“It sounded like a package of firecrackers had been set off,” he says. The only reason he realized it wasn’t was because he got sprayed with pulverized marble. Kanjorski “hit the floor” until the shots ended, he says, then leaped into action. Along with fellow page Bill Emerson — later a Republican House Member from Missouri — Kanjorski sent for gurneys and helped load injured Members onto ambulances, even riding along with one of the victims to the hospital.
Several of the pages-turned-Members who served in the early 1960s, such as Holt, Davis and Dodd, recall the high drama of the debates over civil rights legislation.
“I remember Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) and [Sen. Sam] Ervin (D-N.C.) ... in what was really a great debate,” says Holt, a Senate page during the summers of 1963 and 1964.
Some also had brushes with luminaries from Washington and Hollywood. Wicker, whose suitemate as a page was the future governor of Colorado, Bill Owens (R), was present the day doorkeeper Miller kicked Shirley Temple Black, the former child star who became a Republican Congressional candidate, out of the GOP House Cloakroom. (With certain exceptions, only Members, former Members, pages, Cloakroom staff and other aides with floor privileges are allowed in.) Wicker also took a night tour of the Capitol led by then-Senate Minority Leader Dirksen, as he was being trailed by cameras for one of the television networks.
Meanwhile, Kolbe, a Senate page from January to July 1958 and from January 1959 to June 1960, remembers getting coffee for then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Kolbe also witnessed the hoopla that surrounded the January 1959 arrival of Jim Johnson, the young man who would have been Congress’ first black page. Upon arriving in Washington, Johnson was told there had been a mix-up and, as a result, no slot was available for him.
“In those days blacks were not permitted, and there was no pussyfooting around about it,” recalls Anderson, who also was a page at that time.
Johnson subsequently was hired to do work for other Members and attended the Capitol Page School, but he was not allowed to be an official page. It was not until the mid-1960s that the first black Congressional page was appointed.
Other Members were pages during tense times for the program, when the need for its very existence was being questioned.
Arkansas’ Pryor was a House page during the summer of 1982, when allegations, mostly unsubstantiated, of sexual misconduct and drug use led to investigations of the page program and provided the impetus for a major overhaul of the system. As a result, the Capitol Page School, which had educated both chambers’ pages, was dissolved. Separate page schools were created for each chamber, and supervised housing was implemented, along with more formalized requirements.
It was a “watershed” moment, says House GOP Cloakroom Assistant Manager Jim Oliver, who served as a page with both Wicker and Davis in the 1960s.
Oddly, Pryor says, “I don’t really remember that. I do remember that most of [the allegations] turned out to be bogus.”
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.