tv [untitled] June 17, 2012 12:30pm-1:00pm EDT
easier in the way that you had to make it happen. the fact that the rules were the way they were, it was so unfair. and that's what mr. albert said to me, well, this is just an unspoken rule. and then there were the whole problems of where are you going to stay and who's going to watch over you. heaven knows you're a girl and you can't possibly do that for yourself. now, i'm about to go off to college at university in the months down the road. so i already better be able to do that. my father was a little bit offended asking him to sign a release saying that i was on my own recognizant, nobody was responsible for me and they didn't ask the boy pages for any of that, either. so he was very upset with that. but i was already 18. so he was okay with that. we can go ahead with this. it was so great to get here. it was the summer of 1973. we had the watergate hearings. we were dealing with all of that kind of stuff.
and i came here from such a tiny little town in rural, oklahoma, and here are these kids vying for newspapers in the cloak room. and i just -- my whole eyes were open to what an incredible new experience this was in this beautiful new city that was glaring and full of energy and important people, lots of people. people from everywhere, different colores and religions and everything i hadn't seen before. and the whole experience changed my life. it was a really incredible, fun thing. and when you're asking can you run faster than boys, the question should have been can you run faster than congressman. anyway, it was -- it was quite the experience. as i said earlier, i am working on a book. some of these things i won't discuss here. but are some fun stories about that whole experience. just the experience of being in the whole capitol building without anybody else there but the pages and walking around in
the building and being able to be a part of history is just an amazing thing. and i think it's such a sad, sad thing that pelosi and some of the others have decided that this program isn't worthwhile. and i think that i will do what i can do to reverse that, if we can. i know that congressman boren is also from oklahoma and he's also signed papers to try to get this thing to move along. but it does change our lives. even if you weren't the first. i recently had the opportunity to speak to the pages, not this last spring but a year ago, and talked with them. at the end of that, i had the opportunity to ask them some questions. and so i picked a girl and i said, tell me, how did you get to be a page? she said, oh, my congresswoman called me up and said, do you want to be one? and i'm going, yeah, finally. finally. and so, anyway, good things have happened. and that's kind of how i got to be here.
and it's been a life chapging experience and i've met some really terrific people. have of them are right here. >> well, i'm a little bit out of place. i was not a page. i don't have any of my own stories to tell. i did research on the history of the program and did some 50 or 60 interviews of pages going all the way back to the 1920s. so any story i have to tell is not my own. they are other people's stories. i guess i could tell my own. they're not that interesting. the stories i know from the pages in the '30s, '40s and '50s, most of them i can't repeat. i'm here more as to provide a historical background to some of the stuff that's going on here. and i think the three people to the right are wonderful examples of this country's equal rights movements, civil rights movements. they all have important places in the history of the country. i'm honored to be with them.
but very important stories and interesting stories. ellen, the story that you tell about the senate coming up with every excuse in the book to not appoint her, you know, they were having fashion shows, they were more concerned with what they were going to wear. and ellen, felda, you alluded to it a little bit, but you didn't say that senator percy had to sign a letter saying that he was responsible for your wellbeing and safety. in order to appoint you, even after all the things that you went through, which was important. and no boy had to do that. so, you know, a panel of firsts, i can talk about the first senate page, the first house page, the first supreme court page, the first girl's basketball game, the first christmas dinner, whatever, the first this or the first that,
the first person to have 12 letters in their name to be appointed in the month of march. i don't know what people are interested in. i'll turn it back to the panel and maybe open it up for questions. >> well, let me start off with one question. what did you do as a page? what were your assignments? what did you find most challenging? what did you like best? now, frank, your -- your biography, you worked in the republican cloak room. was that a different kind of assignment from some of your other colleagues? >> yes, it was. primarily, i didn't have to run to get cigarettes or coffee or things like that. pretty much just answer phones or make phone calls for the member. initially, the challenge was just to -- and it was a fairly small minority at that time. i only had to memorize the names
and faces of maybe 140 congressmen. if they had been the majority who appointed me, i'd have had to memorize, you know, considerably more. during that time, there were some very -- let me say this. there were some very interesting people in the house of representatives. gerald ford, who everyone knows became president a few years later, but he was not the most interesting. there was a guy named h.r. gross from iowa. h.r. was kind of the -- he would keep the house honest. he was grammarian. if you missed crossing the t or dotting an i, if you have a preposition ending a sentence, if you split an infinity, h.r. would get the floor and make a
point to offer an amendment to correct that ghastly error. there were some other interesting -- i mean, people like bob dole was the congressman there and donald rumsfeld was a congressman then. al quee who later became governor of minnesota, john lindsay who later changed parties and became mayor of new york. it was just a host of people that mine the history books that, you know, i had the responsibility to answer phones. one time i got a call from ronald reagan, calling for gerald ford. you know, at the time, it's just part of your job. you don't put it into perspective. but later on it's like, that was pretty cool.
you know? >> in the senate, the setup was a little different. we sat on the floor and on either side of the providing officer and our jobs were to fetch water for senators who stood up to speak, attend their other needs. we would run trips from senator's office to senator's office and send out messages from the senate leadership to all of the senators on that side of the aisle. we had to memorize, as frank has alluded to, we had to know the senators by site. but we considered ourselves fairly busy. but there was plenty of time for pages play high jinks on each other. and i will cop to falling for being sent to fetch the congressional bill stretcher. however, i did not fall for being asked to find the congressional record player.
>> oh, i did that one. >> nor did i fall for going to find a bucket of steam on the fifth floor of an office building that had only four floors. >> there were plenty of antics. we would sit on the back page allocated area by the cloak rooms. and the phones would all light up. you have to go to this and the up. you have to go to this congressional office and go do this and take this there. we were literally running all over the place. and we had more than a hundred senators to learn faces for. but when i came to washington, this was in the mid '70s and early '70s and i had platform shoes. bad idea. after a week of running in those shoes and having terrible, terrible blisters, maryward, who is charlie's wife, charlie
worked with mr. albert's administrative assistant and i stayed with them for the first couple of weeks while i was here. i would come home with these horrible feet. one day she showed up with shoes that were ugly crepe and i kissed her. thank you. literally, we were walking everywhere. our feet were miserably, horribly tired. and it was. we were physically walking all over the place. weld put the folder into the congressional document. it was a thick, paper document. and then after that, the day would begin. that was going into all of the members of congress off and meeting their people and knowing oh, this office was going to look like this and it was decorated to their state's things. it was a good experience to get to know the people who worked in those offices. it was a great experience. yeah, we did a lot of running. >> i would say, too, you mentioned the level of mischief in congress. in the 1800s and certainly into the 1900s, '30s, '40s and' 50s,
pages and members conspired to play practical jokes on each other, just incredible things. you know, finding members around the capital sleeping and they spread glue on their faces. so it's not the pages doing it, it's the other members enlisting the pages. you know, just the bill stretcher, that story goes back at least to the '30s, i think. i heard that over and over and over. so these traditions inside the capitol carried on through the generations. so i just wanted to mention that. any question i'm going to ask today i'm going to say, it's in my book. >> one of the things about the cloakroom in the years i was there and probably the two of you, there were huge, plush couches lining this l-shaped room that any of the members -- and sometimes there was a rush to get to one.
they would just come back and sleep on these couches. they were very comfortable. of course, sometimes the pages when the congress was out of session would sleep on there, too. but that's changed, among a lot of other things. now, there's no longer those big, plush couches. they removed them probably for that very reason. >> okay. let's throw it open to you and the audience now. if you have a question or a comment you'd like to make, please make your way to the mike the row phone. i know we have many former pages here. so if you'd identify yourself and perhaps your class. don't be bashful. i know you have stories to share with us, too. don't everyone get up at once. so while you're thinking, let's move onto another question. the pages on this panel have all had successful careers after you
were congressional pages. and many congressional pages -- and daryl can fill us in on this -- historically have gone onto have greater careers. many members of congress served as congressional pages. why do you think many have gone on to such success and probably served as business, academia and the media? did your experience as a capital page give you a leg up or was it something else? in other words, maybe what i'm really trying to get at is what did you take away from your experiences as a capitol page? well, we were having the opportunity to talk about this before the panel started. and for me, personally, i knew i was going to go to an undergraduate school, for sure. but having had that experience and seeing the world as a
different place made me absolutely want to learn more and go more places. i never really had the drive to go into politics. but that doesn't mean that that didn't work for me. it ment that that experience changed me into a worldly globally thinking person. and i think that's just as important as running for congress or being part of the pta or any of those other things which make you cognizant of what's going on around you. and we were having so -- ellen, were you going to say anything? >> i would underscore what felda pointed out. i think it heightens your awareness of how the legislative process works, how you are just as -- as the people that aren't in it and how you have a responsibility to serve your community, invest back in your community and do good wherever you see it can be done. >> i did enter politics.
after my experience. i ran for student council president my senior year in springfield, illinois, and i won. and that, other than volunteering for a campaign here and there, was the end of my political career. but it makes -- when you've taken -- for me, when you're taken messages or had a donald rumsfeld demand you get this done right now, there's not a whole lot in the world that can challenge you and make you afraid. if you say, yes, sir, mr. rumsfeld and then you get it done, you're going to be able to say that to miss or mrs. or mrs. or anybody. so it gives you a confidence that you belong. when i returned after some
college to springfield, my local newspaper actually offered me a job reporting. i said, but i haven't finished my degree yet. they said, we'll teach you. and they did. i did obits, obituaries, i did the hog report, sports, education, police beat, everything. and when i went around with every reporter and every person on the desk and all the people on the staff in the news room, they said, okay, you're right. we're going to assign you to city hall in springfield. and then i went onto be assigned to the courthouse and then the state legislature. so that was -- for me, it felt like a natural transition to do that, to become a reporter from being a page. and having the congressional experience that i had.
it was me a wealth of knowledge that some of the pooem kids -- i said kids. some of the people that had went on to undergraduate school and school in journalist didn't have. it was a real world experience that i sometimes regret having not completed that degree, but, you know, at my age, i don't worry about it so much any more. >> i can't talk about first hand experience, but i can at all talk about 12 years at the page school and numerous pages that the guys who are 70 and 80 years old, they say that the page experience is the most important, most formative experience of their lives and they hold on to that experience. they gain an experience for what it means to be an american. and one of the things i tried to teach at page school was what does democracy do for us? what does it give us? but, also, what does it demand
of us? you have to give back to democracy for it to sustain itself. and to make it better. so you give back to your community. and i saw kids transformed because of the program. wanting to become involved in the life and just changing their lives for the good and making the country a better place. yes, they got to see how laws were made. but i think the real difference is they went back to the communities and tried to create change and be leaders in their own community. and i saw that time after time after time in addition to talking to all the other people. i look out in the audience, i see vance sitting there, it's a perfect example of someone who holds on to that experience. you know, i don't think the value of the program can be measured in dollars and sense. it's in stories like the ones that are told by the people around you in the audience.
and so it's sad that fewer people are going to be able to have that chance now. >> well, if we have no more questions from the audience, let me go to pick up on what daryl just concluded with. both the supreme court and the house page programs are now defunct. is this a good thing or a bad thing? is this a loss to the country? what has the page -- what system provided to congress and to the institutions that it has served? any comments from the panels? >> well, i think you step up when you see a void in your community and in your circle. you step up and you try to fill that void. when something needs to be done. whether it's -- i mean, i was at
my nephew's son's christening on sunday in detroit. christining on sunday in detroit. and i'm a cigar smoker. so after the service, i found me a little spot in the shade away from the church and everything. and was smoking my cigar. waiting on my nephew and family an i noti and i noticed that some debris had blown over on to the church yard. i went over and picked it up and put it in the trash. meantime, my nephew came out looking for me, didn't see me and got in the truck and drove off. it's not so much that i want any kind of pat on the back for picking up trash at a church i'll probably never see again but you just do things. i coached football, junior football or -- yeah.
junior football, church basketball at 22, 23 years old. i volunteered -- i was working the phone company and these kids were working on a history day project where the finalists are sent here to washington, d.c. to compete on a national history day level and i work with these kids to produce a videotape and i think -- if i can remember, it's been 10-some years ago, i think they finished third or fourth nationally. it wasn't anything i got paid for. it was just something i felt needed to be done because it was going to affect the six or eight kids' lives. or raising money for scholarships. you just do things like that. and i'm not saying the page program does something magical for you but it puts a feeling of
responsibility in your heart that may have already been there but it sure helps it grow. >> i can think of a very specific example of how the legacy of working in congress. and that is, if you look at capitol hill as the big government, congressional page school was the little government inside. and we acted out the lessons that we learned on the hill in our own student government. the first day of school, the campaign started. with classmates looking around the room and making hash marks on a piece of paper. he was counting the votes. how many high school student governments do you know of have their own parliamentarian? ours did. i don't know -- i can't remembe nature fills a vacuum so i'm sure he did. we left work, went to school and did the same thing.
>> yes, we have a -- >> is there one favorite story from your experience that you might like to share with us each? >> i have one. and this has to do, a fellow alluded to the legislation that was happening at the time. one of my starkest memories is the lockheed aircraft loan in 1971. and the issue was, lockheed was going broke, $60,000 were at stake. 60,000 jobs were at stake and this was a little stimulus package that the republicans thought was a really, really swell idea. it's interesting to reflect on how times have changed. >> i don't know how interesting it is, but one afternoon a man
from the american nazi party handcuffed himself to the balcony. and threw out some very racist literature. and everyone kind of -- after everybody picked it up and kind of read it and the guards removing did guy from up in the balcony, everyone kind of looked at me but nobody asked me, you know, what i thought about it or made me feel uncomfortable about it at all which, again, i just -- i'm not sure who coached them or whether it was good, home training but it was interesting. >> i have a favorite story. bella abzug was one of my favorite people ever and i remember being this 18-year-old on the floor of the house and here she comes in the big flower house with the big floppy hat
and she delivers herself of a speech how it's unfair for women poor not to be given money for abortions. and she went through the math. she says it is not just about that it's going to cost out $100 for this abortion. it's going to cost us $250 for the delivery and if this is an unwanted child it may cost us 18 years of support for it and cost us money for adjudication and incarceration and all those kind of things and standing there as a kid and saying this woman is so together and she was an amazing woman to me and it was just a time when the women who were there were very impressive women and she was a very important woman to me. >> my favorite story comes from joe bartlett, who was a page in the mid to late '40s and he told stories of the pages would be the first ones in the capitol to go to school and so they would turn the lights on in the hallways down in the basement of the capitol and at the time it
was very damp down there and, again, nobody had been there overnight and first ones there in the morning and see the rats scatter. so joe tells the story that it got to a point where they had to put a page in charge of catching rats to get rid of the rats and so he was -- and he was paid by the rat -- every rat he got -- and so, they noticed that after a while he was catching lots an lots of rats and making lots of money yet the population was still going up. and nobody could figure out what was going on and realized he was breeding rats. so -- talk about mischief in the capitol. on the more serious side, some of the story that is are my favorites are stories of -- well, let me take a step back. typically in the spring the president and first lady would host pages at the white house for lunch and a movie for many, many years and the stories of
the page boys going to the white house during that time when eleanor roosevelt was there are especially touching because the stories i heard, they remember every detail about those stories but especially the way eleanor roosevelt treated them with such graciousness and making them feel at home inside the white house. and that's, you know, those stories are just touching for me to hear because eleanor roosevelt was such a gracious lady. >> i have one more quick one. francis bolton was a congresswoman from ohio and she was just -- first of all, she was extremely wealthy. she had taken her husband's place when he passed in congress and repeatedly re-elected. but she would come when they would have long debates like that would run literally all night. the pages would be just -- just
dragging. you know, the phones aren't ringing. it's 2:00 in the morning. and they're just -- we're sitting in there like that. she'd come in with the fur thrown over her shoulder. boys! you guys look like a motley crue. come on. sit up. sit up. we need to do some deep breathing exercises. close your eyes. start at your head. relax your head. relax your neck. relax your shoulders and we'd go all the way down the anatomy and back up. and it was just -- this is a member of congress telling us to do relaxation exercises with us. >> i have another quick one, too. the summer that i was a page, it was 1973 and that was the summer that wayne hayes on the ethics committee was having his rumble with fay -- no. who was it? yes. yes. elizabeth -- yes.
and we were just like ah. all of the scandal. it was just like that summer of everything. you know? who knew? >> another thing i remember is a story, pages sometimes were invited to high society events in washington. and one story, i can't remember the woman's name who used to own the hope diamond but invited page boys to her party and in between bites of fried chicken, the pages passing around the hope diamond looking at it and just passing it alone so, you know, talk about opportunities that people don't get. >> okay. we have another question. >> i was -- i was a page in the '80s and at that time it was pretty clear over time you really figured it out over time. there wasn't a rule out but the girls weren't allowed to do some of the jobs that the boys were allowed to. did you all see that, as well? even once you got in the door. were you able to do everything that was