By the end of the day yesterday, the farewell party for a departing reporter at the United Press International headquarters had turned into a lift-your-spirits bash for the entire newsroom.

Hours earlier, employes at the embattled wire service were told not to cash their latest paychecks because the company did not have enough money in the bank to cover them. And then, at midday, the company announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection.

Earlier in the day, reporters and editors at the 78-year-old news service were somewhat fatalistic about their future as they talked about their employer with the roving groups of reporters and television crews that gather for such occasions.

"We've been through these crises before," said Leon Daniel, a veteran UPI writer who has been with the news agency for 28 years. "This company hasn't made money in years. I have some apprehension, but I think our paychecks will eventually be honored."

"The mood is optimistic," said Vincent Delguidice, UPI metro editor. "Finally, the uncertainty is cleared up and we know that some action is being taken. We've been through a lot, but we're still here."

But some parts of the newsroom were quiet and tense as reporters and editors tried to conduct business as usual. In the back corner, a large white sign with the words "Surrender HELL" scrawled in blue magic marker was draped over a newspaper cabinet near the metro desk.

"Like most Americans, we're living from paycheck to paycheck," said Ronald Cohen, UPI managing editor, commenting on the employes' inability to cash their paychecks. "This will create some hardships."

"My paycheck is just sitting in my pocketbook, and I'm worried about how I'm going to pay my rent," said Robin Greene, an editor who has been on UPI's national desk for four months. "Actually, I'm worried about eating dinner tonight."

Other employes were more lighthearted. "I called my mother in New Jersey this morning and told her to send me my milk money fund that I had been collecting since kindergarten," said Delguidice, who has been at UPI for about three years. "That should cover my rent."

As one reporter, Gregory Gordon, was writing yesterday afternoon's latest UPI story about the beleaguered company, other reporters gathered near his desk and talked about the financial crisis.

"We're just waiting," said Greene. "And everyone's feeling a little depressed."

UPI employes have been through the wringer before. In September, they were persuaded to take a 25 percent pay cut in hopes that the company could make a profit and attract additional investment.

Several reporters commented on UPI's sense of camaraderie through the difficult financial times. "Most employes here are hard-core," said Delguidice. "We like it here. It's a way of life."

"UPI will survive," predicted Dan Gilmore, an editor for national security affairs who has been with UPI since 1941.

"I expect UPI to pull through," added Lou Carr, UPI assistant managing editor for news, who has been with the news agency since World War II. "If it doesn't, I'll be here to turn out the lights."