About 8,000 children, most of them members of school safety patrols in the Washington area, were honored last week in a spirited, if soggy, parade.
Dressed in uniforms of every description, and wearing the fluorescent orange belts that identify them to motorists, the youngsters marched along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets. There were floats, marching bands and drill teams in addition to the safety patrol units.
Trophies were awarded to the best bands, best slogans and best appearing units from each of the city's police districts.
The annual parade, sponsored by the D.C. Police Department, the D.C. School system, and the American Automobile Association (AAA), had nearly 200 units this year and lasted three hours.
Police estimated that 18,000 people watched.
Until the April 1968 riots here, the safety patrol parade was a national event, attracting up to 36,000 marchers, according to D,C. Police Sgt. Chuck Collins. "The parade used to last five hours," he said.
"This year's parade is another step in trying to build it up to that level again," he said.
Collins sad that 150 schools from the District participated in the parade, and that schools from Arlington and Prince William counties were also represented. There was also a unit from Ottawa and another from New York State.
"It's a positive sign that jurisdictions outside the immediate area want to participate again," Collins said.
While the parade itself attracts a lot of the attention, it is the day-to-day work of the safety patrols that shows positive results, according to Charles Butler, traffic safety manager for AAA.
The number of children killed in traffic accidents on their way to or from school has declined, according to Charles Butler, traffic safety manager for AAA. Butler attributes at least part of the decline to "the dedication of the children in the safety patrols and to the training they get."
THe children are trained in safety procedures by the AAA and police departments, Butler said.
A special guest of honor at this year's parade was Maureen Adams, 11, of Fairfax. In February, Maureen, a member of the safety patrol at Jermantown School in Fairfax, prevented a 9-year-old classmate from being struck by a school bus as he darted into the street. Maureen grabbed his collar and pulled him from the path of the bus.
Later this year, Maureen will receive a AAA School Safety Patrol Gold Lifesaving Medal. Last week she had a special escort down the parade route and sat in the reviewing stand at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue along with Mayor Walter E. Washington and other police and city officials.
By the time the parade ended, many of the children had been on their feet - either practicing drill rountines or marching - for five hours.