On Sunday, February 1st, I bussed to Al-Khobar to meet Pat Smyth and her sister, Phyllis, who was living in Arabia as well now, with her husband, Roy Boyd. We had known Roy in the early 50's in Ras Tanura, when he was married to Ilene, who later died. We had also known Pat's sister after several trips to Phoenix, Arizona, over the years to visit Pat and Guy. So, it was great to see her again, and have her in Arabia, too.

After our usual shopping, we managed to get inside the new Chinese Restaurant before Prayer Time about 11:30, so we ate lunch there. We caught a “Kamakazi" taxi back to Dhahran, then our buses back to Ras Tanura and Abqaiq. Phyllis and Roy lived in Dhahran.

That evening Harriet Fretwell and Kathi Steindorf came by to see me, and stayed to visit with Oran, who came home from 'Udhailiyah to start his days off. I brought out the usual Danish Havarti cheese in my round, glass-domed, wooden cheese tray with Ritz crackers to go with our wine. These were two of the few snack items always available in our Commissary, so I always had some on hand.

The next morning, Monday, we invited the DeSantis' to dinner, so I put on some stew before we went to watch Sandy and Shelia play tennis. Oran played tennis a little with Sandy, and we planned to meet the next day to play again.

Back at our apartment, I finished the stew and cornbread, the DeSantis' came for dinner, and we played bridge afterward. We went back to the tennis courts the next morning, met Sandy, Kathi, and Shelia and attempted to play doubles. All of us, except Oran, were in about the same category, and it was really a riot to watch us. We hit one out of 10 balls, both of us would swing at the same ball and miss, and we spent half of our time laughing at how funny we looked. Oran mostly chased all the balls we didn't hit. It was nice just to be outside doing something active, though.

The swimming pool decking was torn up at that time, as they were trying to fix the filter. We just hoped they got it all back together by the time it was warm enough to start sun bathing again, as we all loved to do that so much. The tennis was a good diversion, even if we women were so lousy.

I planned to go to 'Udhailiyah the next morning with Oran. He said the Nomads, with large herds of camels, were moving into the area south of the Amine Plant and stopping by the water trough built for them close to it. So I was excited about that and planned to take my new movie camera to try it out, as well as my still camera.

We got up early Wednesday morning, February 4th and caught the bus to the Abqaiq airstrip, then the plane to 'Udhailiyah at 7:10 a.m. It was the larger plane this time (the old type DC-3 that was used for the paratroopers) with two pilots, so I didn't get to sit in the cockpit like I did the year before. I was getting to be an old hand at flying the small planes between the two camps, but it was still a lot of fun, and different. It sure beat the heck out of mundane, everyday tasks.

UdhailiyahColleen on the Udhailiyah airstrip; the main gate entrance; the Dinning Hall; and Oran with Jeanine and Jerry King (and Unknown) at the Udhailiyah Supermarket

In 'Udhailiyah we drove right to the office, so Abdullah drove me on up to the house, while Oran attended to work. Later he picked me up and drove us to the Dining Hall where we had lunch with Jack Adams, Norm Wade, and Mike Stead. Afterward, we walked outside, around to the back of the Dining Hall building and entered through a door into a small Commissary, which was a pleasant surprise.

That afternoon, I visited with the only other woman in 'Udhailiyah at that time, Charlene Stackhouse. She had decided to live down there with her husband, so they had fixed up one of the other row houses for them to live in. She was the first of what would be a steady stream of wives to move there as it was gradually enlarged and improved to become the 4th family camp in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. At that time, there was a possibility I would be one of those women to join her there.

Amine Plant Control Room and KitchenA U.K. employee and Oran in the Control Room of the Amine Plant; and three U.K. employees in the kitchen

During this time, the weather was a very pleasant 78 degrees maximum and 50 degrees minimum. It even rained during Wednesday night.

After lunch on Thursday, I rode around with Oran on his rounds of company facilities outside camp, first to the Amine Plant, where I went inside to meet the various English men who worked there with him and to see the Control rooms and the kitchen. It was very clean, modern, air-conditioned and impressive. From there, we drove to Compressor Station 961 on the West Flank. On the way we had to stop the pickup for some camels and an Arab herder to cross the road right in front of us, a very common occurrence in that area. I got my first really great movies.

Colleen with Camels and Camels at watering pondColleen taking pictures of the camel herd at the watering facility; and camels at a watering pond.
camels crossing the road and camels with manCamels crossing the road; and an Arab herder with camels.

That evening we drove the 25 miles south to Hawiyah again to the Bechtel Construction Camp to have dinner with our friend, Jack Hays. The meal in the Dining Hall turned out to be different that night. It was raining, and for some reason the lights went out in his camp, and all the East Flank area for awhile, so we had to eat by candlelight. With all those men and a more romantic atmosphere, it was really great for me. I don't think Oran or Jack objected too much, either.

At lunch the next day, Friday, Mike Stead, Oran's boss and the Camp Manager at that time, invited us to go with him on a helicopter inspection tour of the Water Injection Operations in that area. I was thrilled, as that would be my first helicopter ride. So for the next couple of hours, we flew up and down both sides of the East and West Flank oil facilities, and I can tell you for sure after that ride, that there is a whole lot of nothing but sand and rock in that place. And I can prove it, as we took movies and still shops of 'Udhailiyah, the Amine Plant, Gosp 13, Compressor Station 961, and areas in between from the air.

Amine Plant and Compressor Station 961 Amine Plant and Compressor Station 961

There was still a lot of daylight left, though, so Oran and I decided to drive straight south from the camp on the road to Haradh. Haradh was as far south as that road went before turning west toward the interior of Saudi Arabia, then on to Riyadh, the Kingdom's capitol. That was the southern most point of the railroad that ran between Dammam, on the Persian Gulf, to Riyadh, as well.

South of Haradh is the Rub'Al Khali, "The Empty Quarter", which is an extremely large area of wave after wave of mountainous, barren, red sand dunes. This uniquely magnificent giant sea of sand is uninhabitable, and would be totally avoided except for the oil beneath it. Nomads occasionally cross it to get from one grazing area to another, but do not live there.

When we left 'Udhailiyah Camp, we drove past the Amine Plant, then Hawiyah Camp, then on south until the black top road turned into crushed rocks, then only tracks in the dirt and sand. At that point, we thought it was foolish to go on, so turned around and retraced our route back toward the Amine Plant. Just south of there, we got a whiff of the "rotten egg" smelling poisonous gas that is brought up with the oil, but is burned in the huge flares located next to all oil facilities. Oran noticed that the gas flare by the Amine Plant was out, so we hightailed it there as quickly as possible. It was pretty tense for awhile until Oran and Mike Osborn managed to get the flare re-lit by walking almost under it, and shooting a flare gun to the gas escaping at the top.

During that time, I was sitting in Oran's office inside the control room expecting to drop dead any minute, but fortunately there was a good breeze blowing the gas away from the plant. What a relief it was to see the fire blazing again. Oran had been concerned there might be repercussions from some Bedouins in the area, though. If not any dead, then maybe some camels or sheep, but nothing like that happened, thank goodness. We decided that was enough excitement for one day, so we drove on back to 'Udhailiyah, and talked to Mike Stead and Roy Steindorf about it in the office.

Flying back to Abqaiq the next morning on the 48 passenger Fokker was uneventful. I did take more pictures from the air of the bare, brown earth, and equally bare jebels (small rock hills) of Saudi Arabia. The ever present black smoke from the burning oil flares was in evidence.

The early 7:30 a.m. arrival allowed me time to go to the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority coffee at the home of Sharon Green. She had recently moved from Dhahran when her husband, Axel, had been transferred to the Southern Area Operations Department. Sharon and Marge Williams were members of the International Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, so they had decided to start a chapter in Abqaiq. This was the organizational coffee, and all the original foremen's wives plus other women in camp had been invited to join.

At that point, I was undecided about adding another activity to the already abundant list of things to do, but wanted to investigate and give it a fair chance, especially if the other foremen's wives were going to be members. Sharon and Marge explained everything and set up some training meetings for the ones interested. It sounded very involved, but a nice thing to belong to.

Oran was back in camp the next evening for his days off, Monday and Tuesday. We just had a meatloaf supper the first evening, but the next morning played tennis again with Sandy and Kathi. We still hadn't improved too much, but had fun.

After I played bridge on Tuesday, we went to Harriet Fretwell’s. That evening I bowled while Oran went to a movie. So went the typical mid-week days of our lives in Saudi Arabia in February, 1976.

I would spend the coming weekend in 'Udhailiyah as well, but didn't fly there until Thursday on the 4 o'clock plane. That trip was really uneventful, especially after the happenings last time. We drove the usual roads to the Amine Plant, and Compressor Station 961, took movies of a beautiful sunset, ate our meals at the Dining Hall and visited with Roy Steindorf, Mike Stead, and Jerry Ustanoff, but that was about it. I almost missed the plane back to Abqaiq Saturday morning. Oran used some pretty strong language over the intercom as we drove out to the airstrip to get them to hold the plane for me.

Back in Abqaiq, I talked to Sandy and Kathi, and we decided to eat in the Dining Hall, so we met there. Afterward, we went back to my house and talked about the party the other foremen and wives had had that weekend while Oran and I were in 'Udhailiyah. Oran phoned from 'Udhailiyah while they were there, so he talked to everyone and Sandy talked to Jack. It was a good thing because our phone was out of order again the next day.

Oran wasn't too happy about work and some things that were going on in 'Udhailiyah, but had to stay down there for a couple more days. I messed around with Estela, Harriet, Kathi, and Marge Williams. There was a coffee Tuesday morning at Kathi's for Marge's birthday. Some of us stayed for lunch afterward to plan a trip for all the foremen's wives to go to 'Udhailiyah for a party. We thought the husbands would all like that.

When Oran came home that evening, Marge and Chris DeSantis came by to visit. We talked about the number of new people arriving in Arabia, and how things were changing and getting overcrowded. Aramco had started into one of its big expansion plans, and construction crews were pouring into Abqaiq bachelor quarters by the droves until they could get their own camps built outside our camp. They had just about taken over the Dining Hall, Swimming Pool, and other recreational areas.

Anyway, Oran was home for his 3 day changeover weekend from having weekend duty in 'Udhailiyah for a month. Wednesday morning we started out playing tennis again with Shelia, Sandy, and Kathi. Oran mostly just chased balls again. Roy came up with a camera and took movies of all of us making fools of ourselves, but it was a very nice day.

That evening we went to dinner at Patti and Burl York’s with Marie and Frank Quiggle and Bob Kirkpatrick. Patti fixed steak and lobster tail, which was delicious, as her meals always were. Afterward, we walked to the Post Office before going on home. Oran mentioned that his knee was hurting some.

The tennis group: Sandy Adams, Sheila Kaul, Kathi Steindorf, and Colleen WilsonThe tennis group: Sandy Adams, Sheila Kaul, Kathi Steindorf, and Colleen Wilson

The next morning, his knee was really hurting, so much he could hardly hobble around. We had thought about going to Al-Khobar, then to Dhahran to visit Phyllis and Roy Boyd but we couldn't do that.

Anyway, I had invited the foremen and wives over that evening for a little get together, so I went to the suqs and the Commissary to get necessary snacks, cooked shrimp, made a cheese ball and dip and got the house ready. From past experience Oran thought he had bursitis, so had better stay in bed with his knee perfectly still, even during the party.

When the Kings, Adams, Steindorfs, Kauls, and Fretwells arrived everyone went into the bedroom for awhile to visit with Oran. They had brought him a magazine to help pass the time, and all his tennis "buddies" (the girls) got on the bed with him to have a picture taken. Then the rest of us went back into the living room, had drinks and the snacks, and some good laughs. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening, even Oran.

But when he got up Friday morning, he was really in pain. Chris came over while we were cooking breakfast, had coffee with us, then drove to the Clinic to get some crutches for Oran. They helped a lot. It was almost impossible for him to get around otherwise. By the time we went to bed that night, he thought his knee was better, but knew he couldn't go to work the next day.

He called the 'Udhailiyah office Saturday morning to report what had happened. He seemed pretty comfortable sitting up, so I left him to go play duplicate bridge with Ruby Adams. After that, I ran errands around camp for us, cooked dinner, and watched TV with Oran. The Kings came over to show us a huge lemon that had been grown in Hofuf gardens and stayed to visit awhile.

When we went to bed, Oran couldn't stop hurting. We tried different things, including his lying on the floor and sitting up. His hip was hurting too, by this time. He just couldn't get in a position that didn't hurt, so didn't sleep at all that night, and I slept very little.

When Oran called the Clinic the next morning, he was told to be there about 8 a.m. Dr. Hourie took an x-ray and gave him some pain pills, so we went back home, had breakfast, then slept for a couple of hours. We really needed that. I got up to go to the Commissary, but it was raining. It had done that a lot lately. Oran's knee had stopped hurting, so he stayed in bed while I worked around the house then cooked supper. We ended up eating and watching TV in the bedroom.

It continued to rain, hard, and the phone went out of order, again. Another frustration. The phone was still out of order the next morning and Oran wanted some calls made. So I got up at 7 a.m., went to the Recreation Hall to report the phone problem and called Oran's boss and the Amine Plant in 'Udhailiyah to let them know what had happened. It was foggy and still raining a bit. Oran just stayed in bed all day.

I walked to the Clinic to talk to Dr. Hourie about fluid that seemed to be in Oran's knee. He told me to bring Oran back in the morning, which I did. When Dr. Hourie saw Oran's knee that time, he sent us right on the Clinic in Dhahran in a taxi.

At the Dhahran Clinic fluid was drained from his knee, then we returned to Abqaiq. It was a beautiful day, which helped our feelings immensely, but most of all, a miracle had happened. Oran walked around in the front yard without crutches and without pain for the first time in four days.

After supper Marge and Chris came to check on Oran and were pleased with the results. Then Jim King came over to invite us to a party the next night at his parents' house. So Oran had gotten an extra four days off, but it wasn't exactly under the conditions he would have preferred. He thought perhaps it was time for him to give up tennis.

Wednesday morning, February 25th, he flew on back to 'Udhailiyah, although that was the last working day of that week. Our phone was still out of order, so I walked to the Recreation Hall to phone a cab to go to Mansour Camp to a bridge luncheon.

Later, back in Abqaiq Camp, to catch up on the other social things I had missed that week I walked to the Post Office with Marge Williams, met Shelia, and we all went to the Snack Bar for tea.

Oran came home again that evening. He was tired, but his knee was o.k., so we went on to the party at the Kings. A lot of people were there and we had a very good time. It was the first really relaxing time we had had for over a week.

Thursday morning we slept late, then generally rested and relaxed the rest of that day. That evening we were going to a big, once-a-year, Water Injection Department Dinner-Dance at the Ain Nakle Country Club (Golf Club House). We started out by going to a social hour from 6:30 to 8 at Chet and Mary Lou Loves’ house, then rode with the DeSantises to the club house, where we sat with all the other foremen and wives. The decorations were very nice and we had a good steak dinner before starting to dance. Because of the situation with his knee, Oran didn't dance for about 3 hours, but then joined the rest of us. I was concerned about that and thought for sure he would be down again, but as it turned out, it didn't bother him again after that. The next morning Oran's knee was still o.k., so he walked to the Post Office, and to the DeSantis' to return a heating pad. It had been a fun, but full, tiring weekend, and we discussed being less active, or at least not doing so much at one time.

Back to Chapter 12Chapter 14