Originally published in American Banker on July 7, 1982.
At 7:05 Monday evening, the euphoria of the energy boom days turned to despair at Penn Square Bank NA, fourth largest bank in Oklahoma City.
In the hours after the announcement by the Comptroller of the Currency of closing the bank, employees began leaving Penn Square's whitewashed three-story headquarters building in small groups, their faces taut and downcast. When reporters attempted to talk with them, they did not break stride, walking sullenly to their cars in the parking lot of the fashionable Penn Square Shopping Center here.
The building was bathed by the bright lights of TV cameras positioned outside.
It was an incongruity that this high-flying bank that tried to play in the big leagues of oil and gas lending should be wedged between a tall-girls' sportswear shop and a tobacco store.
The poured concrete core of the bank's $36 million office tower, its steel skeleton rising only halfway to the top, loomed over the shopping center in testimony to Penn Square's excess of ambition. Ironically, the tower's flashing red aircraft-warning light was, along with a full moon, the brightest thing in the Oklahoma sky.
Curious Drive By
Two window washers continued to clean the wall of glass doors at the entrance to the shopping mall — apparently uninterested in the activity in the parking lot, and totally oblivious to what was taking place inside.
From time to time, a wiry security guard would unlock the bank's back door, allowing a group of men to wheel out large cube-shaped plastic containers on hand trucks.
Every so often, the curious would drive by. They came in late model Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs, enquiring what had happened, and when told that the bank had failed, asking what would happen.
Others already knew. They said they had deposits of $100,000, sometimes more.
There was a young blonde-haired man, dressed only in a maroon bathing suit and slightly sunburned from the three-day Fourth of July weekend. He leaned against his pickup truck, gazing in disbelief at the Penn Square building. He asked a reporter if he would have to wait in line to get his money, and when told that it really would not be necessary to sleep in his truck, he shouted angrily, "You don't have $100,000 in this stupid bank."
Four young men wearing cowboy hats parked their white Continental in a space directly in front of Penn Square. Asked if they were affiliated, one man in the front seat replied with a terse, "No comment." He then buried his face in his hands and cried.
At precisely 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, career FDIC examiner G. Michael Newton opened the doors of what had been just the night before the Penn Square Bank, admitting depositors to the newly created Deposit Insurance National Bank of Oklahoma City.
A crudely written sign was taped to the front door. It said: "All loan payments made next door in installment loan department." It was written in heavy red ink.
Depositors were separated into two lines at the main building: Those with more than $100,000 in deposits and those with $100,000 or less. About 35 well-dressed citizens, some apparently young executives and others substantial looking elderly couples, waited in the "over $100,000" line.
Young women with Penn Square identification tags walked down the line, handing out signature forms and notices to depositors. One woman, asked if she had been told how long she would remain on the job or who would be paying her, said, "I haven't the faintest idea. Right now my job is to give out these forms.
Ambulance is Waiting
A helmeted Oklahoma City policeman stood guard at the entrance, while TV cameramen photographed the bank's depositors. An ambulance, its lights flashing, drove up onto the sidewalk outside the low-lying oil and gas division offices. The crew from the Amcare Ambulance Service said that they had come as a "precaution." But the driver was heard to say, "We'll sure be needed before the day is over."
Inside the mall, the line was much longer. These were customers of all description. Some were wearing shorts and sweaters. There were several mothers carrying infants. A number of laborers wore the caps common in the oil patch, proclaiming their affiliation with mud companies or oil drillers.
One elderly woman, asked if she had any concern about her money, said, "I have confidence in what the gentleman said on TV this morning." The gentleman was William
M. Isaac, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., who called a 7:30 a.m. news conference to reassure the public that their deposits up to $100,000 would be safe.
There was laughter in the long line of small depositors. There was no laughter in the other line.