The Laurel Chronicles
By Kevin Leonard
Welcome to the “Laurel Chronicles.” In addition to his “History Matters” column in the Laurel Leader, Kevin will post this feature here every month for more local history stories. Notices for new columns will be posted on The Laurel History Boys’ Facebook page.
November 5, 2020
Many of the ingredients of the turbulent 1960s—political infighting, student protests, community uproar, academic chaos—were present in Laurel in 1913. The only principal Laurel High School ever had since opening in 1899, Professor Roger I. Manning, was notified in June 1913 by the Prince George’s County School Board that “his services will not be needed for the next scholastic year,” according to the Laurel Leader. The reason for his dismissal was never made clear.
The brand-new Laurel High School opened in the Fall of 1899 “against determined opposition in the lower part of the county” with locating the first high school in Prince George’s County in Laurel, according to the Baltimore Sun. The initial school year employed two teachers (one male, one female) overseeing 61 students, as listed in the 1900 Annual Report of the Commission of Education, U.S. Department of the Interior. The Sun gushed that the school was a modern building “supplied with electric lights” and contained five classrooms, an assembly room on the second floor, and “two large playrooms in the basement,” presumably for PE classes.
Manning’s 14 years as principal saw slow growth at the school. His annual salary started at $800 in 1899 and his assistant, Miss Eliza G. Cronmiller, was paid $600. The first class of 1900 had five graduates, all women. By 1913, he was paid $1,200 and ten students graduated in the class of 1913, eight women and two men.
The news that Manning was appealing his dismissal to the State Board of Education produced an uproar in the community, as reported in the Leader. The Sun took a more professional, distanced approach in its reporting. “Mr. Manning contends the county board had no authority to dismiss him,” reported the Sun. In contrast, the Leader editorialized, “why he should persist in trying to fasten himself upon the people here is more than we can understand.”
Speculation ran rampant in town as to a replacement. Sometimes the Leader listed the men (all men, of course) who submitted applications. How they knew this is a mystery. But the Leader was unimpressed in the quality of the applicants, saying that no one “would even think of some of the persons we have heard mentioned in this connection, and we hope for the sake of the school that nothing ridiculous will be sprung upon our people.”
Trying to move past the controversy, the PG County School Board hired Professor Kirtley J. Morris in July to replace Manning, beginning with the Fall 1913 semester. Morris was formerly the Superintendent of Schools in Covington, Kentucky.
The hiring of Morris was celebrated in the Leader, which was still unclear why Manning was fired. “Whether it be a fact or not, the people have long felt that the High School here was not what it should be, and many persons gave as a reason for not sending their children to the school, that it was not up to the standard, and rather than have their children attend a school which was not all they had a right to expect in it, they sent them to schools elsewhere.” (Sure, that explains it.)
But just a month after hiring Morris, the brief calm was shattered, and the uproar reignited in town. “Manning Wins Appeal” was the headline in the Leader. “The State Board of Education, with Governor Goldsborough presiding, overruled the action of the [PG] Board of School Commissioners for this county in removing Roger I. Manning.” The articled nudged closer to the reasons for the firing. “Several allegations tending to show that Mr. Manning was inefficient to hold the position were made by the [PG] School Commissioners and County Superintendent Sasscer, but only one of the grounds was held to be sufficient to support the action taken against Mr. Manning. This was the charge of poor administrative and executive ability, causing a lack of harmony with the teachers.”
The result was that Manning was ordered reinstated, which led to another scathing rebuke in the Leader: “This decision means that Mr. Manning will return to our High School, unless charges are filed against him and sustained by the [PG] County School Commissioners, or unless Mr. Manning realizes, as he should, that the people of Laurel—while having nothing against him as a man—do not want him as a principal and he voluntarily resigns, which would be a rather happy solution for all parties concerned.”
The fight was far from over. Taking a page from Manning’s appeal—although in reverse—the PG County School Board declared that the State Board of Education had no authority over their decision and ordered vice principal Miss Margaret Edmondson to take charge when Laurel High School opened in September 1913. Prof. Morris, who was hired as Manning’s replacement, and who by now had to wonder why he left Kentucky in the first place, was assigned as a teacher at Laurel. Both moves with Edmondson and Morris were intended to be temporary until things were sorted out.
Not willing to wait for the county and the state to settle their spat, Manning’s attorney, Ogle Marbury, filed suit in the Maryland Circuit Court in October 1913 for a writ of injunction against PG County “to restrain them from interfering with Mr. Manning’s taking charge of the school,” reported the Leader. The paper’s viewpoint, in case they had been too subtle, was reinforced: “No matter what the decision may be, the people had decided there has been ‘too much Manning.’”
Once again, things calmed down for a while. The Sun reported that at some point during the school year, Morris had taken over from Edmondson as Acting Principal. But, once again, the calm was shattered with an announcement and tongues around town where wagging again.
In mid-March 1914, with only a few months left in the school year, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided that Manning was “improperly dismissed by the [PG] County School Commissioners, and it is up to the said Board to re-instate Mr. Manning, which means that he will receive salary for the whole year.” That meant the county had to pay two principals for the entire school year, Manning and Morris. The Sun’s coverage also (correctly) predicted trouble ahead: “Since Mr. Morris took charge, however, the new head of the school has become extremely popular with the students and teachers, and these, it is said, have planned to walk out when Principal Manning returns.” The Leader, however, took more of a doomsday attitude toward a rumored walkout by students: “That sort of thing will not do—not even in Laurel—for it logically leads to anarchy.” (Not even in Laurel?)
On March 31, in accordance with the decision by the Court of Appeals, Manning returned as principal at Laurel High School. It was not a joyful return. Manning arrived very early and avoided any confrontations outside. A crowd of about 100, including many pupils, assembled in front of the school. “As the teachers entered the school grounds they were cheered by the striking pupils, while the children who entered the school were hissed,” according to the Sun. As rumored, when classes began that morning, fully half the approximately 100-member student body was absent. “A number of parents have declared that they will keep their children away for the remainder of the school term rather than let them go back under Mr. Manning.”
There were no reports about the next few weeks and whether or not some parents relented and returned their children to school, but three weeks after the walkout, the PG County School Board once again took matters into their own hands. The Board ignored the Court of Appeals and ordered “that notice be given to Roger I. Manning, principal of the Laurel High School that his services as teacher of the said school and as principal will not be required after the 18th day of May, 1914.” (Isn’t this how the whole thing started?)
The State Board of Education was not about to let this second attempt to subvert their authority go unpunished. Immediately after passing an order condemning the “insubordination on the part of the pupils of the Laurel High School towards the legally constituted authorities” for the walkout, they called on the big guns of the Governor. “Unless the School Commissioners of Prince George’s County revoke their order dismissing Prof. Roger I. Manning, principal of the high school, it is understood that Governor Goldsborough will prefer charges against them and attempt to have them removed from office.” Even though nobody wanted Manning to stay, the State Board was saying WE can fire him, but you can’t.
PG County revoked their order and Manning finished the school year as principal, whereupon he promptly resigned. In August, the Washington Star reported that Herbert F. Mitchell had been hired as Laurel High School’s new principal for the 1914-15 school year. He came to Laurel from the Public Health Bureau in Philadelphia, where he was a statistician accountant.
What happened to the beleaguered Professor Morris, Manning’s supposed replacement? His consolation prize was being appointed the principal at the new Hyattsville High School. It’s a fair assumption he didn’t mind the transfer.
So what was all this really about? If Manning was “inefficient” or showed “poor administrative and executive ability,” why did it take 14 years as principal for these allegations to surface? If there were other reasons, they are lost to time. And in the chaos caused by the ridiculous back-and-forth posturing between the State and County School Boards, the needs of the students and their lost school year was never mentioned. The story shows that the combination of political infighting, student protests, community uproar, and academic chaos were not unique to the 1960s.
October 1, 2020
History Crumbs, Vol 1.
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 May, the new city of Laurel imposed its first fines on citizens. Both fines were $2. R.F. Redmiles was charged with breach of the peace and Henry Marshall permitted his hogs to run at large.
In January, the Leader published “Her Ten Commandments.”
These are the new commandments ten,
Which wives now make for married men:
1. Remember that I am thy wife,
Whom thou must cherish all my life.
2. Thou shalt not stay out late at night,
When lodges, friends, or clubs invite.
3. Thou shalt not smoke indoors or out,
Or chew tobacco round about.
4. Thou shall with praise receive my pies,
Nor pastry made by me despise.
5. My mother thou shall strive to please,
And let her live with us in ease.
6. Remember tis thy duty clear,
To dress me well throughout the year.
7. Thou shalt in manner mild and meek,
Give me thy wages every week.
8. Thou shalt not be a drinking man,
But live on prohibition plan.
9. Thou shalt not flirt, but must allow
Thy wife such freedom, any how.
10. Thou shalt get up when baby cries,
And try thy child to tranquilize.
These my commandments, from day to day,
Implicitly thou shalt obey.
The first high school in Prince George’s County, the old Laurel High School on Montgomery Street, held its first commencement. The five graduates were all women: Laura Bentley, Annie Carroll, Emma Flester, Anna Hill, and Eve Phelps.
In June, an advice column that briefly ran in the Leader published this touching exchange:
Dear Sir, Will you please inform me, through the column of your paper, how a young lady can get rid of a persistent and tiresome caller without openly telling him so. (Signed) M.G.E.
Answer—You are in a bad fix, the only suggestions that we could offer are the following—First, plead other engagements. Next is to act natural, so horribly natural that anybody but a born idiot would take the hint. That failing, try palming him off on your family. Then give away his flowers and insist upon your small brother gobbling up his chocolate creams under his very nose. Next, abuse him. Then make appointments with him and take pains not to keep them. Give his dances to someone else. Shut yourself up in your room and refuse to see him and the desired result is generally accomplished, even where all other methods have failed. If he still comes, you can either ask your father to hit him on the head with an ax or you can ask him why he doesn’t get married, so he will have some place to spend his evenings. Then he will either propose or quit. If he proposes, you can refuse him, and he is sure to come no more—at least for a while.
In May, “the first military funeral in this neighborhood” was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for “the first of our boys in this vicinity to die in the line of duty.” The deceased was Vincent Beall of Jessup, who was burned to death at Fort Omaha when an observation balloon exploded and set a building on fire. “Arrangements were made to inter the remains at Laurel in order to give him a military funeral, which was easier, owing to the proximity of Camp Laurel.”
The Leader published this ad:
In November, the Leader editorialized,
“Where do we go tonight?” remarks the modern sophisticated girl when the young man comes around to call. The good old days when the girls entertained the boys by sitting in the parlor and turning over the family photograph album or playing duets on the piano are no more.
That was a good cheap way of paying attention, but the modern young woman demands that the young man spend something more than the evening. Which is hard on impecunious youth.
And the expense of showing attention to the girls, particularly in cities of considerable size, constantly increases. Formerly it was considered enough to take a girl to some show, but now she often expects that her hungry voids shall be filled by a late supper afterwards. But if the boys did not spend the money on these girls, they might spend it on themselves in ways not preferable.
In November, the Laurel Elementary School PTA sponsored a play titled “Aunt Lucia” that featured a cast of 150 local residents. The play, described as “a burlesque comedy of American college life,” featured numerous prominent Laurel businessmen in roles as women. The Leader claimed the play “has numerous hilarious comedy spots.”
In October, the Leader published a Navy recruitment cartoon featuring Popeye:
In August, Laurel resident Harry R. Hubbard, 48, was sentenced to four years in a Federal penitentiary for posing as an Army officer, falsely wearing Army insignia and medals, and obtaining money by false pretenses. Hubbard, who had been a sergeant in the Army during World War I, posed as an Army colonel and fooled the whole town. When returning to Laurel from his day job as a carpenter on War Department projects, he would slip in his back door and then walk through town in an Army colonel uniform. In court, prosecutors told his story. After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Hubbard disappeared for a few weeks and, upon returning to Laurel, told people he had been sent to Hawaii to investigate. Hubbard’s pretense so completely fooled the town that Laurel Police Chief Edward Brown had a police siren installed on his car, which, somehow, sported Army license plates. Laurel Dr. Edwin Bernstein gave Hubbard $45 while he posed as a colonel. Future Mayor Harry Hardingham, then the owner of a gas station in Laurel, told the court “He seemed like a regular army man. He never bragged about what he had done, though he always had a ready answer to questions.” His story aroused suspicion when he claimed he was flying Army bombers to and from Fort Meade. After his sentencing, Hubbard told the court he “always wanted to be somebody.”
In June, the St. Louis Cardinals conducted a two-day tryout camp in Laurel. “All those who plan on taking advantage of this splendid opportunity to see if they are qualified for professional baseball are reminded to bring their own gloves, uniform and shoes.”
In April, Laurel Police received complaints about a resident who was “practicing hypnotism on children.” Police urged parents “to caution their children against allowing this man to hypnotize them.”
In February, Master Sergeant Earl W. Sherman, who lived on Main Street in Laurel, was declared dead by the Defense Department after being missing in action in Korea since July 1950. Sherman had also been reported as missing in action during World War II when he was captured and held by the Germans for nine months. Between the wars, he was stationed at Fort Meade.
In August, the Laurel Junior-Senior Teen Club held a “Beachcomber” party, consisting of a dance at Laurel High School and then a swim party at the Laurel pool. Teens were encouraged to “dress as you would imagine one would look after living on a desert island.”
In February, divers working in 30 feet of icy water in the Rocky Gorge Reservoir found the lost boundary markers between Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Observing the operation was President Merl Myers and Vice President Thomas Burton, Jr., from the Patuxent Old Line Organization. “This is the organization which was formed several years ago by residents of the Brooklyn Bridge Road area when they were threatened with being shifted from Prince George’s County to Montgomery County.” The 8-foot stone boundary marker disappeared in 1954 when the area was flooded to form the Rocky Gorge Reservoir. The discovery of the marker meant that the existing boundary lines were correct.
In August, the Mayor’s Civic Center Committee presented their recommendations to the City Council. Mayor Merrill Harrison appointed members to the committee five months earlier to explore the feasibility of building a municipal civic center in Laurel. The committee recommended that the 18-acre site where the Avondale Mill was located be used to build such a facility, which would allow the municipal offices to move from Montgomery Street, with the remainder of the proposed civic center to house a convention hall with multiple meeting rooms and kitchens. There was no mention in the News Leader if the Avondale Mill was to be torn down or left as is. Obviously, the plans never came to fruition.
In August, a mother of four children was arrested by Laurel Police at her townhouse in Milestone Manor for interfering with the duties of a police officer. When police arrived to arrest her husband on a morals charge for “carnal knowledge with a juvenile girl who resided in the development,” he jumped from the second floor balcony and ran up the creek next to the railroad tracks. To give her husband time to escape, the wife started fighting with police at the front door while he escaped from the balcony. Laurel Police “then took his wife, who they said was biting, screaming, and scratching, into custody.”
In February, Laurel native and Marine Sgt. Karl Taylor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. In Vietnam, Taylor charged an enemy machine gun bunker with a grenade launcher to allow his rifle company to rescue wounded Marines. He took out the machine gun before being killed by enemy fire. He was the second Laurel resident to win the Medal of Honor, after Capt. George Albee in 1894.
A proposal to construct a sports complex to house both the Baltimore Orioles and Colts, in Howard County north of Laurel, was unveiled in 1979. Megaplex, the development company, claimed to have a contract on 500 acres between Route 1 and I-95, and Route 175 and Meadowridge Road. Jumping into the fray, Prince Georges County Executive Larry Hogan, in a letter to Edward Bennett Williams, the new owner of the Orioles, then suggested building a “superdome” in the Laurel area, just off I-95, for the Orioles. Neither idea ever panned out.
In August, pilot Gary Hankins crashed his home-built experimental ultralight plane into the roof of a house off Brock Bridge Road in Maryland City. Hankins had just taken off from Suburban Airport and was heading north when residents of the Parkway Mobile Home Park told the News Leader they “heard it sputtering” just before the crash. After firefighters secured the plane and the roof, they rescued the semi-conscious pilot from the wreckage.
In June, professional soccer player Mia Hamm made an appearance at the Supplee Lane soccer fields at a camp sponsored by her Washington Freedom team.
1919 Mass Murder in Laurel
I’m often asked where the ideas for these columns come from, and the answer is everywhere. Many times as I research one story, other stories pop up and lead to columns. But some of the most memorable columns originated from people contacting me. This story has three significant examples of that.
Significant Contact #1: I received an e-mail from Lindsey Baker, the Executive Director of the Laurel Historical Society, asking if I was interested in talking to a woman from Oregon who visited the Laurel Museum looking for information about a murder in Laurel back in 1919. Her great-grandmother was one of the people murdered. This was right up my alley. Of course I was interested.
Significant Contact #2: So Lindsey put me in touch with Kathy Baldwin, who had since returned home to Oregon. That started about a six-month collaboration between us. Kathy was determined to see this story told, and she interviewed many family members from across the country. Eventually she wrote a family history to provide me with all the details from these interviews. She also sent some great family photos.
I did my own research and found much information to fill in the blanks from Kathy’s input. As I pondered how to write the story, Significant Contact #3 happened. My fellow Laurel History Boy, Richard Friend, told me that he was e-mailed some photos that appeared to be crime scene photos from this story. I assumed that Kathy had inadvertently sent them to Rich instead of me, but no matter. I was excited that we had them.
But as we investigated, it turned out that the photos of the bodies of Alice Allen and Annie Sloates were sent by someone with absolutely no connection to the story or the Allen family. I’m researching a 100-year-old murder and these photos appeared out of the blue!
It turned out that West Laurel resident Holly Maxwell was cleaning out her late mother’s possessions and came across the photos. A friend of hers recommended she contact The Laurel History Boys about them. The timing of this was bizarre.
We had Holly meet up with Melanie McKnight, an Allen family descendant and a local Remax realtor, for lunch at the diner. It was a fascinating chat, but we’re still not sure how Holly’s mother came into possession of the photos—but I’m very thankful they surfaced when they did. The photos are included below.
Here is the link to the story in the Laurel Leader. Come back when you’re finished reading!
History of the Laurel Theater
Like everyone else who grew up in Laurel during the 1960s and 70s, I spent a lot of time at the Laurel Theater on Main Street. Those were the days when we would sit through two showings and hope the usher didn’t kick us out (which they never did). For me, the theater took on a personal note when the Petrucci family bought the theater and turned it into a dinner theater (Jo Petrucci is my sister-in-law.)
But, as I found out, the history of the building revealed that the theater had been one of the town’s most important landmarks to the citizens of Laurel for decades.
I interviewed some very helpful people, including Robert Headley, who wrote a book titled Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C. His book was invaluable in researching the original Red Wing Theater as well as the Laurel Theater. It turns out that Driver is a retired professor from the University of Maryland and still lives in the area. He graciously invited Rich and I to his house and talked for an entire afternoon with us.
An unexpected source was George Prior, a classmate of mine at Laurel High School (Class of 1972). Even though I’d known George very well for a long time, I never knew his father managed the theater for years. I met up with George and Mark O’Dell, another LHS alumnus who worked for George’s father while he was in high school, and listened to their stories.
I talked to Thom Jarrell, who worked for years for the Petrucci family in a variety of jobs. Thom had lots of stories about the building, including the story of the ghost he saw. And, of course, my sister-in-law Jo provided a wealth of information and photos about the building.
As I was finishing my research for the story, the Laurel History Boys were contacted by Blaine Sutton, from SORTO Contracting Company. SORTO had been awarded the contract to demolish the building and Blaine wondered if we would be interested in checking it out one last time. Would we? As we picked our way through the debris littering the interior of the dilapidated theater, it was both fascinating and sad. Through my research I had acquired an appreciation for what the theater had meant to the town during its heyday, but on that last inspection all we saw was a building falling apart at the seams. The saddest sight of all was the old movie screen hanging in tatters. How many movies were projected onto that screen, starting with silent movies in the 1920s?
Here are the links to the story in the Laurel Leader. Come back when you’re finished reading!
Summer of Love Music Festivals: Woodstock, Altamont, and Laurel?
In July 1969, Laurel hosted a two-day pop festival at the race course, attended by 15,000 fans, that offered an incredible lineup of some of the biggest pop performers of the year, and ended in controversy. Three of the acts went on to play Woodstock the next month, and a fourth was scheduled, but they broke up right after the Laurel Pop Festival. In fact, seven performers or groups who played at Laurel are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and two have received the Kennedy Center Honors.
The second night of the festival started late because of rain and as the night wore on, the soaked fans built a bonfire out of some wooden folding chairs to ward off the cold. The media reported that a “riot” closed down the festival and future plans to continue in Laurel were scrapped.
These two were very early arrivals. The race track is in the background. These are the wooden chairs that were burned.
Local media, especially the Baltimore Sun, ran numerous articles reporting on the progress of the festival. Source: Baltimore Sun and Laurel News Leader.
The first night was kicked off by blues guitarist Buddy Guy, a Hall of Fame and Kennedy Center Honoree.
He was followed by the gospel group the Edwin Hawkins Singers, who were enjoying huge success with their single “Oh, Happy Day.”
The next act was Al Kooper, the ex-lead singer of Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Jethro Tull, whose first album “Stand Up,” released a few months earlier, was the number 1 album in the UK, was next.
They were followed by Johnny Winter, who would also perform the next month at Woodstock.
Finishing the first night’s set was the headliner, Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin was in the midst of their first world-wide tour, and had been the opening act for The Who a month earlier at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Led Zeppelin, a Hall of Fame group, was also a Kennedy Center Honoree.
Led Zeppelin’s official web site has a page devoted to their performance at the Laurel Pop Festival.
The power cut off Led Zeppelin in mid-song but Robert Plant kept singing until the power was restored.
Fans on the second night had to wait out a rain delay. At 10:00 p.m., the Jeff Beck Group, with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, took the stage. The Jeff Beck Group was on their fifth U.S. tour and scheduled to play at Woodstock, but the band broke up shortly after their performance at Laurel and cancelled. The Jeff Beck Group, Stewart, and Wood are all in the Hall of Fame.
The next act was Ten Years After, another Woodstock performer.
They were followed by The Guess Who, riding a huge popularity wave with their #1 single, “These Eyes.”
Next up was the Mothers of Invention with Frank Zappa, another Hall of Famer. The Washington Post’s review of the festival said “Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention kept their freak show to a minimum (which is still hilarious) and concentrated on music-making that combines great rock, classical influences, jazz brass, and 12-tone dynamics into beautiful sound.”
Sly and the Family Stone, another Hall of Fame group and Woodstock performer, took the stage and brought the house down. They started their set at 2 a.m. and had people up dancing. But things went downhill as Sly’s performance continued. The bonfires were started on the infield, and promoters issued several warnings to the crowd, to no avail.
Because of the commotion on the infield and the rain delay, the Savoy Brown Band did not perform.
Bruce Remer, who hosts the web site BR’s Classic Rock Photos was a high school student attending the Laurel Pop Festival. There are stories on his web site from attendees describing how they wandered backstage, with no security in sight, and mingled with the performers. Remer and his friend Tom Beech snapped away with Kodak Instamatics backstage.
Here is the link to the story in the Laurel Leader. Come back when you’re finished reading!
Laurel’s Forgotten Role in the Bonus Army
I spend a lot of time doing historical research for clients at the National Archives. Sometimes I use students as research assistants, including my sons. That was the situation early in 2014, when my son Jeff was helping me with a project that had no connection to my History Matters column.
Jeff found a reference to Laurel in an index of Universal newsreels that date back to the 1920s. The reference concerned the Bonus Army of 1932. Coincidentally, I had recently read the excellent book “The Bonus Army” by Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen, so I was well acquainted with the topic but amazed that Laurel had played a role. Laurel was not mentioned in the book.
The shameful story began in 1924 when World War I veterans were promised a service bonus, most of which were to be paid 21 years later in 1945! Once the Great Depression hit, thousands of destitute and homeless veterans marched on Washington to demand the promised bonus for their service to the country. President Herbert Hoover, aided by J. Edgar Hoover, smeared the veterans’ cause by claiming it was organized by Communists.
When that classy (and untrue) move didn’t deter the veterans, President Hoover then called out the military, led by Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur and then-Major George Patton. The unarmed U.S. Army veterans were pushed by horses, bayonets, and tear gas back on Pennsylvania Ave over the 11th St. Bridge to their cardboard and ramshackle dwellings, which were burned to the ground under MacArthur’s orders.
Most of the veterans went home after that, but many wanted to stay and push for the cause. A woman from Catonsville offered them her land near Laurel to establish a permanent camp. The story reveals what happened next.
This video, from a 1932 Universal newsreel, shows veterans leaving Washington, DC and arriving at the Laurel camp, which was still being organized. Source: National Archives and Records Administration.
This video, also from a Universal newsreel, has footage of MacArthur’s troops and Patton’s tanks pushing the veterans down Pennsylvania Ave. It also shows the U.S. Army using tear gas on the unarmed WWI veterans, and their camp being burned down under MacArthur’s orders. Source: National Archives and Records Administration.
This video has more footage of the Bonus Army in Washington and then the veterans fleeing the tear gas fired by the military. Source: National Archives and Records Administration.
Here is the link to the story in the Laurel Leader. Come back when you’re finished reading!
Laurel’s Billy the Kid
I came across a Baltimore Sun article from 1911 that was an extraordinarily detailed account of a failed bank robbery in Laurel. Just writing about someone trying to rob the Citizen’s National Bank on Main Street in 1911 would have been fun, but the details in the Sun made it an irresistible story to me. The story contained many Laurel characters of the day (some of whom I’d heard of), as well as an interesting twist as to who the bank robber actually was.
My son, Jeff, served as my research assistant and photographer for this one. We interviewed Bernie Robinson, the current manager of the bank (now PNC Bank), who gave us an extended tour of the bank, especially the original structure from 1890 that is completely absorbed into today’s bank. We also talked to Jim McCeney, Ken Skrivseth, and Karen Lubieniecki, downtown residents who provided valuable information on the neighborhood where the robber fled. When Ken showed us the alley that runs between Main and Prince George Streets, the Kid’s path while running for his life became obvious.
Here is the link to the story in the Laurel Leader:
A nice epilogue to the story was written by Prince George’s County Circuit Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr., a Laurel native, who followed the story with great interest. Nichols did some research to find out what happened to the Kid. Here’s his contribution:
Investigation Files of the George Wallace Shooting
After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, I waited over a year for the National Archives to release the FBI’s files concerning the attempted assassination of Presidential candidate Alabama Governor George Wallace at the Laurel Shopping Center in May, 1972. I was curious if the files would contain anything that hadn’t already been reported many times over the years. I’m still waiting.
So I went to Plan B and contacted the Prince George’s County Police Department to see if they had any files. To my delight I was put in contact with Lt. Shawné Waddy, Assistant Commander of the PG Police Records Management Division, who was outstanding in supporting my request. Together with Technican Justin Blalock, they provided enough files and photos to fill a Xerox box.
Like everyone else in Laurel I followed the coverage of the shooting and the subsequent trial closely, as well as all the articles over the years since. But I was amazed at how much information was contained in the files that was new to me. It took me a few weeks to go through all of the interviews with eyewitnesses, police, Secret Service agents, and medical personnel, along with investigation reports and photos. Owing to the quantity of information in the investigative files, this was the longest “History Matters” I’ve written, and one of the most widely read. The article appeared in the Laurel Leader on July 9, 2015.
Here is the link to the story in the Laurel Leader. Come back when you’re finished reading!
The one Laurel landmark that seems to generate the most interest is the long-ago demolished Laurel Sanitarium. There’s much information on the Internet about it, but as my research discovered, a whole lot of myths and tall tales passing for truth. The true story of the sanitarium is so bizarre it doesn’t need embellishment. The column ran in the Laurel Leader on July 10, 2014.
Again, here is the link to the story in the Laurel Leader. Come back when you’re finished reading!