Monday morning, I went to a bridge lesson at the Women’s Club Portable, and was taught the Staymen Convention, which I didn't like and probably wouldn't use. Marge Williams and I went to lunch at the Dining Hall afterward. All that afternoon I worried about whether or not to join the Sorority because of so many other activities. I finally decided not to, so called Marge to tell her I wouldn't be at the beginning meeting that night.
Marge and I had planned to go to the pool the next morning, but it was cloudy and sprinkling, so she and Harriet came over for coffee. We made plans to go to the suqs when they opened up again at 4 o'clock that afternoon. So Marge came back, then we called a taxi, picked up Harriet and Kathi and drove to the suqs. While there, it started raining, so we went back to my apartment, talked about just "everything", and had some snacks. Oran called from 'Udhailiyah and Bing talked to Harriet at the same time. By the time the girls left my apartment, they had talked me into joining Sorority with them after all.
Wednesday morning I went to Marge Williams to have coffee and give her my check for Sorority. I was glad they had talked me into joining, as it turned out to be a big part of our lives for the rest of the time we were there during that period of time, and later, when we returned to live in 'Udhailiyah. Besides, I would be a charter member of the Saudi Arabia Beta Chapter in Abqaiq. There would be a meeting each month, plus a social with husbands, plus special teas, installations, and fund raising events. As well as the five original foremen's wives, there were ten other women in the original group.
There was another rain storm while I was at Marge's, so I called a taxi to take me on my errands around camp before going back to the apartment to get ready for Oran's arrival for the weekend. A tax expert had been brought from the States by the company to confer with employees, so Oran went to the East Lounge in the Recreation Building to talk to him the next morning. He worked on taxes all that day, and felt good about getting that taken care of, but bad about the amount we were going to have to pay. Putting all that aside for awhile, and to relax, we went to Steindorfs for drinks and snacks for the evening.
As we sat on our front porch Friday evening, Aliene Smith called us to go to her house, so we joined her, Ruby and Frank Adams, and Joanie and John Kircus. As the next day was the start of the work week and Oran would fly back to 'Udhailiyah, we didn't stay long, though.
I went on to the pool with Marge Williams Saturday morning before playing bridge at the Golf Clubhouse. Later Kathi, Marge, and Harriet came by to visit, and Oran came home unexpectedly in order to go to Dhahran the next day to have the tax expert from the States check the return. So we caught the 7:30 bus the next morning to Dhahran and had breakfast in the Dining Hall. But, while Oran took care of the business, I caught a taxi to Al-Khobar to shop, then met him back at the Dining Hall when he finished. On the way back to Abqaiq in the taxi, Oran told me that the tax expert had checked our return, and sure enough, we would have to pay "a bundle" for the previous year. It made us a bit ill, but, oh well, easy come, easy go! Ouch!
That day wasn't over yet. Oran left our apartment at three to go to the airstrip to catch the afternoon plane back to 'Udhailiyah, but it didn't show up for some reason. After waiting one hour, he came back home, so we just had some leftovers before I went to the Sorority Initiation at Sharon Green's house. All the new pledges were going to have to memorize the Opening and Closing Rituals, and learn the By-Laws and Standing Rules to the Chapter Constitution, as written March 24th, 1976.
Oran was able to fly back to 'Udhailiyah the next morning. The weather was just beautiful then, with the maximum high around 80 degrees, so Marge, Harriet, and I tried to go to the pool almost daily to work on our tans. At that point, I was just rather red and had bumps, but hoped they would go away soon. We usually went to the Snack Bar for a hamburger afterwards. Tuesday evening we went to a Sorority pledge training meeting at Greens.
The next morning, Wednesday, March 31st, I went to the bus stop to catch a bus to the suqs, but it never came. Coincidentally, Jack Hays drove by about that time, so he took me there, waited for me to shop, then drove me back into camp to the Cash Office. Marge, Harriet, and Kathi were there too, so when we all finished our business, we went back to my house for coffee, including Jack. When they left, it was time for me to get things ready for the weekend, so I made a 3-bean salad, and some deviled eggs.
When Oran came home that evening, we called Kathi and Roy over for a visit. It was cloudy and sprinkling the next morning, so we decided not to go to the pool after our breakfast. Instead, we worked on getting things ready for the evening’s activities. The Steindorfs, Williams, and Fretwells came over for grilled hamburgers and all the trimmings. It was Marge and Marvin's last weekend there before leaving on vacation. Sandy and Jack, and Sheila and Keith were already on vacation, so our foremen's group was dwindling. After supper, everybody there, except the Steindorfs, went to the AEA dance at the Golf Club House. We had to sit right by the band, where there happened to be a lot of bachelors sitting, as well, so we danced a lot. We all went to the Dupree’s afterward for breakfast, so didn't get home until the wee hours.
Chris and Marge DeSantis came over the next morning for coffee, and when they left, we faced the chores of the day, which mainly were getting Oran's clothes ready for the work week. He was still extremely unhappy with his job and 'Udhailiyah. I felt like we were just marking time and expected him to quit just as soon as his 18 months were up, which would be the last of September, unless something drastic happened. If at all possible, he would try to stay until Aramco sent us on our next vacation, which would make a big financial difference. I fixed leftovers for our supper that evening then we got to bed early. It rained again during the night.
Monday of the next week, April 5th, 1976, was the day the foremen's wives had planned to fly to 'Udhailiyah for a party with our husbands. So, at 3 o'clock, Marge, Kathi, Harriet, and I went in a taxi to the airstrip to catch the afternoon plane. We had to wait about 45 minutes before it arrived then the flight was a bit rough, but you should have seen the men's faces light up when four women, instead of just one, got off the plane that time. That alone was worth the trip. After the meeting and greeting, we were driven from the airstrip to the camp and Oran's and Roy's rowhouse, where we had snacks on the front walled-in patio.
For our evening meal, we had all planned to drive the 25 miles south to the Bechtel Construction Camp in Hawiyah to eat in their Dining Hall with our friend, Jack Hays. So we all started off in each husband's pickup in our procession south, one after the other. Each pickup was equipped with an Inter-Communication System that linked them with all other vehicles, the offices, and all oil facilities in the southern area oil fields. This was for business only, and personal exchanges were strictly a no-no. So during the drive down, Oran and I were extremely surprised to hear a female voice calling my name over the inter-com, then the question, "Colleen, do you mean to tell me you like this place down here and would like to live here?" It was Harriet. She and the other women had never before been this far south or seen the desolate, barren landscape in that area. I couldn't resist answering, so Oran instructed me on how to respond on the inter-com, and I replied, "Yes, Harriet, I do love this place and wouldn't mind living down here". A minute of silence followed. Then, over the inter-com came an unfamiliar voice with a decided male British accent saying, "Who in the hell would want to live in a God forsaken place like this?" Well, that just broke everybody up, and we laughed all the rest of the way to the Bechtel Camp.
Jack, of course, was elated to have not just one, but four women as his guests, and we all crowded into his little, portable room for the usual drink of "Johnny Walker Red Label". We told him what had happened on the way down, and he got a big kick out of it as well. Later, in their Dining Hall, we were treated like royalty to say the least, and I can truthfully say I don't believe I've ever had so much attention and admiration shown to me by so many men at one time. Was there any wonder why I would love to live down there? The other women, too, understood how I felt then, and it was really a wonderful evening for us. I think even the husbands were strutting a little.
Marge and Kathi caught the Tuesday morning flight back to Abqaiq, but Harriet and I decided to stay in 'Udhailiyah through the day. After coffee, we drove with Bing to check Compressor Station 961 on the West Flank. On the way, we saw more camels than I'd ever seen before at one time, and lots of wild flowers, because there had been so much rain. So I stayed busy taking pictures of those, as well as rock formations in the area. Being over there in Saudi Arabia seemed unreal to me at times, especially when I was out in the desert like that, but it was the part I really enjoyed the most.
It turned out to be a very productive and interesting morning, as well. To top it off, the weather was just perfect, with a maximum of 87 and a minimum of 63 degrees that week. We met Oran for lunch back in ‘Udhailiyah, then rested before catching the afternoon plane back to Abqaiq. It was a pretty rough flight as well, but a car and driver were waiting for us at the airstrip (Oran remembered to call ahead for it this time), so we had no problem getting back into Abqaiq Camp. I had time to walk to the Post Office and have supper by the time Marge DeSantis came over to study with me for our Sorority test. Marge and Marvin Williams left the next morning on vacation, Wednesday, April 7th, 1976. Even though I had to go by myself, I went to the pool for a couple of hours. I did see Estela Syphers and Avonie Long just before I left.
That evening when Oran got home, he felt like doing something, so we called Barbara and Norm Wade over. Everyone got in a jovial mood, so it was a fun evening.
Thursday evening we decided to buy some Mexican food from Marill Trujillo, another Sorority Sister. She and her husband had decided to make and sell Mexican food and pizzas as a business. Although not exactly like the Tex-Mex food we were used to back in Texas, it was darn good, and a very welcome relief from the other things we had to choose from to eat over there. We had made plans to do something with DeSantises the next day, so we got up on Friday and drove north toward Dhahran, but just south of there, and turned on a road to the right toward the beach to Half Moon Bay. That was a large indention from the Persian Gulf with calm, crystal clear, blue-green water, and white sandy beaches, surrounded by sand dunes. One sand dune at the far north end ran right into the water. We were really impressed with it. We took pictures, and I got a really great shot of a tiny Arab boy with a ghutra wrapped around his head carrying a bottle of Pepsi Cola. On the drive back to the main road, we stopped to climb a large sand dune and take more pictures.
Instead of returning to Abqaiq, though, we drove on to Al-Khobar to have lunch at the Floating Restaurant again. The food was good as usual, and they had completely redecorated the inside since the last time we had been there. It was much nicer and cleaner looking, especially the bathrooms.
We didn't get to shop much afterward, as the stores were all closed for prayer and the afternoon. By the time they would have opened up again around 4 o’clock, we had driven back to Abqaiq. But we were pleased with the pictures we had taken from the upstairs, outdoor balcony of the Floating Restaurant; one of Oran and myself with the Al-Gosabi Hotel in the background to the north, another to the southeast, showing the corner of the Al-Khobar beach highway and Pepsi Road, with the Persian Gulf in the background, and another straight south, showing one of the Royal Prince's Palace Compound about a block away.
Saturday morning I went to the pool for a couple of hours after Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah and saw Estela and Avonie there again. The rest of that day and the next, I had coffee and tea with various neighbors and went to the Women's Club General Meeting. But Sunday evening, all the Sorority candidates went to Sharon Greens again to take the final test, for which we had been doing the pledge training. Happily, we all passed, so on April 11th, 1976, there was an official Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia.