Most early mornings here, finding an open table at Pappy's Coffee Shop is a dicey proposition.
The small diner along Rosedale Highway opens at 4:30 a.m., just in time for workers to grab a bite before heading out to the oil fields. But on a recent Tuesday at 6 a.m., many tables sat empty. About an hour later, more customers arrived, mostly oil industry higher-ups, retirees or farmers.
Roger Lake, a regular, scanned the restaurant.
"I don't see any oil field workers," he said.
Lake knows the industry well. The 76-year-old Bakersfield resident has worked in oil since 1959 and still consults, though the plunging prices encouraged him into...