Midnight tonight is the deadlime in our annual fund drive for Children's Hospital.

Anybody whose check isn't postmarked by Jan. 31 will turn into a pumpkin, and his gift won't be tallied until December.

There are only nine group gifts to talk about today, abut you'll like the story they tell.

The Manassas Park Vocational School's FHA/HERO Fund sent me $5, and if you're wondering why the Federal Housing Administration has a fund for heroes, be advised you have guessed wrong. The initials stand for Future Homemakers of America and Home Economics Related Occupations.

The Herndon Teachers Bowling League brought its treasury to a zero balance by sending me $12.92 for the children. The $45 left over from a Christmas party at the Office of Libraries and Learning Resources of HEW's Office of Education was disposed of in the same intelligent manner. A white elephant sale conducted in Northern Virginia by The Greater Newington Women produced a profit of $45.50.

A check for $50 was identified as the gift of "WRAMC Citizens Band Radio Club (Provisional)." If you translated those initials correctly, you came out with Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- I think.

Checks totaling $110 arrived from the customers and employees of Rockville's Dockside Sales Inc. The Student Government of Washington Irving Intermediate School in Springfield sponsored a Hat Day for the benefit of Children's Hospital, and "the students and faculty had a lot of jun." Each entrant was asked to donate 25 cents, but some obviously gave other sums, because the amount taken in for the hospital was $205.40.

My heart is warmed each year when the hospital's faithful friends at the British Embassy report in. This year, these strangers in Our town chipped in a generous total of $400.

Today's largest gift by far was the $3,337 raised by Club Americana at its 11th annual charity ball. The club's motto is "Peace Through Understanding," and the size of its gift indicates that its understanding is impressive. Club Americana's contribution was the one that pushed the shoebox total past last year's record $205,516.64.

In all, the nine groups listed here gave $4,210.82 to the hospital, and 63 unnamed individuals added $1,186.64 to bring today's total to $5,397.46. We began this day with $201,663.36, so as we suspend our tally to give the mail pipeline a chance to gurgle its last, the shoebox holds $207,060.82 -- more dollars than ever before, but not more purchasing power. The cost of labor, medicine, bandages, laundry, food and everything else used in a hospital has risen steadily during the past 12 months.My hope is that we will be able to provide the children with a little bit extra, to cushion the impact of inflation.


Throughtout the District of Columbia, there are traffic bottlenecks caused by signal lights that are out of synchronization.

At dozens of locations, when the light at one intersection turns green, the light at the next one turns red. Motorists become so angry and so frustrated they begin "running" lights that unreasonably impede progress.

Mayor Barry hasn't been in office long enough to uncover all the problems that were swept under the rug by the previous administration, but he's pretty sharp. I suspect that by this time he has a good idea of how we got into this mess.

Our signal system is outdated. Too Many signals that should be synchronized by cable are instead operated by timing devices that malfunction as they grow older, or when it rains, or snows, or merely gets too hot or too cold. Our signal system is antiquated because there was never a good year to budget money for an adequate replacement.

To make matters worse, we do not have enough repairmen to readjust malfunctioning signals. We haven't had enough repairmen for years. When I call the repair facility and reprot a malfunction anonymously, it takes weeks before anybody gets around to it. When I identify myself, somebody is sent out to make the repair within hours -- even if every other snafu in town must go unattended. If Mayor Barry thinks I'm exaggerating, he can test my allegation for himself: Call in a complaint as private citizen Joe Smith, then call in another one as Mayor Barry.

It's time for a change, Mr. Mayor.