‘Mystery’ answer finally arrives

January 6, 2013
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George Paxton as he appears today.
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Linda Walker and George Paxton were queen and king of the 1949 Arden Black & White Show.
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A recent photography of Linda Walker Smith

Normally, our Mystery Photos set off a flurry of phone calls and emails to the Observer-Reporter newsroom soon after their publication, but last Monday’s photo was different: no calls, no emails, nothing until Wednesday morning, when Jeanne Robinson, an O-R employee, said she was pretty sure the little prince in the photo was her cousin, George G. Paxton.

At about the same time, Nancy Backenstoss called to say that she recognized her cousin George, too.

Then we received an email from George G. Paxton III reporting that, “My brother Bill Paxton’s observant eyes detected an image of a much younger self in your recent Mystery Photo of the 1949 Arden Black & White Show’s king and queen, being upstaged by the illustrious show cow, Playmate.”

Paxton was 3 1/2 years old at the time, according to his sister-in-law, Susan Paxton. Susan received a phone call last Monday morning from Dorothy Walker of Hickory, who recognized her daughter, Linda Walker, who was 4 years old at the time the photo was taken.

George Paxton grew up on the Shilling Hill Farm, at McConnells Mills, on Houston-Hickory Road (Route 519), Chartiers Township, and graduated from Chartiers-Houston High School in 1964. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1970 and had a 28-year career with Procter & Gamble, designing factories, process machinery and packaging for P&G products. He and his wife, Brenda Johnson Paxton, have been married for 34 years and have four children and nine grandchildren.

“Playmate was a legendary grand dame at Shilling Hill Farm,” George Paxton wrote us. “She and her offspring were usually at the top of our family’s show string, and were frequent blue- and purple-ribbon winners at the Washington County Fair, as well as at the Allegheny County Fair and at local district shows.”

Linda Walker Smith was the second girl in her family to be named queen of the show. Her sister Joyce was the 1948 selection.

Smith graduated from Fort Cherry High School and what is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh. She taught first and second grades for 32 years in Bethel Park before retiring. “I miss the kids, but not the bags of work I took home every night,” she said last week.

Smith has lived in Pleasant Hills since 1974 and works part time as a bookkeeper. Her daughter, Jennifer, is married to Brian Marnell, and they have a daughter, Page, now in first grade.

Look for another Mystery Photo next Monday.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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