First Trip to the K.S.A.: Chapter XII - And Baby Makes Four

As required by the company to go to the Mother House in Dhahran at least a week before the due date of the birth of your baby, Oran drove me to Dhahran on September 29th, and we checked in, and made all the necessary arrangements. As Oran would continue to work, we had made arrangements in Ras Tanura for Keith to stay with the older couple who had the Texas Party, Walt & Daisy Mayfield, this time. They also got the full use of Britto, who would help take care of Keith, and we hoped he wouldn’t feel so deserted. Oran would see him often, of course.

That turned out to be another pleasant stay in the Mother House for me again, except for missing Keith. Oran came down to visit but not as often as before. He had a pretty full schedule to attend to. My roommate that time was Meg Wayman, who was also my neighbor in the same Apartment building. Her husband, Craig, just happened to be one of Oran’s bosses, and their son was about Keith’s age, and one of the children he played with at times.

Our friends Desda & Bill Hale wanted to come to Dhahran to visit me and go shopping. So on October 5th, they drove down in their new MG Convertible, picked me up at the Mother House and we drove to Al-Khobar. We spent the morning doing what everyone did there, walk the length and back on the main street, going in each shop or special shops, checking to see what new treasures had arrived since our last visit. The weather was a bit cooler, but it was still dusty and dirty. Actually, I was already in the early stages of labor with slight twinges of pain periodically. I had such a long labor with Keith I really thought it would be all right. It was, but when we got back in the car after shopping, I told Desda & Bill and said I figured Bill could deliver a baby, if necessary. He was pretty shook up, I think, and got us back to the Mother House just as soon as he safely could.

The rest of that day, my labor progressed in a normal way, so I informed the Doctor who had me go on into the hospital. I called Oran and he came on down to Dhahran. Coincidentally, Meg ended up in the labor room hospital, and we had our babies the same day, though it wasn’t the race it had been with Rosemary Gushue when I had Keith. My baby arrived at 1:59 a.m., so our beautiful, little girl, Victoria Gayle Wilson was born on Tuesday, October 6, 1953, in the Arabian American Oil Company Senior Staff Hospital in Dhahran, Al Hasa Province, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Keith and Vicky Wilson
Keith Wilson with his new baby sister, Vicky.

She was delivered by Dr. R. C. Brown, weighted 6 lbs, 8 and 1/4 ounces and was 19 and 1/2 inches long. Though not a lot of hair, it was a pretty blond color and covered her head nicely. She had blue eyes, a rosy complexion, and her head was perfectly round. Her labor was just 24 and 1/2 hours long, a very normal and easy birth, a wonderful experience, especially so because it was a girl. Oran said Dr. Brown told him that I was the best and the healthiest patient he had ever worked with. I sure made having a baby seem easy. Meg’s little girl, Peggy Wayman, was born later that day, and we ended up being roommates, as well, for the rest of the time we spent in the hospital. Small World!

Oran & I both were thrilled with our new baby girl and glad she was a girl. We felt like we had the perfect family then, the one that most people seemed to want. Our comments to everyone were, “It couldn’t be nicer”, and “Exactly what we wanted”. The nurses were all wonderful and helpful, too, like with Keith, not just the ones in attendance when she was born--Eleanor Carison, and Rebecca Gabel. The others were Meta Zecheiv, Doris Sides, Dora Gennys Van Luhrs, Ann Mc Dowell, and Marjorie Cundall. Our parents were thrilled and glad everything went smoothly, too. Our church friends in the States were happy and pleased Vicky was a girl as well. All the pink things they gave her at the shower would be put to good use. Our cup runneth over again.

We took Vicky home to Ras Tanura in 5 days on October 11, and took her out on the back porch for her first picture. Oran said these are my two best girl friends. After another week at home we were delighted and surprised when Vicky turned out to be pleasant and no trouble at all. She was a perfect baby, so far - just ate and slept. We had decided not to try breast feeding because of the problem we had with Keith, so were raising her on SMA powdered milk, also, although we had to adjust her formula as she was projectile throwing up, at first.

Keith seemed to like her as well, and was good with her and helpful to me. It wasn’t long before he seemed to realize she was there to stay. Our houseboy, Britto, took to her right away. Although he didn’t actually take care of her then, he was very helpful and sensed what needed to be done around the house even before asked to do it. The usual friends came by to see her and most brought presents: Marge DeSantis, Desda Hale, a yellow dress, Liliana Williams, shoes, Vi Elliott, a Rattler, Kay Johnson, a white dress, Maurine Reis, Sheet & Pillow Slip Set, Charlotte Phillips, a doll, Daisy Mayfield, Bee Riggles, and Eleanor & Jules Thaler. Other cards came from friends and family in the States.

Since I had to spend a lot of time with Vicky, Oran & Keith became big pals. No meals went by without him being on Oran’s lap, and they went swimming together a lot. All in all, Oran thought he had a mighty wonderful family. That was helpful for me, but about that time we discovered that Keith had Impetigo on his head. The doctor cut all his hair off, and gave us some really potent ointment to keep on it all the time. It was a highly contagious skin infection commonly seen in babies and children. We had no idea how he got it, but we had to be so careful with Vicky then, and had to keep him from playing with other children until it was gone completely. That wasn’t our only problem then, either.

All the time we had lived in Saudi Arabia, the original King and founder of that country, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, had ruled since he established the Kingdom in 1932. But his health had been deteriorating since 1950, and on November 9, 1953 he died from a long, last illness. For a while, no one knew what would happen, so we were told not to leave our camps. Arab soldiers guarded us for several weeks. But King Abdul Aziz had named his son, Saud, as Crown Prince, and he became the new King. In no time at all, everyone settled down and things got back to normal.

Oran had to work with no days off during that time, even worked a week of 12 hours days. Britto and I mostly just took care of Keith and Vicky. She wasn’t any trouble at all, but Keith about ran me ragged. He could open every drawer and door in the house and climbed even the highest objects. One day, I found him standing in the kitchen sink playing with a pencil sharpener that was on a shelf over the sink. He had gotten upon the cabinet by climbing his high chair. His Impetigo was much better. We had it cured completely at one time, then it returned but not as badly as before. Good news.

On the 25th of November, it finally turned cold and along with it came a two day sand storm. That was nothing real new over there, but I still hated it. Everything got coated with sand just like frost back in the States. We didn’t try to do anything special or get together with any of our friends on Thanksgiving. We had Britto baby sit for us and went to the company Dining Hall for a turkey dinner, which they always had on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

By December 2, 1953, Vicky was still the perfect baby, sleeping most of the time. I only fooled with her when I gave her milk and water, her bath or going for a walk. She was never awake for hours like Keith was, just off and on sometimes between feedings, and then she may just lie in her bed and not cry. She was really sweet and so pleasant, smiled all the time even though we weren’t talking to her. She had stopped in the middle of a feeding to give me a great big smile. Her eyes were definitely blue, and we thought she was a very cute little girl. She didn’t sleep completely through the night yet, but always went 8 and sometimes 10 hours between feedings then. She didn’t take much milk but was gaining nicely (about 10 and 1/2 lbs. then) and seemed completely satisfied. Keith still couldn’t say many words, but jabbered all the time and tried to repeat everything we said, even though it was just an odd sound most of the time. The little monkey still just had five teeth.

We all did go for a walk around camp, pushing Vicky in the buggy. It was pretty, but cool, so we dressed Keith in his new brown corduroy jodfur pants with jacket and hat to match, and Vicky in a pretty yellow, crocheted sweater and bonnet to match. Talk about cute. We thought they were both the cutest kids in the world. You know how parents are. Anyway, we walked down the sidewalks through camp, stopping at Desda & Bill Hales and Marge & Chris DeSantis. Marge was pregnant then, with their son, Danny. She took pictures with our movie camera of our whole family in her back yard. It was a nice day.

I weighed 135 lbs. then, and I could wear all my clothes, although one or two of them were pretty tight. I was watching what I ate and tried to exercise some each day, although the day was sometimes gone and I suddenly realized I didn’t work that in. You would think the way I had to chase after Keith I could lose weight, but that must not be the right kind of exercise.

Desda Hale and Colleen Wilson with fancy cake
Desda Hale and Colleen Wilson pose
with their fancy, tiered cake.

Our friends, the Hales, and ourselves planned and had another Anniversary Party that year on December 6, 1953. It was at our house, a buffet dinner for three other couples, Liliana & Bill Williams, Ann & Bob Gulovsen, and Marge & Chris DeSantis. Desda & I had baked and decorated a cake in a three tiered cake pan I sent over in my shipment. Neither one of us had done anything like that before, but it turned out well and made a good impression on everyone.

Anniversity Party for the Hales and Wilsons
Guests at the Aniversary Party
Back Row - Chris DeSantis, Marge DeSantis, Liliana Williams, Desda Hale and Maurine Reis
Front Row - Bill Williams, Colleen and Oran Wilson

There was one thing we really missed though -- Champagne. There would be no more Champagne or any other type of liquor since we could get no more in Arabia. It was always against the Saudis religion and law to consume alcohol of any kind, but as a concession to our company, King Abdul Aziz had allowed it to be shipped to our camps to be sold there only and consumed only by American and non-Muslium employees. This privilege was never intended to involve the Saudi Arab, but it was taken advantage of and did get out of hand occasionally. In fact, one of them had gotten drunk and killed an English doctor in Riyadh. So commercial alcohol stopped being shipped to that country all together in early 1953.

However, at that time, King Abdul Aziz gave a Royal Mandate or decree allowing Americans in the Aramco Camps to continue to consume alcohol privately, as long as it was not sold or given to the Arabs. The liquor still in the warehouses 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 & Recreational area of Ras Tanura. It was sold just until all supplies were gone, the liqueurs being the last to go.

Eventually homemade stills started to be constructed, beginning with the pressure cooker, to the two-burner stove variety to the more sophisticated and elaborate, which came later. It was dangerous, as the finished product was 190 degrees 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 there stills, even though it was supposed to be all right.

Later, a “How to Make Booze at Home” booklet was written and 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. There was always a good supply of ingredients for these in our Commissaries and suqs.

Like most everybody, Oran did acquire a “still” eventually and tried his hand at making “White Lightning”. With the distillation experience he had running the Refinery, it came pretty naturally for him. Wine recipes circulated around camp, so we tried that, too. We usually had some glass wine jugs bubbling all the time. Occasionally, we siphoned and bottled too soon and corks would pop off and wine would get all over the storage closet, but that was just part of it.

Having alcohol or not wouldn’t affect our Christmas, anyway, that year. It would be more low key as far as parties and dinners because we had both the babies now, and we wanted to concentrate more on a family atmosphere. Oh, there were a couple of the usual Christmas Parties that we were invited to and attended. One was in the bachelor sheep sheds again given by all the ones who lived there: Fritz & Fred Von Beiberstein, Ken Cobb, Jim Bevis, Bill Gallevan, Joe Schmidt, to name a few. We met one of the new employees from Texas, Johnny Wilson and wife Mozelle. He worked in the Refinery, as well, so we would see more of them. Plenty of alcohol had been hoarded for these parties, especially after dinner drinks, so they were pretty lively. The company also gave the usual New Years Eve Dance in the theater.

As for Christmas itself, the company Santa Claus came again in a helicopter but landed in the Business area of Ras Tanura, so the gifts were given out on the Clubhouse Patio. Oran took Keith down there to see all that, be with the other children, and get his and Vicky’s gift. I stayed at home with her.

We decorated the house again and put up our artificial tree on a small table in the middle of the front window, put lights and bulbs on it. Keith was older so just enjoyed it all instead of pulling the tree over like he did last year. Our houseboy, Britto, seemed to enjoy it, as well, and even slipped presents for Keith & Vicky under the tree. We discovered them Christmas morning after all the things were under it, and the kids were awake to see them.

Vicky was just 2 and 1/2 months old, but we brought her into the living room, laid her on her stomach on one of the big chairs beside the tree. While Keith was having a ball playing with all his toys, she just laid there, looking up at the tree in awe, her eyes as big as saucers, her neck stretched out and up to see it better, like a turtle, a sweet, little, beautiful, loveable turtle. It was so cute and funny. Later she would notice and enjoy the toys she received--a clown doll, Donald Duck and Elephant squeak toys, a rattler, cradle gym and a wind up toy horse. Keith did enjoy his wheelbarrow, musical roll vacuum, a big spin top, a big rubber ball, and a small over stuffed, leather, red rocking chair.

Having and raising kids in a foreign country without the benefit of family to help or give advice was daunting enough, so we felt pretty proud of ourselves. It had been an eventful year with our trip home to the States with Keith for the first time, and the birth of our daughter, Vicky, but things had gone well, and we were pleased and happy. So 1953 had been a good year and was going out like a Lamb.

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