Bits 'n' Pieces: Serving as Olympia page a Hockinson family's tradition

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 
photoMariah Curtiss, 15, with Sen. Ann Rivers, was the last of the Curtiss kids to serve as a page in Olympia.

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Ten children, nine pages.

Actually, you could add Mom to the mix for an even 10. When Julie Curtiss was 15 years old in 1973 she was a legislative page for state Sen. Al Bauer, D-Vancouver. "I just remember it being a really good experience," she said. "I learned so much."

Many years and many children later, the Hockinson resident called The Columbian to say nine of her 10 kids have served as legislative pages in Olympia -- all but the first, Josh, who must have got away while Mom was busy chasing the rest of the brood. After that, Julie said, all nine children went to Olympia to walk the halls and learn the system. Pages serve as runners in the Capitol, often delivering mail and other important documents.

"We just had our 10th do it," Julie said. Fifteen-year-old Mariah Curtiss went in March to page for state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center.

"I just think it's a great experience to see how our government works. It's an important part of everybody's education. As parents, I think we should try to have our kids be well-rounded," Julie said. Since the kids were all home-schooled, it wasn't hard for each to take a week off and live in Olympia. That's how the page program works.

Justin Curtiss, now 20, paged twice for former state Rep. Jim Dunn. Justin said he grew up with a keen interest in history and politics and used to declare that he was aiming to be president of the United States. "That's no longer my aspiration," he said, but he's still interested in public service — perhaps through elected office, he said — and, to pursue that goal, the recent graduate of Multnomah University is headed for Lewis & Clark Law School in August.

Justin said the hands-on political education of a page in Olympia is second to none. "It's one thing to learn in school but it's another thing to learn it there in that building, and watch it happen and be a part of it," he said.

Also memorable, Justin added, was contributing rubber bands to a legendary rubber-band ball that one nice lady on the staff used to maintain. All the pages added to that ball, he said. Meanwhile his older sister, Marcy, who's now 29, and was the first Curtiss kid to head for Olympia, remembers constantly getting caught in a certain indecisive elevator. It was an old-fashioned elevator with vintage black buttons that popped in and out of the panel, and it tended to come to rest feet below floor level -- so when the doors opened, Marcy remembered, you always had to "step up" to get on with the people's important business. Years later, sister Brianna got stuck in that same elevator -- making it a proud family tradition.

Paging "has been a great thing for our family," Julie said.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com