Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Car Fire Comments and a Don't miss Laurel Video

I don’t like the thought that someone targeted city official Marty Flemion and set fire to his official car (and evidently tried to do the same to his personal vehicle). In front of his house. It’s disturbing, and a little scary to all concerned: family, neighbors, and I’m sure his co-workers. It’s a sad commentary on current society, and part of my lingering regret that Laurel is losing some of that small town feel that’s made it feel more like a community than just an extension of Washington and Baltimore. (see last week’s post). Accessibility is what differentiates big and small towns, and people like that one arsonist threaten not just an individual, but a whole way of life.

I know Marty works hard – and participates in many of the city’s civic activities apart from his official job. A city official shouldn’t feel he or she can’t list their name or address or phone number in the phone book, or that someone might track them down to their home. I hope they catch who ever did this soon.

And speaking of that small town feeling (OK, it’s a rough segue)…if you haven’t looked at this video documentary produced by students at Towson about A.M. Kroop’s http://bit.ly/Kroops on C Street just off Main Street you’ve missed a real treat. That’s what a small town business, – albeit one that’s threatened, too, is all about. Randy is featured in the LHS’ current exhibit, too. www.laurelhistoricalsociety.org. We talked with Randy for the exhibit – did you know her father didn’t let her go to the races as a child? And if you haven’t ever visited Kroops…well, you should go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mr. Mayor: Tear Down That Wall!

The Laurel Museum’s 15th Anniversary event offered me a reminder of what’s good about a small town. A recent visit to Laurel City Hall suggested that we may have lost an important element of that.

The Museum’s 15th brought together 90+ folks to celebrate a local institution that’s been a great partnership between the LHS and the City of Laurel (disclosure, I’m very active in the LHS). There were past LHS members, representatives of the 1996 Mayor and Council, and also the current LHS officers, and Mayor and City Council. Conversations were fun, polite and the pols – past and present – were all very accessible.

My visit to Laurel City Hall last Friday to pick up the generously loaned sound system for Sunday revealed something else. The City has installed an intimidating glass/Plexiglas wall right inside the reception area that runs along the front desk and ends in a floor to ceiling wall with an electronic door. There’s not even room on the reception desk to leave an envelope bigger than a letter. Anyone wanting to go past the front reception desk now has to talk through a small cut-out and push ID through it, to get a badge.(which you needed before). Visitors, once approved, have to be buzzed in to enter. I’m sure the City feels security reasons required this.

Personally, I found this sad, and disturbing. Something important has been lost – for both residents and city employees with this wall’s installation. In a small town like Laurel officials and city employees are people you know, and to whom you can talk. There is a feeling that we’re all in this together. This new entrance is a both a physical and psychological barrier, locking out the public and essentially dividing elected officials and city employees from their constituents. The new barrier at City Hall sets up a we v. them feeling. With the public being the “them” on the outside. The goal may be security, but the fact is a wall like this says “we think you are a threat, and we don’t trust you to come into OUR building.”

Laurel is a better place than that. It shouldn’t divide its citizens from their government. So, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan I say: “ Mr. Mayor, tear down that wall!”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Me and Laurel and Gardens: Nature is a Better Nurturer

I am not a gardener. This will be obvious to anyone who knows me and has walked by my house or looked into my back yard. Oh, the perennials can look great -- sometimes. And those daylilies have their moment in the sun. I'm fond of the irises and thrilled when they burst forth. The swamp lilies that foliage now and spring up pink and stinky are always a wonder. I am really hopeful that the Purple Shadow aka ruella we planted will last the season and I'll remember to bring it in before the first frost. But it's likely that the expensive clematis we just planted next to our gate will wither and die (please don't send tips, really, it will be a waste of time!) And if I plant some annuals, well, they may or may not grow. It's not that I don't like pretty plants..I just don't have the patience to analyze soil, carefully plan, plant, fertilize and meticulously monitor each growth. I have Laurel friends who are incredible, and I love walking through their gardens. I'm envious of their talent -- and dedication.

But take me to the woods, and I'm a different person. At our cabin in West Virginia Ken & I just revel in the natural and beautiful wildflowers all around us. These hardy guys just do their own thing and each visit brings another crop of beauty. They grow where they can, blossom profusely and come back year after year. In their natural habitat we see that mother nature doesn't need a garden center to be fabulous. A shale barren nurtures birds feet iris and pretty yellow and purple flowers. The dogwoods shine forth like white veils in the almost leafed-out woods. The wild red columbine growing on the roadside rivals anything cultivated. In June the prickly pear will have astonishing yellow blossoms. Our WV yard was a mass of wild asters and the May apples are in flower everywhere. Even the humble paw paw has a subtle dark purple almost brown blossom that looks like a stub, until you look closely. And I didn't have to do anything but look. Me, I'll take my mother nature center rather than the garden center any day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Laurel Museum's 15th: We Should All Celebrate

While many Laurel folks will be focusing on the Main Street festival this weekend, my attention is focused on the following Sunday: May 15. when The Laurel Museum is celebrating its 15th Anniversary.

I'm always a little disappointed when I run into someone, like I did the other night at Salute on Main Street, who not only had never visited the Laurel Museum (817 Main Street), but didn't even know Laurel had a museum. Maybe you're one of those folks. Or maybe you've been meaning to visit and just haven't. And are you missing a real gem -- which has outdoor river walks right next to it. What a deal. And it's free.

Granted the Museum is only open 3 days a week (hey, volunteer to docent: more volunteers, more open hours). but Laurel's local community museum has been a remarkable plus for Laurel. More than 15 exhibits, school tours, special programming just for kids for kids, interesting speakers for adults. Lots of new insights into all parts of the town's history from them mill, to the 1950s, to WWII. I didn't grow up in Laurel, but find its transitions from mill town to early suburb to today's very diverse community that's been touched by some very major historical events (think Civil War, Civil Rights, 9/11 to name just a few), very interesting.

Many community museums create one exhibit, and remain largely static for years and years. In Laurel you see something new every year. That's really remarkable, and is a direct result of some very wise decisions made before I became involved. (full disclosure: I'm a Board member and past president). For me, the Laurel Museum has not only given an opportunity to meet some truly dedicated, smart, interesting people, but a chance to do original historical research, actually open a museum, see it grow, and see the fruits of my (and others) labors become real museum exhibitions. How cool is that?

Right now, the exhibit is focusing on the fact that the Laurel Race Track is celebrating it's 100th Anniversary. And They're Off! 100 Years of Laurel Race Track 1911-2011. Not only are there famous race horses and celebrities, but a kind of behind the scenes look at the Race Course and the impact it's had on Laurel for the past 100 years. Whether you like to go to the track or not -- the track has been a part of this community for a long time. Will it be in the future? Who knows?

The Laurel Museum's community celebration: 15 on the 15th runs from 1:30-3:30. www.laurelhistoricalsociety.org is free, very family friendly, and includes horse related games to tie into the current exhibit. So I hope you'll drop by Sunday the 15th (free, and there will even be refreshments).
I think you'll be glad you did -- and pleasantly surprised if you haven't visited before.

Me, I'll be there having fun, but also thanking many people who were there at the beginning, and still are, like Betty Compton, and the City of Laurel. As you'll sometimes see in future posts, I don't always agree with what's happening in the City, but with regards to the Laurel Museum, they've been spot-on and a great partner. May 15 I'll also be thinking of some LHS friends who aren't with us any more like Jane Cole, the Museum's original Co-Director, Louise Eldridge, Clare Bergeron and others. I miss them, and think they'd be pretty pleased with where we've come and what we've done.