So life goes on; one chapter ends and another begins. Since our arrival, we had been going at a pretty fast and exciting clip, especially while the kids were there, but on reflection, at that time, we didn't think it was nearly as nice as it had been when we lived there 19 years earlier. However, the money we made was still great, and Aramco did take care of things, even though some conditions, both work-wise and living were pretty frustrating. We decided that we were going to try to make as normal and enjoyable a life for ourselves as possible.
It was nice to have something specific to do, so I gratefully went to the "Money Tree Class" at the Women’s Club Portable the next morning. We soaked paper towels in a paste-like mixture, arranged it on a board in the shape of a tree, and then left it to dry for a week until the next class.
Patty and Burl York had gotten back from their vacation, so I went by to welcome her back, before going home to cook some lasagna sauce.
Marge DeSantis came by to see how I was doing, which was very nice of her. She could certainly relate to sending your children out of the Kingdom after summer vacations. I ended up going with her to see Luci Englehart, then the Library. It was good to stay busy.
The Women’s Club Welcome Coffee was the next morning, so I attended that and performed my coffee and tea chairman duties.
Oran had weekend duty in Udhailiyah all that month of July, so his days off would be Monday and Tuesday, so he flew back to Abqaiq that first evening.
The wife of Keith Kaul, the Canadian who had flown to Arabia on the plane with us, had finally arrived in the Kingdom, so he brought Shelia over to meet us and to have a lasagna dinner. She was a petite, dark-haired beauty, who would turn a few heads while we lived there. We didn't realize at the time, but she and I would form a very close, personal, special and lasting friendship. Strangely enough, she later confessed that of all the foremen’s wives, she felt that I was the most reserved, and would be the hardest to get to know. Just goes to show you.
Monday morning Oran talked to the Housing Office and the Shipment Department personnel to check on our situation. We went swimming in the afternoon and saw Mike Smith, who told us he was thinking of leaving Arabia.
That evening Jim and Sharon Morris had us over to see the slides of their trip to Africa, and they had really captured some wonderful pictures of the animals.
Tuesday, July 8, 1975 was another exciting day; our shipment arrived just four days after Vicky and Keith had left Arabia. It's a shame they couldn't have still been there to see everything, although it would have been pretty hectic and crowded, at least until we got everything unpacked and put away. Luckily, Oran just happened to be home because of his days off that month, so we were able to unpack most things; put the rugs down, the bed together, the furniture in place, etc. It really looked nice, all the colors blended together perfectly and we were so pleased with the new things we had bought. What a difference! Everything seemed to be there and in good shape, but we wouldn't know for sure until we got everything unpacked, which would take awhile.
Everyone got excited when a shipment arrived and went to see the new stuff, so we had a lot of company as well, that day. Marge and Sandy came by after bridge, the Morrises and Steindorfs dropped by too, and Jeanine King came over that evening. We stopped working then to have sandwiches and soup, and Jeanine joined us for that. Then one of the most unusual things to happen while we were in Arabia occurred.
Jeanine and Jerry's son, Jimmy, came to our apartment with two strange Englishmen. They said they had found Jimmy out by the Mansour Camp and brought him back to Abqaiq Camp and our house because he knew his mother was there. He told us that he had been walking over to our house earlier when a young Arab man in a car stopped by him, pointed a gun at him, made him get in the car, then drove out the main gate, past Madinat and down the road toward Hofuf. Then he pulled off the main road, stopped the car and told Jimmy he was going to kill him. Jimmy opened the door, jumped out, and started running. The Arab fired 3 shots at him but missed in the dark. Then Jimmy hid behind a sand dune and the Arab drove off, after looking around awhile. After waiting awhile to be sure the Arab was gone, Jimmy flagged down a car and the driver let him off at Madinat, the Arab town outside our camp. Then the two Englishmen found him and brought him to our apartment.
Well, needless to say, we were all shocked and doubtful of his story, but we went back over to the Kings' house and Oran called Security, our in-camp police. Jerry came home from work about that time, so Jimmy told his story again to his dad, an American in charge of Security, and an Arab Government Relations man. Then they took Jimmy to show them where this had all happened. He spent hours telling his story to the Arab Police and looking through mug shots.
For the next week, the police searched all through Madinat and Al-Farah Camp, where the Arabs who work for Aramco live. They did find the Arab; he confessed, and a lot of hashish was found in his room as well, so he was put in jail. So we knew it really had happened, although it was hard to believe.
I was glad Keith and Vicky were gone. Otherwise, I would have been afraid every time they left the apartment. I thought of letting them go off with Mohammed and realized how lucky we had been.
After all the excitement of the previous evening with Jimmy and because of our shipment arriving, Oran stayed home again until the 4 o'clock plane to Udhailiyah the next day. We continued unpacking and putting things in their proper place. Jeanine and Jerry came over again and talked to us about the progress being made on Jimmy's situation.
That evening was Wednesday, the beginning of the weekend, but Oran had to fly on back to 'Udhailiyah as he was the "on duty" foreman. Marge and Marvin Williams dropped by to visit and see the shipment, but after that I just fixed myself a bite to eat and watched TV. It had been a really full week.
Sharon and Jim Morris had an Austin-Healey convertible, which she drove all over camp, and a lot of times she would ask me to go with her. It was not far to walk anywhere in camp, and most of the time was very enjoyable, but the temperatures had gotten quite high, around 112 degrees, so a ride then was greatly appreciated.
So the next morning, she drove us to the Library and then the Commissary. We really had a lot of fun, and it helped pass the weekend while Oran was out of town.
There wasn't much to do the next day, so I unpacked more of the shipment. Saturday was the second Money Tree class. This time we painted the tree foliage green, the trunk brown, and the background blue, then left it there to dry for another week. Later we would glue coins from various countries we had visited to the branches and have it framed.
I went to the Commissary again the next morning with Sharon and later played bridge at Ruth Cumings’. Oran flew home that evening for his days off.
Jeanine and Jerry came over again to tell us that they were very upset and worried about Jimmy's situation. Although the Arab was caught and in jail, the police and Aramco Security kept trying to get Jim to change his story. We thought it was going to turn into a big mess and there were all sorts of rumors going around. After all, it was the most unprecedented event ever to have taken place between an American youth and an Arab in Saudi Arabia up to that date that we knew about. The Kings decided right then to go talk to the Englishmen again, but weren't able to find out anything they hadn't already heard before.
The next morning Oran and I spent more time unpacking boxes and putting things away. There were a few things broken and some glasses missing, but other than that, we had received everything we sent, luckily. Then we had to get all the Aramco things we had been using washed and ready to give back to them. It was a job, I can tell you. We still had to hang drapes and pictures and arrange everything the way we wanted them, but that would get done as time permitted. Oran took a much needed break to go swimming before hooking up the dryer. Then we went to the Kings for a very nice dinner of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob. They were just trying to live as normal a life as possible and do things that would help take their minds off their problem with Jimmy. We were concerned as well, and doing everything we could to help them.
On Oran's last day off that week, Tuesday, July 15th, we received a card from Keith and Vicky from Rome, and it was so good to hear from them and know they had enjoyed their stay in that beautiful city. It had always been one of my favorite places to visit.
That afternoon I made chips by frying small triangles cut from canned tortillas we could buy in our Commissary. Commercial chips could still not be found in Saudi Arabia at that time. Another thing we did was cut the large, round Arab bread in small pieces and either fry, or bake them slowly until they were crisp. These homemade substitutes, while time consuming to make, were delicious and thoroughly enjoyed.
After Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah the next morning I wrote Keith and Vicky to tell them a lot of people had been asking about them - some of the women on the softball team, the women in our casual bridge group (the foremen’s wives), Keith Wheeler, Jennifer Lundbye, Joe Williams, Mohammed, and, of course, Mike Smith. He had come by a couple of times, but then did leave Arabia. The letter got mailed on my way to the Shipment Office to turn in a claim for our missing and broken things.
I thought things were beginning to slow down, but then another exciting thing happened. An Englishman delivering booze outside Abqaiq Camp to be sold in Mansour Camp had a wreck at the turnoff, right in front of the Arab Police Station. Booze spilled everywhere, and needless to say, they put the Englishman in jail. Then Aramco Security raided a lot of houses in Abqaiq Camp where they suspected booze was being made to sell, and sure enough, some very elaborate stills were discovered. Five employees were out of there on the next plane, one of them the head doctor of the Abqaiq Clinic, and another the husband of a German woman we had met at the swimming pool.
Commercial alcohol had not been sold in our Aramco Camps since the early 1950's. It was stopped then because the Arabs were beginning to consume it, and that was, and is, against their religion and law. Also, one of them had gotten drunk and killed an English doctor in Riyadh. However, at that time King Abdul Aziz gave a Royal mandate allowing Americans in the Aramco Camps to continue to consume alcohol privately, as long as it was not sold to the Arabs.
The liquor still in the warehouse was rationed and sold in our camp Liquor Store, which was in the back of a portable building shared with the Post Office in the Industrial and Recreational area of Ras Tanura. It was sold just until all supplies were gone, the liqueurs being the last to go. Then homemade stills started to be constructed, beginning with the pressure cooker, then the two-burner stove variety, and eventually more sophisticated and elaborate constructions, which came later. It was dangerous, as the finished product was 190 degrees and pure alcohol. Also, it was not always made with the best ingredients or distilled properly and it needed to be cut by half with water. There were a lot of accidents and explosions in those early days, with some deaths and injuries. There was also secrecy. Everyone locked their doors and pulled down their window shades when they were running their stills, even though it was suppose to be all right.
Eventually, a "How To Make Booze At Home" booklet circulated among Aramcons. It gave detailed instructions on how to make a "still" and recipes for booze, wine, and liqueurs. It just became an accepted way of life there in our camps, and everyone tried to outdo each other to see who could make the best tasting "white Lightning", liqueurs, wines, and beer. Browned oak chips were soaked in some of the pure alcohol to produce the color and flavor of Bourbon, so there was either a choice of "Brown" or "White" to make your cocktail with. Artificial flavorings and essences were also brought from the States and European countries to add to the pure alcohol for various drinks until the Saudi Government stopped allowing that to be brought into their country. It was even forbidden to bring in wine yeast. This privilege was never intended to involve the Saudi Arabs, but it was taken advantage of and did get out of hand occasionally.
Some Americans, British, and other foreigners were fired or put in jail, and everybody else was very, very careful for quite awhile after these incidences. We never did acquire a still, just babysat some for friends who were on vacation for a cut of the action. We did keep two five-gallon glass wine jugs bubbling all the time though, sometimes siphoning them off just before a big social occasion. The aging process was never very long. There was always a good supply of ingredients for this in our Commissaries or suqs.