Murray Brothers, "Printers Since 1898," survived the Great Depression (they opened a dance hall in the plant), two world wars (they hired women) and more. Murray Brothers did not, however, survive this recession. The company declared bankruptcy last year, a victim of high interest rates and consumer cutbacks.

"I still can't believe it," said Magruder Murray, wading through the debris left by auctioneers at the family plant on U Street NW. "It was 89 years old, and I lost it.' "

He says he made some management mistakes but, had business loans been something less than an unmanageable 22 percent, the business could have survived. The Murrays agonized over the bankruptcy decision. Magruder's grandmother, Ethel Murray, 91, is still paying back a $75,000 personal loan that she took out to help.

Magruder Murray now works at two printing jobs, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Those came only after months of searching, and nightmares of losing the family's 16th Street home.

"I would have taken a job at any price," Murray said. "I was desperate. Once you've been through this you can see why a lot of people contemplate suicide. A man is brought up to feel responsible for his family. When he can't . . . . "

Ethel Murray, 1974 Washington businesswoman of the year, says that the recession was the "worst thing that could happen" to family businesses. She adds: "I hoped my great-grandchildren would come up through Murray Brothers some day, and learn the right and wrong way to do things. No more, no more."