Although the reunion was scheduled to begin Saturday, August 28, some of us arrived early to the beautiful Pinehurst Resort only to wait with anticipation for the arrival of our friends. To pass the time, we took a leisurely walk along one of the Resort's eight nationally ranked golf courses, then meandered into the small village of Pinehurst filled with specialty shops and restaurants.
By the afternoon of Friday, August 27, we were getting restless. We bumped into Frank Bobrowski, retired from Aramco after 30 years in the Kingdom (1954-1984), and he too was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his fellow Aramcons.
We started checking out the nooks and crannies of the hotel and village. This proved to uncover a few more familiar faces such as Tim Barger, and Frank and Judy Corts. We found Dhafer Al-Koheji and met Edna Catchings both of Aramco Services Company (ASC). Finally, around ten in the evening, we found an unmarked gathering place, The Ryder Cup Lounge, right off the main lobby of the historic Carolina.
By the time we arrived, the Lounge was brimming with friendly conversation. Handshakes, hugs and smiles were being exchanged, and laughter filled the room. Among the familiar faces were Ann Kennedy, Max Gore, Al and Darlene Dowell. We also met Mazen and Naheeh Snobar and Jamil Al-Dandany of Aramco Services Company.
Ann Kennedy, who volunteered to help with registration, shared her story of how, as a young nurse in her thirties, she came to work and live in Saudi Arabia. We'll leave the story telling to Ann, but if you haven't had the pleasure of hearing it you'll want to ask her how it came to be.
The conversations went on late into the night, and for some, the next day. Lois Wolfrum claimed the conversation didn't end until 3 a.m. To say Aramcons were eager to get the reunion underway is an understatement.
It seems that sleep is a low priority when friends await, and bright and early the next morning the halls of the Carolina were bustling with people. The first day of the 2004 Annuitant Reunion had finally arrived.
The volunteers working the registration desk were busy handing out reunion directories, nametags, maps and the special gift of a Saudi Aramco fleece throw. Booths were being set up with the help of Barbara Predmore for the Sideline Exhibits due to open Sunday morning.
Jary and Jane Archer, Pam and Charlie Burns
Mary and Dean Barber
By mid-day, the hotel was packed with Aramcons. Those who had checked in were busy catching up with friends in the comfort of the hotel lobby where dozens of couches and chairs were arranged for friendly gatherings, or along the veranda seated in the many white rocking chairs so reminiscent of the South. Some Aramcons had already made their way to the golf courses to experience the legendary Pinehurst golf.
Edie Offield and Judy Walker
Cocktail Hour Followed by Banquet Dinner
At 5:30 p.m. everyone gathered for a cocktail reception in a hallway adjacent to the Grand Ballroom. Annuitants packed the hallway wall-to-wall. For the first half-hour, it was difficult to move at all. Eventually, enough space opened up for careful maneuvering through the crowds. Some found it easier to stake claim to a booth against the wall and wait for passers by.
At 7:00 the banquet dinner began. The dinner hosted by ASC was by invitation only and you had to present your invitation for entrance to the Ballroom. A jazz band played classic tunes while people found seating throughout the banquet room.
Reunion Chairperson, Curt Wideman, welcomed Aramcons and honored our oldest Aramcon attendee, Hutch Hutchison who is in his 91st year. Then he introduced Aramco Service Company President, Mr. Mazen Snobar.
Aramco will be a Reliable and Dependable Source of Energy
Mr. Snobar discussed the current business climate for Saudi Aramco and then moved on to Aramco Services Company business. He lead the audience in Arabic and they responded back, demonstrating the close ties between Saudi Arabia and Aramcons. He spoke of Saudi Aramco's 'best in class' position and the contribution of all Aramcons to make this possible. He highlighted the importance of the technological transfer and development of young Saudis and emphasized that the contribution of annuitants will never be forgotten. He also noted that Saudi Aramco is now almost into the 3rd generation of expatriate workers and the company welcomes "your grandchildren to come back to work for the company".
Mr. Snobar discussed the climate in Saudi Arabia and proclaimed that "we are fighting a common enemy and together we will defeat that enemy". He also highlighted six imperatives set by the company and noted that the company aim was to be transparent, involved, global and engaging. He spoke of the involvement of both Saudi Aramco and ASC on the global and national fronts and how both companies are inviting more people and more industry to come and visit Arabia and vise versa. He noted ASC's involvement in Habitat for Humanity and highlighted the 50 volunteers that produced results in their dedication of time and energy. Additionally, he commented on the electronic availability of Saudi Aramco World. He stated that Saudi Aramco and ASC remain dedicated to their mission; that a proud heritage built a legacy; that the efforts of annuitants are deeply appreciated and he encouraged everyone to tell the Aramco story; to create a "vivid expression of the bonds that tie Aramcons together".
Activists For Saudi Arabia
Following Mr. Snobar's speach, a video was shown on two large screens. The video featured the Memory Lane Tour participants and special interviews held with Tim Barger, Bill Tracy, and Lois Wolfrum to name a few. It told briefly the story of how the relationship between Saudi Arabia and America began in 1933, and what that relationship has accomplished over the years. It told a different story than what is seen in the media. A story that Aramcons know well.
Bill Tracy presented after the video and discussed his selection for the tour and encouraged more Aramcons to become letter writers, Op Ed writers and speakers on Saudi Arabia.