At Wheaton High School, across from the closed community pool, 11-year-old Larry Roberts and his four friends sat on bicycles questioning national guardsmen about their jobs as they distributed water from trucks to Montgomery County residents.

"We can't go swimming and we can't get under a water hose cause we'd waste water . . . so what else is there to do?" Larry said.

One of his friends said the group could not go inside their homes "because we'd get bored," so the group planned to wait at the school for the ice cream man.

Another group of children was planning a birthday party at the pool when they discovered it was closed. The group then marched to a nearby grocery store to get "supplies" for their party at a home.

Throughout Montgomery and Prince George's counties, people who would ordinarily be swimming to try to beat the stifling heat, had to make adjustments because of the water shortage emergency that forced pools to close until 5 p.m. yesterday.

In Montgomery, the lush fields of grass, the tennis courts and the pools were vacant at the posh country clubs interspersed among expensive homes.

In Prince George's, residents found an alternative to recreation by going to air-conditioned shopping centers to avoid the sweltering heat.

In New Carrollton, pool officials planned to spend the night at poolside because they feared irate swimmers would return, seeking revenge because they were turned away during the sweltering afternoon.

"People are mad . . . it's supposed to be over 100 degrees today . . . I know they will return," said 19-year-old David Crehbiel, a lifeguard at the pool.

In Wheaton, 11-year-old Reggie Steele wore an orange T-shirt with "Jamaica" written on it, and boasted that he and his three friends hadn't taken a bath in two days.

"Yeah, we're funky, but we couldn't go swimming so we went to play tennis," Reggie said. He said he later planned to visit his grandmother in the istrict to take a bath.

Across the street, three Wheaton High School girls who also found the pool closed were hitchhiking to a nearby park to find shade under the trees and "toss a Frisbee with friends".

At Cabin John regional Park in Potomac, cars rolled up to the Tuckerman Lane entrance only to find it blocked off by narrow metal railings attached to a cardboard sign with red letters, saying: "Park Closed Due to Water Shortage."

Jane Isaacson, who had driven to the park with her 3-year-old son, Adam, said, "I can't figure out why they had to close the park. I mean, unless it was to conserve water in water fountains and bathrooms or at the snack bar."

At Landover Mail shopping center in Prince George's 16-year-old Jerome Saunders had purchased a remote-control toy car and was bewildering shoppers who walked into the mall area by running the car around their feet.

"I bought it (the car) today. It cost $54 and it gives me something to do," said Saunders. He said he might have gone swimming had the pools been open, but in any event, preferred "checking out the ladies at the mall."

The county pool closures forced other youths to develop creative recreation strategies, such as street football - or in one case in Glenarden - a baseball game on a basketball court.