For the sixth day in a row, the parking lots outside suburban Baltimore savings and loans were littered with the lawn chairs and picnic coolers of savers seeking to rescue their money from the collapse of the state's private savings-insurance system.
The beach party atmosphere broke the tension of what was more a refugee camp than a picnic for savers whose funds were soon to be trapped by state order.
"The bottom line is it's a panic scare," said George Becker, 35, a business manager for Bud Schmidt Buick Inc. in Baltimore, one of 100 people waiting outside Fairfax Savings & Loan Association. "With the withdrawal limits at Merritt and Old Court, I'm worried now that I soon won't be free to take out all my funds here at Fairfax."
The Fairfax office was as besieged as the nearby branches of Old Court Savings & Loan and Merritt Commercial Savings & Loan Association, the two whose problems set off the exodus of cash.
After waiting in line for nine hours Friday to get their money out of Old Court's office in Randallstown, Joe and Mary Piechota, were not going to take any more chances.
After taking their Individual Retirement Account out of Merritt, the elderly retired couple withdrew their certificate of deposit from Eastern Savings Association and drove to Pikesville to close their reserve fund at Fairfax, just to be safe.
By the time the Piechotas got to Fairfax at mid-morning, a long line of customers already had begun to snake around the building.
Next door, at Custom Savings & Loan Association, another S&L on the congested Reisterstown Road, depositors were jamming the lobby and spilling out to the sidewalk.
The run on Maryland S&Ls began at Old Court and Merritt and then spread to other S&Ls.
So far, there have been no lines outside savings and loan branches in the Washington area, but hundreds of people throughout the suburban Baltimore area were beginning to panic, despite Gov. Harry Hughes' plea for customers to be calm.
The umbrellas and soft drinks protected the increasingly long lines of fleeing savers from the 80-degree sunshine as they retreated from what had been the hottest interest rates anywhere.
"I put my money in Old Court because it pays a higher interest rate than any other bank in the state," said Leo Rossman, a Baltimore man who works for City Painting Contractors, who was standing in line at the Randallstown Old Court branch.
Old Court, Merritt, Custom and Fairfax showed up every week on the pages of Savers Rate News, a Florida newsletter that tells savers where they get the highest interest on their cash.
"The interest rates are much higher than a commercial bank," said Becker, who nonetheless was abandoning Fairfax for the safety of a federally insured institution that pays lower rates. "It's better to be safe than sorry," he said.
Depositors were closing checking accounts, taking out the IRAs, withdrawing all of their savings and taking out certificates of deposit that hadn't yet matured.
Several depositors in line yesterday were outwardly angry and hostile toward the reporters and television crews standing nearby.
"You guys started all of this," one man yelled. "You can blame the newspapers for blowing this all out of proportion," a middle-aged woman grumbled.
"The media created this whole thing," agreed Robert Hyatt, a bank official at Fairfax, who was trying to assure the increasingly large crowd outside that his institution is financially sound.