Bob and Jo
Late 1944 on Furlough in Oklahoma
I went to Stanford University for two years and then quit to enlist in the Army Air Corp.
After being discharged from the Air Corp in December 1945, I started working for Standard Oil in California, but after a year with Standard Oil I got as far as I could go without a degree. So, I went back to Stanford from February 1947 to June 1948. I had planned on going back to work at Standard Oil in their Refinery in El Segundo, CA after graduation as they had assured me I would be rehired upon getting my Engineering Degree. I did not search for a job because I thought I was going back to work for them. Just prior to graduating, Standard informed me that there was a cut-back and they could not hire me.
I interviewed with Aramco in San Francisco, June of 1948, prior to graduating from Stanford University as a Mechanical Engineer. By this time, I was married to my wife, Jo, and we had our two children, Susan and Bobby.
Until I could sort out where to go from here, I took my brother-in-law's offer to go up to the mountains as a camp counselor for his YMCA camp. At the end of Orval's YMCA camp sessions, Jo, Bobby and I headed back to Redondo Beach to look for a job, just in case the Aramco offer did not come through. I was hoping for an outside job rather than a desk job at that time and I finally found a "production" job through a headhunter.
It was in Blythe, California, out in the desert. I was a trainee Foreman for a manufacturing plant that made big 4ft x 8ft plasterboard, like everyone has on the inside of his or her house. They promised me a family house as soon as I was hired. So, I packed a little bag and took the bus to Blythe. They were very nice people; the house was small and old, and had no furniture when I saw it. It was a dreary, dark house with linoleum floors. The work was outside, with a tin roof, and these big sheets of plasterboard came out of a furnace steaming hot, and the workers had to use special gloves to handle them.
A couple days later, when I called Jo, she told me that I had a letter from Aramco. I was asked to contact an Aramco employee on leave from Saudi Arabia, for an interview in Los Angeles as soon as possible.
Bob - 1949
I did not even wait until morning to leave. I packed my little bag, grabbed a taxi to the Greyhound Bus station in Blythe and high-tailed it home to Redondo Beach that very night. I left my employer a note, but didn't bother to even pick up a check, because I had just stood around looking for 2 or 3 days!
My interview with the Aramco guy in Los Angeles went well, so I had to take a physical and wait on word from the field. It came and was favorable. I was to go on a training program in the USA for about nine months, visiting various drilling contractors, oil companies, service companies like Halliburton, and tool companies. I was to start in the Aramco Office first, studying oilfield technology before starting on my traveling in California; Midland, TX; Iraan, TX, Hobbs, NM; Duncan, OK; with a side trip to Houston TX; and New Orleans, LA.
Then later to Long Island, NY for an Arabic language school. We had no textbooks there, just young Saudi boys out of the Aramco dining halls that could speak English and Arabic. We spent about six weeks in the language school just speaking and learning Arabic by repeating what the teacher was saying. We learned a good working mans Arabic that we could use when we got to Saudi. Before leaving Long Island, I received a letter that said I would be a trainee driller not an assistant engineer as promised, due to a cutback in personnel. That was ok with me.
Bob Waters and Tom McDowell
In San Francisco, the man I reported to was Fred Hilton; he was my teacher. I met another guy just like myself there, who would be my traveling companion, Tommy McDowell. So we studied together in San Francisco and traveled all the way on our assignments in the USA and then went to Saudi together in June of 1949. Our salaries while traveling were $300 a month plus $50 expenses. I think we also got money for hotels, etc.
Once we finished our training program, we were told to get all of our shots and dental work done before leaving for Saudi, because there was a shortage of dentists. I went back to Ponca City to do that prior to leaving for Saudi. Jo had moved to Ponca City right after I started on the training assignment in San Francisco. I got all the shots and 21 fillings in about a week. Not a very enjoyable time was had by all.
The Flying Camel
That's when I went to the first National Bank of Ponca City and met Wilfrid Johnson, Executive Vice President of the bank. I talked him into loaning us enough money to pay off all of our outstanding bills and then we would pay him back a little each month. He was our friend as long as he lived.
After all my shots and teeth were fixed, I left the family and flew to New York and then over the Atlantic on Aramco's own airplane, which was either the Camel or the Gazelle. Little Tommy McDowell was my co-traveler. I would not see my family for 21 months, until I became eligible for family housing.