MARCH 15, 1943
WASHINGTON, Sunday —Friday evening we saw a film called "The Human Comedy," by Saroyan. It is the real America but not the America of the usual movie and so I hope it will be shown in many parts of the world. Even though the hymns are unfamiliar, the boys' attitudes will ring true and it will be among the first simple, everyday pictures of American life to get through to many of the people of other countries.
I find films of this kind rather hard to bear—I suppose because the telegrams remind me of the letters that come over my desk from parents whose boys are missing or dead. Nevertheless, one must appreciate and enjoy something which is really fine even if one finds it somewhat sad.
I cannot help being very glad that I was asked to attend the Capitol page boys' commencement. It led to my asking them here for lunch and a movie on Saturday afternoon and I do not think I ever have seen a nicer group of youngsters. The ages are supposed to run from 12 to 16, though I think some boys remain on until they are 18 and go directly to college.
The boys take no examinations. They are simply appointed by Senators or Representatives. They carry on what I would consider a pretty heavy schedule, going to school every morning from 7.15 until the time their respective Houses open, and returning to school in the afternoon at whatever hour an adjournment comes. The principal of the school runs on a long schedule too, but he is the only teacher who remains from 7:15 a.m. until 8 p.m., when school closes. The other teachers are there off and on, depending on the number of boys and the hours at which they come in.
About 60 percent of the boys live with their families in Washington. Forty percent of them come from different parts of the country and live in boarding houses. I am rather surprised that members of Congress, when they were providing office space, did not provide dormitory space for these page-boys, since they would certainly profit by that type of supervision.
I am sure that these boys are a remarkably independent and self-reliant group. Nevertheless, they can't all be beyond the need of attention from an interested older person at times.
One boy was recounting to me at lunch his many exploits—one trip by bicycle practically across the whole United States at the age of 13, which came to a tragic end when he was taken ill with appendicitis. Several other trips by train. I look forward to having them all again for a picnic early in the summer.