As far as Matilda Walker is concerned, Rose Park at 26th and O Streets, NW is "the one and only playground in the city.
That's why the native Washington can be found daily teaching youngsters tennis on the same playground where she learned the sport as a teen-ager in the 1930s.
As summer approaches each year, Walker can be found packing up her physical education responsibilities at Dunbar High School in Northwest and heading back to Rose Park for a season's worth of recreation.
"I look forward to it - I get ready early," said Walker, who grew up at 2710 O St. NW but now resides in Upper Northwest near Walker Reed Hospital. "In high school, they say they don't like it (tennis) because they don't know it. Little kids don't tell you that. They'll stay out here all day just so they can play."
There are 100 children aged 7-17 enrolled in the Rose Park program, through 50 children attend on a regular basis. The activities are free to all city youths and lunch is proviced for the participants.
Arts and crafts, archery, softball, ping pong, badminton, and basketball are other activities available at the site.
Walker knows just about all of the 50 regulars by first name and the youngsters follow her around, vying for her attention.
"I want to be good. I want to be a good tennis pro. Miss Walker teaches me good," said 9-year-old Eddie Hill, who walks about 15 blocks with older sister Deidra, 14, each day from their home at 1728 New Hampshire Ave. NW. "I though I better get away from TV sometime. So I come here seven or eight hours a day. At least I have something constructive to do."
Hill seemed uncorcerned by his drenched Charlie's Angels T-shirt as he edged back toward the practice wall. "I have a towel," he explained. "I don't bother about my shirt. I just bother how I hit the tennis ball."
I got better in tennis and there's other activities so I won't get bored," said Beth Guevara, 11, of 2632 Garfield St. NW. "She (Walker) gives us breaks and we play games and stuff. It's just fun."
Walker, who attended Tuskegee (Ala.) Institute and taught there for about 10 years after graduation in 1941, takes her job one step further than the playground. She has about half a dozan youngsters she enters into tournaments and she often pays their registration fees.
"I like my teacher cause she helps me get into tournaments. She paid my way," said Steven Mitchell, 12, of 1335 Corcoran St. NW who won the Baltimore Tennis Championship 14-and under title and has placed second in the Greater Washington Open 10-and -under division. "I learn the fundamentals I need. But tennis isn't the only things to do here. They have other activities."
Walker receives no offical help with the tennis program and is paid approximately $28 a day, said Henry S. Kennedy, the D. C. Department of Recration tennis coordinator. Walker's 18-year-old daughter Fannie, who played No. 3 on the Coolidge High School's boys tennis team last year, helps on a volunteer basis.
However, Walker, now in her 10th year in the recreational department, has no complaints whatsoever abouther working conditions. "Money never entered my mind; indeed it's very minor," said Walker, who became one of only two black women to defeat the legendary Allthea Gibson in tennis while winning the American Tennis Association black national championship in 1946.
"They're nice little kids. They listen and obey. I like to see them apply what I teach them. It gives me a thrill to see them go on."
As a matter of fact, Walker leaves her program open to anyone who might wander in during the summer. She only requires they fill out the short registration form.
"The more the merrier," Walker smiled. "I don't have any trouble because most of thekids who come here want to learn."*