Mystery partially solved

March 23, 2014

The summer of 1969 was a memorable one for many reasons. It was when we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, first heard The Who perform the rock opera “Tommy” and watched the movie “Midnight Cowboy.” It was also the time of the Woodstock music festival and the Manson murders.

And it was that summer that our Mystery Photo was taken in Waynesburg Borough Park. But this bubble-blowing competition was apparently not so memorable, based on the small number of calls and emails we received last week.

It was Linda Mariner who supplied us with the approximate date the picture was taken. “This was Waynesburg’s summer playground program, and I was the arts and crafts director then,” Mariner said. More than 200 kids were involved in the program each year, with morning and evening sessions running for 10 weeks.

Mariner and several other readers were able to identify the man in the hat as the late Mike Baker, longtime head football coach at Waynesburg High School, where he taught math. He directed the playground program for many years.

“My dad coached the football team from the mid ’50s to the mid ’70s and then became athletic director,” said Baker’s son, Barry. “He was assistant basketball coach and helped out with track.” Coach Baker’s team played two WPIAL championship games, losing to powerhouse Braddock both times. Baker died in 2004.

Mariner and Barry Baker were also able to identify the young woman standing next to the coach. Sherry Fritz was involved in the summer program while a college student. She married Paul Wright of Waynesburg and went on to teach in State College. Both Mariner and Mrs. Wright have retired from teaching.

Judy Lewis Price wrote in an email that she thinks she is the girl on the far left and that her sister agrees. She was 15 years old in 1969. Price thinks the boy in the ball cap is Allen Hill, and Baker agrees, but the other two youngsters remain unknown.

The borough still runs a summer playground program. It’s held at Central Playground off Greene Street – the same location. Chances are the bubble-blowing contest has gone by the wayside, however.

Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’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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