By Ron Robertson, House, 1962
In the fall of 1961, I was a senior in high school in Bell, Calif., newly transplanted from Kansas. I read an article about Pages in the House of Representatives in my government class textbook, and asked my instructor about it. He in turn challenged me to make the Page system a topic of a required class paper due that semester.
Being a relatively recent California resident and not from a family that followed politics, I first had to find out who my Congressman was. I sent a letter to him, Clyde Doyle, 23rd District, inquiring about Pages. His staff sent me a packet of information, including Capitol Page School. Much to my surprise – because I hadn’t asked for it — the packet also included an actual application for a Page appointment.
I decided to submit the application, including high school transcripts and letters of recommendation, because I thought being able to describe the Page selection process would enhance my paper and the chance for a good grade. I assumed nothing would come of it as the position was probably already filled. So imagine my further surprise at being contacted by Rep. Doyle’s office for a phone interview, followed by a home interview and finally, an interview with the Congressman (whom I had never met) and his staff.
Over the next few weeks, I heard nothing from Rep. Doyle, but finished the paper and turned it in. Then on Friday, December 15, the last day of school before Christmas vacation, I received a telegram at school. The telegram announced my Page appointment. I was instructed to report to the House Chief Page on January 4, 1962. I don’t know if there is any connection, but I did receive an “A” on the paper.
1962 was a busy and interesting year in the nation’s capitol. It began for me with President Kennedy’s “State of the Union” and installation of new House Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts. During the year, joint sessions were held with astronaut John Glenn, the Shah of Iran and the President of Brazil. Along the way, I had the opportunity to meet President and Mrs. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, past Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, future President Gerald Ford and too many Congressmen and Senators to count. Actors Jim Backus, Johnnie Crawford and Charleston Heston also visited Congress.
At CPS, I was co-editor of the Capitol Courier newspaper, reporter for the yearbook, and a member of the Journalism club. I was inducted into the National Honor Society and received athletic and academic letters. I had been a Boy Scout in California, and while in Washington was a founding member of a new U.S. House Explorer Scout Post, which was recognized by President Kennedy. On June 12, 1962, my class and I received presidential high school graduation certificates from the President at a ceremony in the White House West Wing. Kennedy had incredible charisma and it was a lifetime experience beyond compare.
While in Washington, I gained a little extra notoriety back in California. One of the reporters for the Huntington Signal regularly published my “Letters from Washington” recounting my experiences on the Hill and working with the political elite.
One anecdote I shared was witnessing an encounter between the press and Rep. Carl Vinson of Georgia. Vinson was Chairman of both the Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, but was being badgered about any “higher ambitions” in government. “Wouldn’t you be interested in moving down to Pennsylvania Avenue (i.e., the White House)?” the reporter asked. In his delicious Southern accent, Vinson responded, “Nope. I’m perfectly happy running the Capitol from right here!”
Politics at Home
Rep. Doyle instilled in me the importance of getting involved in local politics as a way to really have a positive impact, even if I personally never ran for office. Back in California, I made several presentations at area high schools, describing my Page experience and encouraging young people to get interested and get involved in government. Since that was before the voting age was 18, I don’t know if I had an immediate impact on young people, but it sure was fun to talk about being a Page.
Personally, I worked on Rep. Doyle’s re-election campaign in the fall of 1962 and continued to stay involved in local politics. In fact, one of my first dates with my wife-to-be, Linda, was working our precinct the evening before Election Day. Although it proved to be a successful effort and virtually all of our candidates won, I sensed that Linda wasn’t enjoying the experience. Later over pie and coffee, she asked if I worked the precincts “all the time.” She was relieved to learn that I didn’t do it regularly!
Over the years, Linda and I have hosted many political coffees in our home to help voters and candidates meet each other. No office is too large or small to matter – we’ve had Congressmen, state, county and city candidates attend.
Rep. Doyle closed every letter to a constituent with the following words: “Our beloved nation deserves the best of whatever we are.” He always gave his best and truly lived by those words.
I have tried to as well.
After Washington, Ron earned a degree in Business Management at Fullerton College in California. He went on to a successful 45-year sales and management career in the paint and coatings industry, and retired as the National Sales Manager of a regional paint company in southern California. He was also Vice President of Industry Activities at the National Decorating Products Association in St. Louis, Mo., and represented the association before state and federal government agencies. He and his wife Linda live in Escondido, Calif., and he is thrilled to see his byline in the Capitol Courier once again.