Since 1919, Ed Fulton has lived in the big old house at one end of the 300 block of Laurel's Montgomery Street, a Victorian-era neighborhood of white-frame houses and large lawns. It is a quiet contrast to the fast-food bustle of nearby Rte. 1.
Jimmie Boss, Fulton's 1929 high school classmate, lives at the other end of the block in the house where he was born.
Across from Fulton lives Maude Beall, the 86-year old daughter of Laurel's mayor at the turn of the century. Two and three doors up from Boss live widows Betty Warren, whose husband was a local doctor, and Ruth Block, whose husband Albert operated Block's Department Store, a fixture on Main Street since 1897, until 1974.
In recent years, there have been more deaths than births on this tree-shaded block, a relic of small-town America.
The July 4th and Emancipation Day parades no longer turn up Montgomery to "the boulevard," the locals' name for Rte. 1. Montgomery was once a main artery for this Prince George's County municipality of 15,000 residents.
The world at large has changed, as the outskirts of Laurel continue to spread. But in a metropolitan area where, as of 1980, 52 percent of the population had moved at least once in the previous five years, the 300 block of Montgomery Street is still home to an unusual number of of old-timers.
There is a small-town closeness here in the heart of Laurel, wedged between Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Midway between Washington and Baltimore, Laurel has long been a commuter town, but with its own self-contained business district and social circles. The business district has expanded to a strip of development along U.S. 1 and the social circles have widened with the construction of new housing on the city's periphery.
But life on Montgomery Street goes on pretty much as before.
The block is part of the city's officially designated historic district, but there is no pastel-paint restoration on this street of white frame homes.
Boss, a lawyer with an office on Main Street, is head of the historic district commission he helped establish. He is descended from the Snowden family, which owned much of northern Prince George's County in colonial days and whose gristmill on the Patuxent River in the early 1800s was Laurel's first commercial enterprise.
Boss, whose mother was Laurel's postmaster, was born at 301 Montgomery in 1913, but the family sold it three years later. He bought it back in 1940, and has lived there ever since.
Boss' neighbor Betty Warren moved to Laurel in 1937 with her late husband John, living first above his medical office at 305 Prince George St., then renting a house at 317 Montgomery. They moved to 308 Montgomery in 1942, shortly after the attack at Pearl Harbor brought America into World War II.
While soldiers from Fort Meade flocked to the U.S.O. at the end of Main Street, she said, nobody from her block of Montgomery Street went to war.
"Most of the men on Montgomery Street were too old" and their teen-age sons too young, said Warren, 73.
Her husband died last March, but two of her children live elsewhere in Laurel -- one son took over his father's practice -- and she has no plans to return to her native Frederick County in Western Maryland. "You know," she said, "when you put down roots, you just don't want to leave."
Ruth Block lives next door in No. 314, an eight-room house with a big porch. The home was built in 1924 by her father-in-law, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania whose family became pillars of the Laurel community, where almost no other Jews lived. She and her husband moved into the house when they married in 1945. He died a month after closing the family store, and now she and her Labrador, Yaki, remain.
"People ask why I'd want to stay in such a large house," she said. "I just love it here. I intend to stay here until I can no longer maintain it."
The older residents all raised their children here, but none of the offspring live on the block. The oldtimers still refer to houses by the names of prior owners, many of them long dead.
"I don't know who lives in the old Swimley house, do you?" Betty Warren asked Boss the other day, "and I don't know the ones next to them, but I know everybody else on the street. There are new people in the Nichols house."
For years, the Waters family has been in residence where octagenarian Maude Beall lived as a young woman, from 1915 to 1922, when she married and moved around the corner. But since 1943, she has lived at 335 Montgomery, a bungalow where she regularly has friends in to play bridge.
For years, she has rented out a room in her house, a practice she says was common in the old days.
"People think you're a freak now taking roomers," she said. Her husband, a firefighter, died in 1964, and she is the only one of 11 children in her family still living.
"I try to stay cheerful," she said. "I still bowl duckpins. I bowled over a 100 the last six games. I'm not in it for foolishness. I'm in it to win."
Across the street, in a house that once belonged to his grandparents, lives 75-year-old Ed Fulton, whose eyesight is failing but who still keeps his hedges and large lawn well-trimmed. He was born two blocks away.
Fulton, Boss and Beall represent continuity, but one by one the old people are passing and their homes being sold.
Among the newcomers is newspaper columnist John Lofton Jr., who with his family moved three years ago to a detached Tudor-style home on Montgomery Street.
"This block could almost be 1858," he said.
If the block has a traditionally "historic" house, it is probably 327. Since 1971, the white-frame home with shutters has belonged to Clement and Loretta Shackle, who are originally from Kansas.
The Shackles moved to an apartment elsewhere in Laurel in 1954, but their doctor was on the 300 block of Montgomery, a street she admired. Visiting the doctor one day, she saw the "For Sale" sign, and they signed a contract.
It was then they learned that Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, when he was stationed at what was called Camp Meade back in 1919, had briefly occupied a back bedroom of the house, then Mrs. Ray's boarding house. The Republican Shackles were delighted. They turned part of their new home into an Eisenhower shrine.
But it was the street that mattered most.
"I thought it was the most beautiful house I'd ever seen," Loretta Shackle said. "I always wanted to live on this street. Most people don't get their dreams fulfilled, but I did."