First Trip to the K.S.A.: Chapter VIII - And The Beat Goes On

Since things seemed to be going so well, and Keith was older, and sleeping in the evening and night, we got a baby sitter every now & then and went to an affair that was going on in camp. So, on Thursday, August 8, 1951, we went to a dance on the patio at which they gave away door prizes (everyone put his name in a pot and the winners were drawn from that). Surprisingly, they drew both our names, so we got a 10 lb. ham and two cases of beer. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or if we were the latest couple to have a baby in camp. Either way we were pleased with our gifts, as well as being able to socialize with friends again (Some of them helped dispose of the beer as I didn’t drink that).

Then nearly a week later on August 14th, we went to a buffet dinner at the Guest House, located right on the Persian Gulf not far from our apartment, given for the Navy Officers of the U.S.S. Greenwich Bay, which alternated with other ships coming into the Ras Tanura port. We mingled with all the Aramco big shots, as well as Navy brass. Getting pretty classy, weren’t we? Outside of occasions like that every now and then and going to the movies, we stayed pretty close to home, and played each other that old familiar game, Canasta.

As usual in August, the weather had been very hot (between 110 and 120 degrees), but it still was not as bad as last summer. Of course, I stayed indoors most of the time since Keith was there then, so didn’t notice it much at all. Oran wasn’t teaching the kids to swim that summer in the Persian Gulf because he was working all day, but he went swimming himself once or twice a week. I didn’t go then because Keith wasn’t old enough to go yet, and it was so hot to be out.

We were taking a lot of pictures of him as he was changing so fast. He could turn over from his stomach to his back already. It first happened one morning when he was in his playpen. I was sitting close to him sewing and noticed that he was struggling to attempt it and was making much progress. I was mentally struggling with him and finally, over he went. When Oran came home at noon for lunch, Keith was awake, so I put him in the pen, not telling Oran he did it. Pretty soon, Keith flopped over, and it thrilled Oran to death.

He just slept about 4 or 5 hours during the day then, but still all evening and night. He would be in his playpen or bed looking at his hands or nursery rhyme cut-outs on his wall. He tried to pull himself up when he grasped your fingers and pushed against you when you held him up. Of course, we thought he was quite the boy and were naturally the very proud parents.

Our good friends, Desda & Bill Hale, had us over to dinner on September 9th. It was her birthday and they served Champagne. Fancy, huh? We returned the dinner 2 nights later and I baked a cake for her. Every occasion over there was a reason to celebrate. We had been doing a lot with them since I got to Arabia, as they were about our age, and we had a lot of the same interests. They were a very sweet couple from Michigan, married about a year after we were, also in December, so we decided to get together to celebrate our anniversaries each year.

Aramco Annuitants Colleen and Oran Wilson
Oran takes Colleen on a tour of the refinery.

Oran finally took me on a tour through the Refinery on September 13th. It was a bit scary being around all that big machinery, but interesting. I enjoyed meeting more of the guys
Oran worked with (the ones I didn’t already know), Roy White, Frank Gates, Frances (Hondo) Schmidt (Joe Schmidt’s brother), Burl York, Bob Wolf, Bill Gallivan, and Gene Johnson, the boss. I also met some of the Arabs, Fat Kalifa, Shahib (old man), one they called Bull, and one from Palestine, Habib. While I was there, it became prayer time, so all the Arabs lined up on the ground in the shade of a big tank and went through the routine. Chris DeSantis was there, too. Oran went back to his regular shift work after his 3 months of straight days during the next week.

After 2 weeks of a 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. night shift, he had a couple of days off, so we left Keith with one of the women who helped me with him so much right after we came home from the hospital, and drove to Dhahran to renew Oran’s passport and register Keith as an American Citizen at the American Embassy. We also went to Al-Khobar and did a bit of shopping. Surprisingly, they were beginning to get practically anything you wanted to buy then, including American goods, as well as foreign.

A new, more modern, section of Al-Khobar was being built three blocks to the west of the, then, current main street, Prince Sa’ud, with paved streets and brick-block, two story buildings. But our shopping area was still a narrow, dirt street between several blocks of small, one story, wooden, open faced stores with big fold back wooden doors that could be locked at night, or prayer time. A canvas awning hung down during the day to keep the sun out and the flat top roofs were usually piled high with junk. Sometimes a bed was on the roof, as well. There were no banks, but moneychangers sat on the ground at the streets edge, with a slotted drawer in front of them to offer this service to shoppers. At that time, there were four Saudi Riyals in one U.S. dollar.

Oran started working a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift after that on October 4, so was home during the day. He sometimes played a tennis match or went swimming in the morning. The weather was getting much nicer by then, in fact, it was about the best time for swimming. The water was not too warm or cold yet. We even took Keith to the beach several times for fresh air and sunshine. We got a big beach umbrella from Recreation and spread a blanket under it for him to lay on. He really seemed to enjoy that. One time Desda went with us. We also put him outside in his playpen around 4:00 until 5:30 with the other babies in the apartment building, one 5 months, the other 7 months. That was fun to watch.

When he woke up from his nap, I would put him on a sheet on the floor right in front of me. He would be smiling & gibbering and playing with a little rubber dog that squeaked. Then when he was good & awake, he would roll all over the place. He could turn over completely then & didn’t stay in one place or one position from one minute to another, whether he was in his play pen, bed, or on the floor. He weighed 16 and 1/2 lbs. then and had outgrown all his cotton diaper shirts, so had to wear the tee shirts I had for him. I had to buy larger sizes of plastic pants for him in Al-Khobar also.

When he was 5 months and 2 days old, on October 24th, I carried his bottle in to feed him at 10 a.m. and there he was, sitting up in bed. I was so amazed, and of course, thrilled. He had shown very little effort before that to sit up, but since then, I hadn’t been able to keep him down, not that I tried. By the end of October, though, Keith got a cold with a very bad cough that I was worried about, but the doctor thought it just natural with a cold.

Then 3 days later, on November 1, after I fed him, he had a coughing spell & couldn’t stop, so Oran went after the Dr. (It was Friday, so the Dr. was at home). After he examined Keith, he took him to the clinic-hospital, there in Ras Tanura. Dr. Johnson thought it was bronchitis until the blood test showed it was whooping cough. We were very upset and scared. While Oran stayed with him, I went back home, made up some formula and took it back to the hospital. I had hoped to see the Dr. again, but he had gone home.

The next morning, we went back to the hospital and got a favorable report from him. Keith’s fever was back down to normal (it had been 101.4 rectally), he had slept well last night which he hadn’t done for three nights at home, and coughed less. Dr. Johnson thought that with the first of a series of three DPT shots (whooping cough included) that he had during his 4th month checkup at the clinic, the second one he received yesterday after arriving at the hospital, the penicillin shots he received to keep down infection, and his medicine (a new drug that is very effective in combating whooping cough) he might not go into the very bad stage of the disease, or that if he did, it wouldn’t be too bad. For about the first 18 hrs. in the hospital, they had a special nurse for him, but the doctor didn’t think that was still necessary, so that was another encouragement. We felt that he was getting as much done for him there as he could have in the States.

It seemed so strange to be without a baby. Oran & I were just lost sometimes. He had been getting so active and cute creeping all over the place and grabbing at everything with his hands. He had recognized his feet and was trying to eat them. I still was pretty busy making up formula every day and visiting him twice a day. We played with him a little while that morning, but he didn’t seem to recognize me. I suppose I looked like just another nurse to him. He gave Oran a great big smile though, which thrilled him.

After 4 more days in the hospital, Keith was much better, but Dr. Johnson wanted to keep him there a few more days, since he was so young and was the first American ever to have whooping cough in Arabia. They had plenty of nurses and doctors and only a few patients, so he really got the attention. All the nurses said they were not going to let him go home because, even sick, he was still a mighty sweet and likeable baby boy, and so cute. They had all spoiled him. We probably would, too, when we got a hold of him. I had a cold, then, myself and wasn’t able to go in the room with him even for the last 5 days he was in the hospital. It nearly killed me not to be able to hold him.

But he did finally get to go home on November 11th. He still had to convalesce for a while, though, but the doctor thought he was all right. His temperature still went up a little about once a day, but it wasn’t high, and the doctor said that was natural with whooping cough. He coughed very little then, and when he did, it wasn’t bad. We were so happy to be getting him home again.

While this was going on, the big news from the U.S. had been about the election of the President. We got Newsweek and listened to the news broadcast on the radio every day, so kept up with it pretty well. Everyone there (in Arabia) seemed pleased with the outcome, and we knew we would have voted for Dwight Eisenhower, too, if we had been at home.

Keith’s illness really didn’t slow him down any at all. He was still a mighty healthy hunk of boy, at 6 months and weighed 17 and 1/2 lbs at the end of November. He had learned to sit up very well in the hospital and was crawling all over the place at home. By December 7th, he was pulling himself up to a standing position on all the furniture, and of course, he did his best to tear everything up.

Guests at the Wilson's Anniversary Party
Colleen (left) celebrates her anniversary
with Desda Hale, Liliana Williams,
and Ann Gulovsen.

As usual, social activities started picking up in December. Our anniversary party on December 9, kept me busy. It wasn’t a big affair, but we did want to celebrate with our friends, Desda & Bill Hale. We also included Ann & Bob Gulovsen, and Liliana & Bill Williams. He was a Texan, as well; who came to Arabia in 1948, the same year Oran had, then married an Italian Airline stewardess and brought her to Arabia in 1952. We would do a lot with them, as well.

Guests at the Wilson's Anniversary Party
Colleen, Desda, Liliana and Ann are joined by Bill Hale, Bob Gulovsen and Bill Williams.

We made another recording for Christmas for my parents, but just mailed it this year. The company was so busy doing this that we just had time to do one side. We couldn’t get Keith to let out one peep, so that was disappointing. The weather was beautiful then, just like spring, but we put up and decorated our artificial Christmas tree, and made things as festive as possible, mainly for Keith’s first Christmas. He really seemed fascinated by it all. But since he had gotten so active, I had a hard time keeping him away from things. In fact a couple of days before Christmas he did turn over a floor lamp breaking the shade & base, and he pulled over the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t you know it?

Christmas day was nice, but very full of activities. Keith was 7 months, 3 days old, old enough to really enjoy the presents he received, both from Santa and our friends. And we really enjoyed watching him sitting on the floor in front of the tree opening and playing with all his toys. Santa brought him a cradle spin, fuzzy bear, rubber Pluto, a ball, a clown doll and a cloth lamb. Our friends gave him a pull toy duck, a small helicopter and a T-shirt, a child’s book and an assortment of cars & airplanes. He got the usual card with a dollar in it from my Aunt Abbie & Uncle Verl from the States. His cup runneth over. We still missed not being with our family at that time, especially not being able to show Keith off to them.

Later in the day, the company Santa arrived by helicopter to bring presents to all the children in camp. That year the landing place picked was the large parking lot between our apartment and the theater across the street. So we took Keith outside and got right in the middle of all the goings on. That seemed a bit scary to him, but he liked getting another present.

That evening, we had eight people for Christmas Dinner. I had a ham and everybody brought something, so it wasn’t the chore it had been last year. My friend, Olive McDonald, wasn’t there to help me this year, as she had left the country. She and Ken Cobb had broken up, so as an employee of the company, she went on her short vacation at the end of a year to visit a nearby country. She overstayed her number of days allowed, so Aramco let her go. We would see her again in the years to come, though, and would stay in touch indefinitely throughout life.

The company gave the usual New Year’s Eve Dance and we were able to go that year. It was held on the patio, which was outside, of course, and it did get a little nippy. We wore jackets, though, and had a bit to drink, so that helped. The company furnished the usual hats, horns, and other noisemakers, so it was festive.

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