PHILMONT, N.Y. (AP) _ Oliver North's hometown neighbors, friends and classmates expressed relief at his acquittal on most counts Thursday, but some were angry that a verdict had been delivered at all.

''Somebody better give him a vote of thanks,'' said the town's former mayor, Russell Robertson. ''He was one of the nicest scapegoats this country ever had. He took it right on the chin.''

Robertson said President Bush should pardon North, a former star athlete at Philmont High School.

North was convicted Thursday of three out of 12 charges for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, including destroying documents. He was acquitted of the other counts, including lying to and obstructing Congress.

''I'm glad of the verdict,'' said Charlene Yorck, who also felt North was made a scapegoat by his superiors. ''If President Reagan didn't have anything to hide, why didn't he get up on the stand?''

North is remembered fondly by many in this town 45 miles south of Albany where an Oliver North Day parade was held two years ago and stores stocked up on magazines with the hometown boy on the cover.

In August 1987, a crowd of more than 2,000 turned out for the festivities honoring North.

North's mother, Ann, who lives in the Albany suburb of Guilderland, would not comment on the verdict.

Government superiors had to know what North was doing, said Rebecca Bonesteel, who walked down Philmont's sunny main street with her two sons.

''I thought he was not exactly innocent of the things he was doing, but I think he was acting on orders from a higher authority, '' Bonesteel said.

''I think they ought to let him forget about it,'' said Ralph Hoag, who said he was a year ahead of North at Philmont High School. ''He was a good kid then. I still like him.''

Not everyone was behind the hometown boy. One woman, who refused to give her name, said she'd gotten into tiffs with friends and neighbors over North, who she said belongs in jail.

Joseph Krein, pausing for a soda at a local convenience store, said he was disgusted with the verdict.

''It almost looks like they had to nail him with something,'' Krein said. ''If he had gotten off scot-free, it would have been too obvious. I think they're just going to slap his wrist.''

But Krein added: ''I don't think he was a hero. Sure he did what he was told, but didn't he have a conscience?''