Iran, 1961 – 1963 (Part VIII)

30 December 2003 | 0 comments | In Search Of Oil | by

Bob Bob checking a New Rig Location
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

After I left Aramco in 1960, I spent some time in New York City interviewing various oil companies for employment. One in particular was Standard of New Jersey as I remember. They were a parent company of Aramco and also of Iranian Oil Company.

Slip-face Laborers Camp
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

In New York, I ran into Fred Hilton, my old boss in Aramco. He introduced me to a Baker Oil Tools representative, who sent me back to California to interview Santa Fe Drilling Company. I was hired by Santa Fe, and just before I was to ship out with Santa Fe to Angola I received a letter from Standard offering me a job in Iran as Senior Drilling Engineer. I thanked them for the offer but told them I had hired out with Santa Fe as a Drilling Superintendent.

Cook Cook and Kitchen Helpers
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

I was sent to Angola in West Africa where Jo was to join me, but as the natives were a bit restless and a bit careless with the machete swingin', operations there were suspended and I was moved from Angola to Iran as the Iran Manager.

When I was introduced to the Iranian Oil Company executives, they all felt they knew me; I looked so familiar to them. They remembered seeing my picture in my application with Standard.

There was a little bit of resentment that I chose Santa Fe over Standard, but they got over it; I think.

Tea Time Tea Time
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

Jo followed in October accompanied by our "twin" boys (French Poodles) and we all settled into a spacious new two bedroom trailer house. We now resided in Southern Iran, in a small oil town called Gachsaran which is about 150 miles east of Abadan, where I worked as Zone Manager of Iran for Santa Fe Drilling Company.

One night in Gachsaran, we had a telephone call from the oil company guesthouse. The Shah's doctor called and wanted Jo to come over to the guesthouse and play bridge with Her Royal Highness!!!! It sounded like a command performance to play with the Shah's wife. Jo hurriedly got herself more presentable and I dropped her off at the guesthouse. As it turned out, it was not Her Royal Highness at all, but her sister. Jo said it was quite an evening, because sometimes they would be talking back and forth in Farsi instead of English, which was a real handicap for Jo, but she did enjoy the experience.

Some of the Iranian subcontractors wanted Mr. Bob to take some baksheesh, which he would never would do. One night during our sit down dinner our door opened and someone threw in three small Iranian rugs and slammed the door. Before I could gather my wits as to what had happened, whoever opened the door was long gone. To this day, we never did find out who gifted us with the lovely prayer sized rugs and we still have them displayed in our home.

Iran differed in many ways from Saudi Arabia. The scenery for instance was not miles and miles of sand dunes, but consisted of hills and mountains which in the spring were covered with a myriad of colorful wild flowers. During the winter, we could look out our window and see snow on the tips of the highest peaks.

Rig Rig on Location up in Hill Country, Iran
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

One day, it was raining and then started hailing. The hail was about the size of golf balls. She called me and I told her it wasn't even raining at my location. Jo figured I would not believe they were that large, so she ran outside and gathered up a bunch to put in the freezer to show me when I came home from my office which was several miles away. The gardeners and guards could not figure out why this lady was out picking up the large hail stones!

Jo and I found the people there very friendly. The women there were not in "Purdah" (veiled) as they were in Saudi Arabia. We enjoyed joining them with their husbands at dinners and dances.

MUD Crew Mixing Drilling Fluid (MUD)
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

Jo recalls that mealtimes in Iran presented its own type of problem which called for a bit of forethought and lots of ingenuity. There were houseboys or "farahsh's" as they were called, but the fact remained that all water had to be boiled; all bread and pastry products baked at home; all meat thawed and if you wanted hamburger meat, it had to be ground at home; and all of our vegetables had to be purchased at the local bazaar. In Jo's own words, "woe-betide the wife who had not given any thought to pre-mealtime preparations, as there was no place to 'eat out'".

Headman Headman
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

On one short drive, we saw a bridge that was built by Alexander the Great. The area was once the old trail to the Far East for caravans bringing spices and silks. Speaking historically, the area was also the country of the Magi, or Three Wise Men. I thought this fact very interesting and intriguing.

By the end of 1962, Bobby had celebrated his sixteenth birthday and was still attending Notre Dame International School in Rome, where he was a Junior. He was growing like a proverbial weed.

Crew Rig Crew
Photographs Contributed by Bill McCormick

While in Iran, Susan graduated from Marymount International and was attending the American College in Paris. It was a two-year Liberal Arts school which opened for the first time that September and she seemed to be having a wonderful time. Susan described it as hard work, loved Paris, and was very busy improving her (as she called it) "fractured French" and getting a lot of "Kulture" (with a capital "K").

We left Iran in 1963 and settled down in Los Alamitos, CA where Bob worked for an oil tool company in Los Angeles as a Liaison Engineer from 1963 until 1971. Things slowed down in California and Bob once again applied with Aramco, since they were looking for older folks with drilling experience in Saudi Arabia.

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