Almost two years after the death of Julius Hermes, the founder of Martin Processing Inc., the company has been sold for $100 million to a British firm.

The sale marks the end of an era for Martin Processing, an old-line company that attracted widespread stock market attention in 1985 when its stock soared from $4.75 to $27.75 in nine months, before plunging back to $15.

The rise in the stock was attributed to talk about Hermes' illness and a possible sale of the company. The price drop was linked to uncertainty over the company's future after Hermes' death.

After the stock fell, it continued to linger in the $15 to $19 range until the buyout was announced recently at $20 a share.

Several weeks ago, trading in Martin Processing stock on the American Stock Exchange was halted when, because of the acquisition, the number of shares available to the public fell below required levels.

Martin Processing's name soon will vanish from the list of public companies as it becomes part of Courtaulds PLC of London, an international firm that deals in fibers, wood pulp, chemicals and materials coatings and textiles. Courtaulds employs 65,000 people and had recent sales of $3.5 billion. Martin Processing recently had about 500 employes.

Martin Processing, located in Martinsville, Va., was once a major player in the textile and carpet yarn-dying business. But the carpet business was hard hit during the late '70s. So Hermes, a chemist, engineer and entrepreneur, redirected the company's energies into plastic film products.

The carpet business, which accounted for an ever-smaller portion of sales, was finally sold for about $4.3 million earlier this year. Today, Martin Processing produces plastic film used in the building industry, electronics, automobiles and reprographics.

At one time, there were reports, never confirmed by the company, that Martin Processing was working on highly secret products that could be used to help make the Stealth bomber invisible to enemy radar.

To make its acquisition, Courtaulds first bought the 51 percent of Martin Processing stock held in several family trusts left by Hermes. The sale undoubtedly will provide the family with greater liquidity for its holdings. Courtaulds also made a $20 tender offer for the rest of the stock.

David Sahud, chairman of Courtaulds' acquisition subsidiary, said he looked for "good growth" at Martin Processing and predicted a friendly relationship.

"We're not a raider. We're a supporter," he said.

How did folks in Martinsville, a town of about 18,000 people, feel about the sale of Martin Processing?

Jack Cooper, manager of the Martinsville office of Scott & Stringfellow, said, "A lot of shareholders were pleased to have been bought out at $20 a share." The stock, he noted, had been stagnant for about a year while many other stocks were going through the roof.

On the other hand, said Cooper, many community leaders were not happy to see Martin Processing bought by a foreign firm.

"The local leaders don't like to see {control of} home-grown businesses moving away," he said.

How are Washington area stocks doing so far this year?

An hour on the calculator provides some interesting figures on the gains and losses chalked up by local stocks. The Washington area stock table, as of last Monday, contained 134 stocks that have gained since Jan. 1. The average gain was 35.75 percent. The list also had 42 stocks that have declined. The average loss was 17.82 percent.

When the gains and losses are tallied, the 176 stocks had an average net gain of 22.96 percent. That is an interesting number because it falls very close to the numbers mentioned here last week for the three mutual funds that specialize in stocks of the Washington region.

The Growth Fund of Washington, which contains 24 stocks, was up 28 percent; the Southeastern Growth Fund, with 64 stocks, was up 24 percent and the Washington Area Growth Fund, with 45 stocks, gained 22 percent.

One of the stocks showing an unaccustomed minus sign this year is Heilig-Meyers Co., of Richmond, which operates more than 200 furniture stores in 10 southeastern states.

Heilig-Meyers' shares dropped 10 percent in 1984, but rose 78 percent in 1985 and went up another 28 percent in 1986. But thus far this year, the stock is off about 5 percent.

Troy A. Peery Jr. executive vice president, was asked why the stock had slipped. There wasn't any bad news, he said, but there was one event he thought had adversely affected interest in Heilig-Meyers' stock. For the last nine years, he said, the company had been followed by analyst Arthur D. Charpentier of Goldman, Sachs & Co., New York. But last January, Charpentier left Goldman, Sachs to start his own firm.

Indeed, Heilig-Meyers officials thought so highly of Charpentier that they elected him to their board of directors.

Goldman, Sachs assigned a new analyst to the company but it wasn't the same, Peery said. "There's been a void of coverage," he added. Heilig-Meyers stock wasn't getting the same play and buying pressure had dried up. So the stock price slid, he said.

Heilig-Meyers closed Friday at $28.

However, Peery said, he expected reports on his firm from analysts at Kidder, Peabody & Co., Drexel Burnham Lambert and Wheat, First Securities. Heilig-Meyers also may schedule a meeting with analysts who follow the furniture industry.

Computer Centers is on the way back, reports analyst Michael L. Mead at Scott & Stringfellow.

"After a change in management, a turbulent readjustment of its franchise system, and the elimination of overseas operations, we believe Entre is positioned to record a sharp rebound in profits over the next two to three years," said Mead.

Entre has 201 computer centers, of which 10 are company owned and 191 are franchised. For fiscal 1986, which ended last August, Entre and the franchisees racked up retail sales of $477 million. Entre's revenue was $66.9 million. Entre's revenue is derived from retail sales of the 10 company-owned stores, a major account program aimed at high volume customers and royalty income and franchise fees.

The 1986 fiscal year wound up in an 86 cent a share loss, but Mead says he forsees a 3 cents a share profit for the 1987 fiscal year ending this month. He also forsees a 65 cent a share profit for fiscal 1988.

Profits in the third quarter, which ended in May were 12 cents a share compared with a loss of 63 cents a year earlier.

"We anticipate this turnaround to continue," Mead said.

Entre, which opened its doors in 1981, saw its business boom, only to come crashing back to earth when the computer industry shakeout began in 1985. Against a background of serious disputes with Entre's franchisees, a new management team, led by Bert I. Helfinstein, took over from founders Steven Heller and James Edgette.

While Mead thinks conditions in the personal computer industry are improving, he notes that the retail side remains fiercely competitive. He also says that IBM's moratorium on new authorized dealerships is still intact, limiting Entre's growth. Also, any economic turndown would have an unfavorable impact on Entre's sales, he noted.

Entre's turnaround already has been recognized in the market. Entre stock was down to $2.56 a share at the end of 1986 for a loss of 62.7 percent. But the stock has since moved back to $6.13 a share, for a gain of 140 percent this year.

The 35-year-old Washington Mutual Investors Fund, which manages $3.2 billion, has 210,000 shareholders. And like all mutual funds, it holds an annual stockholders meeting. But year after year, nary an outside stockholder has showed up. This year, for the first time in five years, two stockholders from Philadelphia attended the fund's meeting in Wilmington. That surprised and pleased Chairman Stephen Hartwell, who said that management people are usually the only ones in attendance. The two stockholders didn't make any speeches -- but later told Hartwell they were happy with the fund's performance.endqua