Mental Floss

Where Are They Now? Famous Photos Edition

Kara Kovalchik
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The Unsuspecting Nurse

On June 20, Edith Shain passed away at age 91. Mrs. Shain is widely believed to have been the unsuspecting nurse being kissed in the famous photo snapped by Alfred Eisenstaedt in New York City on V-J Day. The identity of the sailor in the photo is still in dispute, but of all the women who have claimed to be the woman, Eisenstaedt believed that Shain was the most likely candidate.

Edith Shain moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, where she taught kindergarten for the next 30 years. She continued to take part in WWII commemorative events and Veteran's Day activities throughout the rest of her life.

The Officer and the 2-Year-Old

Cullinane worked his way up the ranks and was appointed Washington D.C.'s Chief of Police in 1974. He retired in 1978 and later moved to Florida. As a teen, Allen Weaver worked for a while at Georgia's Six Flags amusement park before heading west with his family to California.

The Olympic Protesters

Prior to heading to Mexico City for the 1968 Olympic Games, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos met with Harry Edwards, a friend of theirs from San Jose State University. Edwards had formed the Olympic Project for Human Rights and was encouraging all African-American athletes to boycott the Olympics in order to protest the slow pace at which the civil rights movement seemed to be moving.

The boycott didn't work out, but after Smith won the gold medal and Carlos the bronze in the 200 meter race, the pair sat in an anteroom for an hour before the medal ceremony. Silver medalist Peter Norman from Australia was also present and expressed an interest in the non-violent protest they were discussing. One plan was for the duo to wear black gloves during the National Anthem, but they only had one pair of gloves between them. Norman suggested that they each wear one glove on one hand, which is why the two are raising different fists in the photograph.

However, at the press conference after the medal ceremony, Smith had a more elaborate explanation of all the symbolism in their pose. Smith said he had raised his right fist to represent black power in America, while Carlos raised his left fist to represent black unity. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. He said the black scarf around his neck represented black pride and the black socks with no shoes stood for black poverty in racist America. Peter Norman didn't raise a fist and kept his shoes on, but he did wear an OPHR button on his track suit.

In the years after the protest, both Smith and Carlos played professional sports for a while and then went on to successful corporate careers in the private sector. Peter Norman received harsh criticism from the press and public when he returned to Australia (simply for wearing the OPHR badge) and 32 years later wasn't invited to participate in any of the ceremonies surrounding the 2000 Games in Sydney. He died of a heart attack in 2006, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos both served as pallbearers at his funeral.

The POW and His Family

Air Force fighter pilot Lt. Col. Robert Stirm had been shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent the next six years being tortured in various North Vietnamese prison camps, including the notorious Hanoi Hilton. He was released in March 1973 as part of a POW exchange. His wife and four children were waiting for him on the tarmac at Travis Air Force Base in California. A phalanx of press photographers were also nearby taking photos of the POWs deplaning as part of "Operation: Homecoming."

Associated Press photographer Sal Veder saw a teen-aged girl sprinting toward the crowd with her arms spread wide, looking as though she was in flight. It was 15-year-old Lorrie Stirm, who was closely followed by her siblings and her mother. The Veder entitled the prize-winning photo he'd snapped "Burst of Joy."

But Stirm's homecoming was bittersweet; three days before arriving in California an Air Force chaplain handed him a letter from his wife. Loretta Stirm had fallen in love with another man during his imprisonment and was divorcing him. Robert Stirm retired from the Air Force as a colonel and worked as a corporate pilot until he retired at age 72. All four of his children are grown and have families of their own, and each one has a framed copy of "Burst of Joy" hanging in their homes. But Col. Stirm has said he still can't bring himself to display his copy.

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