50 Years Later, Pages Reunite
1954 House Pages Hoping to Hold Capitol Hill Homecoming
They played basketball with future Supreme Court Justice Byron White. Eddie Fisher sang at their school dance. They helped save lives after one of the only shootings ever to take place in the House gallery.
The members of the Congressional page class of 1954 saw firsthand some of the biggest names — and biggest events — in 1950s politics. This September, the 18 surviving alumni from the class of 1954, along with members from other 1950s classes, are expected to gather in Washington for a reunion to commemorate their 50th anniversary as pages.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a good two, three days where we can share some stories,” said Altho “Jack” Allen, one of the pages who helped organize the reunion. “We’re really looking forward to seeing what each other looks like.”
The former pages spent their teenage years studying the U.S. government up close while still in high school. In the morning, the group attended class and during the day they served on the chamber floor.
“We didn’t know much about the government,” said page alumnus George Trumpore. “I don’t think we really appreciated some of the things we saw. We did learn a lot.”
Exact plans for the reunion have not yet been finalized, but tentatively the group is expected to spend a few days touring the Capitol and the page school, along with having a few meals together.
The idea for the reunion began in the mid-1990s after Allen and his wife visited Washington. There, Allen met with now-deceased Rep. Bill Emerson (R-Mo.), a former page who graduated in 1955, and the idea for a reunion came about, he said.
Soon after, Allen got in contact with fellow alum Allan Smith, and, with the help of longtime Republican Cloakroom Supervisor Jim Oliver, the two hit the phones and the Internet trying to contact fellow pages.
One of the pages Allen and Smith found was Trumpore, who helped with the search. Trumpore located eight other pages, and soon they found everyone.
“I haven’t seen these fellows in 50 years,” Smith said. “We just kinda like to get together.”
Page reunions happen frequently, Oliver said, but this is the oldest and biggest collection of pages getting together that he is aware of.
Many of the pages have already reconnected on the phone and Internet.
“I know already it’s brought some of us closer,” Trumpore said. “We had people in our own backyard and never even knew they were there.”
One of the most memorable events for the pages happened March 1, 1954, after four Puerto Rican extremists opened fire on the House gallery. Five Members of Congress were wounded in the attack.
Emerson and fellow page Paul Kanjorski, now a Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania, rushed to the aid of wounded Congressmen.
A photo of their action still hangs in the House Republican Cloakroom.
Allen, meanwhile, helped to get then-Speaker Joseph Martin (R-Mass.) out of the chamber following the shooting. Although he remembers the day well, other experiences are more important, Allen said.
“That was just a day, just a memory,” he said.
Other things stick out more vividly in his mind, Allen said. He remembers when Chief Justice Earl Warren spoke at the page school graduation, when he saw President Dwight Eisenhower up close and how he interacted with Members on a daily basis.
“Knowing these people,” he said, “kind of brings a chuckle to you every once in awhile.”
Allen said little things stick out in his mind as well, from the staffers who worked in the various Congressional offices, to his teachers at the page school and to Helen, who ran the snack bar.
“I still remember the sliced roast beef and cheese sandwiches she used to make,” he said. “They were heaven.”
Smith, who served as a page for the Supreme Court, watched as the arguments and verdict for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case went down in 1954. In some courtroom sketches from the case, he is seated in the courtroom near the justices.
Despite the difference in ranking, the pages were on a first-name basis with the justices, Smith said.
“It was the greatest experience of my life,” he said.
And remembering that experience is important, Allen said. “We kind of have a unique story to tell.”