Tag Archives: Richard Friend

Racing… to close Laurel Railroad Station?

There’s a rather unlikely story in the local news this week—a head-scratcher, really. It concerns two of Laurel’s historic landmarks, and how they’re supposedly at odds all of a sudden. I’m speaking of Laurel Park Racecourse and the Laurel Railroad Station.

I’ll get right into it: Laurel Park, which after decades of hard times is finally seeking to turn the corner with an ambitious plan to build “a transit-oriented development with retail and residential space near the racetrack,” has requested the state Department of Transportation open a commuter train stop in Laurel closer to the track.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Because that would just be too easy, state Department of Transportation officials have said that it is unlikely the state will consider a “dual stop” at both the Laurel MARC station and the racetrack. A train platform is already at the racetrack, mind you, but is listed as a flag stop (where trains will only stop when there’s a specific request) on the MARC Camden line schedule.

So, here comes the head-scratcher: the idea being proposed is that the DoT would close the Laurel Station—which is on the National Register of Historic Places—in favor of building a new stop at the racetrack, a mere 2,500 feet away. Where, again, there is already a train platform in place. I’m not sure there’s a more polite way to put this, so I’ll just ask: Are you f***ing kidding me?

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a huge supporter of both places. More than anything, I’d love to see a resurgence of horse racing in Laurel, and have Laurel Park once again become the premier venue that it can be. But certainly not at the expense of endangering what might be the town’s most recognizable landmark—a landmark that, frankly, has been more functional than the track itself in recent years.

Granted, I can’t see anyone in their right mind coming out and proposing that the old train station be demolished—to my knowledge, nothing like that has been discussed. But what would happen if/when the historic station ceases to be an active stop on the MARC line? We already know how vulnerable the city’s old buildings tend to be, especially when they’re vacant.

Lest anyone forget, Laurel came dangerously close to losing the station to fire in January 1992. John Mewshaw recently shared these photos with me—sobering reminders, all:

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

Photo: John Mewshaw, 1992

With the expectation that cooler, more rational heads will ultimately prevail in this, let’s look at some more reasonable options.

First, there’s the basic issue of supply and demand. If enough people genuinely start taking the train to the races again, as they did back in the early-to-mid-20th century, there’s no reason why the Department of Transportation shouldn’t reinstate Laurel Park as an active stop on the MARC line. But even then, closing the town’s historic station wouldn’t make sense, logistically, especially as it relates to everyday commuters with no interest in visiting the race track.

The current station sits in the heart of Laurel at the base of Main Street and provides easy access. From a marketing standpoint, its historic qualities also benefit the commuter rail industry—the classic, Queen Anne styling of the station literally makes you want to take the train… in a way that a new, more modern facility probably wouldn’t.

And marketing is something that Laurel Park obviously needs to do a better job of, too, if it hopes to reinvigorate the track to the point of needing an exclusive train stop to accommodate the masses. For the record, I’m not a fan of their newest logo:

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As a graphic designer myself, I have serious doubts that it was created by a professional. It’s poorly executed for a number of reasons, but I digress. Their logo problems aren’t the main concern here.

But what they should be focusing on—instead of this new train station folly—are unique ways to maximize their exposure (regardless of that hideous logo). And ironically, the old train station is a perfect opportunity for them. I’m just going to offer this up, so Laurel Park Powers That Be, do with it as you please:

Imagine seeing a row of shuttle buses lined up as you get off the train… buses that are whimsically adorned with thoroughbred horse artwork (or, to go even further, imagine the entire bus being decorated to look like a race horse itself…) A row of buses, each designed as an individual race horse, complete with saddle cloth number…

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Much like the old train station invites you to ride the rails, wouldn’t that pique your interest in going to the race track? And imagine the exposure the buses themselves would get just being spotted going back and forth on Route 1—especially when two or three at a time are “racing” there. (Not to encourage gambling, but you could even place bets on which “horse bus” arrives first…)

Keep in mind, I did this in about half an hour. Imagine what could be done with proper time and exploration. (And I’d be more than happy to design it for you, Laurel Park. I assure you, it’d be cheaper than a new train station, too.)

And from a practical standpoint, (e.g. the number of people actually going to the race track from the train station) wouldn’t shuttle buses also just make more sense? At least until Laurel Park starts generating the types of crowds that might require more drastic measures?

For the record, I do hope those crowds eventually return, but only after the race track (and the city) has solid plans in place to accommodate them. First, they need a plan to actually draw them. To paraphrase the Field of Dreams mantra, “Build it, and they will come.”

Source:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/laurel/ph-ll-marc-station-moves-20150616-story.html
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Laurel TV: Date Night in Laurel

Episode 6 of Lost Laurel for Laurel TV has aired, and its theme is Date Night in Laurel—a look at some of the favorite date night destinations Laurelites have enjoyed over the years, including movie theaters, restaurants, and special events.

One such special event was the landmark Laurel Pop Festival at Laurel Race Course in 1969. Kevin Leonard wrote a fantastic account of it for the Laurel Leader recently, and I had a blast accompanying him for an interview with Bruce Remer of e-rockworld.com at the site of the legendary concert. Bruce had been there as a high school student along with friend and fellow photographer Tom Beech—and the two easily mingled backstage with the performers, snapping photos with a Kodak Instamatic. Some of their photos and artifacts can even be seen on Led Zeppelin‘s website, on a page devoted to their Laurel performance.

This being a “date night” theme, I had hoped to have this episode ready in time for Valentines Day… but better late than never. 😉 Hope you enjoy it!

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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…

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(Photo: John Floyd II)

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(Photo: John Floyd II)

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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:

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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!”

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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.

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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:

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(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…”

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(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.

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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

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(Photo: Patti Restivo)

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(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.

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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.

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(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!

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(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!

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Lost Laurel TV: Revisiting the Lost & Found Laurel Exhibit

Due to a busier-than-usual schedule, (and a few technical difficulties on my part) this newest episode of the Lost Laurel show for Laurel TV is a bit late… but it’s done—and better late than never!

I filmed it in December, just as the Lost & Found Laurel exhibit was about to close at the Laurel Museum. The idea is that if you didn’t have a chance to experience it in person, (or if you overlooked some of the pieces during what was the museum’s busiest opening day of all time) this episode will give you a chance to see it in full detail.

It also includes an interview with Laurel Historical Society Executive Director Lindsey Baker, who not only gives an overview of the show, but a preview of the new 2015 exhibit, Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News—which has since opened. (Go check it out—it’s awesome!)

You can watch the episode below, or view it directly on YouTube at full size. Enjoy!

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Laurel TV: History of Laurel Shopping Center, Part 2

The latest episode of Lost Laurel on Laurel TV is the second part (and finale) of our special History of Laurel Shopping Center. Whereas Part 1 focused on the 1956 grand opening festivities, Part 2 covers the 1966 expansion that doubled the shopping center’s size; as well as the 1971 addition of Georgetown Alley, and 1979 arrival of Laurel Centre Mall. There’s also a segment on the shocking 1972 assassination attempt of Governor George Wallace.

Laurel Leader “History Matters” columnist Kevin Leonard and I had the pleasure of spending a morning reminiscing on location with Denny Berman, whose father and uncle built Laurel Shopping Center. Denny, who fondly remembers the Fifteen Fabulous Days grand opening as a six-year-old, essentially grew up at the shopping center—where he eventually joined the family business, and today is a General Partner of Berman Enterprises.

This episode also marks entirely new territory for me, having had to learn (very quickly, I might add) to both film and edit it myself. Tyler Baldwin, who had not only deftly handled such duties for each of the previous episodes—but initially pitched the very idea for the series—started a new job in December. (Good luck, Tyler!) Rather than start over with another director, I decided to take a stab at producing it all on my own and simply delivering the final product to Laurel TV. While it was a little scary, (and a lot of work) I have to say, I did enjoy putting it together and being able to see the story evolve from start to finish. I hope you’ll enjoy the result, as well.

My thanks also to sound designer Donnie Conty, who (despite having never been to Laurel before in his life) joined Kevin, Denny and me on that cold, rainy morning at Laurel Shopping Center to ensure that I filmed everything correctly. He then worked his audio magic on the final cut, making sure it sounds great.

My plan is to continue producing the show on my own, hopefully still at a rate of one new episode per month. I’ve already started on January’s edition, which you’ll see a teaser for at the end of this one. It will cover the Lost & Found Laurel exhibit, which just closed at the Laurel Museum on December 21st. Beyond that, let me know what you’d like to see! I’m considering everything from past restaurants, department stores, specific neighborhoods, vintage crimes, and more. Keep the ideas coming, and as always, thanks for your interest!

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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.

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Laurel Shopping Center… The Theme Song?

Just so you know, you’ll be hearing me talk about “The Berman Collection” quite a bit in the coming months.

The Berman Collection is a treasure trove of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other artifacts from the family of Laurel Shopping Center founders Melvin and Wolford Berman.

While researching the early days of Laurel Shopping Center for a recent 3-part Laurel Leader column, historian Kevin Leonard met with Melvin’s son, Dennis Berman—now General Partner of all Berman Enterprises entities.

Denny proved not only to be a wonderful source of information, but keenly interested in helping us document the history of the groundbreaking shopping center his family built in 1956, which quite literally put Laurel on the map—at least in the eyes of retailers, shoppers, and those not solely interested in horse racing (which, to be fair, put Laurel on the map several decades earlier).

With incredible generosity, Denny Berman decided to donate a massive number of materials to the Laurel Historical Society, including a large scrapbook specifically documenting every phase of the “Fifteen Fabulous Days” campaign that comprised the November 1956 grand opening of Laurel Shopping Center. If you’re interested in such history as I am, trust me when I tell you that it’s the Holy Grail.

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I’ve already shared a few photos on the Lost Laurel Facebook page, but that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Kevin and I have been slowly but surely photographing and scanning every inch of the collection before it goes into the Laurel Museum—we’re working on a book that will showcase the material and the Berman family’s contribution to Laurel.

That being said, one of the most intriguing pieces in the collection is this empty record sleeve:

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What’s interesting about it? According to a description card, the sleeve originally held a recording (no known copies exist) of a Laurel Shopping Center theme song—which played on speakers throughout the center, on TV and radio commercials… even from a helicopter.

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Now, I told you Denny Berman is a wonderful source of information. He’s also a great sport. I had the pleasure of meeting him this week with Kevin, and when I brought up the theme song topic, he not only remembered the lyrics—he agreed to sing it for me.

This will be part of the next episode of the Lost Laurel TV show, which is actually a 2-part series on the history of Laurel Shopping Center. It features many of the photos from The Berman Collection, and Denny himself plans to join us on location for the second part, which I’m really looking forward to filming with Laurel TV in early December.

With the new Towne Centre at Laurel planning its official grand opening this Saturday (despite having been open for quite some time already) on the site of the former Laurel Centre Mall, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at the history of the mall that started it all.

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Lost Laurel TV: Halloween

The second episode of Lost Laurel on Laurel TV is now on YouTube! It’s a special Halloween episode, which Laurel TV has been airing locally every day this week at 4PM on their network.

Some of the highlights:

  • We get to meet Rich Blankenship, who operates Laurel’s House of Horror in the old Cinema at Laurel Shopping Center, and learn the history behind the movie theater and its recently-replaced marquee.
  • We touch on some of the ghosts of buildings past, including Fyffe’s Service Center.
  • Learn about the allegedly haunted Bay ‘n Surf restaurant, and the bizarre murder that may have inspired the spooky stories.
  • A tragedy at the 1980 Laurel Centre Mall Halloween Costume Contest, in which yours truly may or may not have inadvertently scared beloved Congresswoman Gladys Noon Spellman to death.
  • Laurel Leader “History Matters” columnist Kevin Leonard gives us the complete history of the notoriously creepy Laurel Sanitarium.
  • Was/is the Avondale Mill site haunted?
  • The spectre of the Ninth Street Bridge, and James Ladenburg‘s amazing miniature replica of it.

This was a fun episode to produce, and it’s wonderful to see some effects enhancements starting to come into play now that we’re getting the hang of things.

Now that there are two shows, one of the recurring themes you might pick up on throughout the series is the opening title graphic. For each episode, I’ve designed a “newspaper” front page in the style of the Laurel Leader from when I grew up in the 80s. It sets the stage for whatever the theme will be, and makes for a functional way of cataloging the episodes.

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Laurel Leader sample 1987

It’s one more way to have fun with this project, and as I get further into it, look for some even “older” front page newspaper treatments to emerge. 😉

We’re already planning next month’s episode, which will actually be a two-part series covering the building of Laurel Shopping Center—and there are lots of great stories and photos to be included in that one.

Special thanks to Tyler Baldwin for her hard work and patience, and for also fixing and re-uploading the earlier Main Street episode, which is available here:

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Meeting Bob Windsor… Again!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of learning something new on my own Lost Laurel Facebook page. Reader John Mewshaw posted a link to a sports memorabilia event being held at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Listed there, at the very bottom of the page (by Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods—he of the famous “Ickey Shuffle”) was none other than Bob Windsor—the former NFL tight end who owned the wonderful Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports at Laurel Plaza Shopping Center throughout the 1970s and 80s. Bob was going to be there signing autographs the very next morning!

CSA Chantilly Show, Bob Windsor

It just so happens that today, I live only a few miles from the Dulles Expo Center; and I hadn’t seen Bob Windsor since I was a kid in his store nearly 30 years ago—when I would look forward to getting an autographed 8″ x 10″ with every purchase.

Bob Windsor 1980s autographed photo

A well-worn memento from the past, circa 1983

I made the short drive to Chantilly on Saturday morning, April 5th, and found the place packed just as it opened. Even though I knew where Bob’s table would be located, he was easy to spot, chatting with an old-timer from the area. I waited patiently behind the older gentleman, and when it was my turn, I said, (with a straight face) “Hi Bob. I’ve had this coupon for like 30 years, and there doesn’t seem to be an expiration date on it…”

I watched the confusion on his face turn to laughter when I revealed the “coupon” to be an enlarged print of one of his 1980s sneaker trade-in ads. “HOLY COW,” he exclaimed. “I haven’t seen one of those since… I don’t know when!”

Bob Windsor & Richard Friend, 4/5/14

I then revealed what I’d really come to do. I introduced myself, explaining that I’d grown up at Steward Manor Apartments just across the street from his store, and that my friends and I used to practically live there. Now a graphic designer, I’d actually created a book about Laurel’s past businesses—Lost Laurel. I leafed through the book to the 1980s section, and watched Bob’s face light up even more when he spotted pages 158–159:

Lost Laurel book: Bob Windsor

I told him that I wanted to give him the book (and some extra copies for his family) and finally say thank you for the countless good memories he and his store provided, and for all he’s done for Laurel, Maryland through the years. I had the chance to chat with him for a few moments, and he explained the history behind that memorable photo of him:

“We were playing the Giants—that was actually in Yankee Stadium. I had just caught that pass, (from quarterback Jim Plunkett) and was only on my feet for about a second and a half… and then got hit and flipped upside down by a linebacker and a defensive back!”

When I asked if he could remember who the linebacker and defensive back were, Bob laughed and said, “Oh, I don’t want to remember!”

We shook hands again, and Bob asked if I was a Redskins fan. Without getting into my long-winded NFL fan history, (which included a brutal 27 years, rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles throughout some of their lowliest seasons) I simply said yes—I’m finally trying to cheer for my own home team these days. With that, Bob reached into a folder and handed me a signed Sonny Jurgensen photo. (!!!) He then pointed to the sneaker trade-in ad I’d brought, and in a moment that transported me straight back to 1983, he asked, “Want me to sign that for you?”

Yes, indeed I did. 🙂

Bob Windsor's ad, 1986

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Lost Laurel Books… Thank You!

After nearly 20 lengthy trips to my local post office, I’m happy to report that all* of the Lost Laurel books have finally been mailed! (Cue applause!)

Most of you should have already received your books and Kickstarter rewards by now, but the final batch went out today—so everyone who pre-ordered should have their books in hand before the end of this week.

If you’ve ever wondered what the collective receipts for nearly 500 packages looks like, here’s a glimpse:

post office receipts

I greatly appreciate everyone’s patience, as I know this has been a long time coming. As I’ve mentioned, I had to package and mail each book myself, and did so in the order in which I received payment. So, there was a lengthy list of Kickstarter supporters who came first—many of which required boxes, with things like fragile Little Tavern coffee mugs carefully packed inside along with the book itself. I then moved on to the later pre-orders placed via PayPal.

The unexpected snafus from the printer really threw more than just a wrench in the works, as I’ve detailed before. Aside from their shipping delays, the limited-edition hardcover books inadvertently became even more limited when they mistakenly only printed 100 rather than the 200 I’d ordered. I ended up receiving a total of 143, which unfortunately still wasn’t enough. A few customers who pre-ordered hardcovers via PayPal late in the game will have to settle for a signed softcover instead—along with a Lost Laurel postcard pack and a portion of your payment refunded to the softcover price. (This has already been done, so if you didn’t receive a PayPal partial refund, your order wasn’t affected).

That drama aside, I’m glad to hear that the books are arriving and people are pleased with them! I even received an actual thank you card from someone recently! That wasn’t necessary, but it made my day, and I certainly appreciate it.

Going back to the very start of this project, I want to reiterate my appreciation of the generous contributions from so many of you–contributions that ultimately were the difference in this book getting made. As you’ll see in the book itself, there are two spreads of acknowledgments thanking everyone who pitched in during the Kickstarter campaign, and I’d like to publish those names here, as well. A very big thank you to you all, indeed!

 

Thank you spread 1

Thank you spread 2

 

*There are still a couple of you who ordered books, but haven’t sent me your mailing addresses: Anita M. Mueller and Geoff Childs! If you’d like to pick them up in person, I’ll be at the Laurel Municipal Pool Room (9th & Main Street) this Thursday night (April 10th) at 7PM for Kevin Leonard’s “History Matters Expanded” presentation.

The Laurel Museum will also be open that night from 6–7, and their gift shop has the remaining supply of Lost Laurel books for anyone wishing to buy extra copies. They also have exhibit posters available in two sizes, and designed by yours truly! I’ll be on hand Thursday night, signing copies. Stop by and say hello!

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