Mystery Photo No. 66

July 13, 2014

Jim Thornton, a writer and photographer in Wheeling, W.Va., bought a stack of 4-by-5-inch negatives at a flea market a while ago. He scanned them and discovered many of the photos were of scenes in downtown Washington in the 1950s. He guessed the pictures were taken by a professional photographer but had no clue who that person might be.

Thornton donated his archive of nearly 200 digital images made from the negatives to the Observer-Reporter in hope the people and events in the photos – and the photographer who took them – might someday be identified and their part in the city’s history preserved.

Today’s Mystery Photo is one of many images of downtown theaters in the collection. We know that it dates to 1956 from the films on the marquee of the State Theatre, which was on the west side of North Main Street. “Backlash,” starring Donna Reed and Richard Widmark, and “Square Jungle” with Tony Curtis were released in 1956. We think the convertible parked out front is a 1956 Pontiac, as well.

What we don’t know are the identities of the two men and young woman at the center of the photo, the event that was causing so much attention and, of course, who took the photo.

It’s more than likely some of our readers can recall going to the movies in Washington in the 1950s and might recognize what was happening.

If you think you can help us solve this puzzle, email Park Burroughs, retired executive editor, at, or call and leave a message for him along with your telephone number at 724-222-2200, extension 2400. With a little luck and some assistance, we may be able to tell the story of this photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.



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