A loud cheer and a round of applause rang out when the red and white Loomis armored truck pulled up today at the downtown branch of Old Court Savings & Loan to make a mid-afternoon cash delivery.
The response reflected the level of concern among worried depositors who had been standing in line for more than four hours to get their money out, a scene that was repeated at at least six of the troubled thrift's seven offices today.
For the second day in a row, hundreds of people lined up outside Maryland's second-largest privately insured thrift institution to withdraw their funds, in reaction to reports that Old Court was having "serious management difficulties."
But, instead of being isolated to Old Court's Randallstown branch, where the crowds gathered Thursday, the lines today spread to at least five of the thrift's other branches. While about 300 people lined up across the Randallstown parking lot and down the sidewalk toward the adjacent Liberty Court Shopping Center, another 300 lined up outside the Linthicum-Ferndal branch on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, and hundreds more gathered at the Westminster, Middle River and Reisterstown branches. The thrift has another branch in Ocean City, where officials said that while they had more withdrawals than usual and stayed open an extra four hours, lines never developed.
At 9:30 p.m., 80 to 100 customers were camped out at Old Court's Randallstown branch, according to Baltimore County police. Officials closed the Linthicum-Ferndal branch about 7:30 p.m., leaving about a hundred angry customers outside, some vowing to stay overnight until the branch reopened Saturday.
Many of those standing outside Old Court's downtown branch said Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs' announcement of an investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing at Old Court brought them out.
"The criminal investigation article in the paper today triggered a real concern," said Faye Friedman, an employe at WBAL in Baltimore. "Intellectually, I think that taking my money out is a stupid move, but emotionally I'm responding. . . . "
"I'm here because everyone's here," said Art Silverman, who works for the Baltimore City government. "With all these people pulling out thousands of dollars, you have to be a little leery."
About 10 a.m., at the Randallstown branch, a truck from Martin's West catering service pulled up, and workers began unloading folding tables, providing coffee, danish and punch for the hundreds already lined up. Some customers arrived to get in line as early as 4 a.m. As the day wore on, customers who wanted to make deposits were allowed into the S&L ahead of those who wanted to make withdrawals, causing considerable anger among those waiting to remove their funds.
The mood of the people ranged from apprehension to chagrin at being part of a panic. Some blamed the media; others blamed family members for insisting on withdrawals.
"I have confidence in the system, but my family told me to get . . . down here and get the money," said Robert Coberly of Columbia, who was withdrawing a $23,000 certificate of deposit that was due today.
But some harried depositors were withdrawing CDs that hadn't come due. A 48-year-old contractor from Pikesville who declined to give his name was withdrawing a $100,000 CD due in just 20 days, and paying a $3,000 penalty in lost interest. "I hate to do it," he said. "I guess I am panicking in a way."
Some depositors said they took the day off from work to wait in line because they didn't want to take any chances. "Either you wait in line a whole day or kick yourself next week when Gov. Hughes shuts the doors," said one man in his mid-20s.