All good things must come to an end, so after nearly six weeks of living and working in Abqaiq, Oran had to fly back to 'Udhailiyah to continue his work there on Tuesday June 15th, 1976.
For a couple of days, I felt rather lost and just tried to adjust to the old routine of being in camp alone again. I wrote letters, went to the pool, and just did general errands around camp. I even called to try to get "the girls" over to have a good old gab session, which I had missed while Oran lived in camp, but that didn't work out, for one reason or another. So, I was really glad to see Oran come home again on Wednesday evening so we could continue with our social life.
There was another dance then, so we gathered at the King’s with the group before going on to the Golf Club House. We sat at a table near Estela's group and mingled with everyone, danced a lot and had fun, as usual.
After breakfast at the Dining Hall Thursday morning, we drove to the suqs to get two more ties for Oran's class. It was still early, so we went to the pool before it got too hot. The Steindorfs came over to visit in the afternoon, and we talked about the situation in 'Udhailiyah again. Evidently things had settled down somewhat for all the men, though some things still weren't good. Jack Adams had withdrawn his resignation.
We got up fairly early again Friday morning, went to the Dining Hall to eat breakfast, then to the pool again. But the wind was blowing badly and sand was even in the pool area behind the high fence. The weather had been really bad lately, not just hot (the high had reached 112 degrees that week), but there were a lot of bad sand storms. A couple of them had kept us in the house all day. They usually settled down in the evening, but by that time your nerves were shot. We didn't stay long that day, just went home and called the Adams and Steindorfs over to play Tripoly, a card and poker chip game we had. That was a good choice for a day like that. We had snacks and a really good time. So, it had turned out to be an enjoyable weekend after all.
Oran was back in Abqaiq again for a special reason Sunday, June 20th, 1976. We would drive to the Dhahran Airport to see his class of Arab students off on their trip to Paris and the States for their continued studies on the Sea Water Project. So he put on the thobe, ghutra, agal and sandals that his class had gotten him and wanted him to wear for this occasion. He looked very nice, but had put the ghutra on wrong. When his class saw him at the airport, they all laughed, but good naturedly and fixed it right for him. While they waited to board the plane, the students milled around with their male family members, kissing each other man and boy on each cheek three times. The black abayah-clad wives, mothers, girls, and myself just sat quietly on a bench waiting and watching. The Arab women said goodbye briefly just before the students went down into the loading area. It was quite a show.
Anyway, after the plane left, we ate breakfast in the Dhahran Dining Hall before driving back to Abqaiq. Oran had to catch the 4 o'clock plane back to 'Udhailiyah. So that part of our new and different life was really over and a new phase began. To help Oran feel better, I put in my application for a part-time job with the company that week. They were really anxious for wives to work there at that time, and I had been offered several jobs already. Even if we didn't stay over there much longer, I could make some good money, and it would help pass the time.
A new swimming pool was being built in 'Udhailiyah and would open soon. That would probably help Oran, as well. On Wednesday afternoon, I made samboozies, called Marge and Chris and Jeanine and Jerry over for drinks and snacks when Oran got home to start the weekend, and it was a fun evening. Even so, Oran was very depressed about being back in 'Udhailiyah, so at that point, I didn't know exactly what would happen.
We ran into Sandy and Jack at the suqs the next morning and planned getting together for the evening. We ended up taking the food we had planned to have (steak, baked potatoes) to their house and mixing it with theirs (grilled ham, green beans, salad) on their flat roof patio. The weather had cooled down enough by that time, so it turned out to be enjoyable and relaxing.
Friday morning we had our routine (by then) breakfast in the Dining Hall, but by the time we finished, the sand and wind were really starting to blow. So we didn't get to make our usual trip to the pool, but did have the Kings over for lamb shish kabob that evening. The wind had settled down just enough to be able to cook that.
Saturday started a special week that would be filled with celebrations for the 4th of July bicentennial of the United States. At that time the Saudis not only allowed us to celebrate our holidays as well as their own, but joined in and made every effort to make them a big success. On the weekend there would be a parade, with each organization, club, and group contributing a float representing them, plus horses from the equestrian group, and an Arab riding a camel to represent Arabia. After that there would be the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, Pepsi and watermelon on the Clubhouse Patio.
I started that week by going to the Women's Club Portable to help decorate for a card party to be held there the next day. Everything was done in red, white, and blue, including streamers and balloons, to fit in with the bicentennial theme, and I must say, it was very attractive. I was still Coffee-Tea Chairman, so returned early the next day to make those, and put out the silver tea service and dishes. All the women seemed to really enjoy the party, and we played cards until 4:30.
Oran was home again that evening, and Kathi Steindorf called us to come to dinner. So we went, and enjoyed visiting with the Duprees, Kings, Harriet Fretwell, and Sandy Adams, then had a delicious meal. It was a nice evening, and raised Oran's spirits immensely. He had to fly back to 'Udhailiyah Monday, though, and I ended up back at Kathi's that evening to help decorate the Sorority float for the upcoming bicentennial parade on Thursday. It was a scene depicting Betsy Ross making the American Flag. Kathi and Roy's daughter, Jamie, would represent Betsy Ross. A lot of our Sorority members and husbands were there to help, so it turned out well and was a lot of fun.
After the truck was finished, we sat in Kathi's house talking for a couple of hours. Our Sorority had planned to have a social Wednesday evening, so when Oran came home, we went to Marill Trujillo's for the cocktail gathering. Then we all went together to the school gym for a dance and performance by B. J. Thomas, an entertainer the company had brought over from the States. He was the man who wrote, "Rain Drops Keep Falling", so he sang that during the evening, which we enjoyed. But, except for having the tightest pants of any performer I had ever seen, his show wasn't that exceptional. We had a good time anyway, with all the Sorority group and the dancing.
Thursday, July 1st, 1976, the beginning of the Saudi Weekend, was going to be the big celebration day for the 4th of July bicentennial. We took our cameras and got positioned on 19th Street just down from the school, where the parade would start. Then, at the appointed time here it came, and it was quite impressive considering the limited things we had to work with there. Everyone had really outdone themselves.
It started with the flag bearers, then the school band, the Zane Train, clowns, the heavy duty oil field equipment, an Arab riding a camel, the fully outfitted equestrian group, and just behind them, the camp manager, Larry Tanner, manning a big pooper-scooper. This was followed by all the organization floats and international groups participating. Some of them were very imaginative and impressive. For instance, the people from the United Kingdom had built a replica of the Mayflower, with families of costumed pilgrims riding in it. Preceding that was a group of Scotsmen in full dress kilts, playing their bagpipes. It was truly an international representation of all the nationalities who worked in Saudi Arabia at that time, but all the more enjoyable, as everyone was celebrating the freedom of the United States in a foreign country.
After everything had passed us, we followed the parade group as they turned left on D Street on to the Recreation Clubhouse Patio for the traditional 4th of July picnic of hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon, with all the trimmings. We watched the program, walked around talking to all the other people there, and generally had a good time. The fact that it had been held on the 1st instead of the 4th because of the Saudi weekend hadn't diminished our enjoyment one bit.
After the big day yesterday, we just spent Friday winding down. We went to the Dining Hall for breakfast first, then to the swimming pool before it got too hot, or so we thought. It turned out to be a scorcher, and I had to spend most of my time in the water in the covered end of the pool. At one point, Oran went into the Recreation Building Snack Bar to bring us a cold Pepsi, as the swimming pool snack bar had not been opened yet. That helped some, but we didn't stay long that day. As the weekend had been so active I just took it easy the next day after Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah. That evening I went with Estela and Cissy Mitchell to play canasta at Marge Williams.
The Women's Club Founders Day Luncheon was the next day, Sunday, and I had done some of the work on it, but just didn't feel like I wanted to go, so I went to the swimming pool instead. That was a good choice, as I saw a lot of interesting people I knew and a girl who had been a friend of Vicky's, Jennifer Lumby. As a lot of people did, she seemed disappointed that Vicky had not returned to Arabia that summer.
All the next day, Monday, I got everything ready for the bridge party I would have at my house the following day. That was Tuesday, July 6th, 1976. The bridge party went well, but as you will be sometimes after a big activity, I was restless, so I called Estela to see if she would like to go to a movie. It was a little while before it started, so we went by the pool just to watch the swimmers for awhile. As it turned out, we ended up back at my house for a little impromptu party and was a fun evening.
That seemed to be the week for impromptu parties because we had another one at our house Thursday night with the Adams, Kings, Syphers, Yates, and Bob Howie, my Scottish bowling partner, while Oran was home for the weekend.
There was another bridge luncheon at my house the next week on Tuesday. I had fixed a ham, some cold salads, and a dessert for that. Everything was very good, but I did have a lot of leftovers. That worked out very well, though.
After my bridge group left, I went to the Post Office, where I ran into Jeanine and Marge and Marvin Williams. We all went by Harriet's for a visit, but ended up at my house, where I put out all the cold leftovers from my luncheon. While we were eating, Kathi came over and joined us. Oran called a couple of times from 'Udhailiyah to visit with everyone, so a good time was had by all.
Sheila Kaul had just returned from vacation, so I went over the next day, Wednesday, to welcome her back. We had tea and talked about everything that had transpired while she had been gone. When Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah, the Kings came over before we went to the Golf Club House for a dance and performance by the Tiango Brothers, a group Vicky had seen when she was there a year earlier. They finally got back into the country again after some delays, and it was worth waiting for. Oran picked up the Adams and Sheila to join us for the dance.
Oran had said at least 8 large tents of Bedouin families with huge herds of camels and sheep had moved to within one half mile of the Amine Plant, so after the weekend, on Saturday, July 17th, 1976, I went back to 'Udhailiyah with him. We got up at 5 a.m., ate breakfast in the Dining Hall, then took a taxi there from Abqaiq. We went to the office first, talked to Jack Adams and Roy Steindorf, and found out Sandy and the boys were down there as well, so we went by Jack's rowhouse to visit with them awhile.
That particular morning there were close to a hundred camels with their herders, an Arab man, some women, and children. As the camels filled themselves with water, and milled around the trough, we talked to the Bedouins and took more pictures. The women were admiring my gold jewelry, and there was a lot of jabbering and laughing. The Arab man tried to show me how to milk one of the camels without much success, but it was fun trying. When all the camels had their fill of water, the family rode with them off over the sand dunes in the opposite direction, on to the next grazing pasture of salt bushes. That group would not return again for several days.
We drove back to 'Udhailiyah for lunch, then went swimming in the brand new swimming pool. The decision had already been made to turn 'Udhailiyah into a family camp, so improvements had begun, much to the delight of the men who lived down there all week. So pretty and clean right then, I felt privileged to be the 3rd woman to swim in the new pool. Charlene Stackhouse, the only woman who lived there then was the 1st, and Sandy Adams had been the 2nd.
At 5:30, we drove with Adams to the Bechtel Camp at Hawiyah again to have dinner with Jack Hayes. I got up early the next morning to fly back to Abqaiq with Sandy and the boys. The plane landed for the first time at the new airstrip built several miles west of Madinat on the road to Hofuf. The former airstrip land, just outside Madinat, was going to be utilized as part of a large Construction Camp being built near Abqaiq. A taxi was waiting to drive us back into camp. That was Sunday, July 18th, 1976.
Later that day I had a call from Marge Williams who told me that Roy Steindorf had had a bad accident at Compressor Station 961 south of 'Udhailiyah that morning. What a shock. She was at Harriet’s, so I went over there to talk to them about it, and then Kathi came over too. She was upset, naturally, and didn't seem to know what to do. We talked her into going to Dhahran to see Roy, whom they had flown to the hospital there after the accident so he wouldn't be put in jail. Bill Syphers had been in the pickup with Roy, but was not considered involved as he was not the driver. So I went with Kathi on the 4:30 bus to Dhahran, where we talked to Roy in the Hospital. He was very emotionally shaken up, as you can imagine, and they had given him some medication to calm him down, but otherwise, he was all right. John Cochrane, the camp manager of 'Udhailiyah at the time, was there, too. Everyone was very concerned, and didn't know exactly what would happen.
After the visit John Cochrane took Kathi and I back to his house until it was time to catch the bus back to Abqaiq. Kathi went home to be with her kids, but I stopped at the Sorority meeting to relate what had happened so far with all the unusual events of that day.
The next day we received another letter from Sharon and Jim Morris. They said they had enjoyed their business trip to the Middle East and looked forward to making their move to Manama, Bahrain, on August 12th. It would be their 3rd major move in one year. As soon as they got settled they wanted us to come to Bahrain to visit them. That was something I was looking forward to, as I had never been there, as close as it was to Arabia.
Although I had received my work permit, I turned down one full time job, and had considered a half day job in the clinic that would be available the next month, I made a decision not to go to work at all. With the uncertainty of everything, I decided to just try to enjoy the country and the activities we were having there for whatever amount of time we had left, in any eventuality. I was enjoying immensely the trips I was beginning to make to 'Udhailiyah, and the unusual opportunities they afforded me. And there was a real possibility they could stop at any time. But until that time, I wanted to make the most out of my stay in Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, Oran called me to say he was flying to Dhahran to see Roy in the hospital, so I caught the 4:30 bus with Kathi and met him there. We visited Roy, who was feeling a little better, although restless, as you can imagine. Afterwards, we ate dinner in the Dhahran Dining Hall before catching the 8:30 bus back to Abqaiq.
On the weekend we had dinner at the DeSantis', then went with them to another performance by the Tiango Brothers on Thursday night, this time in the East Lounge. Friday night on the patio of the Golf Clubhouse there was a buffet dinner and then a performance by Alan Ladds Country Western Band. His wife was the daughter of a couple who worked for Aramco and lived in Abqaiq as well.
July 24th, 1976, there was going to be an official opening party for the 'Udhailiyah swimming pool, so I flew back down there with Oran on Saturday morning. There were five other wives with their husbands on the plane, as well. More and more wives were beginning to visit their husbands in 'Udhailiyah, so activities were picking up. Estela Syphers and Sandy Adams were already down there, so they came over to Oran's rowhouse when I arrived. We walked around camp then went through the Recreation Building and to the Clinic and the Commissary. The weather was strange, very cloudy with a few sprinkles, very unusual for that time of the year in Arabia.
After lunch in the Cafeteria, Estela and I went for a swim in the new pool.
The Camp Manager, John Cochrane, also lived in one of the rowhouses when he was in 'Udhailiyah. He planned and made arrangements for a party at his house for all the wives, husbands, and entertainers connected with the swimming pool opening. The new Arab in charge of the Cafeteria, Brahaim, prepared and served tons of food, including boiled shrimp. I have never seen so much boiled shrimp at one time before in my life, and everyone was thrilled to be able to eat their fill. The other things were delicious, as well, and plentiful.
After that, we all walked to the swimming pool for the dedication and entertainment by Alan Ladd's Country Western Band, alternating with an Arab Band. It was all pretty different, but enjoyable. When that was finished, we went back to Cochrane's house with the Syphers and Adams, then back to the pool again. Only the Arab Band was left playing then, so we laid on the pool lounges, listening for awhile, looking up into the night sky, which had cleared by then. No one could say that had been just an ordinary day.
I couldn't sleep late the next morning, so I walked to the Cafeteria with Sandy and her boys for breakfast, then we went to the pool again for a swim. Estela joined us there later. We really wanted to take advantage of it as much as possible while we were down there. When we got back to our husband' s rowhouses they returned from work and took us to lunch. But all the other wives, except myself, caught the 4 o'clock plane back to Abqaiq or Dhahran.
Oran had become well acquainted with and made friends with one of the Bedouin families who brought their camels to the Amine Plant to get water, and we had been invited to their tents for tea and coffee that evening. So after dinner we drove to Ali's group of four tents, just south of the Amine Plant. The family consisted of four grown sons, their parents and their wives and children. When we arrived, the men were all lined up on rugs outside having evening prayer, so we sat quietly in the pickup until that was finished. Then Ali came over and took us back to the rugs, where we were surrounded by the men, then behind them, the women and children, who materialized from whatever chore they had been attending.
Coffee, tea, and dates were served while we talked and laughed with one another. Oran did a great job talking to the men in Arabic. I didn't know that much, but the women and I had a ball checking out each others clothes, jewelry, hair, etc. It was amazing how well we were able to communicate with each other. They wanted to know why I didn't have my face covered, like they did, so I tried to explain that it was not the custom in our country. One woman went into a tent and brought back a long, colorful dress and a black mask, which she presented to me. I immediately put them on over my western clothes, which brought much laughter and clapping from everyone. They also wanted to paint my hands with henna, but I politely declined, "la, shukran", "no, thank you". One of Ali's brother's joked with Oran about exchanging wives. I think it was a joke, but anyway, Oran pretended not to understand.
They asked us if we wanted to take some pictures, but it was too dark, so we made arrangements to go back the next day to do that. They really seemed to enjoy our visit, and we sure did, but after a couple of hours, we said our farewells and drove back to 'Udhailiyah Camp. That would always be a wonderful night to remember.
Understandably, I slept late the next morning after Oran went to work. He was very busy so couldn't take me around, not even to lunch, so I read and rested. He picked me up about four and we drove back to Ali's tent and sat right inside with he and his family, this time. While the coffee beans were roasted over the fire of camel bushes and dung, then pounded and mixed with water in the brass coffee pot and boiled, we visited. The women and I, again, gestured and pointed at each others clothes, hair, and jewelry. They especially seemed to like my watch, and I think wanted to exchange it for theirs, but I pretended not to understand either. We drank our coffee, then some tea, and took a lot of movies and pictures. It was a more wonderful opportunity to capture on film the true Bedouin home life than we ever dreamed would be possible. To say I was overjoyed would be an understatement. What a wonderful birthday present, for both of us (Oran and I have the same one). It was Monday, July 26th, 1976, and the day wasn't over yet.
That evening back in 'Udhailiyah Camp John Cochrane, Marvin Williams, and George Kent had us over for a drink to help us celebrate. Then they took us to the Cafeteria for dinner, where Brahaim brought out a large, decorated cake for us, and everyone in the place sang "Happy Birthday". What a pleasant surprise and also another wonderful night to remember.
After three very active, fulfilling days in 'Udhailiyah, I flew back to Abqaiq the next morning. First, I had to take care of some routine chores, then Marge DeSantis picked me up at 12:30 to go play bridge. I had fun telling "the girls" about my unusual Bedouin experiences. As it turned out, that would be my last relaxed, carefree, happy day for several months.