An estimated 2,000 D.C. youths stood in line patiently for four hours in sultry, 94 degree heat yesterday circling the Employment Services Building downtown to be assigned a summer job.
The young people, mostly students from the city's high schools and junior high schools, had been notified on Thursday and Friday that summer jobs had been found for them. They began arriving at the Employment Services office at 500 C St. NW as early as 8 a.m., and by noon the line stretched completely around the city block.
They passed the time listening to hand-held transistor radios, buying sodas and ice cream from local vendors, and cursing both the sun and the long line.
"All I have to do is think of Dallas, Texas, with 113 degree heat," said Clayton Hunter, a 17-year-old Spingarn High student. "If I think of that, I'll stay cool."
Hunter was worried that he may not get a summer job, since "my mother and my father made too much money." The young people in line yesterday were all in the bracket defined as "middle class" -- the last group to be placed at summer jobs under the program.
As of Friday, there were 18,318 jobs for the young people, in private industry and in the government. According to program director John M. Anderson, 19,000 D.C. youths have registered for the jobs, and 15,000 should start working on Monday.
The young people in line yesterday were filling out the necessary paperwork, having their pictures taken for identification badges, and being assigned jobs, the final stage before beginning work.
The line yesterday was the longest of the year because these youths were from homes in the middle income levels, as defined for the jobs program, and have a better record for showing up when called to pick up their job assignments, Anderson said.
Last week, District Labor department officials reported that about one of every three disadvantaged youths failed to show up when called about jobs found for them. As of mid-June, 3,599 disadvantaged youths -- those with families on public assistance or earning poverty level incomes -- did not report to the department to claim their jobs.
Under the guidelines of the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), those federally funded jobs can only go to disadvantaged youths. Even if some of those CETA jobs remained untaken -- because not enough disadvantaged youths show up -- the funds have to be returned.
The students in line yesterday were notified by mail to show up, and then reminded again with follow up telephone calls from high school job counselors. Many arrived with parents, who waited in cars parked and double-parked along Pennsylvania Avenue and C Street NW.
For the chance at a job, most of the young people did not mind the heat or the wait.
"Got to have a job," said Miles Doswell, a 16-year-old Collidge High School student. "Got to have something to do this summer."
"At least with a job you're doing something," said David Wimbush, a recent graduate of Spingarn planning to work as an apprentice electrician in August. The summer job is to give him a chance to make money before his permanent job begins.
"It keeps you out of trouble," he said. "That's the main thing -- keeping out of trouble."