After Oran flew back to ‘Udhailiyah the next day, Sunday, May 18, Vicky and I tried a morning Arabic Class with Jeanine that was taught by a woman, but decided we still didn't have time to go every day. We rested, wrote thank you notes and other letters, then went to the Post Office to mail them. There we received word that the ship our household goods were on had docked at Dammam Pier. That was thrilling news, but we knew it would have to go through customs and probably take a lot more time to actually reach us. It would be nice to have it while the kids were still there.
That evening we ate at the snack bar, then went to play bridge at Marge Williams with Kathy, Sandy and Marge DeSantis. As they had avocados and the other ingredients in the Commissary, we fixed chalupas the next evening before I went bowling.
When we got back home, the telephone rang, and it was one of the Aramco pilots we had met at Gulovsen’s party in Ras Tanura named Hans. He asked if we wanted to go on one of his runs the next morning as he was coming through Abgaiq. It was an exciting prospect, but I was a bit concerned that it wasn't the thing to do, so I turned him down. Vicky was upset, and I have wished ever since that I had been willing to take the chance.
The next morning we went to our second Arab cooking class to learn how to fix an eggplant dip called Baba Ghannu. We didn't really make it again, but enjoyed the company and eating.
That afternoon I played bridge at Ruth Cumings’ while Vicky went to the pool. That evening we both played bridge at Sandy's with Marge and Kathy. I had started keeping a record of the weekly temperatures. The high the past week had been 102 degrees, but the week before it had reached 106, and it was only the 21st of May. I hoped that wasn't a foreboding of the weather to come.
Oran called to say he wasn't going to get home from ‘Udhailiyah Wednesday evening, so Vicky went to the AEA dance with the Kings. It turned out to be mostly a presentation by a Filipino group, who were joined, impromptu, by one of the cute, young, half-Mexican Aramco wives. But there was some dancing, so Vicky had a pretty good time.
Oran did get home the next day, Thursday, but we didn't do much that weekend except watch Vicky play in one of her softball games, which she loved and was very good at – she hit lots of home runs. We also got Oran's clothes ready for his return trip to ‘Udhailiyah (a weekly chore), and Vicky and I ready to go back to Ras Tanura the next day. We were going to visit with Pat Smyth again before she left on vacation in a couple of weeks.
We started our trip by bus to Dhahran, then Al-Khobar before going on to Ras Tanura on Saturday, May 24, 1975. The new monarch of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Khalid, was making his first visit to the Eastern Province, so there was a lot of traffic and flags and banners everywhere to welcome him. We didn't see the King, however, as he was in Dammam while we were in Al-Khobar.
Upon arrival in Ras Tanura, Pat took us to eat at the Surf House, then to watch Guy bowl in his league. While there we also saw two of the Aramco pilots we had met there previously at the Norwegian party, Fin Geisler and Kenut, so visited with them awhile. Arrangements had been made for us to go sailing the next day in Tarut Bay and the Persian Gulf with Al Yanikakis and his son, who was about Vicky's age. We were met by them on their large, very impressive sailboat at the Sandy Hook Yatch Club, which is located on the bay side of the Ras Tanura peninsula, and is used by all Ras Tanura Aramcons and guests for their beach and boating activities.
After introductions and settling in, we sailed out through the narrow opening of Tarut Bay out into the Persian Gulf, turned north and followed the coast line up by the piers where the oil is loaded into tankers to be taken to all parts of the world. We also crossed paths with an Arab fishing Dhow as we sailed on up the peninsula to view the Refinery and Ras Tanura Camp from the Gulf side. After a couple of hours we returned to the Sandy Hook Yatch Club dock. The entire trip had been a smooth, rewarding experience for us. Al Yanikakis and his son had been a "no nonsense, professional-like" team of Captain and crew that was very impressive.
We bussed back to Dhahran the next day, then to Al-Khobar again, where Vicky met Mohammed Al-Matrood, whose uncle owns the National Dairy and Dammam Laundry. We had been shopping up and down Prince Mohammed Street, which is one block to the right of King Khalid Street toward the Gulf. As we came out of each shop, Vicky noticed and admired the same Trans Am automobile parked right in front of that particular shop, which she thought was a little strange. Then, in a small grocery store one block from Dhahran Avenue, where we were to catch our bus, we wandered down separate isles and before long, I saw Vicky talking to a young Arab man who didn't seem to be a store clerk. I made my way over to them, was introduced and told he had just returned to Arabia after attending college in the United States. He spoke perfect English, and, of course, the Trans Am was his. He had noticed Vicky several blocks back and had been following us ever since. He invited us to lunch at the Floating Restaurant at the corner of Pepsi Rd. and Gulf Blvd. After much agonizing over whether or not it was the proper thing to do, and to make up for not going flying with Hans the week before, I decided to go.
Mohammed was the perfect gentleman, so after an enjoyable lunch in my favorite restaurant, and feeling adventurous, accepted his invitation to drive us back to Abqaiq in his Trans Am, as well. It all worked out just fine, and was the most unusual trip Vicky and I ever had to Al-Khobar. Back home, I was anxious to call Oran to tell him all about this, but our phone was out of order again, which was upsetting. We ate in the Snack Bar before I bowled in my league that Monday night. I did extremely well again, so I guess the adrenaline was still pumping from our unusual day.
We had our last Arab cooking class in the Women’s Club Portable the next morning, helping to make and eat a particularly favorite appetizer called Samboosies. They are small triangles of puff pastry, filled with a mixture of cooked ground beef, onion, pine nuts, and curry, then deep fried or baked – very tasty. Spinach is sometimes substituted.
At the pool later that afternoon, Vicky lost one of her contact lenses while swimming, and I was afraid she was in a lot of trouble, as it was the only pair she had brought with her to Arabia. We had everybody get out of the pool while a few of us did extensive searching. I spotted an object on the bottom of the pool, pointed at it with my toe, then Vicky dove down to investigate, and miracle of all miracles, it was her contact. Everyone cheered and clapped before jumping in to swim again. The Arab lifeguards were very cooperative and more happy then anybody when we found it. We completed another full weekday by having Kathy, Marge, and Sandy over to play bridge that evening.
Besides being very hot (109 degrees), the next day brought a series of frustrating things that could happen over there. First, I decided to have my groceries delivered, which was a service the company provided, but when they arrived half the things were not mine. So I had to talk to the Commissary manager to have my other things tracked down, the things I could remember that I had purchased, anyway. Of course, some of the groceries delivered to me belonged to someone else, who also called the manager, so eventually I got the rest of my things, I think. Then we decided to go to the suqs to pick up some special things, but for some reason there was no bus that day, and there was also a shortage of taxis. They could take us out there, but couldn't wait, so we had to bum a ride home after we finished shopping. It was just too far to walk with our heavy purchases and in the extreme heat.
Fortunately, Oran flew home from Udhailiyah that evening, so I was able to talk to him about all that, plus the situation with Mohammed. He had been calling Vicky, wanting to take her out or at least come for a visit, so I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten us into. We mulled that over while we attended the bowling banquet and dance that night at the Golf Club House.
Oran wanted to stay in camp the next day, Thursday, May 29, 1975, so Vicky and I caught the shoppers bus to Hofuf. It was her first trip there, and we were excited as we visited with other passengers on the hour ride to the west of Abqaiq on the Shedgum road to the big cement plant turn off, then south through Scribner’s Canyon, on past another large cement plant and to the edge of the date palm oasis through Mubarraz into Hofuf town center. The bus parked at one round corner of the old Turkish Fort, just in front of a small grocery suq. After getting off the bus, we went across the street, down a dirt road behind a mosque to what was called the Junk Yard Suqs, literally a group of wooden shacks lined up to form several small alleys of shops, which included the Bedouin tent makers shop behind the first row. All these shops contained the old, authentic, everyday working tools of the Bedouin Arabs from coffee paraphernalia to camel blankets, delightful treasures to cherish.
After looking everything over there, we walked back to the street the bus was parked on, down to the traffic circle and turned right down the main partially dirt street, making our way carefully along the hole-pocked sidewalks to what was called the Covered Suqs, or Bazzar. That area consisted of long, narrow, dark alleys of tiny shops, facing each other illuminated only by filtered light through partially covered roofs. Everything is sold there, from Arab coffee pots, trays, other brass items, Arab clothing, such as thobes, ghutras, agals, abayas, sandles, Frankincense, Myrrh, sandalwood and other incense, spices, and rugs, to name a few. It was crowded, odorous, and dirty, but fascinating. I felt in a bargaining mood, and the Arabs enjoy that, so I tried to utilize all the Arabic I had learned in the few classes we had taken to buy a few souvenirs. Vicky seemed to be impressed, as well as another woman who had joined us. We made a few purchases, then started working our way back toward the bus.
The hours ride back to Abqaiq was interesting as we related our experiences to others on the bus and showed each other our purchases. After much discussion, Oran and I decided it would be all right for Mohammed to come to Abqaiq to visit Vicky, so he drove there from his home in Dammam the next day, Friday. He met Oran and we sat in our living room quite a while getting better acquainted and trying to find out as much about him as we could. We even let Vicky go with him around camp so he could see what that was like. After he left, Vicky showed us the gold necklace he had given to her, which presented another dilemma – should we let her keep it. The Arabs love to give gifts and to refuse one given in friendship could offend them, so under these circumstances, after more deliberation, we decided to let Vicky accept it.
There was a terrible sand storm the next day, but Vicky and I had planned to take the shoppers bus to Madinat so she could see it and shop, so we went anyway. Even though it was not too comfortable, she found it interesting. When we got back to the house we discovered a note in the door from Mohammed. It started out by saying, "I think for us there is a life". How he got inside camp we don't know. It was apparent from what the note said that he was beginning to get entirely too serious about his relationship with Vicky, so we decided it was best to try to cool it, although in a diplomatic way, if possible.
Vicky started work the next day, Sunday, June 1, as a lifeguard at the swimming pool, although she still didn't know just how long she would stay in Arabia. She hadn't really decided whether she liked it or not. None of the other college students were there yet, so the student activity program hadn't started, and she was a bit tired of just doing things with me and my women friends. There was one young man besides Mohammed who kept asking her out, but she wasn't interested, so was stuck with me. In fact, we played bridge again that evening at Kathy’s with Marge and Sandy. Marge Williams was going to help me as Coffee and Tea Chairman for the Women’s Club, so the next day was spent mostly getting ready for the Newcomers Coffee the following morning. We went to the portable, checked the silver, put out the cookies to thaw, arranged dishes, etc.
Later, Vicky and I ate at the Dining Hall after she got off work. June 4 was really a busy day. After the Newcomers Coffee, I rushed home, made a pie and got everything ready for Keith's arrival. Oran flew home from ‘Udhailiyah, and at 8 p.m. we left to go to the airport in Dhahran, thinking we had timed everything just perfectly. But when we arrived, Keith was already there, in fact, had already been through customs, and was standing at the airport entrance wondering just what to do next, especially if we didn't show up. We felt just terrible and could imagine how traumatic it must have been for him, as he had not been back to Arabia since he was 4 years old. He seemed glad to see us, though.
On the way back to Abqaiq, he told us about his trip over and we felt even more terrible and upset. We had made arrangements and purchased his ticket in Arabia like all the parents of college students did, and he started the trip from Dallas just fine, but when he changed planes in Chicago, they said he was too old to fly on a student ticket, so made him pay more money. It turned out to be most all the extra cash he had brought with him, but rather than miss the trip, he flew on to Amsterdam where he had about a 24 hour layover. But with no money he couldn't get any place to stay, and the KLM Airline Personnel in Amsterdam were not helpful or sympathetic at all, which was surprising. They just told him to write a letter of complaint, which wouldn't do him any good at that moment, but he decided he would just try to make the best of it. That might have been difficult, though, if it hadn't been for a very nice woman on the plane over from Chicago who gave him a small amount of money after she heard his story. So he was able to catch a bus into the center of town, walk around the streets, take pictures and purchase some chocolate and cheese to eat. He even found a free museum to go through. No one talked to him, although he said, "Howdy" to everyone. When it started to get dark, he found the proper bus tack to the airport, and either walked around or rested in the waiting area lounges for the night, and the next morning boarded the plane to Arabia with much relief.
I was just furious with KLM, and later wrote a letter of complaint to their President about it. I received a letter of apology from him, but no retribution, not that it would have changed what Keith had to go through. I can tell you, we started flying other airlines back and forth to Arabia from then on. When we got back to Abqaiq it was quite late, so we went right to bed. Vicky and Keith had to share the only other bedroom in our little apartment. We had asked the company to put us in a larger house or apartment while both kids were there, especially since they were of opposite sexes, but there were none available. So we just made do, and resolved to try to make this as enjoyable a visit as possible for all of us.
Oran and Keith in front of the
Abqaiq Mail Center.
Naturally, we all slept late the next morning, then enjoyed the big breakfast I fixed. It was delicious since we could still get real pork, bacon, and sausage, the eggs were fresher, and I grated potatoes to fry for hash browns. The kids had really looked forward to Mom's home cooking again. We showed Keith all around the camp after that, then later went to the pool for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening I cooked supper for just Keith, Oran and myself. Vicky had met a young man, Mike Smith, while working at the pool during the week and he took her to Al-Khobar to eat at one of the restaurants there. Oran decided to show Keith around Madinat, so they took a taxi there, starting out at the market place, then went to the bakery, and on down to the main road that went between the port town of Dammam to Riyadh, the capitol. All the truck drivers hauling goods between these two places stopped there for refueling, food, coffee and tea, so there were a lot of the local teahouses and stands set up all along that area. Most of them consisted of small wooden tables and chairs, set outside just in front of each place, with large hubbly-bubbly pipes, which are shared by everyone. All the Arab men spend a lot of time sitting around there, drinking tea, coffee, and Pepsi, visiting and smoking. It is a national pastime, and no women are allowed. So Keith and Oran joined some of them, enjoyed the atmosphere, and tried everything except the hubbly-bubbly pipes. The weather was nice, so they ended up walking back to camp.
Keith and Vicky went bowling the next morning while Oran and I rested. Later we all played spades, then had Mexican food brought over by our next door neighbor, Sharon Morris, before going to the ballgame Vicky was playing in. The Roadrunners (her team) won, so they were the camp champions. Everybody went to the celebration party after at Lauri Swansons, including Vicky's date, Mike Smith. Vicky was selected for the all-star team to compete with the other districts.
Saturday, June 7th, 1975, was the beginning of a new week and Oran went to Ras Tanura for the training school session instead of ‘Udhailiyah. We turned in Keith's passport at the appropriate office, got his ID card, talked to a travel agent about the kids return trip to the States, the routine things. Keith and Vicky went bowling, then shopping at the suqs. Oran tried to call from Ras Tanura that evening, but our phone was dead again, which was beginning to become routine, as well. He got word to us through Jeanine, so we went to the Recreation Hall to call him on the public phone there.
The next morning I went to a Women’s Club Board meeting then a luncheon, so that was a nice diversion for me. Later we went to the pool again, the library, and ate at the Dining Hall. We called Oran again from the phone at the Recreation Hall before the kids went to the movie. Vicky had to work at the pool Monday, so Keith and I bussed to Al-Khobar. We had a great time, exploring some streets I hadn't even seen before, and found a bakery and a couple of interesting places to eat. It was really nice for me to have a man to shop with there, as it is intimidating for women to go to some areas alone. Oran drove down from Ras Tanura to be with the family that night and although I had to bowl in my league, I did well again.
Keith went back to Ras Tanura with Oran the next morning, Tuesday, so he could see again where he had lived as a small child. It was disappointing for me not to be able to share that with him, as I had Vicky, but it couldn't be helped. I stayed busy in Abqaiq by going to a coffee for Rosemary Creigh at Ruth Cumings’, then visited with Jeanine while Vicky worked at the pool. She planned to quit after that week so she and Keith could do things together for the rest of the time they would be in Arabia. They had made plans to leave July 3rd, spend about a week in Europe, starting in Rome before returning to Dallas.
Vicky in her All Star
Softball Team uniform in the
apartment front yard.
Vicky's all star softball team was scheduled to play in Dhahran the following day, so we rode the team bus there. Oran and Keith bused down from Ras Tanura to meet us. They were playing against the other districts' all star teams for the company championship. After a couple of really hard fought games, in which Vicky hit a home run and their team came from way behind, Abqaiq won, so were declared champions of all the districts. Frank Jungers, Aramco Chairman of the Board, presented a trophy to each player, then shook her hand. It was a very exciting afternoon, and there was much animated conversation and laughter as we all bused back to Abqaiq on the team bus. Mohammed came by that evening and brought Vicky an Arab woman’s abaya, veil and a man's thobe. We allowed her to accept these things, as well, but told Mohammed she could not accept any more gifts, as this indicated in our country that there was a very serious relationship between two people and that he and Vicky were just friends. He accepted that graciously, which was a relief.