First Trip to the K.S.A.: Chapter XIII - Happy New Year, 1954

On the other hand, 1954 came in with a roar. It would be very active, not only with the kids, but with parties, sports activities, and friends. A number of new people would arrive in Arabia with whom we would become very social, especially three, not only for this year, but for a lifetime. However, for the first week, everyone kinda kicked back and relaxed and recuperated from the Holidays.

The next weekend, on Thursday night, the Company had a Las Vegas Party in the Recreation Building, which was different and fun, and everybody in camp turned out for it. The Recreation Building was still in the Business part of camp, and included the Library, Bowling Alley, pool rooms, hobby room, etc., so they set up the one-arm bandits, Black Jack tables, Poker tables, Dice table, etc. in the big, long rectangular center main room in the middle of the building. We went with the new couple we had met at the bachelor’s Christmas party, Mozelle & Johnny Wilson, and had a really good time.

The old Recreation Building was not a fancy place at all; just a big, green, wooden structure in a U shape with an outdoor patio between the wings, but it was comfortable and relaxing. After Las Vegas night and because our schedule with the kids had relaxed a bit, we decided to take more advantage of the things there. We started going to the Library, watching the pool and card games, and the bowlers. There were always people watching the bowlers, and we knew most of them, so it was a social thing, at times.

There were just six lanes and you could see every bowler there and everything that was going on. There were no automatic pinsetters then, so the pins were picked up and the ball returned by Arab men assigned to each lane. Sometimes they had to scramble to get out of the way of a ball thrown by an anxious or inattentive bowler, but I never saw or heard of one being hit.

One Monday evening, one of the bowlers, Evelyn Blackwell, said they needed another bowler on their team and asked me to join it. I was pleased, but didn’t know how to bowl as there had been no bowling alleys in the little East Texas town I’d grown up in. A number of people said they would teach me, and there would be a handicap, so I agreed and started on January 18 and activity that would be a big part of my life while I lived in Saudi Arabia. I would bowl in that league every Monday evening for the rest of that season.

The following Thursday night we were invited to a dinner party at Kay & Jean Johnson’s. He was one of Oran’s bosses but a down to earth guy, his wife, as well. They were not much older than we were and lived in the identical 7-unit apartment just across the street from ours. We would do a number of things with them, including sharing an evening on the town in New York City, and socializing with them & others on the Hydroformer Training Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana next year.

Our friend Guy Smyth had been to the States on Long Leave and when he returned to Arabia in early February, 1954, he brought his wife, Pat and son, Steve, back with him. We had them to dinner right away and Pat & I became really close friends, like you do with a few people, and did almost everything together after that. It was a lasting friendship throughout life, both in Arabia and the United States. Our sons, who were the same age, within one month, would spend a lot of time together, as well.

Other couples and bachelors gave dinners and parties to welcome Pat to Arabia, too. Some of the bachelors had moved to Nejma by either care taking for a friend, marrying and bringing a wife to Arabia themselves, or into the new bachelor prefab built north of Jasmine Lane, along Palm Avenue, the road to the business area of Ras Tanura. Jim Bevis had met and married a Yugoslavian he met in Rome, named Jean. Fritz and Freddy Von Beiberstein were assigned one of the new prefabs. Vie Reis had gone on leave, married, and brought back Maurine. Pat was soon a welcome addition to the Women’s Club functions and bridge luncheons, as well. All of this added to the new increased social activities of the camp, and of our life there.

The company gave a Valentine Dance on Thursday, February 11, in the theater. We attended with Pat & Guy, Johnny & Mozelle, Ken Cobb, Liliana & Bill Williams and Desda & Bill Hale. You always saw everyone in camp at those dances, so Pat met others, Frank & Erica Gates, Charlotte and Al Garlington, Jackie & Monk Menkin, Pat & Jack Hardy, John & Dorothy Dixon,, Jack & Vivian Hays, to name a few. She told me that by February 14th, she was pregnant With her daughter. That’s why she named her Valerie.

Johnny Wilson and Ken Cobb
Johnny Wilson and Ken Cobb provide the music.

We found out that Ken Cobb & Johnny Wilson could play the guitar, so we started getting together with just them & the Smyths for small drinking and singing parties. We were either Texans or southerners, except for Pat. She was from Minnesota, but fit right in with the rest of us. That’s the kind of person she was, relaxed and fun.

That’s what our song fests were, too, fun. We all sat informally on the couch or chairs grouped around the coffee table, which held snacks, usually a big tray of sandwiches, and our drinks. We were already into the homemade stuff, wine & white lightning, and between everyone always had enough. The colored cigarettes you could get in Al-Khobar, a lighter and ashtrays were always available in their box on the table, too. I never did, but almost everyone smoked in those days.

Aramcon Guitar Party
Ken Cobb, Mozelle Wilson, Colleen Wilson, Pat Smyth, Johnny Wilson
and Guy Smyth (in chair) enjoy a night of singing.

Most of our singing left something to be desired, but we had a ball trying. Guy had a special song he sang about “Lydia Pinkum’s Compound” that kept us all in stitches. It went like this:

“We drink, we drink, we drink to Lydia Pinkum
And to her love for the human race.
A wonderful compound, a dollar a bottle
On the label is her face.

Now Mrs. Wilson, she has no breastwork
To feed her kids, she didn’t know how.
She took a bottle of Lydia’s Compound
Now they milk her like a cow.

Now, Mrs. Smyth, she had no lovers
Blotchy pimples were her plight
She took a bottle of Lydia’s Compound
And had a lover every night.

Now, Mrs. Richards had kidney trouble
For all her life she could not pee
She took a bottle of Lydia’s Compound
They had to pipe her to the sea.”

Al-Ayyarn Al-Zamilah - Pleasant Days.

Fortunately, Keith’s Impetigo was cured, so he was able to play with his friends again and be around Vicky more without us having to be so careful about that, and they did enjoy each other. Vicky was growing and developing nicely, could turn over, had discovered her hands & feet, could reach for, pick up and handle objects, and cooed & smiled a lot. She was a very joyful baby. We put her in the play pen in the living room a lot, so she could be near the rest of us more. Keith usually played nearby with his toys or sat in his red rocking chair. He liked the green hassock, too. He would hand things to Vicky and jabbered to her in his own language. That seemed to please her.

We also visited back & forth with the other mothers with babies and older children around Keith’s age -- Pat Smyth & son, Steve (a month younger than Keith); Meg Wayman & son, Craig & daughter, Peggy (born the same day as Vicky); Nona Tyler & sons Ross, Bruce (Keith’s age) & daughter, Gail (they had moved to a house just behind our 7-unit apartment), and Marge DeSantis had given birth to son, Danny, so we had to go see him, too. Our young friends and families were growing and enjoying each other and our lives in Arabia.

Our couples bridge and canasta playing suffered since we had the children, but parties picked up. There was a couple more in March. No one had to have a special reason to give a party. We celebrated everything -- someone going on home leave, someone returning from home leave, a new arrival, birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, you name it, we celebrated it.

After these, one of the new wives dropped by our house a few times when her husband was working. She was an exotic beauty, so Oran was very flattered, at first, but we soon realized she seemed to be more interested in just being with me. She even asked me to go to Bahrain Island with her some weekend, even offered to pay my way. She probably just wanted a traveling companion, and it was tempting, but I declined. Oran’s ego was kind of deflated for awhile, but I just thought it was funny.

We had noticed that Vicky’s left foot seemed to be turned inward and were worried about that, so we took her to the Dhahran Clinic to see a surgeon and have her feet X-rayed. The doctor said he thought it would correct itself when she walked on it, and it wasn’t bad enough to worry about. He was going to check it again when she stood. She couldn’t sit, stand, or crawl (very well) yet, but she was just 6 months old. Keith had been teething and had half of them now, ten. Vicky’s lower right front tooth had already cut through the gum. In this she was earlier than Keith, but not in other things. She was still the best and sweetest baby, though. I believe she topped them all in this department.

By the end of April, 1954, the weather was really nice, so we had started going to the beach almost every day, sometimes twice a day. Keith went with one or both of us, and we took Vicky frequently, too. We would get a big beach umbrella from recreation and take a blanket for her to lay on while Keith played in the water or with his sand pail. He was getting a nice tan, both there and in the Howdy Doody Plastic pool in the back yard.

Pat came over several times with Steve, and we would put them both in the pool while we sat nearby and talked. They played well together for the most part. Each were interested in their own toy of choice, but one time they both wanted the same cup to fill with water, and had a little tug of war over it. Then they started crying, but soon resolved things, and kissed each other as a way of making up, then went back to playing contentedly with their toy of choice. It was so cute, and Pat & I just sat there and laughed at them.

I had continued to bowl in the mixed scratch league. I had started in January, but that was over in May and would not start again until September. I did plan to join another league then as I had enjoyed it so much. Oran had been playing softball and May would be his last month for that, as well. In fact, he was playing on Monday night in left field position and as he caught a high fly ball, he ran smack into the wire fence surrounding the ballpark. He was momentarily stunned and was cut on the forehead, knee, and a finger, but wasn’t hurt too badly. He wasn’t even taken out of the game (no substitutes), but was plenty sore for several days afterward. I’m not sure he’ll be playing this next season.

Chapter 12Chapter 14