Depositors with money tied up in Maryland's troubled savings and loan associations could have felt relieved yesterday, but some said they are afraid to celebrate until they see the results of the solution to the crisis.
"It's a start -- a long-overdue start," said television ad salesman Art Leffler, "but I can't rest until I get my money and until everyone else gets their money, too."
Washington attorney Nancy Chasen said she is "65 percent relieved but 35 percent of me still wants to see the signatures on the bottom line before I relax."
Both Chasen and Leffler have savings in Friendship Savings & Loan Association of Bethesda -- one of three thrifts to be purchased by Chase Manhattan Corp. and converted to full-service banks under a compromise plan approved yesterday by Maryland legislators. The other two thrifts are Chesapeake Savings and Loan Association of Annapolis and Merritt Commercial Savings and Loan Association of Baltimore.
Leffler said the freeze on his money -- he has an account at Community as well as at Friendship -- will mean a no-frills holiday season for his family. He said he and his wife usually spend $1,800 to $2,000 during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. "But this year, we will spend only about one-fourth that much . . . . We just don't have the money to be frivolous, because it is frozen."
Some Maryland depositors also expressed concern that the thrift crisis has had a ripple effect in the community, creating problems for even those who have no money in the problem institutions.
"This isn't an isolated problem," said Ethel Meisels, a Chevy Chase resident with savings in Community. "It affects everybody, whether they realize it or not."
Among her neighbors, for example, Meisels said, are a couple who are saving to buy a house but uncertain of "where to invest their money until they have enough to make a down payment on a house," and a psychiatrist who believes that the thrift crisis has created an environment that makes everyone uneasy and erodes confidence in all financial institutions.
"It is outrageous that these things have happened," Meisels said. "And it is demoralizing that something hasn't been done sooner about the situation."
Limitations on withdrawals could be dropped at all three thrifts by early November, when they are reopened as Chase-owned, federally insured banks.
But the interim freeze at Merritt is triggering angry telephone calls from depositors, according to state hot line manager George Rayburn.
"One man was extremely irate," Rayburn said. "He said he didn't give a damn about Merritt; he said he had money at Merritt and he wanted his money now -- not two or three weeks from now."
Rayburn said the hot line (800-638-6661 for Maryland callers and 301-659-6400 for callers from outside the state) received a large influx of calls yesterday from depositors who have money in troubled thrifts that are not directly affected by the new Maryland legislation.
Depositors, meanwhile, say they intend to keep working for a solution to all of Maryland's thrift ills.
"We will rally in Baltimore in November to keep the issue alive and to show the state of Maryland that everyone -- all depositors -- are hardship cases," said Leffler.