Once upon a time, before IRAs and CDs and mutual funds, the payroll savings plan was the ticket to retirement heaven. Just set aside a few bucks from your paycheck each month and have them converted into U.S. Savings Bonds. Time and Uncle Sam took care of the rest.

Savings bonds fell out of favor with a thump about 15 years ago, when interest rates rose so sharply that any poor shloonk could get 10 percent on his savings just by stuffing them into a money market fund (savings bonds were paying about 5 percent interest in those days). But lately, as money markets have settled in at 8 percent yield and savings bond yields have risen to nearly that much, the payroll savings plan has been making a comeback.

But not in the way it should. A mole who works for Uncle Sam passes along a memo he received from his supervisor a few weeks ago. Seems that from now on, Uncle will offer only $100 savings bonds through the payroll savings plan. He used to offer 50s and 75s, too, but no longer.

Isn't that creeping elitism, my mole wanted to know? A way of making it easier on the higher earners and tougher on the smaller earners? And in effect, isn't it a way to assure that smaller earners are less likely to take part in the program?

Peter Hollenbach of the Bureau of Public Debt said 50s and 75s were dropped for two reasons: It wasn't cost-effective to sell bonds in such small denominations, and most early redemptions consisted of 50s and 75s (thus driving up administrative costs). There have been "few complaints" about the disappearance of 50s and 75s, Peter said. Meanwhile, payroll savings participation rates have risen significantly across the government payroll since 1988, he added.

Glad to hear it. But shouldn't 50s and 75s be given one more chance? I'd hate to think that a GS-3 or PFC who might be considering the payroll savings plan is being frozen out.

Local high school reunions planned and trying to get that way:

Hyattsville '40. Oct. 6. Call Charles Shyrock Jr. (577-3020).

Richard Montgomery '85. Date still unsettled. Call Gaye (424-6747), Doris (424-8132) or Karyn (340-3092).

Hammond '70. July 21. Call Becky Cool (578-4279) or Lynne Hamilton-Weir (836-5046).

Surrattsville '70. July 13-15. Call Terry Zinnemann Antonioli (888-1461) or Jeff Thorne (449-4250 after 6 p.m.).

Eastern '40. June 28. Call Kay (530-1194) or Bernice (652-4343).

Northwood '65. Aug. 11. Write to Class Reunion, P.O. Box 15629, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815.

Roosevelt '40. Oct. 12-14. Call Dolores Allen (434-3643) or Jane Estes (598-5034).

Bethesda-Chevy Chase '60. Sept. 15. Call Judy Colton Christensen (340-9022).

Sherwood '70. Sept. 22. Call Rhonda Wharton (464-8644).

Richard Montgomery '80. July 7. Call 1-800-397-0010.

Central '40. Oct. 6. Call Barbara J. Kurz (598-7290).

Eastern '60. Sept. 21-23. Call Melvin Anderson (839-2840).

Washington-Lee '40. Sept. 8. Call Anne Carr Fletcher (243-6117) or Leslie Phillips (522-1144).

Fairfax '70. Aug. 18. Call Donna Keagy Morgan (648-0056) or Jack Robey (263-0129).

Edison '70. June 30. Call Connie Grimm Hudson (280-1287) or Lynne Haas Gomez (370-2775).

Washington-Lee '80. July 28-29. Call Ann (524-7951).

Montgomery Blair '40. Sept. 15. Call Dorothy Thomsen Barnes (270-2431).

Jefferson '80. July 6. Call 339-3793.

Rockville '85. July 14. Call Diane Duane (650-2197 days).

Broad Run '80. July 14. Call Mark Cashion (703-777-4154) or Sandy Gardner Brill (703-444-2656).

Central '65. July 21. Call Guy Smith (855-8507).

Margaret Murray Washington Vocational '70. Organizing. Call Helen Powell (523-5691) or Francine Hunter (894-6298).

Lee '55. July 13-15. Write P.O. Box 61058, Jacksonville, Fla. 32236.

Anacostia '70. Oct. 6. Call Lawrence Thurston (832-2239) or Janice Mitchell Scarboro (699-9299).

Coolidge '70. July 6. Call Michael Diggs (829-8931).

McLean '80. June 23. Call Mona Reinhardt (527-1163).

St. Mary's Academy (Alexandria) '60. Aug. 11. Call Charlotte Knight Farley (876-9159) or Dottie Boyles Hughes (385-9374).

George Washington '65. Organizing. Call Rich Comisky (455-5978) or Dave Dixon (986-6510 days).

Good Counsel '65. June 22. Call 942-1155.