertising yardsticks!

We’re finally caught up with our mailings, so anyone who’s placed an order recently should be receiving their copies very soon. We greatly appreciate the patience of everyone who’s ordered the book—even before the pandemic, it’s no easy task for two guys (who both have day jobs) to handle the logistics of shipping several hundred books, but we’ve managed to get it done!

Like many of you, we were looking forward to a number of opportunities to sell the books in person this year, including at the Main Street Festival. But the COVID-19 shutdown—a significant historical moment in its own right— brought the City of Laurel’s 150th Anniversary events to an end before they really even had a chance to begin. We’re grateful and proud to have completed this important book in time to share with those of you who also wanted something tangible and lasting to mark this 150th anniversary of our home town.

We’re hopeful that many of the City’s cancelled events will merely be postponed until it’s deemed once again safe to hold them. But until then, we’ll continue to take orders for the book online at laurelat150.com and mail them out as quickly as possible.

Click to order your copy of Laurel at 150 now.
Books are $40 each, and shipping is free.

“Laurel at 150”: Reserve Your Copy Now!

We’re excited to launch the Kickstarter campaign for our new book, “Laurel at 150: Celebrate Our History, Anticipate Our Future”.

Commemorating the City of Laurel’s 150th anniversary next year, this 200+ page hardcover volume is a decade-by-decade visual journey through Laurel’s past—a collection of historical highlights covering the pre-1870s through the 2010s.

The Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing cost runs for 20 days only, and is your opportunity to reserve a copy of this important book in the process. Please pre-order now and help support this project by sharing the link.

Before the Laurel Pop Festival…

Fifty years ago this month, the legendary Laurel Pop Festival took place at Laurel Race Course. Headlined by a practically unknown Led Zeppelin, the concert spanned July 11th and 12th and included a who’s who of top acts—many of whom would go on to perform at Woodstock just one month later… and eventually into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Join the Laurel History Boys on July 11th—fifty years to the day—for a special presentation in recognition of the historic concert. There will also be a screening of filmmaker Jeff Krulik‘s fantastic documentary, Led Zeppelin Played Here. The film, which focuses on an enduring local legend that has Led Zeppelin playing before approximately 50 confused teenagers at the Wheaton Youth Center that January of 1969, also includes rare footage of the Laurel Pop Festival. A special question and answer session with Jeff will follow the screening.

Did you or anyone you know attend these events in 1969? Do you have photos, ticket stubs, or other memorabilia? Please come and share your stories!

Tom Beach shows off his ticket stubs from the Laurel Pop Festival.

Mark your calendars:

July 11, 2019
6 PM–9 PM
North Laurel Community Center
9411 Whiskey Bottom Road
$5 suggested donation

Please note that while our presentations are always free to the public, we are asking for a suggested donation of $5 per person to help cover the rental cost of the facility. (Unfortunately, despite the countless free presentations Kevin has given at the North Laurel Community Center, they weren’t willing to waive the $360 rental fee—even for a nonprofit organization). Worse, it was disappointing that the City of Laurel completely gave us the runaround on the usage of Partnership Hall—another facility at which we’ve given free presentations in the past. Just something to keep in mind if you’re planning to rent either facility in the future.

Petty politics aside, the 50th anniversary of the Laurel Pop Festival is something to celebrate, and we want to do it right.

Come out to see the film and hear the stories, and then join us afterwards at Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern on Main Street!

Event page on Facebook:

An Endorsement from a Diner Expert

By Richard Friend

Throughout the course of this Tastee Diner sale saga, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a number of folks who know a lot more about classic diners than I do.

One gentleman, you could say, literally wrote the book on the subject—a few books, in fact.

Larry Cultrera has been documenting the American diner since 1980, photographing well over 800 models around the country—many of which, sadly, are now long gone.

Knowing that he’s familiar with Laurel’s Tastee Diner, (and the current situation with a potential sale putting it at great risk) I asked Mr. Cultrera if he’d consider writing a letter to Mayor Craig Moe, further encouraging the City of Laurel to purchase this historic building before it’s too late.

Larry Cultrera in 1990, sporting a Tastee Diner sweater.

Not only did Larry write a letter, he put together an extensive presentation that illustrates just how rare Laurel’s 1951 Comac-built diner actually is:

Think about that for a moment. Of the approximately 860 diners that Larry has personally photographed in the past 38 years, only two Comac models remain intact: Jack’s Diner of Albany, NY, and Laurel’s Tastee Diner.

The only other known examples, including Daphne’s Diner in Robbinsville, NJ, have been modified so extensively, they’re barely recognizable as the archetypal stainless steel diners they were designed to be.

“It is my belief that the Tastee Diner of Laurel is the most intact and original Comac Diner still in existence and is worthy of preserving for future generations to hopefully enjoy for years to come.”

Larry Cultrera

My immense thanks to Mr. Cultrera for lending his expert voice to this worthy cause. It is clearly the desire of many to see the Diner be purchased by the City of Laurel, where it can rightly become an authentic part of the Historic District.

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.


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.


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!


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)

2016… Almost history!

As this eventful year draws to a close, let’s take a quick look back at some of the positive things that came out of the past 12 months.

Last December, the Laurel History Boys organized an informal and nostalgic roundtable discussion with Mayor Craig Moe and each of the living ex-Mayors of Laurel—including Mike Leszcz, Joe Robison, Dani Duniho, and Robert DiPietro. Moderated by Kevin, the event was filmed at the Laurel Police Department’s Partnership Activity Center.

In January, Rich was named the Laurel Historical Society’s Volunteer of the Year. He has donated graphic design services since 2014, producing the exhibition graphics for the Laurel Museum’s past three annual exhibits.


During renovations in February, Pete was able to save a limited number of historic stadium seats from the Laurel Park grandstand, including a few complete wooden chairs dating to 1954. If you’re interested in acquiring a full seat or a numbered plastic seat back, please contact us.

In March, Rich saw firsthand the Stefanie Watson cold case saga finally come to a close, when he joined her family at the killer’s sentencing. His 2012 Lost Laurel blog post about the crime’s 30th anniversary—the first piece written about the crime in three decades—helped prompt detectives to fasttrack the DNA testing that ultimately convicted John Ernest Walsh of the crime.

Stefanie’s story finally received national attention when On the Case with Paula Zahn aired “A Nightmare in Laurel”.

May’s Main Street Festival marked the second straight year that we’ve ridden in the parade in Mike Templeton’s beautiful 1956 Chevy Bel Air, but little did we know it would be the first of three parades for the Laurel History Boys this year! We had the honor of being named Parade Grand Marshals for Laurel’s 4th of July Celebration, and just a few weeks ago, rode in the Christmas parade, as well.

Our participation in the 4th of July parade also garnered another pretty cool honor—front page of the Laurel Leader!


2016 will be long-remembered for its remarkable number of celebrity deaths; but closer to home, there was no tragedy more unexpected than the murder of beloved Tastee Diner waitress Windy Floyd in August. Windy always took good care of us during our frequent Diner visits, and we felt the need to do something to help her kids in the wake of this nightmare. The GoFundMe page we established has raised over $3,400 for her daughter, Lacey; and Diner staff and customers raised an additional several hundred dollars through on-site fundraising efforts.


On a brighter note, this past year also saw an increase in speaking engagements for us, as we were invited to give presentations to the Savage Historical Society, the Friends of Montpelier, and the Laurel chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association.

We also saw a couple of Laurel landmarks demolished (literally) in 2016—the Laurel Theatre/Petrucci’s Dinner Theatre at 312 Main Street and the Laurel Town Lodge at 41 B Street—and had the unique opportunity to tour the vacant properties as guests of Sorto Contracting before they were demolished. Blaine Sutton of Sorto helped ensure that some pieces from both old buildings were preserved, and we’ll be producing videos about each place’s history as soon as possible in the new year.

As the clock ticks down on 2016, we hope that 2017 will bring nothing but good things and wonderful new discoveries—and look forward to sharing them with you. Happy New Year!