Mystery solved

March 9, 2014

Lately, it’s been either feast or famine in the Mystery Photo Business. Two weeks ago, we were starved for information about the photo of the motley football players from around 1900. Not a single player could be identified.

But the photo published last week and again today is quite another story. The ink on newspapers had not yet dried before calls started coming in. At last count, we’d received well over 100 emails and telephone calls – most of them correctly identifying the place (Paradise Confectionery on West Chestnut Street in Washington), the people in the photo and the approximate date – 1949.

“That shop was my playground,” said Anna Paradise Berg, daughter of Jake Paradise, the man behind the counter. “I can remember, even when I was five years old, taking the bus in the morning with my mom, picking up donuts and getting to the shop by 7 o’clock to take care of the breakfast and lunch crowds.”

Jake Paradise was born and raised in Greece. His uncle, Pete Paradise, the man on the left in the photo, “brought him over in 1948 to run the business, making the candy and running the store,” Berg said. She and her sister, Christina Paradise, identified the man with his back to the camera as George Georgopolis. “We were the Washington Greeks,” Berg said. Jake and his wife, who died 16 years ago, had three daughters, the third being Maria Corbin of Butler.

Jake Paradise may be the most recognized face in the two-year history of the Mystery Photo. Judging from the number of callers, he was as well liked as well known. He learned English quickly, and shortly after earning his American citizenship, he joined the U.S. Army. He later became chaplain and commander of the Edwin Scott Linton post of the American Legion. Active in many civic and charitable organizations, Jake Paradise died in 1994.

The Bergs – Anna, husband David and their children – now run the candy-making business that is now located on Donnan Avenue.

The candy story was also a soda fountain and lunch counter and was ideally located for such a business. It was in the same building as the old YMCA, where Millcraft Center is now. It was next door to the Court Theatre and right across the street from the old Immaculate Conception grade school.

Arthur Keys grew up in Washington and now lives and works in Arlington, Va. He fondly recalls the Paradise store. “I invested a lot of nickels in the pinball machine,” he wrote in an email. “The specialty of the house were his ‘frozen worlds,’ chocolate-covered ice cream balls and chocolate-covered bananas. He had a whole selection of candies as well and, as you can see, there was a full blown soda fountain. We would play basketball or swim at the Y and then hang out at Pete Paradise’s afterward when I was a kid in the 1950s. Jake knew everyone. Easter, western and Eastern Orthodox, was a big event for the store.”

The overwhelming response to this week’s photo made it impossible for us to return all the phone calls we received, but we thank our readers for their help and participation. Look for another Mystery Photo in next week’s Observer-Reporter.

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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