Ramadan began the next morning, Saturday, September 6th, 1975. That is the yearly month of fasting, prayer, and good deeds each Arab or Muslim is required to fulfill as part of their religion, unless they are ill or under a certain age. They can have nothing to eat or drink, and must fulfill certain other restrictions, from sunup to sundown each day for the entire month. At sundown, after the call to prayer, they gather with family and friends, have huge feasts, and celebrate their success in having accomplished their goal for that day. At the end of the month, a five day holiday, called Id Al Fitr, is celebrated by buying new clothes and toys for the children, feasting with family and friends, and enjoying all the things they had to give up during Ramadan. In a lot of ways, it is the equivalent to our Christmas.
Things went on pretty much the same way for us during that time. We were asked to be respectful of the Arabs' feelings, but weren't required to give up anything during that time.
That Saturday, September 6th, I met a woman named Flo Wilson for the first time while playing canasta at Marge Williams. During the course of the evening, she asked me if Oran and I happened to be known as Ma and Pa Wilson. Surprised by that question, I told her we were to our daughter, who had been addressing our letters in that manner since her return to the States. As it turned out, Vicky had left the last 5 off our box number on one letter, so it was put in Flo Wilson's box by mistake. She had taken it back to the Post Office, but the Arab clerks had made the same mistake and put it back in Flo's box again, even though the other numbers were entirely different. Anyway, I was thrilled to have located it, at last, and went to Flo's house the next morning to pick it up. Later, even though we had thought it was really cute of Vicky to do that, we asked her to just address our letters in the regular way. Another cute thing she did in one of her letters to us was to put the paw print of our two cats below her signature. In the canasta group two of the other women, Peg Morrison and Rosa Bombe, had been on the softball team with Vicky. They asked about her and said the new season would start soon and they would miss her home runs.
After picking up Vicky's letter, I went to the Newcomers' Coffee, then visited with Kathi, Marge and Marvin. Monday I went to a coffee at Patty York’s, then worked on the Luau at the Women's Club Portable. Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah that evening, so we went to the Dining Hall with Jim Morris and Jeanine and Jerry King. The rest of the week was just routine and low key.
When Oran came home for the weekend, he was still in a good mood, and we enjoyed it watching a bit of the tennis round robin, going to a bridge party, siphoning wine, swimming, and going to the Dining Hall again with Jim Morris. He was leaving for the States the next day to join Sharon and their kids on vacation.
After Oran went back to 'Udhailiyah Saturday, I went to a Women's Club board meeting, but just rested the rest of the day and evening.
The next day, I worked on the Luau again, and later went to the Dining Hall with Patty York. Patty and Peg Morrison had coffee at my house the next morning before we went to the suqs. Patty found the ingredients there for Clams Casino, so we went back to her house to enjoy that for lunch – a delicious and different treat.
I started in a Women’s Bowling League and had bridge club at my apartment before Oran got home the next weekend. By then, he had developed a bad cold or the flu, so we didn't do much. As he was somewhat better on Friday, we went to the pool to sun. Chris and Marge DeSantis had gotten back from vacation, so they came by that afternoon to say hello. Although it was tough for him to do, Oran flew on back to 'Udhailiyah the next morning, Saturday, September 20th.
At the Women's Club General Meeting Sunday morning, an Arab spoke on Arabia during Ramadan, which was interesting and enlightening, and Jeanine King received word that her mother was ill, so she left for the States on emergency leave. That evening I fixed myself some chalupas, as they had all the ingredients in our Commissary at once, for a change.
I went to Al-Khobar the next morning, and it was nice to get out of camp again. I bought a copy of the "Koran", the Muslim Bible, but otherwise found nothing exciting to buy. On the way back, I had lunch in Dhahran with Charlotte and Mai Phillips. She and I had first flown to Arabia together as brides in June of 1951. They had stayed in Arabia all that time, but were leaving the next day to work in the Houston Office of Aramco. Oran came home again that evening as the next day, September 24th, was an Arab holiday to celebrate the Unification of Saudi Arabia under King Abdul Al-Aziz Ibn Saud in 1932.
Wednesday evening we had Jerry King and his kids, Jim and Jan, over for dinner because Jeanine was still in the States. Then we went to Marge and Marvin Williams for drinks before going to the Aramco Employees Association dance at the Golf Clubhouse. There was a live band from the States playing rock music, which Keith and Vicky would have loved if they had still been there, but we enjoyed just being out and dressed up.
It probably doesn't sound like it, but for the first time, activities seemed to have slowed down. I found myself sitting around doing nothing with a lot of free time on my hands. Perhaps the sameness of everything, or limitations, was beginning to get to me, too.
During the week, Oran came home a couple times. I worked on the Luau again, played bridge, went to a white elephant sale at the East Lounge, played canasta at Patty York’s, ate at the Dining Hall several times, and bowled. At least the weather was changing. We were beginning to have some really pleasant evenings and the days were getting somewhat cooler, as well. The high during that week had been only 108 degrees. It was the end of September.
The Morris' returned from vacation on Wednesday, Oct. 1st. Sharon, Jim, and the children would be leaving for their new assignment in Beirut, Lebanon, in a few days, so we wanted to be with them as much as possible.
On Thursday, I had Sharon and the kids over for lunch while Jim was at the office, then later took a ham and potato salad over to their house, had coffee, and saw her new clothes. (Everyone came back from vacation with new clothes.) That night we went to a Bon Voyage party for them at Mansour Camp.
Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah for a couple of days, as he would have five days off in a row for the Id Al Fitr Holidays after that. On Saturday, I went to the Commissary to stock up for that, as everything would be closed for the next three days. I was glad to see they had lettuce, as there had been none for over a month. Some renewed trouble in Beirut had kept us from receiving fresh produce shipments from there. We did have a small variety of fresh produce, but couldn't count on any specific item being there for sure and just had to fix what was available. Oran had returned to camp that evening, so we had the Morris' for drinks and a spaghetti dinner. Ramadan was over.
The next day, the beginning of the Id Al Fitr was spent packing and getting ready to go to Ras Tanura again. That evening we had Sharon and Jim over for wine and cheese before we all went to dinner at Chuck and Marie Egglestons in Mansour Camp. We said our sad goodbyes to them that night as they were scheduled to leave for Beirut the next day, October 6th, 1975.
Oran and I caught the 7:30 bus to Dhahran the next morning, then had breakfast before catching the next bus on to Ras Tanura. We had always looked forward to and enjoyed our visits there, but this one turned out to be different. We did all the usual things – Bloody Marys, brunches, bridge, walks on the beach and around camp, breakfast in the Dining Hall – but something was missing, and we were glad to get back to Abqaiq that time. For the first time since our return to Arabia, it was really beginning to feel more like home. Surprise!
We found out that Sharon and the kids, Jay and Lisa, were still there. Jim had gone to Beirut to start his new job and they had expected to follow in a few days. She almost had everything boxed and packed when the word came to wait, as Beirut was going through rounds of fighting and ceasefires. So they would have to continue to live in Abqaiq until a decision was made about the move there.
During the Holidays the rest of our foremen's group had left the Kingdom on various trips. Sandy and Jack Adams had gone to Greece, Roy and Kathi Steindorf to Egypt, and Shelia and Keith Kaul to Iran with Marvin and Marge Williams. But we were just beginning to enjoy the casual, relaxed atmosphere of Abqaiq.
By this time the evening weather was really beginning to be nice, so on Thursday we sat on our front porch and had wine and snacks with Sharon before going to a party at Laurie and Fred Swanson’s.
The morning weather was nice too, so we sat on our porch again, having coffee with Sharon and some other neighbors, Bob and Cissy Mitchell. The porch was long and narrow and ran the entire length of the 7-unit apartment building in the shape of a square U, with two apartments on each end facing each other and the other 3 between these facing the street. Ours was just after you turned the corner of the straight section, so faced the large community front yard, then the street. The yard had a well maintained lawn, some large date palm and acacia trees, oleander bushes, and a row of hedge along the half cement-block wall separating the yard from the sidewalk and street. There was also a continuous sidewalk in front of all the apartments with connecting sidewalks to the steps at the front of each apartment. It was a very pleasant, relaxing, green oasis in the desert camp. Our particular porch was separated from the rest of the straight section by a white, latticed, wooden divider built there by some previous tenant, who also left a white, round construction wire-holder turned on its side to use as a table, and two low, wooden, oblong boxes, painted white, on which sat four clay pots with desert plants. It was all homemade, but made a private, cozy, inviting area for us to utilize, which we did often. But all good things must come to an end, so Oran flew on back to 'Udhailiyah on Saturday after his 5 days off.
I went to see Marge Williams, who was upset because she had just received word that her mother was very ill in the States. She flew out of Arabia that evening to check on her. I went to the suqs with Sharon, then to the Women’s Club Portable to set up a table centerpiece for the Newcomers' Coffee the next morning.
Oran was home again Monday evening, so we sat on the porch again with Sharon and Jim, who was back in camp again for a few days. Sharon helped me all the next day to fix the food for the bridge luncheon I was having at my house on Wednesday. We made chicken salad, a jello salad, deviled eggs, potato salad, English Pea salad, and a pie. After all that, it almost got cancelled as two women could not attend at the last minute. But we called around and located two subs I didn't even know but enjoyed meeting, Ruby Adams and Alene Smith. Their husbands worked for drilling, and they turned out to be a fun bunch. Anyway, the bridge luncheon went smoothly after that.
Later the DeSantis came by, Oran came home, and Sharon came back over, so we ended up serving wine and all the leftover food from the luncheon to everyone on the porch. It was a very nice evening.
The weather was extremely nice now, with the week's high down to 100 degrees, but keep in mind it was very dry and the nights in a desert cool down much more than in other areas. There was no indication of a season change, just a gradual cooling off of the temperature. There was no rain yet, so just about the most perfect weather I have ever seen anywhere. Everyone really took advantage of it, especially after the long, very hot summer. Activities picked up again, both day and night, but our main one by far during that time period was sitting on our porch with various friends.
That weekend of October 16 and 17 was no exception. On Thursday, we started out having coffee on the porch, then breakfast. That evening we had wine there with Cissy and Bob Mitchell along with Jerry King and Sharon before we went to a party at Alene Smiths. The next morning after breakfast, we started a batch of wine then visited on the porch with Marvin Williams, Sharon, and Marge DeSantis, who came over to get Oran to babysit Chris's still for awhile. Later we had drinks on the porch with Sharon before Oran grilled some steaks. There was a Novice Duplicate Bridge Tournament the next day, Saturday, October 18th, at the Golf Clubhouse. Pat Smyth bussed down from Ras Tanura for the event, which started with cocktails at Billie Tanner's house at 11 o'clock before the lunch and bridge. Pat just stayed for the day, though – then went back to Ras Tanura.
On Sunday, at the Women's Club General Meeting, there was an Hors d’Oeuvres Tasting, which was different and interesting. That evening I had drinks with Sharon and Jim, who was back from Beirut again to take Sharon there in a couple of days to look at two places he had located where they might live. Things seemed to have settled down sufficiently for them to continue with the original plan.
Sharon and I went to Al-Khobar to shop the next day. She wanted to get a few more things before leaving. When Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah again that evening, we had drinks on our porch with Sharon and Jim. While we were there, Sandy and Kathi dropped by and had some wine with us. Sharon and Jim flew to Beirut the next day, October 21st, but when they went to the Santa Fe office, were told everyone would be moving to either Cairo or Athens, and they would know which in a few days. Santa Fe had decided Beirut was just not a safe enough place to have their Middle East Office. Sharon and Jim also discovered that the whereabouts of their shipment was unknown, so they returned to Abqaiq to wait for the decision.