First Trip to the K.S.A.: Chapter XIV - To Kick Off The Summer

Activities continued with a Mexican meal cooked by Pat & Guy Smyth (always a treat for us), and to kick off the summer, Aramco gave a dance on the clubhouse patio. We went to that with Pat & Guy, Johnny & Mozelle, Ken Cobb, and Desda & Bill. Of course, everyone in camp attended that, so we all mixed & mingled, as usual.

June was the month Oran had been back in Arabia for a year since his home leave, so it was time to go on his short leave. The company would send you to a destination of your choice no more than a thousand miles away, and some of the favorites were Bahrain Island, Beirut, Lebanon, Basra, or Bagdad, Iraq. I really didn’t want to go anywhere as the kids were so young, and I sure didn’t want to leave them, but Oran felt he would really like to get away from the pressures of work for awhile, so we decided that he would go to Asmara, Eritrea for a week.

That is a small country in eastern Africa, between Sudan and Ethiopia. I still wanted to try to go to Jerusalem some day, and hoped we could before we left the area for good. Taking separate trips was not an uncommon practice over there, and Pat assured Oran, she would take care of me while he was gone, and we had Britto to help with the kids. So, he left on June 20, 1954.

Things went well. I saw Pat a lot, and she and Guy took me with them to another guitar, songfest at Mozelle & Johnny Wilsons on the 23rd. Ken Cobb Chris & Marge DeSantis were there, too. Britto baby-sat with the kids. We all missed Oran, but it was another fun night.

Pat & Guy’s son, Steve, was 2 yrs. old on June 27th, so they gave a birthday party for him, and his little friends, who included Keith & Vicky. That gave them a special thing to do, as well, while their father was gone. Besides ourselves, Marge DeSantis was there with Danny, also Lillian Hoy with her 3 children, and Mozelle Wilson. Pat was beginning to show with Valerie, so she was there, too. Steve was all smiles and enjoying himself immensely, but Keith had a puzzled look on his face, like, “why didn’t I get this a month ago when I was 2”. He enjoyed the cake and toys, though. Oran came back from Asmara the next day, looking rested and relaxed, so I think that was good for him, and the kids and I had a nice week, too.

Around July 1, a future friend, Lynn Palmer, her younger brother and sister were brought to Saudi Arabia by their father, E.B. (Ed) Palmer, an Aramco employee in the Engineering Dept. They had stopped in Beirut, Lebanon, on the way back from home leave in the United States so Ed’s Lebanese wife could visit her family before joining them in Arabia. Our group of friends did not really know Ed, but their arrival was soon known about all over our small camp. Being a pretty, young (18 yr. old) blonde, Lynn was hard to hide from all the interested bachelors.

She soon discovered the beach, and, as she told me later, she and her sister were sunning there one morning soon after arrival when a handsome “Greek God” rose up out of the Persian Gulf, came right over to her and asked for a date. That “Greek God” was our friend, Ken Cobb, so she started dating him and became a part of our crowd right away. They did make a beautiful couple, and everyone was really pleased they had found each other and so quickly.

In August, Oran found out he was one of the men selected to train for a couple of months in the United States for a new unit (Hydroformer) they were building in the Refinery. If everything worked out, we would expect to go around the 1st of the year (1955), just about 4 and 1/2 or 5 months from then. The training would take place in New York, New Jersey and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The families were going to be sent, too, so we decided the kids and I would spend some of that time with my parents in East Texas. There would be a lot of details to work out yet, but the information was pretty authentic. As it turned out Ken & Lynn would be going, too, along with Chris & Marge DeSantis, Gene & Kay Johnson, Peggy & Dave Wagoner, Joe Mahon, Dave French, Bob Wolf, and Bill Gallivan. That was another exciting event for us to plan and talk about.

Ken & Lynn continued to date and became more & more a part of our couples’s group activities. Then it became apparent to the company and everybody that her father’s Lebanese wife was not going to join them in Arabia. And since it was necessary for an employee to be on family status, with a wife, he could not live in family housing and keep children there, so they ask Ed Palmer to leave and take his children back to the States.

That presented a dilemma for Lynn & Ken because they were planning to get married when Ken left on his long leave in November. So they asked the company if Lynn might stay with a family already there, just until Ken’s home leave, so they could marry in Beirut, Lebanon and continue on Ken’s home leave and honeymoon. Pat & Guy Smyth offered to let her stay with them, and the company agreed, to everyone’s surprise, but we were all happy about it. So Lynn’s father left Arabia with her sister & brother. Lynn moved in with the Smyths, and their engagement was officially announced in Saudi Arabia and the United States on September 23, 1954. Stranger things have happened, I’m sure, but we just carried on our normal lives.

At the time, Pat & Guy lived in one of the 3 bedroom, wooden, row houses in the business area of camp near the bachelor quarters (sheep sheds, we called them) and beach on a care taking basis, like we had, before they got a permanent assignment. It was convenient as the bachelors were giving engagement parties for Lynn & Ken, and we were included in most of those. The married couples living in Nejma were having dinners and parties, as well, and there were card parties, luncheons, and a shower for Lynn, too. So it was an active, fun time for just about everybody in camp.

We had some more family news at the end of the month. The company my father worked for in East Texas, Deep Rock Oil Company, sold out to General American, and they had other plans for the area my father managed. The East Texas Oil field was being depleted of oil, decreasing in size and changes were being made. He was offered a roustabout job with General American but declined that. His real expertise was electrical and for several years he had been doing that kind of work for East Texas Salt Water and other oil related companies in the area, and was doing very well. So he decided to start his own Electrical Contracting business.

They would have to move out of the house and off the lease in the woods where I was raised the latter part of my school years. That would make me a little sentimentally sad, but almost anything would be an improvement for them. It was really a great opportunity handed to my father at that point in his life, but naturally, there would be anxiety, as well. I wished them well, and just asked them to let us know when and where they would move. As it turned out, he did build a successful business in the same area, and moved to a bigger, better house on the highway to Henderson, Texas, just out of Turnertown.

I told my parents there were still no definite plans concerning the training program, at least not known to the employees. We did hear a rumor that it would start January 21, 1955, which meant that we would be a bit later getting home than we thought at first, but that was good for everybody at that point. You could never tell how true the rumors over there were, anyway. We lived on them, and some of them were really screams. We would let them know for sure as soon as we could.

The kids were really changing and even Keith would be a stranger to them. He was tall and slender, like Oran, said just about everything, and was beginning to want to do things for himself, which was very trying to me sometimes, but he had to learn. We thought he was ready to sleep in a youth bed, because, at naptime and night, he climbed out of his crib and into Vicky’s to play awhile, then out again, into his own before going to sleep. We were trying to break him of that habit as he kept her awake.

She had just learned to climb, and I couldn’t keep her off the divan, the hassock, or the red rocker we bought for Keith. She already climbed like a pro, though, so I didn’t worry about her too much. Some other achievements of hers were to Patti Cake and play “Peek-a-Boo” or “Where is Vicky”. She would put her blanket over her head when we asked that, then she’d jerk it off and laugh. She didn’t walk alone yet, but was able to pull herself up and stand holding on to something.

She and Keith had a lot of fun playing together at times. At other times, she bothered him and he got mad at her and fussed. She usually screamed right back with the only word she said so far - Da, Da, Da, Da. It was really cute to watch and hear. My parents had sent them balloons in the mail and they had a lot of fun with them. Keith recognized them immediately, as being from Grandma Myrt and Grandpa Gale. He repeated their names quite often, even when it didn’t concern the balloons. He would at least know there was someone with those names when he got home. Vicky was almost a year old and had not been home yet, so they would be seeing her for the first time.

On October 4th, our good friends Pat & Guy Smyth fixed another Mexican supper. I was really hungry for it again - since the last one they had was about 5 months ago. We didn’t get the fresh lettuce and tomatoes that you needed for it all during the summer months. After the meal, I had to go bowl for a couple of hours in the mixed scratch league. The Fall leagues had started again in September and I joined again. I also bowled in a Women’s Handicap League one morning a week and substituted for the Mixed Handicap League at night when they needed me. That bowling had really gotten me all enthused. I wasn’t as good as all that might sound, but they needed people will all sorts of averages and mine was in the 120’s, and I hoped to get it higher. While I was bowling, Oran showed Pat & Guy and the others some colored slides of his trip to Asmara and some parties we had had in the last few months.

The weather was just beginning to get nice and everyone was so glad. It had been a very long, hot summer, and that inspired some in our group to have a beach picnic. So Desda & Bill Hale, Liliana & Bill Williams, Dorothy & John Dixon, and a couple of bachelors who worked with Bill in the Power Plant took our food, all the necessary picnic supplies, walked to the beach, picked out a nice picnic table by one of the brick grills with plenty of wood. The guys went to work building a fire so we could roast the wieners and heat the chili. They had a bit of trouble, but finally got it going (not a boy scout in the bunch), while the women got the table set up and the rest of the food put out.

Dixons had brought their 3 children, 2 boys and a girl (1 boy and the girl were twins), and Liliana and Bill had brought their new baby, a son, Bob. She just pushed the buggy through the sand to the picnic table and he spent most of the time sleeping. We brought Keith, as well, but we thought Vicky was a little young yet for that, so she stayed home with Britto. The evening was just beautiful, the temperature perfect, the waters in the Persian Gulf were breathtakingly, turquoise blue, as smooth as glass. We picked a good night, thoroughly enjoyed our food and sitting around the table visiting after, while the kids played in the sand. You can bet we did that again and quite often.

Things were going swimmingly for everyone, but the next week Pat Smyth started having, what the Doctor thought, were labor pains. It was a month before the due date of her baby’s arrival, but she had to go on down to the Mother House in Dhahran. All this was traumatic and upsetting for Pat & Guy, and it also presented another dilemma for Lynn & Ken. Lynn could no longer stay with Guy and his son, Steve and would have to find another acceptable family to stay with until they left for Beirut. Our 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment was just too small with the 2 children, so another family in our group with more room agreed to the company term and she was able to stay.

Poor thing, I’m sure she was beginning to think this wasn’t the right thing to do, but it all worked out. They left Arabia on Ken’s long leave and were married in Beirut, Lebanon on November 5, 1954. Freddie Von Bieberstein was the best man and Mrs. E. B. Palmer, Lynn’s Lebanese stepmother was matron of honor. From Beirut, they went to Rome, Italy, on their honeymoon, then to the United States for Ken’s long leave and a visit with their families.

It all worked out for Pat & Guy, too, except for the concern, as their baby, Valerie, wasn’t born until her actual due date. They later found out in the States that Pat’s false labor pains were a gall bladder problem, which they had fixed there. As usual, after the birth of a baby in Dhahran, Pat & Valerie went back home to Ras Tanura after 5 days. We were all thrilled and relieved that they were both fine, and one evening soon after, I took food to them.

To celebrate, I stayed for a drink and visit, but before you knew it, I was drunk and sick on the “martini” made with white lightning. Guy helped me to the bathroom to throw up, but while doing so, I peed in his house shoe. How humiliating. I had drunk very little up to that time, so it didn’t take much. They got someone to stay with the children and both of them went with me in a taxi to take me home.

When we got in the taxi, Pat told the driver, “Memshab is very sick”, but Guy said, “The heck she is, she’s drunk”. (We’ve laughed about that many times since.) Oran was sleeping before his evening work shift and at first, thought Pat was climbing in bed with him. It must have been a double disappointment when he realized how sick I was, and she was just bringing me home. It was a true test of our friendship, which somehow survived.

By the time Vicky was 14 months old, she was beginning to take a few, shaky steps on her own, which was a relief to us because of her previous foot X-ray. The doctor had been right, in fact, after she really got going, we had a hard time keeping up with her.

About the same time, the new Recreation Building the company had been constructing by the theater, caddy cornered across the big parking lot from our apartment was finished and opened. Everyone was thrilled and we had to go see it, of course. It was laid out along the Persian Gulf, but the closest door was on one end, directly across from the theater entry.

After entering into a wide hail, the Snack Bar was to the left, and to the right was the entry to the right wing, which was a large rectangular room, called the East/West Lounge, with windows on the end facing the Gulf, and windows on the side facing a large patio open to the Persian Gulf. This room could be partitioned off with a big, folding door to make two smaller rooms, and would be used for dances, bridge parties, and special events of that nature.

On down the wide hall to the left would be the dining hail and a special room called the Persian room for smaller, more intimate dinners and parties. Another smaller hail beyond those would lead to another opening to the outside parking lot. Back in the big hall, to the right would be an entry door to the large open patio facing the Persian Gulf. That was in the center of the area and divided the two parts of the Recreation Hall. Continuing on down the original wide hail on the left would be the bowling alley and beyond, in that wing, on the opposite side of the patio, was the library, pool room, and offices.

After checking everything out, we took the kids into the Snack Bar and had a treat to celebrate. When leaving, before putting Vicky back in her stroller, we put her on her feet and let her take a few shaky steps down the wide entry sidewalk. We took movies of our first visit to our new “Surf House” recreation building. A lot of activities would gradually move there from the business area of camp, and it would be wonderful and convenient, but we would miss the old, green recreation building there, with our sentimental attachment to it, especially after the past year. But life changes and you adjust.

The Christmas Holidays were festive again this year with decorations in most houses and all over camp, even on the outside and in yards. I think the Arabs liked it as much as we did. Some decorated their cars and taxies, sent us cards we could buy in the canteen, and greeted us with Merry Christmas. It was nice. The kids loved it, too. Vicky was just as exuberant standing by our decorated tree, looking at it with a big, “open-mouthed” laugh on her face. Keith was more subdued but pleased, nevertheless.

We took them both to the business area of camp when Santa came in his helicopter that year, so we all mingled with the crowd and Santa as he gave out presents to all the kids. He left nice things under our tree at home, as well, on Christmas morning, including a tricycle for Keith, a rocking horse for Vicky, a harmonica, an airplane, some books, and a wagon for both of them.

Oran & I exchanged Christmas gifts with our closest friends, too. The funny thing about that was we almost always gave each other the same thing because what you could buy in our canteen was very limited. It wasn’t unusual for everyone to give and receive a box of Whitman’s Sampler candy or a wooden relic of an old cabin porch with battery operated light. But it was the thought that counted.

We fixed a Christmas dinner at our house that year with Desda & Bill Hale and included 6 bachelor friends; Joe & Hondo Schmidt, Elmer Yeamens, a new employee from Galveston, Texas, Bill Gallivan, Robert Helms, and Dick Frossard, another new employee who had become socially involved with our group. They all seemed to enjoy the home cooking and atmosphere and especially the kids.

Before the year was out, Oran & I walked over to the new Recreation Building one evening and just went out on the patio. The company had put tables and chairs there and strung lights around on the roofs, so it looked festive, too, and beautiful. There was a cool, caressing breeze coming off the Gulf, so we sat down for awhile looking out over the calm, sparkling, water, just enjoying the night. It was very relaxing, and we knew we were going to partake of many activities and benefit from this new addition to our camp over the next year, 1955, and beyond. Ras Tanura was really a special place, and we loved it.

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