For several weeks, Curtis Adams, 12, has been racing down the grassy hill of Banneker Recreation Center with his Northwest Washington neighborhood buddies, standing wide-eyed at the green painted cyclone fence, his fingers curled through the fence, looking for signs as predictable and as annual as cherry blossoms, Memorial Day picnics and 90-degree weather.
Now, Curtis is not one to be easily fooled, and when he saw the pool filling up Friday he knew the start was near. Yesterday, about a dozen outdoor city pools opened to the screams of pleasure and the laughter of thousands of city kids. Curtis Adams was at the Banneker pool at 2500 Georgia Ave. NW, one of the city's largest, splashing and bobbing in the shallow water and yelling with the rest of them.
"I want to go in to the pool every day 'cause it's coooool," said Vernell Thomas, 10, who came to Banneker with her sister, Teresa, 13, and a cousin, Melinda Gaino, 12, all from the Columbia Heights NW neighborhood. cHer beaded braids clicked and clacked. She wiped water from her brow and wrapped a towel a little tighter around her torso.
Pool manager Ernie Mercer said Banneker opened yesterday to a 500-person capacity crowd without any problems. In fact, he said, the pool opened just a little early to accommodate the expected long lines of children waiting for their respite from yesterday's 97-degree weather.
But not all the city's pools were without problems yesterday. Two of them, Franklin at 21st and M streets NW and McKinley at S Street and Lincoln Road NE, had mechanical problems and did not open as scheduled.
Three other pools, the Anacostia pool in Anacostia Park at 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Georgetown pool at 34th and Bolton Place NW and Randall pool at First and I streets NW were not open because yesterday was their scheduled day to be closed. Several years ago, the city departed from a seven-day schedule with pools closing on different days. Admission is still free.
Kenneth Anderson, 13, of 2117 M St. NW came with his buddies, David, Boogey, Darryl and Otis, playing tag, shallow-water diving in a contest of their own making and swimming to see who could stay under the water the longest.
"If I wasn't here, I'd probably be roller skating," Anderson said. "I think I'll come here to swim about every other day. I don't want to come too often."
Across the pool from Anderson, LaVita Sterling, 11, of 3537 Georgia Ave. NW, was sprawled out on the concrete with her girlfriends, Torita Burt, 13, and Laine Williams, 11. They were comparing fingernails and lamenting that the chlorine in the water was removing the red nail polish they had so painstakingly put on just days before.
"These boys, these boys, you know how they do," said LaVita to Laine and Torita. "They try to pull people's tops down, they like to pick up the girls and throw them in the water."
Torita listened somewhat absently, and looked down at her nails.
"Yeah," she said. "They act like girls are their favorite hobby."