Ever since the meltdown in the stock market on Oct. 19, investment bankers in the Baltimore-Washington-Richmond area have endured a nuclear winter of their own.

At Alex. Brown & Sons in Baltimore, executives were expecting to complete about 100 public offerings in 1987 when October's selling panic destroyed stock values and put most equity offerings in the deep freeze.

Alex. Brown was planning to underwrite about 25 equity deals in October, November and December, said Richard L. Franyo, managing director of investment banking. Instead, the firm did only one small offering.

The Alex. Brown story has been repeated around the nation. Before the market fell, the national syndicate calendar, which lists the securities coming to market, was loaded with billions of dollars worth of financings. The firestorm of selling on Wall Street wiped them out.

Today, two months later, the national calendar is virtually blank.

So is the Washington area calendar.

"Almost nothing has taken place since Oct. 19," said James R. Kleeblatt, syndicate manager at Johnston, Lemon & Co., in Washington. "On the pure equity side, there have been no new issues."

Before Oct. 19, Johnston, Lemon was planning to take part in three financings worth about $40 million. They, too, evaporated.

There were two reasons for the disappearance of the new issues, Kleeblatt noted.

First, he said, "There were no buyers." With investors selling everything as fast as possible, who would investment bankers sell the stocks to?

Second, if a company's stock was worth $15 a share before Oct. 19 but only $7.50 a share after Oct. 19, what company was going to want to sell its stock at that price?

But the damage caused by Black Monday went even deeper, said John P. Crowder, head of the investment banking office of Wheat, First Securities in Alexandria. The market meltdown severely damaged confidence in new-issue financing, he said.

Investment bankers "don't want to risk their capital underwriting other investment bankers' deals. And that {attitude} will last a long time," Crowder said.

Franyo put it another way.

"We're obviously cautious. If you get mugged, you're going to be more cautious if you walk down a dark street."

But investment bankers are a resourceful lot, and they are finding other opportunities to keep their businesses alive.

An investment banker, by the way, is neither a banker nor an investor, but an individual who, for a fee, serves as intermediary between a company that issues stocks or bonds and the investing public.

Fortunately for the investment bankers, there is a flip side to the drop in values that undermined their ability to raise money by selling new stock issues.

"These lower values create opportunities and deals that wouldn't have been there before," Franyo said.

The opportunities have come in the form of private financings, leveraged buyouts and mergers and acquisitions, Franyo said. He estimated that he is doing perhaps three times as many of those deals as he did before Oct. 19.

Lower stock prices, he said, have led to a surge in the number of public companies deciding to go private. For example, take a company whose stock sold at $18 a share before Oct. 19 and is now trading at $6 a share. If management offers stockholders $12 a share, they are likely to jump at the chance to get their money out.

For many companies that still need money, private financing has replaced public financing.

These days, Crowder said, instead of raising money by selling stock for a corporation, he is more likely to seek private financing from a large institutional investor, such as an insurance company. If the institution is willing to invest, the needy corporation will get its money but with something of a haircut.

Private offerings generally involve a 20 percent discount, Crowder said, because of the lack of liquidity -- meaning the investment can not be sold easily or quickly on the open market. In addition, the company seeking funds may lose another 10 percent because of the overall drop in stock values.

Businessmen also are using mergers and acquisitions to accomplish financing goals that have been denied to them by the public route.

But whatever form they take, all of these deals are welcomed by the investment bankers who lost tons of money when the stock offerings disappeared.

Will the equity offerings recover?

All three investment bankers say yes, but they think it will take time.

"The nuclear cloud is starting to float away. People are starting to come out of their bunkers," said Franyo. But he expects that his firm will be able to do only about a third of the equity offerings next year that it did this year.

Those offerings may resume in January and early February, he said, but the only issues to come to market will be for the best-quality, most recession-resistant companies.

Crowder, too, believes that when public stock offerings return, "the focus will be on quality and dependability." Weaker companies probably won't be able to do public financing at all.

Kleeblatt agreed. "There won't be any marginal issues," he said.

Kleeblatt said he doesn't foresee any change in the investment climate "until you get a degree of stability in the equity market that convinces buyers to consider buying new issues. They're not there yet," he added.

Eliot H. Benson, research director of Ferris & Co., Washington, recently made up a list of stocks he thought had "comeback" potential. One of the stocks was American Management Systems of Arlington, a company that operates computer software systems for business and government.

When Benson began to put together his list, AMS shares were selling at $9.75. That was about half of the $19.13 price at which the stock was selling on Oct. 2.

But AMS never made it to Benson's "comeback" list because the shares suddenly took off. In the space of one week, AMS stock leaped from $9.75 to $14.25, a gain of 46.2 percent. It closed Thursday at $13.50.

Charles O. Rossotti, president of AMS, said one of the reasons for the move up was a renewed recommendation from Stephen T. McClellan of Merrill Lynch, which makes a market in AMS stock. Otherwise, he said, the bounce was just part of a recent rise in the market.

Rossotti acknowledged there wasn't much rhyme or reason for the earlier 50 percent drop in AMS stock. It was not related to any change in the company's business or outlook.

"The stock market is much more volatile than it used to be," Rossotti said.

Rossotti, who owns about 10 percent of AMS stock, said his family took advantage of the low $10 price to buy about an additional 10,000 shares.

Even though AMS shares moved too fast for him, Benson selected five other stocks for his comeback list, some of which also were moving up fast. He said he picked issues selling far below their highs. All five companies, he said, have "favorable fundamentals and strong potential for recovery in 1988." The stocks:

Computer Entry Systems of Silver Spring, a manufacturer of automated systems for cash management. Benson estimates 1987 earnings per share at 70 cents, up from 38 cents in 1986. His buy limit on the stock is $6. It closed Thursday at $5.

Hechinger Co. (Class A) of Landover, which continues to expand its chain of do-it-yourself home centers and has a record of steady profit growth. It closed at $19.25, slightly above Benson's buy limit of $19.

Owens & Minor of Richmond, a wholesale distributor of medical and surgical supplies. The industry is benefiting from the "graying of America," Benson said. Thursday's close, $13.25. Benson's buy limit is $15.

Perpetual Savings Bank of Alexandria. Perpetual operates 67 branches. Benson foresees profit improvements this year. Fiscal 1987 profits were penalized by write-offs for FSLIC reserves. Perpetual, with a $16.09 book value, closed at $9. Buy limit is $10.

QuesTech of McLean, which provides professional services to government and industry. Benson said the company has a $31.2 million backlog and he anticipates strong growth in 1988. Thursday's close was $7.50. Buy is limit $10.