Eight Honour Nurses Slain in 1966
A couple of days after his basement flooded, John Schmale finally mustered the energy to head downstairs and investigated the damage.
In the basement’s dim overhead light, a big, brown cardboard box caught his eye, a box so soggy its bottom was ready to fall out. He lugged it upstairs. He opened it.
Inside sat four square, off-white boxes labelled “Kodak,” and on top of them lay a sheet of thin pink paper. He instantly recognised his mother’s cursive handwriting.
With a rush of excitement and a pang of dread, he read her pencilled note: “Nina South Chicago Hospital.”
Nina. His little sister. One of eight young nurses killed in a Chicago townhouse on July 14, 1966, by a man who became notorious: Richard Speck.
“I don’t believe this,” Schmale said to his wife on that day half a century later, gazing inside the box. “What do I have here?”
What he had, in this mysterious box he had inherited when his father died, were four carousels of slides, many of them corroded, warped, mouldy, ravaged by water and time. He unearthed his ancient 35 mm slide projector, marvelled that the bulb still worked and began projecting images on a wall.
There, next to his kitchen near the village of Mahomet, 140 miles south of Chicago, the lost women flickered back to life.
Clicking from slide to slide, Schmale stepped into his sister’s vanished world. It was a world of hair curlers, hair spray cans, ashtrays, manual typewriters, textbooks, sheath dresses, corsages, cluttered rooms, a place where young women laughed, hugged, studied, ate, teased each other’s hair.
He couldn’t identify everyone he saw, but at the photo of the familiar woman in the familiar yellow two-piece bathing suit, he felt his heart clench.