During their time on Capitol Hill many of the pages also had “our first drunks,” says Kanjorski, noting the amount of free-flowing alcohol at the various events they attended. He quickly adds: “I don’t want to suggest we were a bunch of drunks.”
Of course, all that freedom sometimes came with a downside. Cooper “nearly got lost” while exploring the then-under construction Washington National Cathedral — alone — during a lazy Sunday afternoon in 1970. Worse still, when Cooper finally made his way back to safety, he was locked in. “No tourists would help me,” he recalls. Luckily, his guide eventually returned to free him.
Given that 1950s pages were “very much involved in the Washington scene” and frequently were required to escort prominent young ladies to functions around town, Kanjorski says: “A lot of us had our first falling in love experience at that time.” For a while, he dated the niece of then-Attorney General Herbert Brownell. (Not long after Kanjorski left page school for college, “she dated my best friend, Bill Emerson,” he says.)
Kolbe, who has since come out as gay, says he and his fellow pages were viewed by teenage girls as “objects of adulation” at the time. They often would send messages to “good-looking” tourist girls in the Senate gallery.
Meanwhile, Boren, who served as a Senate page long after girls were first admitted, was sweet on a fellow female page from Savannah, Ga. “I was a year or two younger than her. It never did materialize, but I did have a big crush,” he says.
Bright Young Things Serving as a House page “probably gave me the first idea that perhaps I could do this job,” says Wicker, who, in a neat historical turn, was appointed a page by then-Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-Miss.), the very man he would later succeed in Congress.
For the then-young political junkie Kanjorski, who had “always known [he] wanted to be in office” and had memorized the names of obscure governors rather than baseball statistics, the experience served to ground him “in everything the Capitol was about and the Congress was about.”
Moreover, the friends and contacts Kanjorski made certainly gave him a leg-up as he advanced in his political career. For instance, the moderate Republican politician Harold Stassen, then in the Eisenhower administration, befriended Kanjorski and would “mentor” him for years in a variety of campaign jobs.
Emerson, a Republican who already was in office when the Democratic Kanjorski was elected to the House in 1984, was “most helpful in introducing me to the people in Washington who have significant capacity to contribute money.” Ex-Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.), another fellow page, also helped Kanjorski fill his campaign coffers.
“Sometimes they remember you,” Davis says of the network of friends he developed then. He says one of his “big contributors in Prince William County” worked the Capitol elevators back when he was a Senate page.
But Cooper remains skeptical about the influence of the program on his and other pages’ future lives. “It could be becoming a bit of an anachronism,” he says. “How is errand running going to help? That’s more proximity than real contact.”
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.