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Audio

  • Answering Phones in the Democratic Cloakroom

    Recollections of the duties of a House Page during the 1950s.
    Interview recorded October 20, 2005 – View transcript

    Full Text: Answering Phones in the Democratic Cloakroom

    [close]

    I answered the phones. We had a battery of, I think, around 17 phones, if I remember correctly. They were all in phone booths, all lined along the wall in the cloakroom. Our job was to answer the phones, and the congressional offices would call and want to have a Page sent down to the document room, pick up documents, and take them over to the office, or have a Page sent to various offices, and run those type of errands. So we wrote it up on a pad, and brought it out to the head Page there behind the desk, and he would assign the runners—we called those “bench Pages.” And he’d sign the run to those boys.

    That was pretty much my job and then also during the session when the House was in session, Congressmen’s offices and constituents would call, and they’d want to talk to the Congressmen. And so, we had to know the Members of Congress. We were given a book—a photo book—with their name and address, and their office number, and we had to memorize all of that information, and be able to spot the Congressmen very, very quickly. So we’ll walk up onto the back of the House, and look down across—all we could see was backs of Congressmen’s heads—and had to be able to spot the Congressman from that way. We got to the point where we were used to looking for a particular Congressman—he had his favorite seat—and we would usually find him in a particular general, generally located in one particular area. Quite often being on the Democratic side, the New York delegation, they liked to sit in a particular area, and the Alabama delegation, they liked to sit in another area. And so, I would go out there and say, “Congressman Jones, your office wants to speak to you.” Then escort him back there, and I would be back to the phone before he would get there, and our job was to do the courteous thing of handing him the phone because there’s 17 phone booths there; he didn’t know which one it was, and I’d make sure that he was ushered to that phone and hand him the phone and close the door.

  • Eyewitness to History

    Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.
    Interview recorded October 20, 2005 – View transcript

    Full Text: Eyewitness to History

    [close]
    GOODWIN:
    And it was just quiet. And as I was standing there in the archway—it goes from the Chamber to the Democratic Cloakroom by the phones there, where I was assigned—I was just standing there, looking. And because it was quiet, I was just looking around, and I looked directly across from me, kitty-corner—of course that’s in the corner of the Chamber—kitty-corner from me on the other side, the Republican side, up in the Gallery, I saw these people standing up. And that attracted my attention; the movement up there just attracted my attention. I looked up, and a tall man in a dark suit, he stood up, and he reached inside of his suit, and he pulled out a gun. I was looking right at him when he pulled that gun out.
    JOHNSON:
    So you saw this before it even started?
    GOODWIN:
    I saw it before it even started. And he pulled out the gun, and I was looking at him, and I couldn’t believe it. He’s pulling out a gun! And this is—how many yards across is that? It’s nearly 100 yards across there. It’s a huge chamber. And I could see it, he had a gun in his hand. And he pulled it out, and he started shooting. He just wasn’t aiming at anybody in particular. He was just spraying the place with bullets. The second fella that was with him was in a light blue suit, he stood up, and he pulled out a gun and started shooting, also. And a lot of guys thought it was firecrackers, but I knew it wasn’t firecrackers, because I was looking at the guns. And then, a lot of the Members of Congress and everybody else was hitting the floor, and the others did what I did: just stood there with their mouth hanging open. I didn’t have sense enough to duck. And I could hear two bullets land right to my right, just above Bill Emerson. Bill Emerson was sitting right to my right, I’d say about eight feet to my right. And a bullet landed in the wall right above his head, about four or five feet above his head. Another bullet landed in the wall over where a bench Page was sitting. I didn’t, of course, didn’t see the bullets land. I heard them hit.
  • Famous 1954 Photograph

    Detailed description of a photograph taken on March 1, 1954, in which House Pages are bearing a stretcher carrying wounded Michigan Congressman Alvin Bentley down the steps of the Capitol to a waiting ambulance.
    Interview recorded October 20, 2005 – View transcript

    Full Text: Famous 1954 Photograph

    [close]
    GOODWIN:
    I remember—I remember that there were a lot of photos taken. In fact, the Capitol Police, they were requesting that no photos be taken. Well, in circumstances like that, it was pretty tough to keep the press from clicking their cameras, and can’t blame them, of course. But they said, “No photos, no photos.” And I remember Bill Emerson—in fact, in that famous photo there, that’s what Bill’s doing there. He’s got his mouth wide open, and he’s pointing, and he’s yelling at the photographer, “No photos!” And that’s exactly what he was yelling. I’m just standing there with—one of the guys is saying, “Leave it up to Bill to carry the full load.” And Bill Emerson, he was talking about me. See, I got both my arms on it [the stretcher], I was carrying most of the load of it.
    JOHNSON:
    Right. {laughter}
    GOODWIN:
    And Emerson, he’s just touching it, but we just teased each other about that. But that’s what that was about. Bill was hollering at the photographer not to take photos, but you can’t, it’s like trying to stop a charging elephant. You can’t do that.
    JOHNSON:
    Right.
    GOODWIN:
    We were coming down the Capitol steps, and of course it’s freedom. I was told later on that that was…that photo was the most repeated photo of 1954, or the most well known photo of 1954.
  • First Days as a House Page

    Memories of coming to Washington, D.C. and the first few days as a House Page in 1953.
    Interview recorded October 20, 2005 – View transcript

    Full Text: First Days as a House Page

    [close]

    Well, I remember not so much the first—I remember the first day, but before that, I remember jumping on the train in Detroit, which was the first time I’d ever been on a train in my life, and I thought that was really an experience. And I came down here. Thinking back, we were poor, and I had an old, beat-up metal suitcase I remember my mother had, and I was instructed to come down here with a blue suit, and a black tie, and a white shirt, and black socks, and shoes, and be equipped that way for the job. So I came down here, and I reported to Mr. Dondero’s office; those were my instructions when I got off the train at Union Station—and Mr. Dondero—I left my dead, old, beat-up suitcase, I remember, in his office, and he brought me over to the Capitol building, introduced me to the Doorkeeper of the House, and introduced me to Turner Robertson, and they assigned me to the Democratic side of the House of Representatives. My first day was just meeting the other Pages, and I remember there was a Page who had been here a couple of years. His name was Oliver Furlong, and he kind of took me under his wing. He took me over to a rooming house over on Maryland Avenue, a couple of places, in fact—there was a couple of places—looking for rooms, because in those days, the Pages were just—wherever they could find housing. Rooming houses…A couple of them had apartments, I know. Some of them actually were living with their parents in the area, in the D.C. and Virginia-Maryland area. But those of us who were from out of town, we had to fend for ourselves. And they had rooming houses up and down Maryland Avenue and other streets near the Capitol building. So I located a room, and I had a roommate by the name of Joe Hillings, whose brother was a Member of Congress at the time, and he appointed Joe. We became roommates for the first year, down here on Maryland Avenue: 218 Maryland Avenue. I remember that. Not very far. Within walking distance, within sight of the Capitol building, and within sight of the Supreme Court. I remember that. That was pretty much my first day on the job: just getting acquainted, and they were showing me the ropes around the building—around the Capitol building—what my job was going to be.

Video

  • Arriving at the Capitol

    Memories of arriving at the Capitol for Page service in 1953.
    Interview recorded November 2, 2009

  • Recollections of the 1954 Shooting in the House Chamber: Part One

    Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.
    Interview recorded November 2, 2009

  • Recollections of the 1954 Shooting in the House Chamber: Part Two

    Eyewitness account of the shooting in the House Chamber on March 1, 1954.
    Interview recorded November 2, 2009

  • Singing in the House Chamber

    Recollections of the frivolity on the House Floor before adjournment of the first session of the 84th Congress (1955–1957).
    Interview recorded November 2, 2009

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