First Trip to the K.S.A.: Chapter XVI - Back Home in Ras Tanura

The first night we were home we had dinner with Pat & Guy who had kept our house boy, Britto, and the next day he came back to work for us again. It was good to be back “home”. However, Keith got sick again, so I took him to the doctor who said it was his throat. The next day he was much better, but I may have to have his tonsils out while we are home on leave in the States next winter. Vicky seemed just fine.

Oran found out at work that he was going to be on straight days for two months while he helped train the other operators for the Hydroformer. He left at 7:30 a.m., came home for lunch between 12:00 & 1:30 p.m. and was off at 5:00. That meant fixing two big meals everyday, but at least, there were no graveyards. I spent a lot of time cooking and trying to think what to cook, but I got in the groove, and we were soon completely settled and back in the old routine.

The kids did all right, too. The tricycle Keith had received last Christmas was an exciting new toy again, so he rode it around the curved sidewalk in the front yard of our apartment building or along the Jasmine hedge lining the sidewalk by the Street in front of our house. He let Vicky ride on the back sometimes as she could barely reach the peddles to do it herself, even though we put thick block extenders on them for that purpose. Instead she would ride in a peddle car that belonged to another child in our apartment building, or they would push each other on both toys.

At other times, Vicky played contentedly with all the toys and Keith would play next door with his little boyfriends. There were a lot of kids his age living right around where we lived. They were soon back on their schedule and didn’t seem to mind following it. Keith wanted to eat when we did and was ready to go to bed at the proper time. Vicky fed herself, ate almost exclusively from the table, and did she ever love meat, any and all kinds.

While we were gone, our bowling teams came in first place in the league. I received a trophy and about $12.00 (46 Riyals), and Oran received about $41.43 (165.73 Riyals). He didn’t receive a trophy because he hadn’t bowled enough games with the team to qualify. His shift work and leaving before the end of league kept him from bowling enough games. I was really thrilled with it and continued to bowl in the leagues. The new bowling alleys in the Surf House had been completed and were open for games and leagues. What a difference and improvement with automatic pinsetters. Oran continued, as well, and started playing softball again, too.

The weather was very nice so a couple of times the kids played in the back yard in the Howdy Doody swimming pool, enjoying that and each other. They played with the hose, a small plastic inner tube, which Vicky wore around her waist most of the time, and a big plastic ball. Keith liked to squirt the hose, while Vicky threw the big ball and danced around excitedly. They had a lot of small toys and cups floating in the pool. Oran got movies of all that. About the middle of May, we all went to the beach and the kids enjoyed playing, jumping and running from the small waves at the edge of the water. Keith was already as brown as a bear.

Ras Tanura Beach Picnic
Aramcons enjoy the pleasures of the
Persian Gulf.

It was time for another beach picnic, too, and we were ready. Guy Smyth’s sister and husband, Peggy and Jerry Nored had come to Arabia, as well, to live and we wanted to get them involved in our group. So they joined Pat & Guy, Lynn & Ken Cobb, Peggy & Dave Wagoner, Joe Schmidt and ourselves in a picnic area on the beach. We had the usual fire in the brick fireplace and a good spread of food, and much animated talk catching up on everything that happened while we were gone. It was a nice welcome back to Arabia. I wanted to welcome Lynn & Ken back to Arabia as a married couple, as well, so gave them a small dinner party on May 19. They had been assigned NIE-3 in our apartment building, so were our neighbors, as well.

Ras Tanura Beach Picnic
Ras Tanura's beach provides ample opportunity for picnicking.

Keith’s 3rd birthday was May 22, 1955, but I decided to wait until next year to have a party for him, but I baked a cake and gave him a present. He was thrilled to death when he received a birthday card from his grandparents in the mail. I let him open it himself, and he said ‘look, moneys”, when he saw the dollar. I read the card and what they had written on it, and he had a grin from ear to ear and insisted on taking it to bed with him. We got a notice that our trunk we had shipped from the States was already there in customs. It was Ramadan, though, so it would probably take some time to get to us.

Someone in our group suggested we have a Poker Party and that sounded like it would be different and fun so on Thursday, June 9th, Desda & Bill Hale, Pat & Guy Smyth, Peggy & Jerry Nored, and Elmer Yeamens came to our house for that. We spread a blanket on our dining table, divided the chips, dealt the cards and did enjoy the new (to us) game. We had discovered a new drink, too, called an Alexander, like Irish Cream, so served that, along with an assortment of sandwiches, and it was a hit.

All sorts of activities picked up at the new Recreation Center, called the Surf House. Luncheons were held in the new “Persian Room” for special women’s functions and the East/West Lounge. There were dances on the back patio looking out over the Persian Gulf, and entertainers from Beirut, Lebanon performed on the small stage there. Sailors from the ships who docked for oil at the terminal piers were invited to dances in the East/West Lounge. Even the Bechtel Construction Company employees, who had actually built the Surf House, joined in with the rest of us. Everyone ate in the Snack Bar and new Dining Hall.

On our birthday, July 26, Pat & Guy Smyth took us to dinner in the “Persian Room”. We didn’t have a party because we had so many other things going on that week. Thursday, Chris & Marge came to the house to play bridge, and on Friday, we went to Vivian & Jack Hays house for Chicken Pilau, an Indian Curry dish. As if that wasn’t enough, there was a dance on the patio of our Surf House. Just about everyone in camp attended that one, so all of our group of friends were there. We visited and danced with everyone and each other, of course. The reflection of the moon glittering off the waters of the Gulf was so beautiful and romantic. We thought it would be hard to find a nicer south sea paradise than that.

The next week we were getting some rest from all that, plus Oran was working evenings. Keith had been attending Vacation Bible School with a boy his age who lived just across the street, also named Keith ( McPhillamy). Our apartment was right next to the school building, which was used as a church, as well. Vicky was trying her best to talk and could say a few words. She could also climb in and out of her crib at will, so I would have her in a regular bed soon. We were planning to go home for Christmas on our long leave, so that would eliminate one problem while we were traveling. We also would have no baby food, bottles, and few diapers to carry, so things were looking up.

Oran wanted to get some more movies of the kids, so we took them out on our front lawn with the rocking horse, put Vicky on that. We encouraged Keith to walk up to her, which he did, put his foot on the back rung, but she didn’t like that and tried to get him to go away. He tried to kiss her then several times. She resisted that, but finally let him, then stuck her tongue out and turned her head away. It was funny and cute. Britto was out there with us, too, so we asked him to pick Vicky up off the rocking horse. She cried, resisted that, but he finally got her off and held her in his arms. We were just doing it for the movies, though, so she was put back on. She really loved that toy. Keith really loved his tricycle, too. Oran took more movies of him riding that around the apartment sidewalk. The trees in that yard were getting bigger and so green, and the oleanders and periwinkles were blooming. Beyond our apartment to the north was the school with a playground, where we took the kids to play sometimes. It was very convenient. Beyond that was the compound fence and the end of our camp, as we knew it in those days.

More pictures were wanted of the Refinery, so Oran took the movie camera one day, recorded some of the current crew, Roy White, Francis (Hondo) and Joe Schmidt, and Frank Gates. Then he took some of the Arabs on duty, Shaybah (old man), one nicknamed Fat Kalifa, another nicknamed Bull, and a Palestinian named Habib. One of the Arabs was dancing and cutting up for the camera.

Although it was a no-no, he also took some of the Arab crew lined up to pray, which they do 5 times a day. Two Italian workers were using a lot of hand gestures while talking, and a welder was demonstrating how he worked. On top of one of the towers, Oran took shots of our camp and the Persian Gulf, the tank farm, water intake, different parts of the refinery, one Arab standing by a red truck, putting his headscarf on properly, and more praying. It was a good assortment.

For some reason, a number of our friends were leaving Arabia about that time. Mozelle & Johnny Wilson had already gone and Liliana & Bill Williams were going soon. Bill was taking a job with Saybolt and would go to Beirut, Lebanon. So Desda Hale, Pat Hardy, and I gave a Lunch and Bridge party for Liliana in the “Persian Room” and “East/West Lounge” of the Surf House.

The Surf House had been attractively decorated with large silhouettes of Arab men pouring coffee from an Arabian coffee pot and smoking a hubble-bubble (hookah) or water pipe. The waiters wore all white uniforms with black bow ties, very uptown. We finished off the meal with a large sheet cake with “Farewell Liliana” on it. Then we went to the East/West Lounge for three tables of bridge and one of canasta for the afternoon. Those occasions gave us an opportunity to dress up, which we enjoyed doing, but we would really miss Liliana and Bill. We heard about them over the years through friends, but didn’t reconnect again until July, 2006. That was neat, almost like we had never been apart.

During that period of time, there were also some more poker parties (we rotated houses for those), individual bridge get-togethers, dinner parties, and Women’s Club bridge parties where almost all women in camp played. At one of them, I had the distinct honor of winning a prize for going down four tricks. How embarrassing. Then bowling Leagues had started again in September, so we were kept very busy.

Lynn Cobb was fitting right in with all the activities and the people in our camp. I was enjoying having her as a friend and neighbor. We got together frequently for coffee and a chat. She wanted to do her part, so we planned a small luncheon to be at her house on September 14, 1955. Our main dish was a Ham and Pineapple Casserole we created together, with assorted other popular side dishes and a dessert. We had all the food on the main dining table with places set at two card tables for individual seating, very nice. It was attended by Desda Hale, Pat Smyth, Dorothy Dixon, Marge DeSantis, Vivian Hayes, and Maurine Reese. It seemed to be entertaining and successful for all, so we were pleased.

By the end of September, the weather was cooling off a bit, especially in the evenings, so a group of us decided to have one last beach picnic for the season. We went to our favorite area of beach by the “King’s Row” houses again, and it was much the same as before except we had a different menu. The brick fireplace was utilized again, but the guys grilled burgers and we had other side dishes to go with them. Pat & Guy, Desda & Bill, Peggy & Jerry, Lynn & Ken, and ourselves were able to attend this time. The difference, though, was Lynn’s fashion statement, a maternity outfit. Like most brides who came to Arabia in those days, she became pregnant, but found there was no place to buy maternity clothes. So she improvised and made an outfit of Capri pants and smock top out of a white bed sheet, using red rick-rack for trim. It was very clever and attractive.

Vicky had her second birthday on October 6, 1955. I didn’t give her a party, either, unless you call Pat bringing over Steve and Valerie and all of us sitting around Vicky at the table while she blew out 2 candles on the cake I baked and decorated for her. We did sing “Happy Birthday” and let her open the presents, so maybe it was an unofficial party. After that Vicky, Keith and Steve went out front to pull each other around our apartment sidewalk in the wagon while Pat, Valerie, and I sat on the porch visiting and watching. They stopped the wagon in the middle of the yard by the tree, got out and sat around it. Suddenly Steve leaned over and kissed Vicky, then kicked up his feet in the air. All three of them got up and ran around in the yard with arms spread out like airplanes. So, Vicky got her first kiss from a boy other than her brother. Pat & I nearly fell out of our chairs laughing, and laughed a lot about that over the years.

Since we would be leaving on our regular home leave in November, I wrote my parents and told them we would be finding a place near them to rent. We thought that would be best for all of us. I also planned to take home some of my recipes, so I could show them that I could cook. One of my favorites was lasagna. I had acquired a delicious recipe that I made totally from scratch, including the noodles. In fact, we couldn’t get the lasagna noodles there, so I didn’t have a choice. It took all day to do everything, but was worth it and always well received.

I also decided to have an Arab-style dinner party at our house before we left. So, on the last Thursday (the weekend) of October, we prepared the house by pushing the furniture against the walls in the living room and spreading a sheet in the center of the floor. We put plates, silverware and napkins all around the edges of that and planned to have everyone sit on the floor at each one of them. I hadn’t learned how to prepare the chicken and rice dish that was a main staple for the Arab meal, so had an Arab cook from the dining hall fix that.

Arab-style Dinner Party at the Wilson House
An Arab-style dinner party at the Wilson house with Hank Schmidt, Ken Cobb, Marge De Santis, Lynn Cobb, Desda Hale, Colleen Wilson, Pat and Guy Smyth.

Britto, my houseboy and I made a Hors de’ oeuvre called Curry Puff or Sambosa, a small triangle of dough filled with a mixture of ground beef, onion, pine nuts, and curry powder, then baked. That was another favorite of mine, and was served with drinks or wine when everyone arrived. We had a good crowd; Marge & Chris DeSantis, Pat & Guy Smyth, Jack & Vivian Hays, Desda & Bill Hale, Dorothy & John Dixon, Joe Schmidt, and Lynn & Ken Cobb.

Arab-style Dinner Party at the Wilson House
Little Keith Wilson checks on Dorothy Dixon,
Jack and Vivian Hays, and John Dixon from
his vantage in the hall doorway.

They all thought it was a clever idea and seemed to enjoy it very much. Some even ate with their hands like the Arabs do. It was fun and different. The kids had been fed and put to bed at their regular time, but during the meal, Keith was standing in the hall doorway just looking at this strange affair. We let him see everything and everybody, then he went back to bed with no problem. Vicky didn’t even wake up.

It seemed too soon, but it was time to make preparations for our home leave. Keith and Vicky had to have new pictures made for their passports, and we had to do all the paperwork for exit and re-entry visas to be added to ours. We would fly on the company plane again, which would eliminate a lot of preparation and problems. There wouldn’t be a lot of packing as you always expected to buy more clothes while in the States. In fact, a lot of our luggage pieces were packed inside the others so we could fill them up with new things while we were home to last us for the next two years. Our houseboy would stay with Vivian & Jack Hays this time. Pat had gotten one of her own, named Tony.

One more event would take place at the Surf House. The first week in November Lynn & Pat gave me a women’s going away breakfast in the “Persian Room”. The three of us sat at the head table and another couple of tables lined up from the center of that held 16 other women. The tables were attractively covered with tall, lighted taper candles lining the center and head table. The Arab waiters quietly and professionally served, replenishing our coffee cups and juice glasses as needed. It was so nice to have a facility like that then. I was very pleased with the honor and my friends.

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