The people of this town had hoped the ordeal would be over today.
Instead, they will wait a few more days for the results of a shareholder vote on a recapitalization plan for Phillips Petroleum Co., the oil company that is the town's backbone. The recapitalization, they hope, will make it more difficult for New York financier Carl C. Icahn or someone else to take over the company and move it out of Bartlesville.
"We were hopeful it would be over with by now," said Sam Cartwright, executive vice president of Bartlesville's chamber of commerce, after Phillips officials told a packed meeting of shareholders that the outcome of the vote would be delayed a day.
"I will admit that we are fairly nervous," Cartwright said. "Anyone would be. But we're not pessimistic at all."
Bartlesville, located at the end of a ribbon of two-lane blacktop that runs for 50 miles due north out of Tulsa, has been under siege for almost three months. Its problems began when Mesa Petroleum Co. Chairman T. Boone Pickens Jr. made a bid for Phillips and they continued,after Pickens backed off, when Icahn made his bid for the company.
Bartlesville has rallied behind Phillips, fearing that a takeover of the company would turn this city of 38,000 into a ghost town. Phillips -- Oklahoma's largest private employer -- has about 7,700 employes in Bartlesville; their families account for thousands more of the population. And most local businesses depend on the Phillips employes.
"Twenty-five thousand of the 38,000 people in Bartlesville are related to Phillips, and the other 13,000 support the company," said David Oakley, a local automobile dealer. "We're simply people in a community worried about the dissolution of a company that's going to gut this community."
To support their company, Bartlesville residents have donned "Boone-busters" T-shirts, baked heart-shaped "Phillips 66" cookies, and held prayer meetings and community rallies.
Bartlesville schoolchildren were given a holiday for today's meeting, and dozens of them marched in the "We're tired, but we're not ready to quit." -- Used Car Dealer David Oakley rain in front of Phillips headquarters carrying signs backing the company.
The Bartlesville Constitution published a special edition, headlined, "Have a Heart -- Votes Needed." Shareholders arriving for today's meeting also were greeted by a sign at an automobile dealership on the outskirts of town reading, "We believe in Phillips 66 -- The way to go." Desk clerks at the company-owned Hotel Phillips, Bartlesville's finest, wore "I Love Bartlesville" T-shirts with the Phillips 66 emblem inside the heart that substituted for the word "love."
Bartlesville is trying to diversify its industrial base to reduce its reliance on Phillips. TRW Inc.'s pump division is the town's other big employer, but so far, local businessmen concede, Phillips is just about the town's only reason for being. So nobody much minded waiting one more day to find out what would happen to their company and their town.
"We're tired, but we're not ready to quit," Oakley said. "If it's a 'no' vote on recapitalization , we're just going to go on fighting. This town is not going to quit."