Postal clerk Lois Alspach could tell that Tuesday was going to be different. At 11 a.m., most of the 800 postal boxes in North's home town were still full.

No one in the Hudson Valley village of 1,625 was picking up the mail.

Most were home watching North ("one of the nicest schoolboys," Alspach said) on television. And long before the day was over, there was little doubt how they viewed the testimony of the fired presidential aide they knew as Larry.

Joe Bangert, manager of the IGA supermarket and a Marine in World War II, paused in his deserted food store. "Oh, he's doing fine," Bangert said. "Going to come out smelling like a rose."

"I think Larry carried the day," said North's former English teacher, Thomas Gibbons, as he nursed a Genessee Light Beer on his patio later in the afternoon. Gibbons was one of five townspeople who had agreed to watch the proceedings with a CBS-TV news crew. After the crew departed, all agreed that the ambitious youngster from down the street had, indeed, done very well.

"I'd like to invite him back to speak at the high school graduation, that's what I'd do," Gibbons said. His wife allowed that her husband had a supply of "God Bless America and Oliver North" bumper stickers but had not distributed them.

Even former North schoolmate Bill Richardson, who restores cars and came as close to being skeptical as anyone in Philmont, said he was "more convinced now that he was firmly convinced that what he did was right -- and it probably was."

North's testimony, agreed several of the regulars at Stewart's Shop on Main Street, gave Philmont about as much excitement as anything since the January night in 1977 when the town's last operating textile mill burned down.

But textiles, the industry that brought the Norths to Philmont two generations before Larry was born, have not been much of a factor here since union suits, made in the small North-owned mill, went out of fashion.

North's family has moved away, too. So why such support for someone they hadn't seen for 20 years? "Because we feel he's a local boy," said Mayor Philip Mossman, his burly arms crossed before him on the plastic checkerboard tablecloth at Nick's Bar. Mossman said most of his constituents also see North as a hero.

"Hey," he said, thumping his chest where North wears his medals, "he didn't get that basket of fruit salad for nothing."