Tag Archives: Maryland

Church’s Fried Chicken

I’ve been a vegetarian since roughly 2004, but if you were to offer me a Church’s Fried Chicken two-piece spicy box with biscuit, I would happily eat it. In fact, if Church’s were still at Town Center, I’d drive there for it right now myself—especially if you told me it was this 1986 Manute Bol and Spud Webb promo box.

I once met the late Manute Bol in Laurel, actually—shooting pool at the Fair Lanes bowling alley in the early 1990s, as he often did.

I also spotted this authentic Church’s Fried Chicken cap on eBay, but I’m guessing the decades-old smell of chicken grease undoubtedly ingrained in its fabric might hinder my more pleasant memories of this fine establishment… so I’ll have to pass on that.

Photos: (Manute Bol/Spud Webb box): http://www.wizznutzz.com. (Hat): eBay
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Ponderosa Steakhouse

Long before the current (as of this writing) Laurel Station Bar & Grill on Baltimore Ave., there was one of these—a Ponderosa Steakhouse.

It’s been any number of different establishments since its heyday in the 1970s—most notably, (and similarly) perhaps, a Sizzler—but I’ve literally lost count. For me, the building has always been (and always will be) Ponderosa.

Ironically, I may have only eaten there one time before it closed in the early 80s, but I walked past it almost daily en route to the mall.

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Tastee-Freez… Exploring the Wreckage

How many times have you thought about an old favorite restaurant, store—or even an apartment or house—that you’ll never get to experience again, and wish you’d taken more photos of it when you had the chance? Or even just one photo?

Unfortunately, most of us were too busy enjoying the moment to think about preserving the moment. Aside from the occasional employees who were mindful enough to capture a few snapshots during their tenures, most of us just never thought to bring a camera to these places in their heyday. Most of us took it for granted that the places where we grew up were not only unremarkable, but that they’d always be there.

And then we grew up.

While they’re certainly not from its heyday, a pair of photos by Flickr member sally henny penny succeed in preserving a moment—a final, quiet, and reflective moment inside Laurel’s Tastee-Freez/Big T restaurant—shortly after it closed in 2007 and was razed in 2009.

To get the full effect, you really have to view them at their full size on Flickr, or click the photos below to enlarge.

There’s an unsettling contrast in the scene; on the one hand, it’s every bit as familiar as it was in the 1980s. You’re instantly transported—once again standing before the counter in the Big T, glancing at the overhead menus—some of which appear to even be backlit. The trio of heat lamps are still there, ready to warm arguably the best roast beef known to man. Business cards and flyers—perhaps advertising The Whitewalls band, or an antique car show—are still tacked to the bulletin board near the exit.

But at the same time, there are the unmistakable clues that this is merely a shell of the Big T that we knew and loved. It’s closed, and it’s not opening ever again. The chairs are stacked on the tables; but more ominously, parts of the counter and electrical wiring have been disassembled. And most of all, there’s a distinct sense of emptiness in the restaurant which was heretofore unimaginable in this warm and vibrant place.

Not to compare the Big T’s demise to the worst maritime tragedy of the 20th century, of course; but something about this scene just feels eerily like exploring the underwater wreckage of the greatest “Big T” of all—the Titanic, which sank a century ago this year, coincidentally.

But then again, nobody ever raved about the roast beef sandwiches on the Titanic, to my knowledge. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people are still talking about this wonderful place a hundred years from now, as well.


Photo: sally henny penny (Flickr)

Photo: sally henny penny (Flickr)

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Main Street Festival #1

On the Saturday of every Mother’s Day weekend in May since 1981, Laurel has hosted its annual Main Street Festival. The entire length between Rt. 1 and 7th Street is closed to traffic as pedestrians literally fill Main Street—sampling foods from local vendors, listening to music, entering raffles, and just generally having the proverbial grand old time. Now into its 31st year, the event has grown to attract between 75,000 and 100,000 visitors annually.

These photos, courtesy of retired Laurel volunteer firefighter John Floyd II, give a unique glimpse of the very first Main Street Festival—at a simpler time when a number of long-gone names graced the buildings that mostly still remain: Caswell’s Upholstery & Laurel Draperies, Macrame Plus, Laurel Business Machines, Dougherty’s Pharmacy, Barkman’s Florists, Antonio Gatto Custom Tailor, Laurel School of Classical Ballet, Pal Jack’s Pizza (closed in December 2010), Petrucci’s Dinner Theatre, Equitable Trust Bank, Laurel Printing Company, and Gayer’s Saddlery (now Outback Leather).

You can almost smell the funnel cakes…

Photos: John Floyd II
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Air Show: Laurel Shopping Center, 1975

Can you imagine an air show being performed at Laurel Shopping Center? It actually happened in 1975, and by the looks of these fantastic shots by John Floyd II, the show was a big success—both in crowd turnout and the perfect landing by the Firestone Precision Parachute Team.

The Giant Food sign—which is still in use today—does look a bit younger in this  photo, yet surreal beneath the overflying trio of red biplanes.

In the images below, we get a glimpse of The Hecht Co. (the original building and signage), Laurel Cinema, and Equitable Trust bank.

(Photos: John Floyd II)
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