It was the year of the S&Ls, when the state asserted control over five ailing thrifts, chastising their officers and limiting withdrawals. Depositors fumed, and Old Court Savings & Loan and its former president, Jeffrey Levitt, became almost synonymous with the crisis the government in Annapolis said couldn't happen here.

The crisis dominated the news and the state's politics. Gov. Harry Hughes and the General Assembly -- which met twice in special sessions on the issue -- were riveted on the problem.

Two prominent state political figures passed from the scene in 1985. One was former acting governor Blair Lee III, a Silver Spring patrician who rose from lieutenant governor to the governorship upon the political corruption conviction of Marvin Mandel and then lost the job in 1978 to Hughes. Harry Kelley, the colorful mayor and promoter of Ocean City, also died.

The General Assembly took on gambling this year, promising to crack down on abuses and close loopholes in the state's betting laws, but the effort fizzled. One bill that passed, legalizing slot machine gambling in Eastern Shore fraternal lodges and veterans posts, was vetoed by the governor.

Locally, a proposal for a hybrid charity-commercial "Big Bingo" parlor in Prince George's was shot down by the County Council when its main backers were revealed to have had associations with reputed organized crime figures.

A Montgomery County judge, meanwhile, was placed on trial for breaking into a Hagerstown home and assaulting two police officers after a party at a state judicial conference. District Court Judge Henry J. Monahan won acquittal after arguing that a mild stroke had caused "transient global amnesia" that led to his erratic behavior in the early morning incident.

Also in the Maryland suburbs, the board overseeing Prince George's County's public hospitals was replaced after allegations of nepotism, mismanagement and conflicts of interest. The new board's first step was to lay off 650 persons. Charges were placed and then dropped against nurse Jane F. Bolding in the suspicious death of a 70-year old patient, but a probe by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control into the hospital's death rate continued.

In Montgomery County, Dr. Donal M. Billig, former head of cardiothoracic surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital, faced charges of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of five open-heart patients.

As the year was winding down, election-year politics were beginning to shift to high gear. Gov. Hughes sought to keep the thrift crisis from tarnishing his two-term luster as he contemplated a quest for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. But Democratic Rep. Barbara A. Mikulski was giving Hughes a run for his money, and Rep. Michael Barnes and Baltimore County Executive Donald Hutchinson also threw their hats into the Democratic primary ring.

In the race to succeed Hughes, meanwhile, there loomed a legion of candidates, including Baltimore's popular mayor, William Donald Schaefer, and Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs. And those races created a domino effect that opened the prospects for exciting state and local contests in the 1986 campaign. THE WINNERS

*1. WILLING WATER. Forget Big Boy, Willing Water wins.

The little stick figure that has served for 24 years as the symbol of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission won a reprieve from the ash heap. The WSSC had planned to retire the little fellow because they thought he was too old-fashioned and undignified. But after a public outcry, the commission agreed to put off the decision until it determines if the commission also might need a new name.

*2.WINFIELD M. KELLY JR. Back in the limelight.

The former Prince George's County executive was appointed the new chairman of the nonprofit corporation that operates the three beleaguered health care facilities owned by the county. He secured the resignations of 22 members of the corporation's board in a shake-up that he said signals "a new beginning" for the institutions.

*3.BERNARD CROOKE. In the clear.

The grand jury probing alleged improprieties among Montgomery County police officers issued no indictments, much to the delight of Chief Crooke. But its report criticized conditions surrounding the county police department's investigation of the Progress Club, a private organization of mostly elderly men where illegal gambling flourished until the Rockville police raided it last year.

*4.MARYLAND RACING INDUSTRY. Off and running.

The Maryland General Assembly passed an $11.7 million tax break for the thoroughbred racing industry that reduces the state tax on average betting totals from 4.09 percent to 0.5 percent. It also reduced the license fees as well as the amount of racing revenue distributed to local governments.

*5.JACK LUCAS. A hero's reward.

A Medal of Honor winner whose personal life had been scarred by the loss of a fortune and a murder plot directed against him by his second wife, Lucas was arrested on charges of unlawful manufacture and possession of controlled dangerous substances after a police raid found marijuana on a farm where he was living. Lucas denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors dropped the charges after saying Lucas' "heroic service to his country" was a factor in their decision.

*6.SQUEEGIE KIDS. Washing away.

Despite an attack by the Baltimore City Council, the young entrepreneurs are still on the streets. For years, the free-lance, inner-city windshield washers have been a fixture at busy intersections, darting among cars stopped at traffic lights to wash windows in the hopes of a tip. The City Council considered legislation to prohibit the practice, but compromised to allow the youths to be on the streets under stricter rules.

*7.CHASE MANHATTAN. Banking on Maryland.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation in a special session allowing the New York banking giant to begin operations at 13 branches in the state by acquiring the crippled Merritt Commercial Savings & Loan Association and two other state thrifts. Although Gov. Harry Hughes praised the measure as a means of cutting possible state losses, the bill was nearly torpedoed by the state Senate, which objected to provisions allowing the former owner of Merritt to keep some of the thrift's properties.

*8.BIGGEST LOTTO. Bettor days.

Five Maryland residents shared an $11 million Lotto jackpot, the largest in the lottery's history. The excitement before the April 13 drawing created a buying frenzy as more than 5 million tickets were sold in a week. The winners were Sharon Robbins, of Walkersville, Md.; Wilbur F. Schillenberg, of Baltimore; Harry L. Hamby, of Washington County; Jennifer Staton, of Germantown; and Michael Hales of Falls Church, Va.

*9.SEN. CHARLES McC. MATHIAS JR. The man for all parties.

Mathias, Maryland's venerable Republican senator from Frederick, announced he was calling it quits after 17 years in the Senate and eight in the House. A member of the liberal wing of his own party, Mathias, 63, was a consistently popular vote-getter in his heavily Democratic home state. His legacy includes civil rights legislation, the battle for campaign financing reform and the federally backed cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay -- and a furious scramble by Democrats to win back what has been a secure seat for the Maryland Republican Party in the U.S. Senate.

*10.KING TOM. School days and knights.

Thomas Cooper was elected to head the student government at the University of Maryland at College Park. But Cooper is not your normal student government president. He was elected "king." King Tom, as he likes to be known, says he will knight members of the legislature "and a general air of pagentry will fill the air." THE LOSERS:

*1.SAVINGS AND LOAN DEPOSITORS. An angry run.

Reports of a shake-up at Old Court Savings & Loan in Baltimore in May triggered a run on the thrift and a crisis throughout the privately insured industry.

*2.JEFFREY LEVITT. Levitt alone.

A former Baltimore slumlord, Levitt later became known for his philanthropy, patronage of the arts and lavish life style. But his fortune took a dramatic plunge this year when he was removed as president of Old Court Savings & Loan. Now, Old Court is in receivership and Levitt is facing a multimillion-dollar civil suit.

*3.SAMMIE A. ABBOTT. What made Sammie run?

The 77-year-old activist, organizer and cantankerous Takoma Park mayor who had come to personify the small, independent city, was voted out of office. Many city residents said Abbott's abrasive political style had been his downfall, but he was unrepentant. "Regrets? Hell, no!" he said. "It doesn't bother me at all that I don't have suburban decorum. I don't give a expletive deleted for it."

*4.ABORTION BOMBERS. Paying the penalty.

Three Maryland men who opposed abortion on religious grounds were convicted of a series of 10 bombings against abortion clinics and other facilities in the Washington area and along the East Coast. Thomas Eugene Spinks, of Bowie, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution. Michael Donald Bray, also of Bowie, got 10 years and $43,782 in restitution, and Kenneth William Shields, of Laurel, drew a two-year sentence.

*5.DONALD FRUSH. Missing mayor.

Hagerstown's mayor lost his bid for reelection in March after he mysteriously disappeared from City Hall and was found to be hospitalized at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore as a voluntary psychiatric patient. Frush said that stress and fatigue, but primarily a gum infection, led to his absence, but he was defeated by challenger Steve Sager, who captured nearly 62 percent of the vote.

*6.MARLAND DEEN. Joker's wild.

The president of the Charles County Commission was convicted by a jury of one count of paying off on an illegal video "Joker Poker" machine that once operated in his country store in Waldorf, Md. He served 33 days in the county jail.

*7.REV. JOHN P. CARTER. Church in turmoil.

The United Methodist minister was convicted by 12 other ministers of disobeying church law after a trial on sexual harassment charges. Five women testified at the church proceeding that they had been sexually harassed by Carter. He was acquitted on the charge of immorality. The court recommended that Carter undergo counseling and ask forgiveness at a public worship service before he returns to the ministry.

*8.WOODWARD HIGH SCHOOL. School's out!

Despite emotional appeals from students and their parents, the Montgomery County school board voted to close Charles Woodward High School and send the students to Walter Johnson High School, half a mile away.

*9.JOHN M. FEDDERS. Private life goes public.

The Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement director resigned his post after news reports that his wife was alleging in a divorce proceeding that he beat her. Fedders acknowledged some of the violent episodes but said his wife's descriptions were exaggerated. He asked the Montgomery County judge to dismiss his wife's petition in the hopes that they could reconcile. Judge James S. McAullife granted the divorce.

*10.PETER O'MALLEY. "I'm history."

Although he never formally announced his candidacy, Peter F. O'Malley, the former Democratic political kingmaker in Prince George's County, ended his quest to become governor. O'Malley gave up his hopes of a campaign after it became apparent that Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer was running for governor and O'Malley, who had a power base similar to Schaefer's, could not gather enough support. FIVE TO WATCH IN 1986:

*1.HARRY HUGHES. The buck stops here.

Once considered a leading contender in the race to replace retiring Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr., the governor is feeling a strong backlash from the state's thrift crisis. As the state gears up for the most exciting and unpredictable campaign season in 20 years -- one that some political observers say could change the face of Maryland politics -- Hughes is trailing other senatorial candidates in the polls and is fighting for his political life.

*2.JOHN MURPHY. Seeking new image.

With a missionary zeal, the Prince George's County superintendent of schools has moved to turn around the image and performance of the school system. Under Murphy's direction, the county has launched a complex system of magnet schools and extra funding for schools that cannot be desegregated in response to a 13-year-old NAACP lawsuit. Murphy has also vowed to raise the performance of black students through programs that include academic remediation, a pilot program of frequent testing and strict attendance regulations.

*3.KONTERRA. Watch that space.

A Prince George's Circuit Court judge has thrown the planning for the Konterra minicity development into disarray. Judge James Magruder Rea ruled that the county council erred in granting limited rezoning for the project because it did not put forth any valid reasons for denying similar rezoning for another 970 acres of the project. The decision is being appealed.

*4.WILBUR PRESTON. Probing the thrift crisis.

The former head of the prestigious Baltimore law firm of Whiteford, Taylor, Preston, Trimble & Johnston is investigating the origins of Maryland's savings and loan crisis for the state. The study, which was designed to complement a criminal investigation conducted by the attorney general's office and the U.S. attorney, is to be completed early next year.

*5.BALTIMORE STADIUM. Keep your seats.

Gov. Harry Hughes' sports study commission has recommended that Maryland build a new stadium for the Baltimore Orioles, a $166 million expenditure that some legislators say is not likely to win approval in a year when the state faces a crisis in the savings and loan industry.