This country town of 358 people and 52 antique stores didn't have a pay telephone for 20 years because the townsfolk feared it would ring loudly and invite all manner of undesirables.

But tourists, of which there are hundreds each weekend in the self-proclaimed antiques capital of Maryland, need someplace to make calls, so two months ago a pay phone was installed outside the Handmade Soap and Candle Shop on Main Street.

No one here is wild about the telephone. As Shirley Shaw, the mayor's wife said, "It's so unsightly." Yet it is one of those inevitable signs of progress, much like the post office they had to build when the postmistress got tired of passing out the mail in her parlor.

The truck stop, is another matter entirely. The truck stop, which an Arizona-based oil company wants to build on six acres just outside the town limits, 46 miles northeast of Washington, is unthinkable.

"It would completely disrupt everything we've been doing for the last 200 years," thundered Ed Rossig, proprietor of the Strawberry Inn, the only inn in town, whose rooms -- all four of them -- have flowered wallpaper and brass beds.

"Truck stops bring a bad element: prostitutes and dope," said William Cline, antique man in antelope boots, who resigned from the Town Council last year in protest of "the crime problem. "The crime problem that drove Cline from office amounted to a couple of break-ins and the theft of 14 car batteries in one week, according to Cline.

Not since the C&P Telephone Co. tired to put up a modern building four years ago, has New Market been so united in battle. The town won that fight; the new C&P office looks like a barn.

A meeting was held in the fire hall last week and 125 of the town's 358 residents showed up. An anti-truck stop committee was named, with William ("I am truly a Ralph Nader") Cline as chairman. The town has hired a special zoning attorney to work on the case with Mary Storm, the New Market town attorney, whose father was town attorney before her.

"We'll take this all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to," Rossig vowed.

The Cardon Oil Company, of Mesa, Ariz., wants to build a truck stop with an 84-seat restaurant, parking for 93 vehicles -- 63 trucks and 30 cars -- and seven showers. A Cardon representative said at the town meeting that the building "would be of Georgian architeture with white columns and brick front, and will be conducive to the historic aspect of the town."

Talk of Georgian architecture doesn't much impress the people of New Market, where most of the houses along the brick-sidewalked, lilac-scented main street are from the Federalist period and where the color of those houses ("Williamsburg-type" colors preferred, no purple) is strictly controlled by the town historic commission.

Anyway, asks Town Attorney Storm, "How can you Georgian-up a gas pump?"

The truck stop would stand on Federick County land, at the southeast corner of the intersection between Maryland Rtes. 75 and 144, bordered on the south by Interstate 70. The land is zoned for general commercial use, which, the Frederick County zoning administrator has ruled, allows for a truck stop.

But New Market Town Attorney Storm argues that such zonging allows for service stations and not for truck stops. She says New Market will appeal the zoning administrator's ruling to the Frederick County Board of Appeals. The town also is fighting the 200-square foot sign that Cardon Oil has proposed as an advertisement for its truck stop.

Cardon's place would be seven miles from the next truck stop, 1-70 Truck City in Frederick, and the New Market anti-truck stop committee has found an unlikely ally in 1-70 manager Millard Bolyard, who wrote the committee a $1,000 check to help pay its legal fees.

"All it's going do is take some of our business," said Bolyard. I-70 Truck City rules the road now; the next truck stop is 85 miles away, in Breezewood, Pa.

The fight against the truck stop dominates the talk in New Market, where residents meet each other every morning across the oilcloth-covered antique tables at Metz's general store, the only store in town where you can buy food. Metz's, where Ruth Metz's hornet-nest collection hangs from the rafters and the scent of her prize-winning lilacs mixes with the smell of old wood and fresh coffee, also is the only place in town that sells newspapers. The selection is limited: 14 Frederick Posts and two Washington Posts are delivered each day.

About the only other thing happening in New Market is the May 12th elections, but interest is slight. Campaign signs aren't allowed, and there wouldn't be much point anyway. Mayor Frank Shaw, ensconsed in the Mayor Frank Shaw, ensconsed in the position for 12 years, is unopposed, as usual. The town council races aren't exactly hotly contested either; six people are running for five seats.

Only two small signs -- red and blue magic marker on plain white paper -- advertise the elections. One is on the Coke machine at Metz's, the other above the window at the post office, where everyone goes to pick up their mail since no one in town has a mailbox.

The mayor and council members are all volunteers. There are, in fact, only two people on the town payroll: Town Clerk Jane Rossig, who is paid $225 a year to take the minutes at the montly meeting council meetings, and Town Treasurer Anne Hoff, whose salary is $750 a year. Hoff, who was born 68 years ago in a house on Main Street, does the figuring for a town with a $25,000 annual budget and a 20-cent tax rate.

That tax rate hasn't changed in 30 years, and neither has much else in New Market, a town that was settled on the late 18th century, incorporated in 1874, and listed on the National Historic Register in 1975. The business of New Market is antiques, and a truck stop -- even one outside the town limits -- just wouldn't fit, the townspeople say.

Besides, reasoned Cline, head of the anti-truck stop committee and owner of an antique store called The Browsery: "Truckdrivers don't buy antiques."