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Donald J. Detwiler: Senate Page (1917-1918)

Donald J. Detwiler
Senate Historical Office

“They were beautiful tubs.”

Interviewed by Senate Historian Richard Baker, Detwiler recalls pieces of Senate's material culture, including mahogany lockers in the cloakroom and marble bathtubs in the basement of the Capitol.

Baker: In the Senate chamber, some senators throughout the years have been known to have candy in their desks or comic books, or whiskey bottles. Were you ever aware of that? Was there a "candy desk" to which members and pages could go to refresh themselves?

Detwiler: In the Senate cloakroom there was a great vat full of ice and sparkling water and Poland water and White Rock ginger ale, but the senators kept their liquor in their lockers. Each senator had a mahogany locker with his name on it in the cloakroom. But, I don't think they had it in their desks. They could go into the cloakroom and take a glass off the shelf there and put some of the Poland Water into the glass and pour some of the whiskey in and make themselves a drink. But, I didn't see anything going on on the floor of the Senate. The pages weren't supposed to use the water, but I remember once in a while, Mr. Halsey would open a bottle and divide it with me.

Baker: When the Senate went out of session after a day's business, were you free to leave, or did you have special chores?

Detwiler: We had to be dismissed. We had to straighten up the senators' desks, but there wasn't much to do after they adjourned. The real work was before they went into session.

Baker: I want to ask you about those marble bathtubs down in the Capitol basement. Did you ever have any dealings with them?

Detwiler: There were big—big enough for Boies Penrose. They were beautiful tubs.

Baker: Did pages ever want to use them?

Detwiler: We never took a bath in them.

Baker: Could you if you had wanted to?

Detwiler: No. I don't think so. I never asked permission to.


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