In the distance, faint carillon chimes drift in, mixing with the rhythmic "bam, bam, bam," of jackhammers along Pennsylvania Avenue and the deep bass beat of disco soul music from F Street music stores.
Mothers carrying packages in one arm and fretting babies in the other weave their way through the pedestrians. Youngsters gather around storefront windows, some wishing for, others searching for, the shoes, suits or dresses for a Sunday outfit while nearby vendors hawk wares -- Polaroid pictures, inexpensive hats, belts and purses.
In bits and pieces of private dramas, F Street NW between 14th and 11th Streets became a festive affair this week, the prelude to a colorful Easter pageant throughout much of the city, especially in black neighborhoods.
Rosemary Franklin sat with her mother on a bench and remembered Easters past, the joy of getting new clothes, and showing them off, the rare trip to the beauty parlor, the festive family meals and the family picture sessions at the studio on Easter Sunday.
"The neighborhood where I live at First and U Streets NW comes alive at Easter time," Franklin said. "Even the old men who stand on the corner, day in and day out, dress a little better and you can see from the smiles on people's faces that they feel happier."
Her mother, Juanita Smith, said, "Easter, coming at spring, is the time that people come out of doors. Sometimes it takes a holiday to do that."
"People break loose during the holidays, and when those bills start pressing on their minds, they need something like this," said Smith, a cafeteria employe at the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology.
"Easter, a religious holiday celebrating Jesus Christ's resurrection, is a time of renewal in the community and a time of hope," said the Rev. H. Beecher Hicks, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church.
"As a holiday, it is more important in the black community than in the white because the resurrection is the affirmation of life and the ability to exist despite what seems like overwhelming obstacles. Black people feel crucified socially, morally, politically and, in 1980, economically."
At the corner of 13th and F Streets NW, Ricky "the Camera Man" Fuller, ex-offender, ex-drug addict and a veteran F Street hustler, froze time for $3 a picture with his Polaroid camera.
"Everybody has to have something to look forward to, man," Fuller said. "Easter gives them that." He lined 2-year-old Devitia Robinson against a blank wall. Reluctantly, and tearfully, she stood for the picture while her mother looked on.
"It's like this," he said, adjusting his lens for the picture, "for some people in this city, times are hard and they don't have much to look forward to. It ain't like we are going to get a new car, it ain't like we are going to move into a new house like those people on the other side can do. [Poor] people say, 'Hey, it's Easter, we can get something new.'"
"This is the first of the month, you dig?" Fuller said. "The welfare checks are in, that's why all these folks are down here. Poor people are realists. They know about the government CETA [jobs] programs and other programs that the government wants to cut [that aid the poor.] They know that they got to get what they can while they can."
Carolyn Smith, Devitia's mother, said, "The [Easter] holiday is a time that makes people want to forget the negative things for a while even though we all know that those things don't really go away.
"Easter really to me is for the kids, and they get dressed up in their little Easter outfits and that's a time of joy," she said.
But the Easter joy for some people in Washington will come with sacrifice this year.
"To be able to buy the girls something, I had to postpone paying the light bill this week," Smith said. "I have about $60 to spend, but I don't know how far that will go."