It could have been a Saturday afternoon in Hiram, Ohio, or Aurora, III., or Bonita, Calif.: the block party on the big vacant lot; the hook-and-ladder parked there on the grass with at least 20 kids climbing over it; the friendly cop showing off his horse to some more kids; and over here a tug-of-war with still more kids; and the line for free beer, and the hot dog counter; and the old ladies sitting in the shade of those woven-plastic and aluminum chairs.
As it happened, this was the 56th annual Burleith picnic, on the Green Lot at 37th and T Streets, on the cheap side of Georgetown. Burleith likes to call itself the village in the city, and it really is, and not just one day a year.
Shannon and Luchs started building the Georgian type row houses in 1923 for $7,700 each. They'r now well into six figures, and the old families are gradually giving way to bright young couples with double incomes and triple children.
One way you can tell is that the picnic used to be a rather easygoing affair, possibly even lackadaisical, while in recent years the energy level has been rising.
"We've served as many as 500 people at the potluck supper," said coordinator Gerilyn Stone. "Last year there weren't as many because it rained."
Five hundred people? There can't be that many in the whole 16 blocks of Burleith. They must come in on the D-2 bus.
Pete and Carol Moran were in charge of the food this year, supplied by dozens of families, and Walter Hillabrant handled the entertainment, which featured a rock group, the Devious Connection, playing from a Summer in the Parks van and adding a certain professional note to the party. Then there was Rosehip the lady clown and Jeff the Magician and a guy who painted kids' faces with makeup.
By suppertime almost everyone under 10 had a mustache (worn partly off by the free popsicles) and red cheek spots and wavy yellow worry lines across the forehead. After, the face painter roamed the field, and not a single parent accosted him. He wore a pith helmet with a string rising straight up from the top. On the other end of the string was a balloon.
Every so often a balloon would struggle up through the heavy air, laden with a plastic cup gondola. People lounging on the shady fringes of the lot lazily watched the balloons rise. Someone was playing a harmonica. The ponies nodded their way around a small pony ring, but the rides weren't very exciting. It was too hot.
It was so hot there were only about two dogs on the scene. Usually there are dozen or more, because Burleith is the kind of place where people you haven't even met know your dog's name.
It was so hot there were only four Frisbee players.
It was that hot.
By the way, Burleith is a lot older than either Shannon or Luchs, or their fathers. According to Burleith historian Edgar Farr Russell Jr., the first settlement was the Henry Threlkeld home, dating back to 1716, on the site of the Convent of the Visitation. Burleith was the spot Charles Dickens had in mind when he allowed as how there was after all perhaps one nice place in the Washington area, which he otherwise despised.
There is a Hanging Garden of Burleith at 38th and T. There was a Great Fire of Burleith in 1930 when seven houses burned up.
But now a breeze was coming on, and the picnic was reviving a bit. Kids were playing Simon Says. The art raffle booth got some customers. Hardworking Pat Scolaro, Lynn Glendenning and Dorothy Presslar (among many others) allowed themselves a nod of satisfaction.
A tiny kid with no shirt on clambered to the highest point on the fire truck and struck a huge yellow firemen's hat on his head. It came clear down to his curly painted mustache. He had to lean his head back to see. Eyes dancing, he waved both spindly arms in a wild semaphore and jumped up and down.
"Dad!" he yelled with frantic glee. "Hey Dad, look! Hey Dad . . . ." CAPTION: Picture 1, Softball at the annual Burleith picnic; by Margaret Thomas; Picture 2, Spectators at the Upperville horse show; by John McDonnell - The Washington Post; Picture 3, Pony ride at the Burleith picnic, by Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post