The more I look around the more I see that this appears to be a problem with some ESP modules. The module I have is sold by more than one seller on AliExpress and I found a detailed comment by one purchaser that described exactly the problem I'm having. The OLED ESP module was designed by a vendor called Heltec and others copied it, some well, others not so well. I got one of the bad ones. This is the FIRST problem I've had with an ESP module, every other one I've used has functioned perfectly.
I'm still open for suggestions, but I think I'm just out US$13.