On the stereo, Hot, Cold Sweat sang "Meet Me at the Go-Go," and around the lawn some of the elderly people, seated under shade trees and umbrellas, patted their feet to the beat, while one 73-year-old man danced.
It was the sixth annual Maggie Taylor Picnic, a bash thrown by the National Task Force for Senior Citizens on June 25 at D.C. Village to honor the city's elderly. The task force, organized in l974, is an umbrella group of volunteers who provide clothing, food and transportation for the elderly.
About 450 elderly city residents spent the afternoon munching their way through fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw, with watermelon slices for dessert. Volunteers served those who had trouble walking.
Ella Lomax, wearing a white straw beret atop her gray hair, sat under a tree with friends, enjoying the attention that she earned by being the oldest person at the picnic. Following tradition, she received a bouquet of flowers.
Lomax, who turned 108 years old on Monday, said that she had been born in a town "a little ways from Philadelphia."
Asked if there are any advantages to being old, she answered, "just living." She picked gingerly at a slice of watermelon, careful not to drip juice on her beige dress, which was pinned at the neck with a rhinestone and pearl broach, a gift from "a godchild 50 years ago."
About the secrets of living a long life, she said: "Just drink soft drinks. No liquor. And get plenty of sleep."
Next to her sat Maggie Turner, a 94-year-old woman who has never worn eyeglasses but wears a set of "made teeth," that she said "feel like my own, now."
Her advice is to "have a good time when you get old.
"You don't have to worry about much. I sit around and have a good time and watch TV every day," added Turner, an avid "General Hospital" fan.
On a park bench nearby, 89-year-old James Theodore Williams and 66-year-old Hubert Harrington sat with David Manning, 58, to whom they referred as "the young one."
"We met two or three years ago at Friendship House," said Williams, a talkative man who points a finger, shrugs his shoulders or raises his bushy gray eyebrows to emphasize a point.
"I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1893," Williams said, stabbing at the air with a fork.
The subject of his wisdom and advice, which he is more than happy to dish out, is about women:
"It's no harder to find a woman now than it is when you're young," he began.
"It's a matter of whether or not you think you can make the grade," he said, squinting his eyes upward before breaking into laughter. "I look for a woman about 65 or 70.
"When they get older, they have certain ailments like high blood pressure and other afflictions in the body," he added, turning to his partner, Harrington, who dropped his watermelon after hearing the comment.
"You see, Hubert, here, ain't ready," Williams joked, before continuing. "When you're young, all women want is for you to have money. When you get old, you know it ain't worth but so much."
Williams atrributes at least part of his good health to the "salves" that he said his mother used to make from "weeds" and put on his sores.
"We never got shots then, or bought books about what to eat," he said. The only problem about being in good health, Williams said, is that social workers "want me to stand in line to get my own food sometimes.
"Now David Manning , he got a cane and they let him go right by," he added. "I need to get a cane, but I hate to get caught in a lie. Two things I never could do was hustle people and lie."
"I was born the 25th of December, 1916, in Marlboro, S.C., 80 miles on this side of Columbia," Harrington said by way of introducing himself. "I came to Washington in 1934. It was a little rough where I came from. There was no money there. It was a little better in Washington."
With advancing years, Harrington said, he has reduced some of his activities.
"I don't bowl," he said. "I don't shoot pool, and I don't play checkers."
"Do you play the numbers?" someone asked.
"Oh, yeah, that I do," Harrington replied, laughing.