Category Archives: Schools

Farewell, Pallotti Playground Fire Truck

Some things just have a way of becoming part of the landscape, whether they’re intentional landmarks or not. Even if it’s a place you never visited—if you saw it routinely for over three decades, you just got used to it being there. And it’s always a bit of a shock when it disappears.

Ordinarily, I’d be talking about a store, a restaurant, or some other long-time Laurel business that’s shuffled off into the sunset. But this time, it’s a piece of playground equipment.

(Photo: John Floyd II)

(Photo: John Floyd II)

Not just any old swing set, sliding board, or merry-go-round, though—this was originally a real, working fire engine for the Hillandale Volunteer Fire Department. But in the summer of 1980, it somehow ended up in the Pallotti Early Learning Center’s playground. And ever since, the unmistakable red fire truck had remained a truly unique piece of equipment for kids to explore and enjoy.

After 36 years, the corner of Montgomery Street and St. Mary’s Place is going to look quite different without it.

Laurel resident John Floyd II probably knows far more about fire trucks than you or I ever could, and he was there last Monday when the old truck was excavated and hauled away. Former volunteer firefighter Dave Hilliard plans to use its parts to restore a similar fire truck in his possession; and he agreed to take the truck now that now that Pallotti’s daycare staff and children have left the area and moved into a new building nearby.

John posted the following recap on Facebook earlier this week:

On Monday morning, 24th August 2015, a battered and forlorn-looking old fire engine that had been a familiar sight in Laurel MD’s Old Town district for three-and-a-half decades was dug out of its earthen plinth in Pallotti Day Care Centre’s playground, hoisted aboard a heavy-duty roll-back truck after some careful manoeuvres, and taken away to its new home between Gambrills and Crownsville MD.

The fire engine is a 1955 American LaFrance 700 Series pump that was delivered new to Hillandale VFD in Montgomery County and served there until the early 1970s. After a few years of private ownership, the scruffy-looking and slightly-rusty engine was donated to the Pallottine Sisters for use in their children’s playground and it arrived behind a tow crane in June of 1980. Soon, the engine was “planted” in just the right spot with decorative stones all around, painted bright red, and kitted out with wooden platforms topside for the children to climb and play on.

Every few years, the school’s maintenance staff would slather a fresh coat of red paint on the engine by hand with brushes and this has preserved its sheet metal and inhibited rust over the decades. The rig’s bronze 750 gallons-per-minute fire pump and Continental 6-cylinder motor were left intact and have remained un-disturbed. Eventually, those charged with keeping the engine painted started cutting corners and painted over everything: chromium trim, headlamps, running boards – fresh, bright red on everything except the bumper!

Saint Vincent Pallotti High School, in whose building the day care centre had operated, has been expanding with increased enrollment and needed more space, requiring the day care and playground to be moved to the northern end of the city block-long property. Alas, the fire engine was too large to be placed in the new playground area so it had to go. Some time ago, I suggested that Hillside VFD fireman and vintage fire engine collector David Hilliard contact the Pallottine Sisters to see what they intended to do with the engine and earlier this summer, they graciously decided to give it to David with the proviso that he remove it from the property when the time came . . . and that time finally came!

With the assistance of Berwyn Heights MD fireman and fellow collector Jimmy Woodhouse, N&S Towing of Beltsville MD, and Larry Frederick along with days of digging around the engine and other preparation work, all was ready for the move. Several of us arrived at 9 am and soon, we were joined by Sister Karen Lester, Hillandale VFD fireman Earl Clime who’d worked with the engine long ago, Laurel Leader newspaper reporter Andrew Michaels, the day care centre’s director, several school staff, and a whole bunch of little kids, some of whom were quite sad to see “their” fire engine going away!

Here, then, is my picture gallery of the departure of this familiar and interesting piece of local history that’s been part of Laurel MD since 1980. A typical American fire engine of the mid-20th Century gets a new chance at life – enjoy! JDF II

Photos: John Floyd II

Laurel Leader coverage: Fire truck leaves Laurel learning center after 36 years

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Deerfield Run + Laurel Centre Mall, early 1980s

Recently, one of my dearest friends from elementary school, Sherry (Green) Wetherill, surprised me with a wonderful package in the mail. Inside was a treasure trove of photos dating from 1982–84—our final years as students at Deerfield Run Elementary.

The photos include some shots from a 1982 square-dancing performance the school put on at the center court of Laurel Centre Mall, as well as our 1984 class “graduation” ceremony. Fortunately, I was spared from having to do the square-dancing thing in public. Sherry and some of our classmates made the best of it, however; and thanks to her mom, we’re now seeing some rare color photos of the original center court—which was located just above the rotating carousel shops.

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Sherry wisely opted for a visit to Time-Out Family Amusement Center after the performance. This is only the second photo I’ve ever seen taken inside the popular Laurel arcade, as well as a bonus shot of Teeser’s Palace directly next door—where many an airbrushed t-shirt was sold over the years.

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Note also the original brown marble floor tiles and wooden storefront accents. These would all be replaced in the early 1990s when mall management deemed it “too 70s-looking”.

Other photos in Sherry’s collection date to June 1984, when our 6th grade class graduated from Deerfield Run. The ceremony took place in the school’s cafeteria/auditorium—which (and I’m not kidding) they literally named the “Cafetorium”. I still remember the sign above the double doors.

The program opened with Scott Miller carrying the flag on stage, and that’s me in the blue suit with Justine Kim leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

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Keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily in their proper order; but there’s one I should get out of the way right up front. Remember when I said that I was fortunate to have avoided the whole square-dancing thing at the mall? In hindsight, that probably would’ve been the wiser choice. Yes, that’s me in the center (with the blue striped Nikes)… breakdancing. At least I had the presence of mind to strike a pose that hid my face.

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But in all seriousness, these photos are remarkable in that they provide an almost tangible sense of Deerfield Run at that time. It’s hard to believe this was more than 30 years ago; and the images transport you back there immediately. The earthy colors of the smooth cement walls… the flecks in the tile floors… the texture of the glossy wooden stage.

Without further ado, here are the rest of the photos along with a few general comments.

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The school band gets ready to assemble along the far wall to the left of the stage, as people find their seats. Anyone who ever attended Deerfield Run (or any Prince George’s County Public School in the 1980s, probably) undoubtedly remembers those molded plastic multicolored chairs:

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A couple of these images are bittersweet, because they feature some folks who are sadly no longer here. In this first one, Sherry and Julie Douglass pose for a photo on stage before or after the program, while Lafayette McCray debates photobombing. Lafayette was funny and was one of the most gifted young athletes I’ve seen on any level. Unfortunately, he was murdered shortly after high school in a Largo parking lot.

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Here’s a pair of pics with our beloved 5th & 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Hortense Adams (far left). I can just hear her now, asking for a second photo to be taken without her glasses… She’d earned them as a child, avidly reading books in the dark after bedtime. Sadly, Mrs. Adams passed away in August 2013 after a battle with cancer. She was 67.

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I can’t recall why we had Prince George’s County Police officers on hand, but they presented some sort of awards to select students. One of them was the incredibly smart Stan Angus, who’s sitting in the chair on stage in this first photo. Stan lived on Irving Street and rode my school bus.

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Principal Michael J. Lapriola also distributed certificates to the highest achievers in our group, among them Jennifer Jacobs, (partially hidden behind Mr. Lap) Tanika Jolly, Sherry, Wayne Bailey, Justine Kim, and Mona Frastaci. I’m sure Stan Angus got one, too; but I’m not sure what the deal is with him still sitting in that chair on stage…

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The school’s band performed on the far end of the cafetorium, just in front of the “in” and “out” doors where hot lunches were served. I don’t recall the band teacher’s name, (and I regret not learning to play an instrument back then) but I recognize a few faces. Directly to his right is Tanika, Melissa Woody, Scott Miller, and Sherry waiting for her violin solo:

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There were a few solo performances, including Sherry on violin. I see Ms. Littleford, our music teacher, standing near the doorway. Stan, meanwhile, is still sitting on stage…

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This was an all-girls’ dance number, apparently. I only recognize Julie Douglass, who grew up in my Steward Manor neighborhood:

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This, I’m guessing, was a chorus performance. Jason Brockenberry, with the white shirt & black tie in the back row, was one of my best friends at the school—and the first to introduce me to the fantastic Choose Your Own Adventure books. (House of Danger, the first one I ever read, is still my favorite.) But I digress.

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Jennifer Jacobs and Wayne Bailey, both of whom were exceptional students, spoke at the podium:

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Okay, seeing Stan and Mona both sitting on the stage makes a bit more sense to me now. I’m pretty sure they were the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies, respectively. (I was seriously starting to worry that Stan might still be inexplicably sitting up on that stage, 31 years after the program ended…)

These next two photos are a bit dark, and appear to be from a different assembly (note the “Follow Your Dream” theme in the background. Our graduation theme was “Up, Up, and Away to New Horizons.”) I’m not entirely sure, but the blonde kid in the white t-shirt just below the word “YOUR” might be me:

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Likewise, Sherry’s wearing a different outfit here—and that blue wall looks like the Deerfield gym rather than the cafetorium:

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Speaking of different outfits… (and gym) she included this photo from the following year—when we all had to wear these blue & gold gym uniforms at Eisenhower Middle School. Or, as her Post-It Note puts it, the “Dreaded EMS gym attire.”

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By the way, Sherry’s handwriting is exactly the same as it was in elementary school, when she constantly won penmanship awards.

Last but certainly not least, this was the rising 6th grade class—who were apparently forced to sing a “farewell” song for us. I recognize James McNeirney on the far left and Mike McNeal on the far right; and Chad Caffas in the back row near the center. And of course, Kevin Buter in the red shirt.

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I can remember drinking chocolate milk out of those little paper containers at lunch with Kevin and several of the kids in these photos in this very room, (sorry—”cafetorium”) and I have to say, it warms my heart to know that I’m still in touch with so many of them today. In fact, I’m looking forward to having a few drinks with some of them next weekend. Hmm… Maybe I’ll bring some of those little chocolate milk containers for old times’ sake.

My thanks again to Sherry for sharing these wonderful photos, and for allowing me to post them here. Hopefully some of our other classmates will recognize themselves, and experience the same amazing flashbacks.

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Laurel Elementary

Admittedly, I don’t often focus on Laurel’s schools and other municipal buildings; but every so often, I’ll come across something particularly interesting that I feel should be on this blog. More than likely, it will come from someone else who’s taken the time to share special family photos or artifacts.

Such is the case with the following class photos from Laurel Elementary School on Montgomery Street in the 1950s and 60s, courtesy of Janice Kaifer.

These are good quality scans, so be sure to click on the photos to view them at full size. Perhaps you’ll recognize someone!

This first pair dates to 1932:

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Next, we skip forward a bit to 1953. This is Mrs. Strasser’s 2nd grade class:

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A 3rd grade class in 1954:

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Mrs. Schlosser’s 4th grade class in 1955:

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5th grade, in 1956:

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Another 5th grade class, circa 1957:

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Next, we get into some color photos! This is Mrs. Birdsong’s kindergarten class in 1960:

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Mrs. Schlosser’s 3rd grade class in 1963:

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Mrs. Wootten’s 5th grade class in 1965:

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Mrs. Johnson’s 6th grade class in 1966:

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And last but not least, Mrs. Weagley’s “GOLES”—Girls of Laurel Elementary School—in 1966:

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With any luck, some readers may find themselves, and/or family and friends in some of these photos. Many thanks again to Janice for taking the time to scan and share them!

The old building was replaced with a more modern facility a few years after these class photos were taken. If anyone knows the year the current structure was built, (or can elaborate on the history of the original building) please leave a comment below.

And while we’re on the subject of the old Laurel Elementary School, here’s a pair of vintage postcards from John Floyd II‘s collection:

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Margaret Edmonston Yearbook, 1977

If you went to Laurel High School in the mid-1980s or beyond, you undoubtedly remember the building known simply as “The Annex”.

The Annex was, in fact, the former Margaret A. Edmonston Elementary—connected to Laurel High with a non-insulated blue corrugated steel walkway that was both sweltering in the summer and freezing in winter. Annexed in 1983, it served LHS for the next 25 years.

The old building is now gone, replaced in 2010 by a $28-million state of the art facility containing an 800-seat auditorium, a black-box theater, rehearsal rooms for band, a chorus room, a dance room, as well as several classrooms and offices. It’s also a dramatic architectural upgrade that the school sorely needed.

But before all of that, it was indeed an elementary school—one in which thousands of young Laurelites began their academic careers. Dave Baker, who now lives in Tennessee, was one of them. And he was kind enough to scan and send me this wonderful set of images from something I never realized even existed: a Margaret Edmonston yearbook from 1977.

As Dave says:

“Sadly, most little yearbooks like this were discarded by most of the kids that bought them. My 80-year-old mother had the foresight to keep this in her cedar chest.”

There are likely several Lost Laurel readers who will find themselves, their friends, family members, and favorite teachers within these pages. (Click on each image to view at full size). The book also includes at least one youngster you might’ve seen on TV in more recent years—actor Mike Shaffrey was in Mrs. Edwards’ 6th grade class.

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Scans courtesy of Dave Baker

 

 

 

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