Category Archives: Events

The Rest of the Story: Stefanie Watson

It’s still over a month away, but I hope you’ll mark your calendar and join me for a special presentation on July 9th. I’m honored to be part of the Laurel Historical Society’s summer program called “The Rest of the Story | A Series Based on Ripped From the Headlines: Laurel in the News”. It’s a companion series to the current exhibit at the Laurel Museum, which highlights some of the biggest stories that have ever graced the pages of the Laurel Leader (among other publications).

I’ve been asked to give a talk on a subject that’s particularly important to me—the Stefanie Watson cold case.

STEFANIE-WATSON-TALK-JULY9-FINAL

I first wrote about the brutal 1982 murder of Stefanie Watson here in 2012, to mark the 30th anniversary of her death and to hypothesize a theory. I was a 9-year-old kid at the time of her disappearance; and while I’d never met her, the sheer horror of the crime—and the fact that virtually nothing had been written about it in the media in the three decades since—had always stuck with me. I decided to write something in the context of Lost Laurel to mark the occasion, never imagining that it would not only have a hand in reigniting the investigation, but that a DNA match would finally lead to her killer’s arrest after all these years.

It was a unique chance for me to reminisce about the people and places of Laurel in 1982, while exploring territory that was entirely new to me: discussing an unsolved murder with the Chief of Police in my hometown… retracing Stefanie Watson’s last known footsteps… comparing notes with Prince George’s County homicide detectives… becoming friends with Stefanie’s family, and ultimately getting that amazing call from her cousin that an arrest had been made.

I’m putting together this presentation to tell the full story in person. It’ll be hosted by the Laurel Historical Society, and for the first time, will be held at the Laurel Police Department‘s spacious Partnership Activity Center—which many of you will remember was originally the First Baptist Church of Laurel.

(Photo: Sgt. Don Winstead, Laurel Police Department. Courtesy of policestationpictures.wordpress.com)

(Photo: Sgt. Don Winstead, Laurel Police Department. Courtesy of policestationpictures.wordpress.com)

If any of Stefanie’s former co-workers at the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital (or anyone else—friends or neighbors—who knew her personally) are interested in attending and possibly sharing your memories of her, that would be wonderful. Likewise, any current or retired police, fire, and rescue personnel who may have had some connection to the case—we would love to hear from you.

This summer will mark 33 years since Stefanie Watson’s murder. It will also mark the beginning of John Ernest Walsh’s trial for this crime that has haunted Laurel now for more than three decades.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Stefanie Watson: Reigniting One of Laurel’s Most Notorious Cold Cases

PRESENTED BY RICHARD FRIEND

Thursday, July 9, 2015
7PM
Laurel Police Department | Partnership Activity Center
811 Fifth Street, Laurel, MD

rest-of-the-story-logo-high-res

Tagged , , , ,

My Main Street (Festival) Moment

It’s hard to believe a week has already passed, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a short update about what was, for me, the most memorable Main Street Festival of all. For the 35th anniversary, I got the chance to ride in the parade—and not in just any vehicle…

885641_507590549388048_6952375389504630956_oIMG_2562

11200921_507590346054735_69365381822149894_o

(Photo: John Floyd II)

11212653_507590422721394_5301875607599015552_o

(Photo: John Floyd II)

11194465_507590259388077_860059652647935662_o

That’s Mike Templeton‘s 1956 Chevy Bel Air, and it is all kinds of awesome.

Before we get too far into this, let me introduce you to Mike:

11174537_507590206054749_7766133386999219843_o

The idea actually came from Pete Lewnes, whose enthusiasm for the history of all things Laurel is unmatched. Pete, who shares countless items with Lost Laurel from the massive collection he and his wife have built, mentioned that I should approach a longtime local car dealer like Fred Frederick about riding in this year’s parade in one of his convertibles—which would promote his dealership as well as the Lost Laurel project. Mike got wind of this and said,

“Lost Laurel can’t be in some new car! You need a classic!”

IMG_7751

Mike Templeton and Pete Lewnes

The Laurel Board of Trade liked the idea, too, and put us at #16 in the parade lineup—just after the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department and just before the Knights of Columbus. And I have to tell you, waiting in that staging area along Sixth Street—just a block shy of Main Street, already abuzz with eager parade-watchers—it’s quite a feeling.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 8.28.01 PM

IMG_7755

If you’ve ever wondered what the parade looks like from the vantage point of the participants entering Main Street from Sixth Street, wonder no more. Here’s a quick video I shot to capture those first few seconds:

At that same moment, John Floyd II—who’d taken so many wonderful photos of the very first Main Street Festival way back in 1981—was standing directly across the street next to Oliver’s Old Town Tavern, and snapped these pics:

11203553_507590459388057_9102004531494001119_o

1484034_507590502721386_3599244226610128412_o

(Photos: John Floyd II)

I soon realized that there were a lot more people than I expected, and many of them were kids eager to catch candy. Luckily for them, I’d brought a huge bag of lollipops and was getting a workout tossing them to both sides of the street! I teased a few longtime Laurelites I recognized by suggesting that it was “thirty-year-old candy from Woolworth’s” and other Lost Laurel sweet spots like Gavriles’. 🙂

John Mewshaw, who took the following photo, noted:

“It isn’t easy taking pictures while being pelted by candy…”

10838185_1137607786264678_7072584263954641130_o

(Photo: John Mewshaw)

Realizing that I couldn’t take these candy-tossing duties lightly, I passed the video camera off to Pete—and he happily filmed the entire length of our ride down Main Street from the front passenger seat of the ’56 Bel Air.

IMG_2588

Laurel Leader writer Patti Restivo, who’d written about the Festival in that week’s paper, was on hand and shouted out, asking if I’d seen her article. She’d called me the week before the parade to get a quote, and we’d talked about several things; at one point, Patti mentioned how a former newspaper editor had once modified one of her stories to include her least favorite word in the English language—the word “utterly”. I told her that she should add it to my quote somehow as an inside joke. Lo and behold:

Richard Friend, of Lost Laurel, is riding in the parade for the first time with Mike Templeton in Templeton’s red 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible.

Friend said he remembers attending the first Main Street Festival in 1981 as a 9-year-old, when just walking in the middle of the street “created a sense of novelty and wonder.”

“When I walk down Main Street today, the ghosts of Laurel businesses past are with me, especially during the festival,” he said. “Riding in the parade is going to be an utterly exciting experience.”

— Laurel Leader  | May 7, 2015

11221189_10206287622816954_821528255_o

(Photo: Patti Restivo)

11207715_10206287622896956_185884241_o

(Photo: Patti Restivo)

All along the parade route, I saw familiar faces and heard familiar voices—including those of longtime friends and former classmates, as well as those I’d only met before via Lost Laurel. “Thanks for your awesome page,” someone shouted out; and if my day hadn’t already been made, it certainly was then.

(Photo: Billy Wellford)

(Photo: Billy Wellford)

(Photo: LaDonna Kane)

(Photo: LaDonna Kane)

After the parade, in between funnel cakes and lemonade, several people asked about the vintage Laurel baseball jersey I was wearing.

IMG_0596

Actually, it’s the shoulder patch that’s historic. The jersey itself is a brand new one I had custom-made by Ebbets Field Flannels to go with this original 1930s Prince George’s County Police Boys’ Club patch. This was the little league that preceded the Laurel Boys & Girls Club.

IMG_2590

IMG_2593

IMG_2594

IMG_2617

(Photos: Mike Templeton)

The weather started out a bit sketchy, with light rain that wasn’t in the forecast whatsoever; but man, did it turn out to be a nice day. And even if the rain hadn’t let up, it wouldn’t have dampened it for me one bit. After the festivities, I learned that we’d even won a trophy!

trophy

(Photo: Mike Templeton)

I saw a lot of folks taking pictures along the route. I’d love to see them, so if you could, please post them on the Lost Laurel Facebook page or email them to me at richard_friend@mac.com. Thanks to everyone for coming out and truly making it an extra-special Main Street Festival!

Tagged , , ,

Lost Laurel Wins St. George’s Day Award

This afternoon, I had the honor of receiving a Prince George’s County Historical Society St. George’s Day Award at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, MD.

According to PGCHS:

Established in 1974, these awards are given annually to honor living individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation of the County’s heritage.

Some of the names I recognize as past recipients include longtime Laurel Leader editor Gertrude Poe, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, and Comptroller Louis Goldstein. Just to be mentioned in such company is a huge honor; and I’m so pleased that those who study and preserve the history of both Laurel and Prince George’s County consider my humble Lost Laurel project to be so worthy.

Prince George’s County Historical Society Board Member Lynn Roberts made a terrific presentation, reading a statement from Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Lindsey Baker.

IMG_2252IMG_2246

Laurel Historical Society President Steve Hubbard was there, explaining the premise of Lost Laurel and the work that went into producing the book.

IMG_2250 IMG_2248 IMG_2247

I want to thank the Prince George’s County Historical Society again for this award, which is a wonderful acknowledgement of a project that has truly been a labor of love. And a super-thank you to everyone at the Laurel Historical Society for nominating me in the first place (which I also just discovered today!) Thank you, all!

IMG_2254

Tagged , , , ,

Lost Laurel TV: Laurel Shopping Center, Part 1

The latest episode of Lost Laurel on Laurel TV has aired, and is available on their YouTube channel. They’ve given me an HD version to post for my own archive, which is great, since the video includes some fantastic vintage photos!

This is the first of a two-part series on the history of Laurel Shopping Center, which focuses on the 1956 grand opening—including an itinerary of the “Fifteen Fabulous Days” celebration, the incredible promotions created by owners Melvin & Wolford Berman and Arthur Robinson, and an interview with Bart Scardina, Jr., whose father opened Bart’s Barber Shop as one of the original tenants. Of those original businesses, only Bart’s and Giant Food remain open today.

Part 2 will cover the 1966 expansion of the shopping center, the 1971 addition of Georgetown Alley, and the 1979 arrival of Laurel Centre Mall. We’ll also look at Laurel Shopping Center’s day of infamy—the 1972 assassination attempt of Governor George Wallace. We’ll be filming that in the coming weeks.

As always, a special thanks to Laurel Leader “History Matters” columnist Kevin Leonard for his segment, and to Denny Berman and Bart Scardina, Jr. for taking the time to share their memories.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Lost Laurel Trivia Night: Nov 8th

Looking for something fun to do on a Saturday night about a month from now?

If you’re in the Laurel area, join me at the historic Tastee Diner on Rt. 1 near Main Street for Lost Laurel Trivia Night, hosted by the Laurel Historical Society!

TRIVIA NIGHT-TASTEE DINER-COLOR2

This will be our second Trivia Night, having had a blast at Nuzback’s for the inaugural event back in May. Hosting these at locations that have served Laurel for decades makes them all the more fun, and it’s a great way to support local businesses.

No RSVP is needed, and you can create your own team or join one on the fly. The format is simple and straightforward—we read from a list of questions in different categories, all related to Laurel history (the questions are also projected on the wall, in case you miss any) and someone from your team writes down your answers. We may have a speed round, an “identify the logo” round, or some other twists; and there will be prizes for the winners!

The cost to play is $5 for non-members of the Laurel Historical Society, and $3 for members. All proceeds go to the Laurel Museum. The Tastee Diner has a substantial menu to order from, (the crab cake sandwich is one of my favorites!) and will be offering drink specials that night as well.

We’ll be providing all the paper, pencils and everything you’ll need. You just show up with your appetite, and your Lost Laurel trivia knowledge!

Lost Laurel Trivia Night
Saturday, November 8th
7:00 PM
Tastee Diner
118 Washington Blvd.
For more information, visit laurelhistoricalsociety.org or email director@laurelhistoricalsociety.org

Tagged , , ,

Laurel TV update

A big thanks to Tyler Baldwin of Laurel TV for spending several hours this morning traversing the length of Main Street with me, filming our pilot episode of Lost Laurel. It’s going to be a monthly half-hour documentary, featuring “then & now” photos, as well as interviews covering a range of popular topics from the Lost Laurel files. Naturally, we’re starting with Main Street.

I still have voiceovers to record, and they’ll have their work cut out for them editing it all together next week… (as you’ll see, I’m much more comfortable in front of a computer than a camera). But what a fun way to showcase the town’s retail history, and invite people to look at their surroundings in a historical light. Fingers crossed that all goes well and everyone enjoys it.

I’ll let you know when it’s finished and scheduled to air on Laurel TV, and will post a YouTube link here as well.

500-block-mainstreet

Tagged , ,

Video: 1989 Main Street Festival

Now here’s a treat.

In a recent treasure trove of Lost Laurel artifacts from collector Peter Lewnes, I was intrigued by this oversized video cassette. Apparently, it was a copy of the old Laurel Cable Network‘s coverage of the 1989 Main Street Festival.

1989 Main Street Festival video case 1 1989 Main Street Festival video case 21989 Main Street Festival videotape label

It’s something called a U-matic cassette, and it’s nearly twice the size of a standard VHS tape. In other words, it’s beyond obsolete in today’s digital world—which is probably why it ended up being discarded in the first place.

Nonetheless, I asked around (it’s good to have buddies in the independent film industry) about production houses that could possibly salvage the tape, converting it to a digital file which I could share here. After a few local places didn’t pan out, I reluctantly shipped the old cassette across the country to Portland, Oregon, to a place called HD Media Services which came recommended by a friend who’d had some old Super-8 films successfully converted.

It was touch and go for awhile, as I was told that the first transfer didn’t go as well as they’d hoped. (I never considered just how badly videotape degrades over the years…) Luckily, they were able to salvage it, and the digital file arrived today!

It’s a full hour of coverage, highlighted by the parade—with a number of familiar faces from 1989. There’s also commentary, identifying many of them.

So, get ready to step back in time 25 years. Oh, and pick me up some funnel cakes and a lemonade while you’re there, please.

Tagged , ,

“(Re)Collecting Laurel” presentation this Thursday!

lost-laurel-recollecting-laurel-flyer

The Lost Laurel books are almost here; unfortunately, it sounds like they’re not going to make it in time for my Laurel Historical Society presentation this Thursday night after all. (I was planning to do both a talk and book signing). Four Colour Print Group has confirmed that the long-delayed freight is FINALLY cleared and being readied for dispatch, but the odds of it arriving by Thursday just aren’t good. 😦

However, my “(Re)Collecting Laurel” presentation WILL go on as planned—so please come out to the Laurel Museum between 6-7 PM and tour the Lost & Found Laurel exhibit, and then head over to the Municipal Pool meeting room next door for the talk at 7!

When the books do finally arrive, (and for the printer’s sake, let’s hope that’s in the next few days) I’ll immediately begin mailing out signed copies to everyone who pre-ordered, along with a full set of Lost Laurel postcards (and the perks those of you bought exclusively on Kickstarter). Books will also soon be available in the Laurel Museum gift shop, for those who’ve yet to order.

Thanks for your patience, everyone—and I hope to see you Thursday night in Laurel!

~ Richard

Tagged , , , ,

March 13th Lecture & Book Signing (…fingers crossed!)

If you haven’t heard, I’m giving a presentation next Thursday, March 13th at the Laurel Municipal Pool meeting room at 7PM. It’s a fun, interactive talk called (Re)Collecting Laurel, that discusses how Lost Laurel began, collecting Laurel memorabilia, and more. It’s totally free, and is presented by the Laurel Historical Society.

lost-laurel-booksigning-flyer

The plan is to also do a book signing that night… provided the books actually get here in time. (!!!)

As I’ve mentioned, I had been told to expect the books around the middle of February, at which point I had planned to mail them out, so everyone would have them in time for this event—which the Laurel Historical Society and I have been planning for months. However, I found out on February 19th that the cargo container the books arrived in (along with countless other imports) was being held for random inspection by U.S. Customs at the NY/NJ port.

Nancy Heinonen, the production manager I’ve been dealing with at Four Colour Print Group, has been providing me with updates that range from optimistic to maddeningly frustrating. Her emails have literally gone from “…that would put delivery at the first week of March”, to “I’m certain you’ll have books for your March 13th event,” to “Since this is such a rare, extreme situation, I no longer feel comfortable giving you any educated guesses as to what will happen, or when books will arrive.”

The latest delay, of course, is the extreme weather that’s compounding things at ports all over the east coast. This isn’t just affecting their company—even the likes of Walmart and Target aren’t getting their goods any faster, despite their large influence.

She’s assured me that their freight broker has flagged my delivery as top priority, and is well aware of my March 13th deadline; but apparently that’s the extent of what they can do. Fortunately, she hasn’t given up hope—especially with the considerably warmer weather coming over the next week, which can only be a good thing. But that’s the fun situation I’m in: sitting, waiting, and hoping the books make it here in time.

She mentioned the possibility of “grabbing some cartons and shipping them by air”, and wanted to know a minimum quantity—but I made it clear that I need to have enough books on hand for those who’ve pre-ordered them as well as extras for sale.

I’ll keep everyone posted over these next few days via Kickstarter, Facebook, and this blog. And if the books do indeed arrive in time, I’ll ask that you kindly let me know if you plan to attend the event and pick up your copy in person. Otherwise, I’ll still plan on mailing the pre-ordered books out as soon as possible.

Also, after I’ve delivered all of the pre-ordered books, the remaining paperback supply will ultimately be for sale at the Laurel Museum gift shop—so you’ll be able to buy extra copies when you check out the new Lost & Found Laurel exhibit—which opened on February 9th to a fantastic crowd! While the Museum isn’t usually open on Thursdays, they will be open for visitors next Thursday night from 6–7, before the lecture.

I greatly appreciate everyone’s patience, and look forward to finally getting these books in-hand very soon. Hope to see many of you at next Thursday’s event!

Tagged , , , ,