The Andersons at Khao Yai National Park, Korat, Thailand, some time back. Older son Paul at left with mother Nit, middle, wife Soo and son Brian. Right, Frank and Nit at Khao Yai with grandson Brian.
One thing can safely be said about long-time Aramcons: They’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. Frank Anderson, badge number 094403, is no exception.
Joining the Saudi Aramco family in 1977, Frank initially moved into al-Firdoz, Khobar in “the old part of camp” with his wife Tongmuan (“Nit”) before finally settling in Dhahran Hills. In Arabia, he wore various hats while working as a material testing laboratory technician, then as a supervisor, then as a government affairs staff advisor, and still later as an acting corporate adviser. Speaking of hats, like a number of other fortunate Aramcons at that time, Frank also acquired his own customized aluminum hard hat (see photos below) beautifully fashioned by an Iranian craftsman.
Ben with Maddux and Gavin, right Cathy with Gavin. Ben is the Anderson's younger son, born in Kerman, Iran. Ben and Cathy were college sweathearts - and still are!
Frank describes his years with Aramco in this way:
Prior to joining Aramco, Nit and I spent four-and-a-half years in Iran, from along the Caspian Sea and Russian border in the north to along the Gulf of Oman in the south. Our son Ben was born in Iran at Kerman.
In 1977 we left Iran and moved to Houston, where Aramco recruited me and we moved to Dhahran. There I spent most of the following 19 years working in Government Affairs while Nit became well-known for her beauty and skill in dog grooming.
I was originally interviewed and hired to fill a position in the material testing laboratory as a supervisor, but processing delays upon my arrival led instead to my appointment as an assistant supervisor. I moved into the Planning and Programs Division when Laboratories became a Department.
Later I was transferred to the Government Affairs Contractor Liaison Division whose corporate advisor, Dick Kerin, needed someone with a construction background "who could write." My first hand-written memo to Dick after a field visit led him to say, "Frank, I don't know how they taught you writing, but here we type it." Lesson learned.
Overall, I spent nearly 17 years or so with Government Affairs, representing the company dealing with issues at the LPG plant in Qatif (concept to commissioning), jetting to Jeddah on a G2 to take core samples from new concrete foundations, and flying over the new Khurais field in a helicopter to discuss pipeline crossings. Given the wide scope of Aramco's concession area, I offered suggestions to and coordinated general instructions with nearly every department in Aramco regarding the company’s pipeline crossings. I think it was G.I. 881. I also had a brief assignment as an Acting Corporate Advisor in the Government Affairs Division.
I am very thankful for my Government Affairs experience. Diplomacy, judgment, decision making, writing, learning how to get along with different people in challenging situations from site foreman to government minister all helped me years later to succeed in a short assignment as editor for a premier law firm in Bangkok.
During off-hours, we partied, yes, and watched our children grow up from a distance as they attended boarding schools. Time passed so quickly as they learned about life and the rewards that just being alive offers.
The happy couple years later at the Mall, Korat Thailand enjoying a quiet anniversary.
When they began to remove the Buddhist unity string, Frank asked Nit what are they doing? She said the first one to stand up is going to be head of the family. Frank says it was a draw! Nit? hahaha. Photo 6 January 1969, Korat, Thailand.
When asked what attracted him to working for Saudi Aramco and living in Saudi Arabia, Frank answered:
I remember seeing an ad in Time Magazine for Aramco and, because the situation at my current job (I was then running the materials testing lab at the Sarcheshmeh copper smelter in Iran) was having issues, I sent in an application. Prior to my vacation, Aramco sent a cable inviting me to Dhahran for an interview. A friend said, “Frank, you don't want to go to Saudi Arabia—it’s like the other side of the moon.” I wondered then, up at around 9,000 feet on top of a mountain, where I was already.
The “other side of the moon” turned out to be plush grass, California-style housing, a company TV and radio network, free electricity and air conditioning, and great schooling for the kids—in all, a wonderful life. Working for Aramco in Arabia, we met, played, and worked with many wonderful, talented, and versatile people.
Frank describes with fondness how he and his wife Nit met:
Nit, my wife of 48 years now, and I first met in north east Thailand when she was working for Federal Electric Corporation as a telephone operator with the US military during the Vietnam War. When we came to Aramco in 1977, she later worked as a company switchboard operator before the company automated its phone system.
She recalls one call in particular: “I called you over an hour ago to place my call to Lahore and still no call,” a man barked into the phone angrily. Nit knew it was the same caller who had placed the call only a few minutes before. Clearly, he was calling back thinking he was speaking to a different operator. Not so!
“No, you didn’t!” Nit replied. “You just called.” Silence.
In mentioning the Vietnam War, Frank also recalls a close call:
While working in Vietnam back on January 8, 1973, there as a civilian contractor on TDY, I was staying at the military barracks at Bien Hoa. It was the day the VC signed the Paris Peace Treaty. A friend said he was heading downtown to stay with his girlfriend because the VC were going to hit the base that night. I laughed.
But at around 2:45 the following morning, my room literally exploded with the impact of a 120mm rocket tearing its way through the concrete stairwell wall just below my room. A miniature tornado swirled my belongings around me in slow motion, my room door was lying on top of me, and I could hear the steady staccato of machine gun fire close by.
Another rocket, sirens, an MP shouting "Get into the ditch" brought me to find my pants and hurry toward that ditch. The VC had hit. My jeep nearby had a shrapnel shard slice through the windshield right at the driver's position. The same piece then traveled on to enter and exit a nearby flag pole. I looked across the small yard to the barracks my friend would have been staying at. His room was gone. It was where the second rocket had landed.
My barracks stairwell now had a hole I could walk through. The VC had been trying to hit the helicopter pads nearby. If I had been downstairs on the phone that morning to make my usual phone call to my wife in Thailand as I normally did, there would have been no one to write this autobiography.
Frank shared with Aramco ExPats one of his favorite memories of Saudi Arabia:
I recall the retirement party for my boss, Dick Kerin, where I had written a poem to honor his many contributions and service. When Dick, at the party, asked me to read the poem for everyone, I hemmed and hawed and said I don’t really feel like reading it…“kind of shy.” The party host, Chairman John Kelberer, looked up from the head of the table and said, “What will it take to make you feel like reading it?” I laughed, shrugged off my doubts, and read the poem.
Frank in Buriram province, Thailand 1968 as a Peace Corps volunteer working in community development (Thailand XII).
Nit's father Sirirat Upadia, who migrated to Thailand from India late 1940s.
Nit's maternal grandfather, village head Poon.
Nit's mother 'Tim.' Nit inherited the sternness. Ask anyone!
Retired since 1996, Frank today lives with Nit in her native Thailand. Friends from his Aramco days can reach him by mail at 745/1 Seubsiri Soi 3/13 Meaung Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Ratchasima 30000, Thailand. They can also write to him via email at [email protected].
These days, Frank enjoys spending time "writing, talking about our lives with my wife of 48 years, doing some woodworking, keeping up with world events, exchanging opinions online, indulging in photography, and helping Nit with gardening." The demands of retired life are many, and Frank and Nit are virtually too busy to leave Thailand to attend the next annuitants gathering in 2019. “Dogs, cats, rental property, and no one to fill in…” Frank laments.
Frank and Nit raised two sons, Paul and Ben, who in turn have blessed them with four grandchildren, Maddux, Gavin, Brian, and Patrick.
In closing, Frank offers the following advice to our readers:
Make sure you have a long-term game plan when you are an Aramcon or family member. Work together. The years go by quickly and success after retirement comes to those who committed themselves from the start, or to those who did so before it became too late.
Finally, yes, becoming a grandparent does change things.