Wednesday, July 5th, 1978, we started out at the King’s with our group. There was another dance and entertainment by Cody Marshall in the school gymnasium that we all went to afterward. On Thursday morning, we ate breakfast in the Dining Hall before going to visit with Sheila. She had just arrived back in Arabia from vacation the night before, too late to join us at the dance. She and I then went to the snack bar for tea and a private visit. She was really upset that we were going to be leaving.
Later the Kauls came to our house before we went to the Manager's Picnic on the Clubhouse Patio. We enjoyed the afternoon visiting with all the others there, and eating the hot dogs, potato salad, hamburgers, beans, watermelon, ice cream, and sodas Aramco furnished, while the band played and kids rode the rides. They had a good crowd, as usual. Sheila and Keith went back to our house when we were finished, and the Kings joined us later.
At the beginning of next Saturday, July 8th, 1978, I flew to Udhailiyah again, one last time, to visit and say goodbye to Marge Williams and the other Abqaiq wives who had moved down there permanently. What an amazing transformation had taken place in that new "boom" camp! Besides the new Golf Course, ten free-standing houses and two rows of cluster houses had been completed and foundations were laid for a new clubhouse, school and clinic to replace the temporary facilities then in use.
Tennis courts had been built beside the swimming pool, and a space beside them had been reserved for a park right in the center of town – a natural feature to be left undisturbed. It was a full-fledged fourth Aramco Family Camp now, with the residents fully functioning in work, clubs, and recreation, a far cry from the lonely bachelor camp I first visited in 1975. Little did I realize it at the time, but I would return to join them as a resident in a little over two years. But that's another story.
Oran had completed all the things he wanted to do in Arabia; a physical, talks with various Arabs about business, etc., and his replacement at work was trained. Also, he was somewhat apprehensive about how things would go for him in the States. He had several things in mind to try, so he was anxious to get home and get started on establishing a new career in the States again.
But it was quite a surprise to me when he announced he wanted to leave immediately instead of waiting for our official departure date. I reminded him that our packing and shipping wasn't even done and our main "bon voyage" parties hadn't taken place. He said if they would consider sending him home early he would also ask if I could stay to take care of the packing and other things, and attend the farewell parties.
So that's what happened. He talked to his bosses, everything was agreed upon, arrangements were made and Oran flew out of Arabia on Tuesday, July 11th, 1978, on his way to the United States. It all happened so fast I was left in somewhat of a daze, feeling detached from there already. All of our friends were surprised and disappointed on one hand but understood on the other. They didn't think anything had ever happened like that over there before that allowed a wife to remain after her husband had already resigned and left Arabia. But it probably had, either before or since.
Anyway, our friends and I carried on as if nothing had happened. I continued to pack, sell things, visit, and go to Al-Khobar and my going away parties. The big Sorority Party was that Thursday, July 13th, and it was the Kabsa I had requested. It started with snacks at the Wenger's, where I was presented with a cake shaped like the United States with the inscription, "Seeking New Horizons in the USA". That was the Sorority theme for the year, so it fit in perfectly. All the Sorority members still in the Kingdom and their husbands were there, plus some new couples who were being rushed, so there was a large crowd. After an hour or so there, we all went to the East Lounge in the Recreation Building where Arab rugs had been spread to cover the entire floor, with large, square cushions lining them.
Several tablecloths had been placed around on the rugs to accommodate groups of people, and the workers from the Dining Hall went back and forth bringing plates of fruit, salad, and finally the big trays of lamb and rice, which were placed in the middle of each cloth. We all dug in then, with our right hands, wadding the rice in a ball as best we could to get it into our mouths, and tearing the lamb meat off the carcass. It was delicious and fun. When we finished, Jeanine got up and said how much they would miss us, and presented me with a gold charm, which was a map of Saudi Arabia. Well, that just about tore me up, but I kept a smile through the tears while I thanked them for that wonderful farewell party, and told them they wouldn't miss us half as much as I would miss all of them.
We all went back to the Wenger's afterward for coffee and to have a slice of my going away cake. Some of us stayed and visited longer. I was reluctant to leave, but was tired so went on home soon. It had been wonderful, so it was hard for me to admit to myself that it was over.
Saturday, July 15th, 1978, started the final countdown for the packers. I had decided about everything that would go in the shipment and everything I would take home on the plane with me. People were coming by to pick up things they had bought. I did take time out to go to Community Maintenance again to say goodbye to the six and three U.K. crew who were leaving on vacation, and have coffee one last time.
Then the day arrived, Tuesday, July 18th, when the packers actually came to pack and cart everything away. There wasn't really that much left, but it had to be done. After they had gone, and I stood there in that empty apartment that had been our cozy home for the past three and a half years, I did break down and cry. But it wasn't over yet, and I would make the best of it. Arrangements had been made, and the Aramco rental replacement furniture was delivered that afternoon. It wasn't that bad really, but the place did seem pretty bare.
On Thursday morning I rode the bus to Dhahran one last time and had lunch in the newly renovated Dining Hall. I took pictures on the way of the elaborately decorated trucks on the highway, and the one and only train that just happened to be on its way to Riyadh from Dammam, and then the Dhahran Main Gate. When I left Dhahran to return to Abqaiq I was surprised to see a brand new, huge Greyhound Bus that stopped to pick us up. It was a prelude to the future transportation they would have in Saudi Arabia.
It was back to the business at hand on Saturday, July 22nd, 1978. I had made a decision to take home on the plane with me our large, treasured painting of a Bedouin scene by Yesidian. So some of the guys from Community Maintenance came to the house to pack it in a special crate for that purpose. Our Arab friend, Wahab, also came by to pick up the drapes, curtains, and lamps that he had purchased from us. We said goodbye, and I told him how much I had enjoyed visiting in his home. He seemed sad that we were leaving.
There was not another big "whoop-de-do" going away party for me. Instead Jeanine and Jerry King had my closest friends who were still there to a dinner party on Sunday, July 23rd, 1978. It was Sheila and Keith Kaul, Marge and Chris DeSantis, and Ruth and Tom Dominy. The friendly, relaxed atmosphere with those people at the King's was exactly what I needed at that point. So we all had several drinks, then a delicious sit-down meal, elegantly served by their houseboy. I took a lot of pictures, and made all of them promise not to forget us, to write and keep me informed about just everything that was going on in Abqaiq, and to come to see us in the States on their vacations. I’m happy to say they did keep their promises. It was a delightful evening which I'll always treasure.
I had continued to go to the swimming pool as much as possible, although I knew that would be the last of my tanning in earnest. It was almost too hot for that then anyway, but I went one last time the next morning, Monday, before meeting Sheila and Johonna Verhoven in the newly redecorated Dining Hall for lunch. A special area had been fixed with a serve yourself salad and food bar, just like the ones in the States, very nice.
Tuesday morning I went to the original cash office still in the old Administration Building to exchange all my riyals into U.S. currency. At the same time, I said goodbye to the two Ali's who worked there and whom I had dealt with in financial matters for the past 3 and 1/2 years. That evening I went to Sheila and Keith's for one last sad visit in their home.