For the next three days Oran was off work, so he stayed in Abqaiq. We did an assortment of things – visited with friends, played some bridge, and bowled. On Wednesday we went to a Halloween parade at the school and later sat on our porch passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters who came by.
The next morning, Thursday, we got up early to say goodbye again to Sharon and Jim Morris. They were on their way to Dhahran, then were scheduled to go to the airport the next day, October 31st, 1975, to fly to Cairo, Egypt. They had been selected to be in the Middle East Office of Santa Fe instead of Beirut. They really left the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that time, and we would miss them.
Another young couple, Elaine and Larry Swisher, had already moved into the Morris' apartment, as he had taken over as the Santa Fe manager in Abqaiq. So when Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah on Saturday morning I had Elaine over for coffee to get acquainted. They turned out to be nice neighbors as well, with a cute little girl, but we never did get as involved with them.
I felt the need to stay busy that week, so on Monday, I caught the bus to Al-Khobar with Jeanine. Norma Branch and Alene Smith were also on the bus, so we all visited on the way. Jeanine and I met Pat Smyth in Al-Khobar, shopped together, and then had lunch at the Yildizar Resturant on King Khalid Street. The same group was on our bus going back to Abqaiq, so we talked about our various shopping activities and showed each other what we had found to buy. We women always compared notes on what could be found and where, and anything new always got a lot of attention.
The night for the Women's Club Luau that I had worked on for a couple of months had finally arrived, Thursday, November 6th. Oran was home for the weekend so we invited our group over for drinks and snacks before – The Kings, Kauls, Steindorfs, Fretwells, and Marvin Williams. Everyone was in a festive mood, and the women were dressed to the hilt in long, colorful or flowered dresses.
From our apartment, we all went to the Golf Clubhouse, and I must say, it did look Hawaiian. A grass hut had been simulated out of dried palm fronds at the entrance, colorful long strips of paper tablecloths had been laid out in rows on the floor with colorful cushions between each row for seating. The pineapple and other fruit decorations we had made were on the tablecloths and each person had been given a colorful, paper flower lei and kiss on the cheek as they entered. Everyone felt it was one of the more successful dinner parties given there.
Saturday was a card playing day – duplicate bridge with Marge DeSantis at 12:30, canasta that evening at Peg Morrison’s. My new Lebanese neighbor, Nada Higley, came over to visit Sunday morning.
As I wanted to get more souvenirs to take on home leave, Shelia, Kathi, and I went to Al-Khobar Monday morning. I got my charm bracelet made up, shopped, then had lunch at the Yildizar Restaurant again. Going back to Abqaiq this time the bus had a near wreck, which shook us all up pretty good.
The temperature had gotten down to a really pleasant 87 degrees by Wednesday, November 12th, when Oran came home next. We enjoyed relaxing on our porch that evening, but the next evening made another trip to Al-Khobar. That was never Oran's favorite thing to do, especially since the orientation trip, but the weather had gotten so nice that he agreed. I introduced him to the new Chinese Restaurant at the Al-Kharja Hotel.
There was an Art Show on Friday in the Golf Clubhouse. A number of people had taken up painting as a hobby to help pass the time, and some were surprisingly good. A lot of subject matter pertained to things and people in Arabia, naturally, and as that was a subject that interested us all, others were willing, even anxious, to buy the paintings, so there were periodic shows to display and sell the paintings.
Oran and I started out together but soon wandered off in different directions as something else further on down an aisle drew our attention. After a while I found Oran looking intently at one particular painting with much interest. It turned out to be an Arab Bedouin scene with tents, camels, goats, sand dunes, and gas flares in the distance, very typical of what you see in Arabia and realistically captured by the Indian painter, Yesidian. His interest was understandable after our personal visit to one the month before, and I got excited, too, when I saw it. But another American couple seemed interested in it, too, and we both decided to buy it about the same time. After some discussion, the other couple decided to let us have the painting, with a promise from Yesidian to paint them one just like it. We were so glad, as we would have been afraid he couldn't have done another one we would have liked as well. It was just perfect.
Anyway, we left the painting there the rest of the afternoon, so he could show it to others and perhaps get another commission to do other paintings. We were feeling good about our purchase and wanted to share that with friends, so went to Kings, then the Smiths, and ended up at the Adams. We had drinks with everybody, so were feeling mellow, so when the Adams invited us to stay for dinner on their roof patio, we accepted. They lived on one end of the old wooden rowhouses off 19th street. Some previous tenant had converted one-half the roof into a walled patio, accessible by an enclosed outside stairway. It was a unique arrangement and one of a kind in Abqaiq. Sandy and Jack had put lawn chairs, a table, a grill, and a portable radio up there. We took our drinks and food and enjoyed a delightful, calm, cool, star-studded, perfect evening. It was one of those rare, impromptu events that couldn't have been more perfect if you had planned for weeks.
Since Oran had been told we could take our home leave to be in the States for Christmas, we had made our final plans. So the next day, Saturday, after he flew back to 'Udhailiyah I went to the travel office to set things up with Kevin for our trip. We would leave on December 9th, our 25th wedding anniversary, on Lufthansa Airlines, fly non-stop to Frankfurt, Germany, spend one night there in the International Hotel, then fly on to Dallas the next day, arriving at 7:10 p.m., December 10th. Sounded good to us. That taken care of, for the next couple of days I just did general things, like attend the Women's Club General Meeting, talked to Sharon Caswell, who would be staying in our apartment while we were on vacation, taxied to the suqs, started packing gifts to take home, bowled, etc.
We received a letter from Sharon and Jim Morris that had been written November 13, bringing us up to date on what had happened to them since leaving Arabia. Their arrival in Cairo was the beginning of a real experience, they said. Hotel rooms were next to impossible to book, and although their first suite was in a first class hotel, there was no hot water, one of the lights in the bathroom didn't work, and the toilet seat was broken off. As if all that wasn't enough, the entire place was covered with a fine black soot. The next day they moved to another hotel, which was much more satisfactory, but they still found a caterpillar in the salad at dinner. They started looking for an apartment right away, but Jim came home with the news that he had to go to Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf, for 2 or 3 months, so they went there. It was the perfect solution to their problem.
On Tuesday I caught the bus to go to Al-Khobar but it couldn't get out the main gate of our camp because of fog. Some of our group, Sandy, Jack, Shelia, and Jeanine were also going, so we decided to have breakfast in the Dining Hall instead. While there we all decided to take a taxi together at 3 o'clock in time to get to Al-Khobar when the stores opened up again around 4. To kill some time until then, Shelia and I went shopping in the suqs, just outside our camp, then home to rest awhile before going with the others as planned. The trip down in the late afternoon was even more fun and gave us several hours to shop. We purchased shawarmas from a sidewalk vendor, then caught the shoppers' bus back to Abqaiq. A nice, relaxing day and night.
Marge Williams had just gotten back to Arabia from visiting her sick mother in the States, so I decided to have a welcome back party for her on Thursday, November 20th. I called to invite people, cleaned the apartment, got the necessary food from the commissary, and siphoned some wine (couldn't have a party without wine, now could we?). Everyone was able to come and, as usual, was in a party mood, so we had a nice gathering and enjoyable welcome back for Marge.
I felt like I couldn't let any grass grow under my feet between then and our repatriation, so on Saturday Jeanine, Shelia, Harriet, Sandy and I bussed to Madinat for more shopping. We all went to Harriet’s after for coffee. As it was Saturday, I went to the travel office that afternoon to talk to Kevin again to be sure all our reservations were confirmed.
They were, and we even received our travel check from Aramco, so I guessed all systems were go for our trip. That was exciting news and meant we could start our count down. Later I went to the snack bar with the group, then to a Guitar performance with Jeanine at the theater, which was terrible. Three out of four good things wasn't bad for one day, though.
The following Thursday, November 27th, would be Thanksgiving Day, so I spent the rest of the week getting ready for that, as well as doing things to get ready for our trip home and the regular weekly activities. Pat and Guy Smyth came down from Ras Tanura and Jeanine and Jerry King came over, then we enjoyed the usual Turkey, Cornbread, Dressing, and Giblet Gravy meal. We went to the Kings after for drinks.
The next morning, we had coffee on our porch with the Smyths and DeSantises before taking Guy to see our Golf Clubhouse. He was impressed. The Smyths left to go back to Ras Tanura about 2:30 with some turkey sandwiches and cake.
Understandably, I slept late the next morning after Oran went back to 'Udhailiyah. This Saturday started the last full week we would be in Arabia before our home leave, so I had a lot to take of. Lucy Casswell and her daughter, Sharon came over to sign the housing papers so they could stay in our apartment while we were gone. Jeanine came over to pick up some of the leftovers from Thanksgiving and I went to the Travel Office to pick up our tickets from Kevin, took the papers to the Housing Office, and picked up some shipment papers from Zada Linguist. It had turned cold that day for the first time, so that would prepare us a little bit for our trip home in the middle of winter.
Monday, December 1st, I made one last trip to Al-Khobar with Shelia and Jeanine. The bus driver drove so terribly on the way I was wondering if I would get out of Arabia in one piece. We did our shopping, had lunch in the Dhahran Dining Hall, and then bussed back to Abqaiq. There had been a fire in the Abqaiq Plant that afternoon, which was still burning and emitting a lot of thick, black smoke when the bus drove through the main gate into camp. It didn't turn out to be a major fire, though, and no one was hurt or killed.
It rained the next morning for the first time since May, but not much or for very long. This day was spent on just general activities before Oran came home in the evening. He took care of some things to get ready for the trip while I went to my last league bowling night, but there would be a tournament with Babco on the weekend, our last one before the trip. That started on Thursday, December 4th, 1975.
After breakfast, I made two dozen tuna and egg salad sandwiches, took them to the bowling alley for the tournament participants, and watched the games awhile. That evening there was a dinner and dance at the Golf Club House for all the bowlers, their hosts, and members of the association.
Oran had to get a lot of things done for the trip Friday, so he worked on that before we relaxed on our porch with wine that evening. He flew back to 'Udhailiyah for a couple of more days of work on Saturday. The Steindorfs were going on vacation, as well, and we would be flying to Frankfurt together on the first leg of our trips. So Kathi and I caught the old, green and beige Taseco bus to Madinat for one last day of shopping.
The Madinat market was extremely crowded. We bought a few things, including a small thobe for Kathi's son, Justin, then took lots of pictures of the general crowd, especially an old man, who had brought two large camels to sell. At first, he thought I wanted to buy a camel, but soon understood we just wanted pictures, so posed cooperatively.
We thought we had made our way back to the bus in plenty of time, but when we got there found it already gone. But as we were standing there wondering what to do it came back to get us. The other women on the bus said they finally convinced the Arab driver that there were two more women that he had left behind, so we were grateful for that.
Back at the apartment, I wrote the rest of my Christmas cards, then took them to the Post Office to mail. I thought people would be more interested in receiving them from Arabia than the States. Shelia Kaul was at the Post Office as well, so afterward she came back to my apartment for tea, then with me to eat at the Dining Hall.
Later I finished a photo album I was taking to show friends and family in the States. The Women's Club Christmas Tea was the next day at the Golf Club House, so I took the time to go to that.
Oran flew back from 'Udhailiyah for the last time before our trip. That evening we went to our farewell dinner at Marge and Chris DeSantis'.
Monday started the final day countdown. Oran picked up our passports at the Passport Office, went to the Cash Office and then the Post Office for final mailings while I packed the rest of the suitcases. Marvin Williams came by to say goodbye before we went to the Dining Hall for dinner. Back at the apartment, the Kings came over to say goodbye and pick up all leftover food. We got to bed early, but there was very little sleep to be had that night.
Besides being excited, we had to get up in the wee hours of the a.m., get dressed, catch a taxi to the airport in Dhahran, check in, go through the final exit visa check and security point, then into the final waiting area. But it wasn't long before we boarded our Lufthansa Airliner, which departed at 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday, December 9th, 1975, our 25th Wedding Anniversary. And we were on our way to our first home leave or vacation out of Saudi Arabia since our return nine and one-half months earlier.
Our first stop was Kuwait, where we sat on the ground on the plane for an hour while some passengers were unloaded and others loaded. Breakfast was not served until we left there, and before the 6-hour flight was over, we were served lunch, as well, so we couldn't complain about the food.
Kathi and Roy Steindorf and their children were on the plane, too, but we didn't visit much until we landed in Frankfurt, Germany, at 1:40 p.m., Dhahran time – 11:40 a.m., German time. While we were waiting to get our luggage, we discussed getting together that evening. They were going to rent a car, spend one night in Frankfurt in the Excelsior Hotel, then drive through the country to see some of Germany before continuing on to the United States. We got our bags and went by taxi to the Frankfurt Intercontinental Hotel. On the way we enjoyed and were surprised to see a lot of pine and oak trees along modern expressways.
The hotel turned out to be a very beautiful, modern hi-rise in downtown Frankfurt on the Main River. We checked in, then took the elevator to our 12th-floor room with a view of the river – very beautiful. The weather was cold but clear. The first thing we did was get comfortable and relax with two drinks each from the well-stocked Mini-Bar located in the room. We had never seen one of these before, but soon got the hang of it. While doing this, we watched the river barge traffic and people strolling in a small park that bordered the river. Then we took a short nap, as it had already been a long day.
When we awoke, we tried calling the Steindorfs at their hotel, but they hadn't checked in yet, so decided to join the people on the river walk. We went down and started walking toward an old bridge we had seen from our room. We passed under one bridge that was modern and used by cars, trains, and people. The old bridge was used only by people, so we crossed the river on that and started walking along a street we thought belonged to an area called, "Sachsenhausen". We had heard that street contained blocks of old Frankfurt pubs and lively beer halls, where the locals drink apple wine, link arms, sing oom-pah-pah songs, dance, and invite foreigners to join them. Either we were too early or were in the wrong area because we never did find any action. So we walked back across the old bridge and discovered a street that had a lot of stalls set up in front of businesses to sell special things for Christmas.
There was a carnival atmosphere, with people milling up and down the rows, buying Christmas trees, presents, candied apples and other confections. We joined the throng for several blocks, enjoying the gaiety of the German men, women, and children, and the occasional flakes of light snow, which really helped us to get into the Christmas spirit.
When we began to get tired, we located a gingerbread looking pub, called Braustub'l Haus Wertheym, which looked warm and inviting inside, with rustic, wooden tables, chairs, benches, booths, and most of all, a bar. We perched ourselves on stools there and soon were enjoying warming refreshments and conversation with the English-speaking bartender. Our stools were located right next to a dumbwaiter, which kept delivering delicious looking and smelling plates of food from some mysterious kitchen and were served to the other patrons in the pub. We had not intended to eat there, but after a couple of hours of this temptation, couldn't resist, so ordered some for ourselves. It was delicious and we enjoyed it greatly, then left the pub to return to our hotel. Of course, it was very dark by then, and the streets were all but deserted, but after walking a few blocks in what we thought was the right direction, found our hotel with no trouble at all. So, in anybody's book that turned out to be a very interesting, exciting, and unusual 25th Wedding Anniversary.
Before going to bed, we called Steindorfs hotel again, but they still hadn't checked in, then or by the next morning. We were very worried until we got a call through to them in the States later and found out that when they had left the airport they just decided to skip Frankfurt and continue on their other scheduled route through Germany. That was a relief.
The next day we flew on to New York, went through customs, and changed to a Braniff Flight at 7:10 p.m. on Wednesday, December 10th, 1975. We were very tired by this time, but excited to be so near the end of our journey, so we tried to relax with our drinks and meal. And before we knew it we were flying over all the twinkling lights of Dallas, and landing at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport to begin our first 5-week vacation in the States. It was good to be home.