A memory of Capitol Hill
All will agree that expressions like “…and you shall be taken to a place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck until dead” or in a conversation, “if you think that is bad, let me tell you what happened to me,” but neither one can compare with the dread you feel upon hearing, “that reminds me of the time” and you realize that short of the ground opening up or some other cataclysm, you are doomed to hear a story that you have been told before, word for every boring word, wondering if they can remember every dumb detail, just why can’t they recall telling it to you before. The other day, I was rummaging underneath the sofa cushions and found a tattered, yellow news clipping that has caused me to experience a “that reminds me of the time” memory. You were warned.
To set the stage, a little Capitol Hill lore, the legislative chambers of the Senate and the House are located at either side of the US Capitol Building, separated by the center section of the Rotunda. Each side is complete unto itself and under the authority of that particular legislative branch. The Rotunda area including the dome above and certain adjacent offices are governed by the Office of the Architect, whose office also is responsible for the grounds and certain parking areas. It is fair to say that each holds their territorial responsibilities close to their chest and allows no intrusions. This division can promote a person spending their entire career on one side and never venturing to the other except on rare occasions. Then with the construction of the Hart Senate Office Bldg. and the Rayburn House Bldg., even long timers may not be familiar with their layout. Now the stage is set.
Congressman Ken Hechler had scheduled a reception in the Rayburn House Building to announce the publication of his latest book and had invited everyone who might be interested, including Senator Robert C. Byrd, Senator Jennings Randolph and many others having a West Virginia connection that included my father, Leonard H. Ballard, Inspector, US Capitol Police. At the conclusion of the reception, as the participants made their way back to their respective offices on both sides of the Hill, Senator Randolph realized he was in unknown territory and was relieved to see a familiar face. “Ballard, am I glad to see you.” “I’m lost and I don’t know how to get out of this building.” My father replied, “Me too, and I can’t ask anyone because I’m in uniform and I should know where I am.”
After some thought they agreed that this one time, they should walk towards the light.
Jack D. Ballard