Rumor has it that Fairfax County School Superintendent D. Linton Deck spoke about the value of education and the coming of the millenium when he addressed the adult graduation last week at Annandale High School. But one can only speculate on the topic because little of his address was audible over the screams and shrieks of the infants in the audience.

"It's always an unusual graduation," warned Adult Education Director Kenneth Plum, when he invited members of the press to the ceremony. "There are usually babies crying and a lot of noise, but it's a nice night for the graduates."

The exercises were everything Plum promised. The auditorium was standing-room-only with the parents, spouses, children and grandchildren of the graduates. The evening was punctuated with popping flashbulbs, and outbursts from the audience as graduates, dressed in street clothes, crossed the stage to accept their diplomas and congratulations from Deck.

The majority of the graduates were barely out of their teens, although some were middle-aged or older. But graduation, being the great equalizer it is, prompted several graduates -- denim-clad teen-agers and corsage-laden older women -- to wave their diplomas overhead in sudden outbursts of joy as they strutted off the stage.

This year, 172 Fairfax County adult education students from four county centers were awarded diplomas.

Many of the younger graduates said they enrolled in night school after encountering problems in high school. Several said they recently had dropped out of school but quickly returned because of the tight job market.

Among the older graduates, the most common reason for graduating late was the Depression or other economic pressures that had forced them into the workaday world before they could finish school.

As Lottie Eubank, 49, sipped punch at a reception after the ceremony, she recalled in a soft Southern accent how she had quit school in 1943 to help on her family's farm outside of Lynchburg. Eubank said the notion to return to school was a sudden one.

"I'm just a housewife," she said. "I raised five children and didn't have much to do (after that.) I didn't think much about going back, then I saw an ad for night school at the Barbara Ellen Figure School."

It was hard at first, Eubank admitted, but she faithfully attended classes at Edison High School for three years until she passed the requirements for graduation this spring.

"We're real proud of her," beamed her 20-year-old daughter Susan as the rest of Eubank's family crowded around to admire the leatherette-bound diploma.