CHAPTER 11: Ken Webster Is Appointed Dhahran District Manager 

1951 is a year of great change in the world, continued conflict in Korea and the Middle East (punctuated by the assassination of King Abdullah of Jordan, who is killed by a Palestinian extremist while praying at the Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem), and great economic and social recovery in Western Europe under the nearly completed U.S.-led Marshall Plan.  For Aramco, it is another year of record-breaking growth and oil production.  And for Ken Webster, it is a year of exceptional professional achievement.  In the spring of that year he is appointed Dhahran District Manager, a post he will hold for more than six years.

In this role as “mayor” of the district, Ken is responsible for thousands of people and the administration of many major programs, as well as ceremonial duties on behalf of the company.  In July he celebrates 20 years in the oil industry (Texaco and Aramco).  And at the end of the year he discovers that Aramco has selected him to attend Harvard’s Advanced Management Program in the spring of 1952 – a 13-week course of study that results in the equivalent of an accelerated master’s degree in business administration – an honor the company bestows on its top executives that are being groomed for higher positions.  Mildred and Ken enjoy an adventure in Kuwait.  And the entire Webster family enjoys a long home leave to visit relatives in Oklahoma and Connecticut, jump-started by a two-week European vacation that includes a visit to the 1951 Festival of Britain.

The Websters
The Websters, circa 1951. Standing in front
is Susan. Behind her, from left, are Judy,
Mildred and Ken.
Photo courtesy Judy Webster Bauer.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia 
January 5, 1951 

 

Dear Folks:

Our first letter since last year and we all wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  The sun is shining brightly here but you are probably having cold and snow.  It has been as cold as 54 this winter so far, and last week the high was 79.  This afternoon at three it was 70 in the shade and quite comfortable in the sun without a coat.  Last night we were supposed to have high winds and rain, but there wasn’t enough rain to even call it a shower. 

New Year’s Eve we went to 11:30 P.M. dinner by the company at the Dining Hall, judged the Queen of the Wadjid Bowl (Dhahran Stadium), and sang a few songs at midnight.  Took both girls and are they proud to be included in grownup things, especially Susan.  They both danced a few times and we were home before 1 A.M.  Visited a few families for Open House on New Year’s Day, then watched the Wadjid Bowl game for a while, visited a few more places, and were ready for another year.  All was quiet, no accidents in any of our camps, and apparently all quite happy.  We had gone to church New Year’s Eve and a good crowd were there.

First baby this year was a girl, born on the Second.  During last year [1950] there were 66 babies here, 35 boys and 31 girls.  In addition, there were three boys and three girls born in the States to wives from here.  [In 1949) the total was 34, so you can see we are improving, even though the total number of American Aramco employees is less.  New recruits arriving will swell the ranks to a new high, according to indications.  Marriages amongst our employees was in excess of 90 and Cupid is very busy already this year. . .

I have written and you have read in papers and magazines abut the Trans-Arabian Pipeline from here to the Mediterranean, and here are some more facts made public.  With a capacity of some 300,000 barrels a day, the line delivers to 16 tanks at Sidon, which together contain 2,720,000 barrels working capacity.  The oil flows at rate of 2 ½ miles per hour for 1068 miles through special high strength 30 and 31-inch pipe.  The two sizes were chosen not for capacity, but to permit shipping one 30-inch joint inside one 31-inch joint and thus save half shipping cost from the states as this material has a freight rate based on cubic measure and not weight.  Completion of the line and start of loading tankers at Sidon on December 2, save tanker miles of 3,092 or 6,184 for each round trip to USA or Europe.  Some 60 tankers are thereby released for other service. . .

Mildred Webster
A passport photo of Mildred Webster, early
1950s. Courtesy Susan Webster Slavin.

Tomorrow is the first day of school after over a month of vacation.  Mildred is putting curlers in Susan’s hair and Judy has just washed hers.  This idea of school for three months and then one month off is a good plan, except when going on home leave.  Inasmuch as all families can’t go on home leave at one time, as in summer, it benefits most by reducing the school time lost.

Ours have done well to make up lost time in the past, but it is getting harder, as they get in higher grades, for them to miss.  They both made up the work lost on our local leave of 23 days in the month of December, but we’ll have the usual problem later on this year when we come home for about three months.  It can’t be helped, though, so we’ll do the best we can.

Again, Happy New Year to you all, and let us know how you are.

Love,

Mildred, Ken, Judy and Susan

Ken Webster
Ken Webster, Dhahran District Manager, in
his office, early 1950s. Photo courtesy Judy
Webster Bauer.

Dhahran
Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

My goodness – we were really startled to read you were in the hospital, Pop.  (Editor’s note:  Pop was Mildred’s father, who lived in Tulsa.)  Glad to know it was a hernia operation even though I’m sure that’s no fun either!  It will be much better to get it all over with and, just think how much fun you’ll have with the nurses – They’ll enjoy you, too.  You will all know each other quite well!

Glad you enjoyed the “Travel Letter.”  (Editor’s note:  This refers to Mildred’s account of the local leave to the Holy Land a few months before, which is excerpted in Chapter 10.) But I don’t write well enough to read it to others, I’m afraid.  Anyway, we enjoyed the trip very much.

We’ve been on [another] little trip.  I went up to Ras el Misha’ab with Ken this week and got back this afternoon.  It was fun and interesting.  I’d never been up and a friend was along who will be moving up there in a few weeks.  Her husband is there already.  We went up in the little 4-passenger Navion.  I was a little concerned, for they aren’t very big.  But we had good flights both directions – fly lower, too, so we could see everything.

Allyn and Lynn came up to our house and stayed with the girls, so we didn’t have a worry about them at all.  There are only 5 families there now, all the rest men.

It’s much colder tonight.  We have our AC (heat) turned on.  Of course, it’s only 51 out, but that’s getting chilly out here.  I see by the Radio News that it was 15 in Tulsa and 17 in Oklahoma City.  We had to bed down the 2 rabbits and see that the sitting hen was O.K.  The other 6 chickens will be all right!  Just next to a farm we have.  The cat sleeps in.

Holidays are over and things have settled down somewhat – not much.  We had a very nice Christmas, though.

We brought 2 hibiscus plants back from Beirut and I’ve practically worn them out watching the 5 buds that appeared.  The first one burst out this morning and is a beautiful deep red.  I took it to a special friend in the hospital tonight.

Will be anxious to hear how you are making out, Pop, but know you will be fine.  Wish we could be there to visit with you, though.  Really won’t be so very long before we will be coming that way.  Because of school we’d like to leave here in July.  Makes it so hot at home, though.  We will see.  We’re not due to go until October, but Judy will be in the 9th grade and it’s too hard when you miss in the middle after you get that high.  She’s really growing up – or maturing, I should say.  She’s 5’3” and quite slim-ish – but not skinny – doesn’t have much “figger” as yet.  Squedunk [Susan] gets taller but no fatter, either.  But you’ll see a big change in both of them.  Ken stays the same and I still hold my 130 without any formula now since October.  I feel better all the time, too.

Take care of yourselves. 

Love from us all,

Mimi

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
January 19, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Wonderful weather, high 72, low 49, for past week and bright sunny days all the time with very little wind.  Girls are at the movies and we just came in from riding around with Allyn and Lynn.  Pretty soon we shall have a snack with the girls and then go to a cocktail party and buffet dinner with various Navy brass.  Admiral of the Atlantic and Mediterranean Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and Teheran, etc. 

Didn’t go to Misha’ab yesterday as planned.  Mildred and I expect to go either tomorrow or Sunday for overnight, then to Bahrain on business, then to Kuwait for a few days.  All very exciting and a chance to see more of the Middle East.  Before I finish with Misha’ab about April First, I think I shall make a trip to Beirut and then settle down again into Transportation matters.

I am enclosing three snaps of our Christmas Eve dinner . . .

Have just released oil produced figures for 1950, which are:  1949-174,008,640 barrels, per calendar day 476,736.  1950 were 199,546,595 barrels, per calendar day 546,703.  Actual for December 1950 and going higher monthly 617,872 barrels per calendar day.  If any fields exceed ours, I don’t know it, and it can’t be by much.  Actually, we have had some 700,000 days and would ship more if tankers were available.

First new joke heard this year about [President] Truman.  Seems he was visiting some Indian tribes out West and talked to them about his plans for them and for the world.  Every few minutes some Indian chiefs interrupted him to look at each other and say, “Wugga-Wugga.”  Truman asked his interpreter what they were saying, and was told that they were applauding and agreeing with him.  After the speech, Truman was asked if he would like a ride on a cow pony, and he said yes.  He was told to wait and one would be caught in the corral and saddled for him.  He said, no, he wanted to watch them catch the pony.  They argued with him and finally he said, tell me why I can’t see you catch the pony in the corral.  They said, “You might get wugga-wugga on your shoes.”

That’s about all, one girl born this week, the garden looks better, carrots and onions being eaten, our rabbits stolen, four baby chicks hatched out and making themselves known, have a duck now – a big mallard – all well and happy and busy at one thing or another.

Love, Ken

(Party last night was very nice.  I never can remember the different ranks, though.  This was Admiral Carney on down through – about 20 of them, plus a Brigadier General, etc., from our Air Base here – Ambassador, etc.  Love, Mimi)

Judy Webster
Judy Webster relaxing at the Patio in Dhahran,
early 1950s. Courtesy Patricia Dale Watkins.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
February 2, 1951

 

Dear Folks: 

The weather is fine today, and Susan went on a Sunday School boat ride.  Judy went to Abqaiq, 42 miles away, to receive medals for a swimming meet some months ago.  The old folks stayed home and with Allyn I repaired extension cords, installed a new weatherproof cord to patio light, a former ship’s lantern, and repaired several fixtures in the house. 

Did go to Khobar to the shops to pay for a pair of shoes Judy bought yesterday and to check on a purchase of silver riyals.  The price of riyals has been up and down and recently went high due we think to world price of silver changing.  I bought $2,000 worth, which should last us for about eight months, and the price was good – but believed only temporary, so I “plunged.”  If it gets better, I’ll buy some more and even out, if it gets worse, I’ll be sitting pretty.  In any case, I made out OK.

We get three eggs a day now, and the “he” duck just started to lay, so guess we’ll have to change “his” name.  Haven’t cut the grass for two months or so, but have spread a lot of dirt on the lawn and will soon need to cut it as well as trimming the hedge.  The hedge cutter really pays off and two of us have a good Italian who really can trim hedges.  All I do is “cut”, but nothing fancy.  At 52 cents an hour, I am happy to have a good-looking hedge, and it usually takes about 12-16 hours per month.  The Arab gardener keeps the rest looking good, raked up, watered, weeded and in general is worthwhile. 

Forgot if we told you we have a houseboy now, Lewis, an Indian.  Francis the cook is “head” man, and loves it.  He will go to India on home leave when we come home this summer, and be back about the time we arrive.  The affairs of the household run smoother with two boys, especially when we have from none to eight girls for meals.  Soon it will be boys and girls, and the traffic really will increase.

A new group has been formed for community singing in the theater every Sunday night from 8:15 to 9 P.M.  It is called “The HEMISEMIDEMIQUAVERS”.  Just another way of getting together and enjoying oneself.

Three boys and one girl born this week and one girl last week.  Our population is increasing steadily and the outlook is bright for a very successful year.

My birthday anniversary was a great success, thanks for all the greetings from home.  We had fourteen in for dinner and an evening of singing, square dancing and congenial talk.  All of us first went to a cocktail party given by the Medical director to meet a new doctor and two visiting doctors from oil companies along the Gulf.  Then we came here, and as Thursday was a work day, broke up before midnight after much fun.  The girls and Mildred plus Allyn and Lynn gave me shirts, cigarettes, lifesavers and a nice brown leather belt from Germany.  This may be the midpoint, but the way I feel, it is only the beginning.  (Editor’s note:  This was Ken’s 45th birthday, so presumably he is talking about middle age.)

I go to Misha’ab tomorrow for three days, leaving the kids with Allyn and Lynn.  I am trying to wind up my business there, have already bought over $5,000,000 in automotive and construction equipment, and this time will appraise the buildings and main structures so I can complete the purchase of the camp from Tapline.  The whole deal, not counting the pipeline and pump stations, will total $12-14 million on paper, but it is a purchase from a sister company.  We shall operate the camp as a base for northern area expansion and exploration, and who knows what it might end up being, as to size.  If I could tell you our expected production figures, you wouldn’t believe me, and you’ll have to wait for publishment [sic] in the newspapers.

Our summer vacation will soon be upon us, and we shall start planning when our dates are firm.

We are all well and happy and hope you all are when this is received.  No other news, so will close.

Love, Ken

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
February 9, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Friday again and we think of you all and wonder how the weather is there in the North and South.  We had a low of 48 (in the night) and a high of 91 (in the afternoon), but generally, a jacket was needed.  Judy went on a boat ride with the Sunday School group, older kids, as Susan had done last week.

We are having the lowest accident frequency rate of all time, and do much better than comparable industries at home.  Safety is taught to all, and Judy is on the safety squad for the safe crossing of streets by schoolchildren.  Safety is a problem for the Arabs, especially the new ones who came to us from nomad tribes, and have no conception of the hazards of mechanical equipment.  We are gradually getting most of them to wear shoes in the shops, leave off the head rag and use a skull cap, and wear shirts and trousers instead of flowing robes that catch in moving machinery. . .

Basketball has taken over and is really the rage.  It is played on the tennis courts, between teams from the three districts, Abqaiq, Ras Tanura and Dhahran, and two teams from the airbase.

Susan Webster
Susan Webster, left, about age 10, at an
audience with Pope Pius XII at the Vatican,
circa 1951. It is believed this photo was taken
during the Websters’ trip to Italy in the summer
of that year.
Photo courtesy Susan Webster Slavin.

Two boys and one girl baby this week, the latter weighing 9 pounds, 3 ounces.

Just read a menu for India, called “Twenty-one Boy” Curry.  Twenty-one silent servitors hurry into the dining area, each carrying a bowl filled with either peanuts, chutney, coconut, chopped bacon, or one of seventeen or more other condiments.  (Some of them:  onions, garlic, ginger, cooking oil, curry powder, flour, salt, pepper, chicken stock, rice, almonds, butter, etc.)  We aren’t’ curry eaters, but very frequently do have it at friends’.

I see in the radio news that new Internal Revenue policy is to audit every income tax return of $25,000 a year or more, but doubt this will affect any of you or us.  They sure are tightening up.

Total kids in Dhahran School is 166 now, and we are building a large addition on the school.  Over 600 families here in Dhahran and many more below school-age kids than in school, as well as some 35 in high school and college in Beirut, India, Switzerland, etc.  Should soon have up-to-date figures for all of Arabia, but can say now we are hiring plenty all the time to get the work done.

A friend sent me the following, which was framed on the wall of a Washington office, and it sure hits the spot in our present political situation.  By Henrik Ibsen:  “When the Devil wanted nothing to be accomplished, he named the first committee.”

Tomorrow Mildred and I go tripping to Misha’ab, then Sunday to Kuwait, maybe three days there, and back home about Wednesday or Thursday. It will be about 400 miles up the coast across the desert.  Will tell you about it next week.

Love,  Ken

Mildred Webster's Letter
First page of letter from Mildred Webster on her first trip to Kuwait in February 1951 – written on Kuwait Oil Company letterhead.
From Ken Slavin’s collection of Webster papers.

Kuwait, Persian Gulf
February 12, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Just a little note – for fun – from Kuwait.  I don’t know how long it will take to reach you!

We drove to Misha’ab Saturday – 4 ½ hours across the desert.  However, we follow the pipeline and there is a road – of sorts.  Spent the night in Misha’ab and then drove up here yesterday – 4 hours.  One of our Arab friends, Farhan Mabarak, drove with us – two cars from Misha’ab. 

I’m sitting in the living room of the Kuwait Oil Company’s Guest House, by a lovely fire in the fireplace.  Our friends, Grace and Jim MacPherson, live in Kuwait.  He’s now Vice President of “Aminal” (Oil Co. of the Neutral Zone).  They live in a lovely house out from town.  It was a Sheik’s summer palace.  We were there for dinner last night.  I’m waiting for Grace to pick me up to go shopping.  The suks are very interesting.  This is an open port and there is only a standard tax of 6 ½ percent on any and everything coming in here.  They have gorgeous silks and woolens, etc., rugs, Kuwait chests, etc.  And perfumes for a song!  Of course, we have to through Saudi Arabian customs, so wont’ buy very much.

Ken is on a business trip to the Kuwait Oil Company about equipment.  Our room is very comfortable and attractive.  There are 4 beautiful Bukhara rugs on the floor!  [The Company] is British and the people are very lovely.  J. MacPherson retired from Aramco (He was Resident Vice Pres.) in ’49 (30 years with Standard) and is in this venture with a friend.  They are hoping to find oil in the Neutral Zone between here and Saudi Arabia.  Their children are in school in Beirut.  Grace is about my age.

This is an Arab town of about 150 or so people.

Next day…

Grace came and we had lots of fun shopping.  Had lunch with them and spent the afternoon.  Ken didn’t get back till 6 o’clock.  We may leave today. 

Love, Mimi

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
February 16, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Well, we are home again, the traveling Websters are again in residence.  Here is a brief story of what to us was a great adventure, as we went out of Saudi Arabia and into a new country for us.

Last Saturday at nine, we waited until the girls were off to school, then with two others, one from my office and one engineer, we departed Dhahran.  We took two five-gallon cans, one with gas and one with water, two spare tires mounted, a gallon thermos of drinking water, a flashlight, a box lunch, several suitcases and zipper bags, extra coats, extra cigarettes, and a kit of tools.  The tires had twelve pounds pressure to travel the soft sand, and we didn’t’ think we needed a shovel.  First we went north toward Ras Tanura, about 40 kilometers to Qatif Pumping Station, and turned off to follow the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (Tapline).

About 35 kilos further we met three Arabs in a broken down Dodge Army weapons carrier, who stopped us and asked for cigarettes, which we gave willingly enough.  The rule of the desert here is to stop for all requests and give assistance as necessary.  The pipeline road wasn’t too bad, but was a little rough from washboard ruts.  We couldn’t get lost along this way, as the pipeline was always in view where it is above ground and an oil coating on the sand where it is below ground is plainly visible. 

At kilo 131 we skirted a soft watery stretch and turned east to our newest drilling camp at Abu Hadriya.  There we obtained some gasoline, saw the campsite being constructed and drove north.  About halfway to Misha’ab we stopped to see some water wells hand dug by the nomad tribes.  They were about 40 feet deep, thirty inches round, and had some water in most.  Unless we had been told where these were, we never would have seen them, as the tribes try to keep them hidden.  In certain months when the tribes move north or south, the water is obtained by use of goat or sheepskins made into buckets.  If these wells were to be pumped, they would dry up at once, but due to seepage, serve a purpose if not used daily.  Arrived in Misha’ab at two P.M. after stopping only fifteen minutes for lunch.  Went right to Schultz’s apartment, unloaded the car, left Mildred, and the three men went to the office and to service the car. 

An Arab friend had offered to guide us to Kuwait, and he told us I would need to get clearance from the Saudi Customs and Immigration about nine A.M.  However, abut 6 P.M. he came to the apartment and said I would save time if I would go with him then, as he had prevailed upon the local officials to work overtime and clear me.  Those who know best told Mildred and the Shultzes to have dinner and not wait for me, as it took three hours or more.  First [we] went to the Emir’s house and had a soldier go with us to the Coast Guard Station to clear the car, the Immigration Office to clear we three on a health basis, then the Customs Office so that the Director could decide if I could go, what I could take, etc.  We had coffee, then tea, then coffee, then cigarettes.  (They offered me a turn at the hubble-bubble pipe they were all smoking in turn, but I gracefully passed up the chance.)  Every one of about twenty different officials, young and old, took a look at my passport, asked about the girls, asked what my job was, how long I had been here, how long I would stay in Arabia, why I was leaving on this trip, how big would Misha’ab be in the future, and many other personal questions.  Mildred and I had our international health certificate, but the engineer did not.  As a special favor, which they told me many times they did not do for others, they made up a health certificate for the engineer.  All in all, the time was only 45 minutes, but I was bursting with tea and coffee.  Home then to dinner with the Shultz family.  It was too late for the show, so we talked until ten and went to bed.

Awoke at seven. . . We took off at nine, with our Arab friend ahead of us.  About 40 kilos out, we came to a check station and had our passports and car passes again examined.  This took 35 minutes, as one of the Arabs didn’t have an exit visa.  Off we went again, and the sky turned dark with dust and wind.  We asked the Arab if we should turn back, but he said no.  Soon we crossed the Saudi Arabia border and were in the Neutral Zone.  This was at about the halfway mark.

The trail we had followed over the desert was marked only by tire tracks, and not many of those.  It was a one-way trail, and if we met another car, we would have to turn out in the soft sand.  We did pass one, a Ford tru8ck, down for engine trouble, and the Arabs with us fixed the truck.  We stopped five times to loosen brakes on the Arab car, but no trouble with ours.  Had it been summer, we would have had to let air from our tires as we went along.   It was very dusty and Mildred and the engineer were affected by it and I believe was the cause of a sore throat the next day.

In the distance we could see smoke from the Kuwait oil fields and at one P.M. passed Mr. McPherson’s house, a former palace of the sheik, and entered the City of Kuwait through on one of the four gates in the high thick walls surrounding it.  This is the capital of the sheikhdom of Kuwait, under British protection.  The country around it is unrelieved desert for 200 miles, its population depending on the sea and trade, and its sailors and boat builders have a high reputation.  Horses, sheep, wool and other Arab products come here from the interior to be sold or exchanged for piece-goods, rice, sugar, tea, etc.  Since 1934 there has been an oil company there, half Gulf and half Anglo-Iranian, which now produces about 425,000 barrels of crude a day.  The city and sheikhdom are about 400 years old, and before then were a part of Saudi Arabia.

We stopped in Mr. McPherson’s office and found e was home at lunch.  He used to be our senior vice president here and a good friend.  We then went to his house, had a nice visit, were invited to dinner that night, then reported in at the Kuwait Oil Company Guest House where we were expected.  It was an old cement mud (adobe), one-story high ceiling, ten-room building, run by an Australian couple.  After phoning the Kuwait officials, we cleaned up and went to town with Mr. Mac to see the shops. 

Mildred Webster's Letter
Map showing location of Kuwait in relation to
Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.
Courtesy the Internet.

Mildred was in heaven and plans were made for the next day’s shopping with Mrs. Mac.  Dinner was pleasant and then to bed at midnight.  Awakened at seven and an Indian boy brought us tea while we were still in bed.  Breakfast at eight, Mildred to the shops and I went to the oil company with the engineer.

After talking to the officials, we went to various department heads to check availability of surplus materials.  I bought two large steel barges and necessary anchors, chain and buoys.  The engineer dickered for fifteen miles of pipe, some paint and other items.  Lunch of partridge at the assistant general manager’s home, after scotch and sodas.

Then inspected their tanker loading dock, the most modern in the world.  Six tankers and two freighters can be moored at one time. 

Shopped in the early evening, but didn’t do too well, as the lights in town were very poor, and the street lights not as bright as the candles on a birthday cake.

All buildings [are] of mud construction, but many nice English and American items to buy at much lower prices than here or Bahrain Island as it is a free port and only 6 ½ percent duty charged.

Mildred bought and had made new drapes for the dining room and living room, material for blouses, sweater set for Judy, a Chinese chest from Hong Kong (camphor wood), an Arab money or trinket chest, nylon hose, socks for the girls, MacGregor shirts for Allyn and me, perfume, candy for Mim Shultz, etc.

The roupee used to be 30 ½ cents but was 19, so with our dollars, we cashed in. . .

[During the return trip home], at the check station, the Arabs went through everything we had, apparently out of curiosity.  While in the customs tent, a sheep came in, several birds flew in and out, and it was alike a picture in Hollywood.

On to Misha’ab, arriving at 2 P.M.  Checked into Coast Guard, Customs and Immigration again, and as it was raining cats and dogs, our Relations representative influenced the customs to pass us.  We looked like gypsies, with chests, baskets, bundles, etc., piled high in the car.

Had dinner at Shultzes again, also breakfast, and departed for here in a real heavy rain. . . Before we left Misha’ab, Mildred bought many groceries, including an eight-pound roast at 70 cents a pound.  (Ours is $2.60), Crisco (which we don’t have), and other items in short supply here.   Stopped at Nariya Pump Station to gas up and show Mildred the station, then down the pipeline for home.  There were a few spots that looked like we might not get through, but we made it.  It doesn’t rain in Arabia, but apparently the weatherman forgot that.  We arrived here at three P.M., tired but happy, and found everyone okay after our absence of six days.  Rained all day to-day off and on, and we stayed in, Allyn and Lynn stating with us, and the girls out only for Sunday School and afternoon movies.

The story of our trip would [be better] told than written, but it was fun, we made new friends, saw new country, bought some things, although away from business was on business, and we must plan another soon. 

One thing amazed me.  We traveled almost 1,000 miles and bought no meals and only $1.10 spent for gas.  The rest was charged to various companies, friends, etc., and shopping was the only reason to have money along.  We shall miss this kind of a trip when we come home to live.

Thought for today:  Father to little boy who didn’t want his dinner.  “Listen, Son, someday you’ll want to get married, and then you’ll have to eat whatever is put before you, so eat up now.”  Surrounded by women as I am, you can imagine that I do as I am told.  (Most of the time.)

No other news.  Love to all, Ken

Old Kuwait City
Aerial view of Old Kuwait City, circa mid-20th Century.
Courtesy the Internet.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
February 23, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

No particular news from here, except main news item:  “We now have a thirteen year-old daughter!”  Woe is us [sic], but maybe we can survive.  (Editor’s note:  This is a humorous reference to Judy Webster’s thirteenth birthday on February 21, 1951.)

Judy received a new fountain pen, a sweater set we bought in Kuwait, some pencils with Jenner Tree Service on them, and other odds and ends.  (Editor’s note:  Jenner Tree Service was owned by Ken’s sister, Alice Jenner, and her husband, Ted.)  She was happy and so were we.  She will have a joint birthday party with one other girl whose date was February 26, but we had the usual cake for her and it was a very good one made by Mildred.

Beautiful day, we have been outside most of it, pulling up old flowers, trimming hedges, raking lawns, planting alfalfa for the chickens, and getting ready for Spring.  It is 85 now but breezy and a bright sun.  Had some rain last week and a little this week, but not enough to make unnecessary watering the lawns and flowers.  Dug up all the potatoes and only harvested about a short peck, but they are really good.  Next year we shall plant a lot more.  The eggplants [are] are not doing too well, but tomatoes beginning to show, and lots of carrots and onions.  I like the carrots small and we broadcast them in a solid bed so that we could week or thin them out and eat the small ones.  Have another hen setting, and get four or more eggs a day.  Even the duck egg is good tasting, due I think to the diet, as we feed them all the table scraps. . .

How would you folks like to live where the sun shines 364 days per year and practically no rain?

Ken Webster Doing Yardwork
Ken Webster works in the front yard of the house at 1423 King’s Road, Dhahran, early 1950s.
Photo courtesy Judy Webster Bauer.

One baby last week, a boy, to an engineer friend of mine.  I don’t remember any engineers having boys, except Don Wasson, who had two.  There is an Arab boy baby about six months old born at Tapline Hospital in Misha’ab whose mother died and the father disappeared.  I haven’t yet been able to talk Mildred into applying for its adoption, one reason being the parents would have to be Muslims.

Mildred and I go to Misha’ab tomorrow for a few days, and Lynn and Allyn will stay with the girls.  We are getting to be the Gypsy Websters for fair, but it is fun for Mildred, and I go where my business takes me.

Love, Ken

Sunday [February 25, 1951]
Misha’ab 

 

Dear Nana and Pop:

I decided late Friday night to come to Misha’ab with Ken for 2 days.  His work is about over up here – that is, for staying overnight – so it might be the last time I come up for quite sometime.  I have a friend here (we stay with them on a Company deal) of whom I am very fond, so I thoroughly enjoy staying here.  (Editor’s note:  This friend was Mim Shultz, wife of Sam Shultz, a senior executive with Aramco.  The couple and their children were close friends of the Websters.)  When I get awfully fed up with things in general, she does wonders for me just being with her.  I’m sorry they’ve been transferred up here. 

This was the Tapline camp during construction of the big line to Sidon, but now has been taken over by Aramco.  That’s what Ken has been doing, supervising the purchase of all equipment, buildings, etc.  Quite a big deal.  All Tapline people have left and it is a small camp now.  Only 5 families at present – plus several hundred men.  We fly up on Co. planes – only an hour and 10 min.  We plan to go back tomorrow nite.  Judy had her 13th birthday last week and is a big girl now. . . Bye now, the men will be in for lunch and then “Mim” and I are going to walk on the beach.  It is a gorgeous day. 

Much love, Mimi

Dhahran
Friday, March 2, 1951

 

Dear Folks: 

There seems to be a slight lull in the day, so I had better make hay while the sun shines!

This has been a very busy week.  Ken and I went to Misha’ab last Sat. morning at 8.  It only takes an hour and a few minutes, depending on the wind direction, to go up there.  We came back Monday evening, in time for dinner.  It is very nice to be able to go with Ken once in a while – and we can only because Allyn and Lynn come up and stay in the house with the kids.  They insist it is a vacation for Lynn – no cooking or housework – so I do hope they feel that way about it.  I always enjoy going there very much.  One of my best friends is there and we stay with them.  They are from Port Arthur [Texaco days] and you will remember them, Gram, the Sam Shultzes.  I am very fond of Mim – and like Sam, too. 

I have had one coffee since Monday – then a meeting of one of the groups who sew and work for APAR – I am in charge of transportation for the new baby garments we make to send to Beirut to APAR.  We sent off 28 dozen plus 48 gowns made by the Airbase women yesterday.  That is our second shipment, not counting the several tons of used clothing we have sent up.  Hope it all goes to the right people and does some good, but we send to the UNRA and that is the best we can do. 

Judy had her birthday party last night.  It had to be postponed before.  We had 24 girls and boys for a wiener roast on our patio.  Then they went on a scavenger hunt and back for ice cream and cake, then danced and played games outside and in till time to go home.  All seemed to have a good time.  There is a very cute bunch of young teenagers out here and they really do have fun.  Judy has grown up with most of them.

Susan went on a Scout hike and cooked dinner out yesterday, too, so between the two occasions we were busy.  We go to a cocktail party for a just returned bride and groom at 5 this afternoon, then to a party at the Executive House at 7.  We have a bunch of “Brains” out here – most of which arrived last night and some have their wives, so that means lots of social activity while they are here.  Glad I am not responsible for them!

Our new boy (Louis) is turning out to be very good and is such a nice young fellow.  He does the cleaning and ironing and anything else you ask him to do.  The other one does the cooking – feel like a plutocrat, but might as well enjoy it while it lasts.  I seem to keep busy just the same.  There is always something underway in this house.

We do all our laundry, but sheets and slips – takes so much detergent – and that means washing more than once a week, besides hand stuff.  I do the shopping, too. We have another hen setting, so should have some more baby chicks soon.  We get 4-5 eggs every day now, plus a duck egg every day.  We cook with them.

This [March] is the big birthday month.  Best wishes to Dawn and Dick on their fifteenth – goodness – and to Gram on her day – Lynn on the 10th. 

The girls are off to the basketball game and on to the show.  Ken is working at the office on a report.  I have been doing a little in the yard and my usual in the house.  I cook breakfast on Friday, then the boys come from Mass and do the dishes, beds and bathroom – no other housework – cook their meals for the day and don’t come back till in the morning.  I get dinner and everyone gets their own lunch. 

Ken has told the Company that we will come back for another tour.  They have been trying to get him to ever since we came back this time.  I guess it is better for everyone concerned.  Judy will finish the 9th grade here – she will be happier finishing up with all her friends.  What we do then remains to be seen.  There is no use trying to make plans that far ahead at such times as these.  It would be wonderful for her to have a year in Switzerland, but it is quite expensive.  Then Susan should have a like chance.  We shall see. 

Judy still maintains her straight A grades, but we expect anytime for her to slip up with all the interest in the opposite sex!  However, there is keen competition in their classes and the classes are still small enough they all know what the others are doing.  I think there are 17 in her room.  Too bad she can’t take more French this year, but just couldn’t get it in.  She wasn’t supposed to take I last year, but I am sorry since she did so well she can’t keep it up this year.  She will have to take again next year in the 9th anyway. 

Sure glad we had such wonderful weather yesterday for the party – it is blowing and rainy today.

Lynn is in bed here with us – has been for two weeks and probably will be for sometime.  She is trying to keep a baby.  Has had two miscarriages.  They are an RH factor couple.  Hope she makes it this time. . . They so desperately want a family it is really sad.  She’s doing O.K so far – 2 ½ months.

I must go and start getting dressed.  I bought a very cute black taffeta cocktail dress from one of the stenos last week – never worn and I didn’t have to touch it for me.  I still stay at 130 and continue to feel much better. . .

Bye now.  Love to all, Mimi and Ken

 

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
March 9, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Friday morning again.  Susan just came in from Sunday School and is continuing on some chemistry experiments that have really fascinated her since she acquired a little Magic Set.  Mildred and Allyn are at Al Khobar shopping, and with Judy at Sunday School, that leaves Lynn and I holding down the fort.

Edith MacKenzie, wife of my assistant, had a baby girl at 7:00 A.M after several days of false alarms.  Two other girls born last week increases the lead of girls over boys born here this year.

Les Snyder brought the gifts for which we all thank you very much.  He is coming to dinner Monday night and we’ll have a chance to talk over old times about the joint families . . .

Went to a 300-person cocktail party last Friday for three top officials from Standards of Calif.  They left two days ago for Dutch East Indies on business inspection via Company plane, not the Camel or Gazelle, but one of our C-47’s.  Earlier Friday we went to cocktail party for Frank Holmes and bride, and again last night went to reception for them given by his department.  Every time we turn around, someone is getting married. . .

Love to all, Ken

(Hi – hope all of you are well.  I’m busy making Lynn a birthday cake for tomorrow.  Love, Mimi)

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
March 16, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Nothing exciting this week, although I did go to Misha’ab on a fast turn around and only was gone from here eight hours.  Next trip will probably take Mildred and may stay over one night.

Last night went to a cocktail party for visiting fireman from New York, a friend of lots of our people from Lawrenceville, Illinois.  Then we went to a family St. Patrick’s Day party held in the backyard of two of our friends.  It was a quiet party with hot dogs and hamburgers and the buns were solid green.  Picked Susan up at the movies at nine forty-five and to bed early.  Judy had gone to Hofuf, a village about 70 miles from here, with a church teenager group.  She left at 7 A.M. and returned at nine something, plenty tired and ready for bed.  It is only recently that women have been allowed to visit this village. . .
Edith MacKenzie went home on fourth day after baby was born, and Mildred has been making formula, etc., all week.  No baby born since last Friday when Edith’s was, but the Stork Club has candidates, so we are still progressing. . .

Mildred and I went to movies Wednesday and saw “To Please a Lady” with Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck, released in October, 1950.  Today the show is “The Toast of New Orleans” with Kathryn Grayson, Mario Lanza, released Sept. 1950.  Now that we get our films direct from the States by Company plane, we get much better ones and newer than when we dealt with India distributors.

There are now 173 students in Dhahran School. . . the greater number of children in Dhahran are pre-school age.  Judy is one of three Honor students in the Eighth grade for first six weeks period since Christmas vacation.

Two more weeks than a month’s school vacation, then the girls on their last lap of this year’s classes.  We still don’t know whether to leave in middle or end of July and Judy wants to be back here September First, to get a good start in the ninth grade.  She wants to return here ahead of us and stay with Allyn and Lynn, but we haven’t agreed to it yet.  It is a shame for the kids to miss school and have to work hard to make it up, but it is also important that they have a change, go to the States, etc.  We’ll work it out somehow, as usual.

Boeing Stratocruiser Lower Deck
Interior view of the lower deck of the famous
Boeing Stratocruiser, on which the Websters
flew to the States in 1951.
Photo courtesy the Internet.

Can’t make up our minds yet on European trip, but doubt will take more than two weeks enroute and leave England on Stratocruiser. (Editor’s note:  The Boeing Stratocruiser was the fastest commercial passenger plane in the world at the time. It first flew on July 8, 1947 and was one of the great post-war propeller airliners, featuring a double-decker seating arrangement.  Extremely complex and expensive, only 56 were built. It continued in mainline service until 1960, by then it had been made obsolete by the coming of the 707 and other first generation jetliners.  Source: Wikipedia.)

In this way, we could go to Rome on first day, see Rome and Florence and possibly Venice, in four days, two days in Switzerland, two in Paris, maybe one in Holland, three in London area, and over the big pond. . . We’ll see.

Love, Ken

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
March 23, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

The rain this past Wednesday here totaled 0.57 inches, which gives a year total t0-date of over two inches.  It is beginning to look like this will be known as the Year of the Big Rain.  When we lived in Montana, we thought the rainfall was slight when it averaged thirteen inches and this included all snow.  In Hawaii the average rainfall is 505 inches or 42 feet.  Without rain, we couldn’t enjoy life and with too much it is detrimental to life.  When I lived in Philadelphia, it rained so much we were sure that Longfellow must have been there when he wrote, “Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.”  We like it here with little rain and lots of sunshine.

Temperature last week was low 53 and high 79.  Today it was uncomfortably hot at 85.  Old Arabs predict a long hot summer.

Crude oil production figures officially released are as follows:  Year 1950—566,703 barrels per calendar day.  January-February 1951—633,718 barrels per calendar day.  On certain peak days we have far exceeded these figures and can again, but these are prolonged averages, and that is what counts.  We’ll be in first place yet.

No babies born this week.  We are slipping, but just wait.

Boeing Stratocruiser
The Websters flew on a Boeing Stratocruiser
similar to this one when they traveled to the
States on home leave in 1951 – after a
two-week vacation in Europe.
Photo courtesy the Internet.

Although not yet official, we think we can leave here on July Fifteenth and head for home – [and] enroute, see some of Europe.  Went to travel agency today for some literature and found one nice round the world trip by Pan Am that would take us down under on way home, and we could stop off at Pakistan, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan, Hawaii and San Francisco.  Then on way back after visiting you all, would see Canada, Ireland, England, Belgium, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Dhahran.  Without stopovers, the round trip would be made in nine days and with stopovers in main places for longer than the Norman schedule permits, we could have a fine trip in about thirty days.  The fare would depend on time of year and in our case we would get lower than top fare, but higher than lowest fare, as we would start during high priced season and end during lowest price season.  Looks like too much of a trip at this time in view of world events, and we therefore are discussing a round trip from here to New York by commercial airlines instead of Company planes, and stopping off in Italy, France, Switzerland, Holland and England going and now plan yet for the return. 

Except for Mildred’s and my initial trip, we have always used the Company planes but would like other routes so we could something new.  This is all just talk, but we must soon make up our minds and make necessary reservations and obtain visas.  Even if Judy doesn’t go to school in Switzerland, we would like to see them so can have a basis for the decision.

Another brainstorm we now have is to send Judy and Susan to a summer camp for at least two seeks when we get home, and we have no good thoughts yet.  If any of you can suggest a camp and send us details, we would appreciate it.  We think they would benefit from it and have something to look back on of a special nature, and be with girls their ages and thus not lose contact with the way American girls think, talk and act.  After all, Susan knows practically nothing of anyplace except here, and Judy was eight when she left in 1946.

Festival of Britain Guidebook
The cover of the official guidebook for the 1951
Festival of Britain. Courtesy the Internet.

This is a big festival year in Britain, after a hundred years, and we should find it interesting.  (Editor’s note: The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition that opened in London and around Britain in May 1951.   According to Wikipedia, “The principal exhibition site was on the south bank of the River Thames near Waterloo Station.  At that time, shortly after the end of World War II, much of London was still in ruins and redevelopment was badly needed. The Festival was an attempt to give Britons a feeling of recovery and progress and to promote better-quality design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities following the war. The Festival also celebrated the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition.  It was promoted as ‘a tonic for the nation.’”)

Maybe we should fly only to Rome and then bus across Italy, France, Switzerland and to England, and take the Stratocruiser to New York.
It is fun planning and we’ll let you know what we decide.

Saudi Arabian income tax is going into effect, with a 20,000-riyal exemption for all, and 5% on all over that.  This will apply on our Living Allowance too, which is 900 to 1600 riyals.  The riyals vary in worth from 25 to 27 cents, so we get a $5,000 exemption more or less.  The Living Allowance is about this amount, so the 5% really applies on our basic salary.  It is a blow, but far less than taxes at home, so we cannot cry too hard.

Our best to all for a Happy Easter and we’ll see you in about four months.

Love, Ken et al.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
March 30, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Been cool-ish this week, but the hot weather is not far off.

We hope it will be not too hot in Italy and Paris, and can expect the rest of the trip home will be cool, especially in Switzerland.  Still have not made out our itinerary, but have official approval to leave on July First and may take two weeks enroute.  The Company plane schedule is being changed and may stop at Rome, Paris, and Shannon [Ireland] and employees will have privileges of stopping off between planes and getting on the next one.  We don’t know yet if all planes will go this route or very other one, so cannot yet make firm plans. 

We expect that a first stop at Rome will permit us to get off there and after seeing Rome, Florence and Switzerland, can meet the plane at Paris.  It seems a shame not to see all possible while on this trip, and should see some of England as it is the big year there.  (Editor’s note:  Another reference to the 1951 Festival of Britain.)

Unless we plan to make Europe in two trips, guess we shall take two weeks and be home about July Fifteenth.  We would have to leave New York about September 12th to get back here about September 15th.  This will mean that the girls will miss two weeks of the new term, after missing one moth of the last one.   It is so hard for them to make up the work now, that we hate to see them miss.  Judy wants to come back with friends, two weeks ahead of us, but we shall see.

Last Sunday was Easter and we went to church to a fine service including Sunday School music program in which Susan took part.  Then had over an hour of music by the Orpheus Club who presented “The Crucifixion” by John Stainer, including Judy and twenty-eight others.  It was really very good. 

My assistant, Alec MacKenzie, is leaving for New York Sunday to finalize Automotive purchases designs and details, and will be gone about three weeks, so I shall be plenty busy while he is away.  I am about done with Misha’ab business, went only one day this past week, and will not go again until late April.  I am cleaning up my business so fast so will be ready to go when July First comes.  Three members of my little office force are in the hospital for cardiac check, but I doubt that any of them really have heart trouble.  With three in the doctor’s care and three on loan to Misha’ab, plus Alec going to New York, one leaving for home next week, we four who remain will be busy.  I must get certain things finished before I leave in July, and want nothing to stop us.

Based on weather expectations, we may decide to stop in Connecticut for a few days, then go right down to Tulsa, if that suite you Tulsa people, and after buying summer clothes there and sending them to New York for shipment here, we can spend the second half of the vacation in Connecticut . . .

Also, if you can offer a riding academy or camp for the girls, we shall plan on giving them what they say is most wanted.  Maybe I can take them riding every day and skip the camp, but they need time with others their own age who will keep them up to date on American ways.

Can’t wait to get home, so have Pop get lots of lobster, etc., in the restaurants there, plus steaks, as we intend to eat high up on the hog while home. . .

No other news, will write next week as usual.  Let us have any ideas you all might have regarding plans for our vacation.

Love, Ken

(Looks like Ken has covered all there was to say.  It’s hard to plan this vacation as we are concerned with getting back for school here.  Ken mentions a camp, but I doubt that we could make that.  I hope there is a riding academy, though, in both places.  Both girls are mad about horses and to have had no training, they do very well.  We’ll see.  Friends from here have offered to bring Judy back early and she could stay with Lynn and Allyn.  We’ll have to wait about that, too.  Lynn is still fine and we are hoping they make it this time.  Love, Mimi.)

Ken Webster with Mim and Sam Shultz
Ken Webster, left, with Mim and Sam Shultz,
Dhahran, 1950s. Sam and Ken worked together
at Texaco and Aramco for several years and
Mim and Mildred were best friends. The
Webster and Shultz families traveled together
in Europe many times.
Photo courtesy Judy Webster Bauer.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
April 6, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Practically no news today, as we haven’t been anywhere nor done anything unusual.  Did go to dinner at the Scottie and Sam Harpers’ on Monday, and had a dinner party for sixteen here last night.  It was a beautiful calm night, no wind, and we sat on the patio until about nine, then served a buffet inside.  Some of the people didn’t leave until quite late.  As a consequence, we woke up too late for Sunday School, although Judy did go late.  It is two P.M. here, which means 4 A.M. in New York, and we’ll have this time until about October.  The change in time is strictly for the benefit of the Arabs, so they can arise, pray and eat in daylight, and pray eat and retire in daylight, and reduces lateness to work.

Many of our friends are planning trips by plane via South Pacific as the rates have taken a big drop, some $300 on round the world flights.  We would like to go this way, but will await another home leaves when things should be better. 

We still do not have the definite schedule, but do think we shall leave here June 30th, pick up the Sam Shultzes in Beirut, get off the plane in Rome, and after a ten day trip in Italy, Switzerland, Paris and London, will board the plane again in Shannon after a short trip through Ireland from London.  . . I guess you all get very tired hearing about our plans, but it is the main topic of conversation with us right now.

Allyn and Lynn have first choice of staying here, as we must have someone take care of the chickens, lawn, etc., and if they stay, we won’t have to put things away.  It will be nice for Lynn to have a boy for several months, but a chore for Allyn to do the items around the outside.  All renters are asked to rent their homes during vacation so as to bring other families here sooner, and Allyn and Lynn can rent theirs to someone of their choosing.  Their rent could then be divided between us.

We are about to start the second bath and a large trunk room, and hope the construction and painting can be finished before warm weather as the smell of fresh paint in a house with windows closed and the air conditioning on is not pleasant.  We are having the whole house repainted and it will look very nice.  Then we will have new curtains or Venetian blinds, and have everything the way Mildred wants it for the next two years.

The air conditioning plants are starting up, and about a week is required to cool the system down.  Reminds me of a story of a new wife, who heard about A.C. when she first arrived.  She finally asked a friend what A.C. was.  The friend said, “Didn’t you know?  Aramco actually controls the very air you breathe.”

Love to all, will keep you informed, Ken
April 6, 1951

Dear Folks:

Ken has already written all the news, but thought I would add my two cents’ worth.  We haven’t been doing so very much these last few months.  Ken has been on the Misha’ab assignment and up there sometimes two times a week – and overnight, too.

He is tired when he gets in and so we have been letting social activities slide.  If we get away the first of July as planned now, I will let Francis, the cook, go on his home leave to India earlier than we do – probably in May so as to have him back here when we arrive.  So, I have plans for several dinner parties and a coffee or two to catch up on our obligations before we leave.  Last night was one.

I wish we could leave here later so as to avoid all the warm weather in Europe and at home, but don’t feel it is quite fair to Judy.  So, guess we will make out.  I can’t seem to rake up too much enthusiasm yet.  It will be fun if these friends of ours can go at the same time.  They have a 22 year-old daughter getting her degree in June from the University of Beirut.  She is married and will live up there.  The other daughter is 2 years older than Judy and we are all good friends.  That is where we stay in Misha’ab.  (Editor’s note:  Mildred is referring to Mim and Sam Shultz and their children.)

It has turned [out] quite warm and we are in summer clothes as of this last week.  Everything is blooming fine – the glads, nasturtiums and others.  My two hibiscus plants are covered with blooms. 

I have great plans for redoing the color scheme in the house – mostly to blend with the new rugs – but there is no paint right now and we want them to get through with the mess of putting in the other bathroom before we get into that mess – paint and all. 

Allyn and Lynn were up last night to the party here – both fine.  Allyn has lost a little weight and trying to lose more.  I don’t want to gain any more, but so far, have kept mine.  So has Lynn.  Susan is the only one that needs some extra pounds now, but guess that won’t happen soon. . .

I have sewed and sewed for two weeks – getting all the summer stuff under control.  Also fixing costumes for the dance recital the 15th.  Susan has a duo solo part and Judy a solo dance number.  Both are good.  The French dancing teacher is very good and I am so glad they can have this along with their other activities.  Everyone is back swimming again, too – so both spend a lot of time in the pool.  The Sunday School group has a very active Teen Towners’ Club.  They went out on a picnic last night to Half Moon Bay.  You will see a tremendous change in both girls, but Judy has really grown up.  Must close.  Will be nice to see everyone.

Love, Mildred

Article on Ken from Sun & Flare
An article about Ken Webster in his job as Dhahran District Manager, Arabian Sun and Flare, circa 1952. Courtesy Susan Webster Slavin.

Dhahran
April 13, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Well, we have good news for everyone.  Ken has just been made District Manager of Dhahran.  That makes him top man in the District and is quite a nice promotion.  We knew something was brewing, but not sure.  When he was put in Transportation it was hinted that it would only be for a year – to straighten it out – then when we came from our Local Leave, they put him on the Misha’ab job, buying and transferring all the equipment, etc., over to Aramco.  But he was still kept as Manager of Transportation.  Well, now he has been moved and promoted again.

Alex MacKenzie was made Manager of Transportation and Bob Underwood remains Asst. Manager of District, under Ken.  That is the only fly in the ointment – but we know it will be OK.  It just is a little ticklish for him to be under Ken, again, as he was in Construction and Engineering, because they started here on the same level in ’44.  It is too bad, but not Ken’s fault.  Bob has been very nice about it, but we know he felt he would get the place.  I can’t blame them at all for feeling badly and it is touchy, because Gladys and I have been friends for years and we live right side by side.  It will all smooth down soon.

Everyone else has been very delighted.  Of course, it will be more and more work for Ken, but he is very pleased about it.  Will be more work for me in a sense, too.  We were told it would make no difference in our Home Leave plan.  Bob would just go on as Acting District Manager.

We are so thrilled over Ken’s new promotion and every one has been so wholeheartedly nice about it.  Of course I think Ken is a “swell guy”, but it’s nice to know others do, too.  He’s very well liked and this place of so-called “Mayor” really had a crying need for a new and different kind of man!  He can write you more details later . . .

There has been a lot of social stuff this last week.  We went to a cocktail buffet at the Executive House Tuesday night for 5 visiting “firemen”.  Ken went to an Old Timers dinner Wed. night which was very interesting.  There were 165 men who have from 38 to 20 years service in parent companies and the field.  Ken’s is 20 in July.  They had a big time.  [It] was the first time they have had it here and it was surely a success. 

Tonight we go to dinner at Fred and Amy Davies’ – Resident VP.  They live in “Beit Kybeer” – the Big House.  Sunday night is the dance recital and Susan and Judy have been up to their ears in rehearsals and I have been getting their costumes ready.  Wed. night we are having a big farewell dinner for the Singelyns – our good friends.  Thursday night we go out to one.  Several coffees this past week, too.  Comes in spurts like that, but there is something usually brewing all the time.

Francis, our cook, is leaving for his vacation May 18, so I am getting as much done as possible.  Our new boy, Louis, is very good, but he doesn’t cook – except for breakfast and simple things like that.  But, he does iron, thank goodness, and is a very good houseboy.

We have six new baby chicks hatched yesterday – awfully cute.  We get 4 or 5 eggs a day plus one duck egg so we have fresh table eggs all the time.  That is really something for they haven’t discovered a good system yet of keeping eggs such a long time – I cannot eat them and neither can anyone else in the family.  (Editor’s note:  This presumably is referring to the powdered/prepared eggs that were used by Aramco in the early years, since fresh eggs were hard to ship to the Middle East.)

It is quite warm now and we are all in summer clothes – seems early, but then we do have a long warm season.  Today it is blowing.  My [gladiolas] have been blooming and so pretty but only have two more to go now.  The hibiscus blooms off and on all year – bougainvillea is blooming, too. 

I am sleepy and lazy this morning.  The party last night was lovely and we had delicious all Chinese dinner (we have 3 Chinese cooks at the Dining Hall) – but it’s always late.  We didn’t eat until 9:30.  Today (Friday) I usually do the washing, so will have to get moving.  Both girls are sleeping – it’s school vacation.

Write soon.

Love, Mildred

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
April 20, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

The month of March crude oil production figures have just been released publicly and we see an average of 639,000 barrels per day.  New pipelines to permit increasing this greatly are being rushed as well as faster drilling with the ten rigs now available.  We are not at the top yet by a long ways, but are daily breaking records.

Am a little pink from wearing shorts only while mowing and watering the lawns, but enjoy the sun so much once a week even if it is too hot to stay out in only one hour at a time.  We pick eighteen or more sweet ripe tomatoes every day or so and have plenty of carrots left, but the garden season will be over in a month or so.

My new work, which I will get into fully after MacKenzie gets back next Tuesday and I turn over all my former activity in Transportation to him, is going to keep me completely busy with many interesting diversities.  We do very little drilling in Dhahran, as this field is all drilled up and producing about 92,000 a day.  Next year we will drill in a nearby field that is part of this district and in the meantime we shall be mainly a headquarters district serving the other two larger ones and one new one, Misha’ab.  Abqaiq is about one-third the size of this one, but drills and produces most of the oil, Ras Tanura is also one-third of this one and is the refining center and shipper of about 40 percent of the present total oil produced.  Misha’ab is just a wildcat camp for two drilling locations, a center for rehabilitating equipment we bought from Tapline, and includes activities in two pump stations along the Tapline to the Mediterranean.  We here have a booster station to pump oil from Abqaiq and our fields to Ras Tanura and Bahrain Island.

Dhahran District has about 60 percent of the total American and other nationalities in our enterprise, and therefore we have the most families, most cars and trucks, largest storehouses, main commissaries, largest shops and garages, main personnel and travel offices, medical center, main mail distribution and handle almost all visitors both company and on-company officials. 

Actually, I had this same position in 1946 while Mr. Fullmer went home to recruit personnel, but in the past five years this place has grown to over five times the size then.  The only ones any of you will remember are Charley Johnson, Superintendent of Engineering and Construction, Don Larkin, District Storekeeper – the other supts. And division heads are new to you so I won’t name them.

It is really a big spread and will tax my ingenuity to satisfactorily please the General Management, but will be wonderful training for a job in the home office one of these days.  I am very pleased to have been chosen and will add this assignment to the list of the others I have had about every 18 months of the past six and a half years.

Enough about me, now again our vacation – the subject uppermost on my mind.  Still don’t have firm dates, but will leave her eon June 10th and should arrive New York not later than July 13th.  If our schedule works out to be in Dublin on July 12th it will be “Orange Day” and we may not want to be there then, although it might be fun. . .

Love, Ken

Dhahran Community Center
The Dhahran Community Center with the Aramco Administration building in the background, early 1950s. Courtesy the Internet.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
April 27, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Temperatures outside reached 100 this past week for first time this year and the low has been 70 . . .

Went to a farewell party for one of the managers who has been transferred to New York.  Over 300 attended and it was held alongside the swimming pool next to the main patio. . .We also had a fine lawn party at Senior Resident Officer’s home for visiting Egyptians and company officials.  Next on the list is a reception for one of our girl employees who used to be work for me when I was in Construction.  They will marry on Bahrain and Sam Shultz will give her way.  Thursday night will be the party when they return here.  That same night will be the annual Purchase and Stores party and the invitations were humorous, from which I quote the drinks to be offered, omitting the accounting symbols and names of persons which would not mean anything to you people:  MARTINI: dry; 183 proof; shway (‘very little’ in Arabic) Vermouth; with olive and glass.  Equal in Quality to: 1 oz. Horsehide; 1 pt. Old Golf Bag; 1 qt. Green Manual; 1 gal. Stew Quick; 1 oz. old Box Kite (can’t get it down); 1/5 Panther Sweat; 1 jug Old Raslurs Sox; 1 oz. Scots Do; 1/5 Fermented Kiltie; If you new the people referred to for each drink, you would really get a laugh.

Just completed a Boy Scout Camporee attended by 43 boys and maybe some will go to Austria in August for the big affair there.  I’ll bet Dick [Ken’s nephew] would like that trip. . .

New families arriving every five days, with at least a total of 300 due before end of year.  We have 900 wives now, and about 730 children.  There are 173 children in school in Dhahran, more than that pre-school age.  Although some families have gone home on the excuse that the are afraid of the world situation in the Middle East, many more are still coming out and our radio news states many are still going to Teheran where the recent trouble has been.  Headlines in home papers are not the way we see the situation, and we go merrily on our way producing oil in ever increasing quantities. . .

MacKenzie arrived Tuesday and is fully in charge of Motor and Marine Transport Headquarters, so I am not free as of tomorrow to spend full time in my new assignment.

Love to all,  Ken et al.

(Saturday…. I’ll add a little note to Ken’s letter.  But didn’t get it done yesterday.  I went into the hospital Wed. afternoon and came back yesterday.  Just a very minor surgery, but the anesthetic makes me sick.  Other than that, it didn’t amount to a row of pins – just a little ‘clean-up’ job.  They gave me that wonderful stuff that’s just a shot in the veins and you are out before you can count to three!  Nobody else gets sick from it, but of course, I have to be different!  Certainly beats ether or gas.  I feel fine today except a bit wobbly on my pins.  Everyone is fine.  They are about finished outside with the new trunk closet and will cut the door into the tack hall this afternoon – so from now on it will be one big mess – about 15 [workers] in and out of the house all day long.  Guess the new bathroom will be worth it, especially with a teenage daughter and another coming along!  No one else can get into the one we have!  I’m sure it takes Judy 45 min. to wash her teeth let alone do anything else. . . The dance recital was a huge success and we are real proud of our two . . . the costumes were lovely.  School starts again Tuesday, so we can get the household back on a semblance of schedule, thank goodness.  Ken is very busy in his new job and it does carry a terrific amount of responsibility – is the same ideas as a “Mayor” – only they call him District Manager.  He has his finger on every phase of work.  He just came in for lunch, so I’d better close.  Love, Mimi.)

Aramco Boy Scout Troop
An Aramco Boy Scout troop enjoys an outing in the desert, listening to the tales of a wise old Bedouin, 1950s. Photo from the Aramco Handbook.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
May 4, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Summer is practically here in Arabia, with temperatures this past week of 101 high and 71 low.  The air conditioning is good and when it is too hot outside, we go inside. . .

I can’t remember whether or not I wrote you about the ball game to be held May 10th between the Airbase “Terminal Terrors” and Aramco’s “Temple Well Diggers.”  Only superintendents and higher are eligible on our team and Major or higher rank for the Airbase.  Generally, the Aramco team will have players in the older age group, to say the least, but this may not be true of the Airbase team.  We had one practice last Saturday and the second and final one will be this Saturday, then we have the game May 10th.  General Day will provide “First Aid” to the players, their wives and guests after the game at the Officers Club.  It should be a lot of fun, and worth the sore arms and other muscles due to most of us not having played ball for some twenty-five years or more.  It will help in getting all acquainted with each other.

I see by the papers that Texas allowable production for May has been raised to almost 3,000,000 barrels of crude daily and that this is almost the maximum the state could produce.  This is less than four times our production now, from less than 100 wells.  There is talk of increasing USA total production to 7,000,000 barrels daily this year, which will be about eight and one half our total.  Such figures give you an idea of the magnitude of our part in the worldwide production and why we are considered so important in the overall.

Love, Mildred and Ken

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
May 11, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Mildred and I went to see the new play “You Can’t Take It With You,” put on by our local drama group called “Dramaramco.”  It was excellent and knowing the players made it more fun than when we saw it some years ago on Broadway.  It runs for three performances and today’s matinee had about 300 seeing it.  Our local group does much to keep morale high and we welcome all the plays.

Our vacation is definitely set for June 27th departure and we think we shall spend three days in Rome, two in Florence, two in Venice, five in Switzerland, and two in Paris, then we shall arrive in New York July 11th.

We hope the house renovations will be completed by then.  The new…trunk room is done and the things from the old trunk room and Susan’s and our closets are in it, but not placed in final position yet.  The masons cut a hole in the brick wall between our room and Susan’s and are tearing out partitions.  Fine cement and plaster dust is over most of us and our things, but do have what we wanted we have to have this.  The second bath will be worth it, I am sure.  Francis, the cook, leaves this week on vacation and should be back when we get here.  Mildred will have much of the cooking to do for five weeks as the houseboy, Louis, only cooks breakfast but may surprise us.  We don’t expect have another party until we get back and are all up to date on giving them.

No other news, get those horses rested up for Susan and Judy, and line up that Sea Food Restaurant to stock up for me.  The stores will occupy Mildred’s time and Pop and I can run herd on the girls.

Love from all, Ken


May 18, 1951

Dear Folks:

Father is out working in the yard and I am alone in the house for a change and believe me, it seems pretty quiet.

We have an addition to our family – the MacKenzies’ 10-week-old daughter.  Edith [the mother] is quite ill and has been sent to the States for further tests and treatment.  It is a kidney ailment of some sort and she is much worse off than she knows.  She left with a nurse in attendance Wednesday morning on the Gazelle.  Poor Alex [Ken’s former assistant] was left with a problem – the two boys are 8 and 12 and can pretty well take care of themselves.  Also have a very good houseboy who can cook.  I told Edith we would take the baby, Laurie, until we left and Lynn will take over from there.  Any number of friends will come in and baby sit for occasions when I have to go out in the day time and Alex will always be available if we go out at night – or Lynn and Allyn.  Laurie is a darling baby and quite good – so I am back in the groove of formula, diapers, etc.  Sure is much easier with an automatic washer and a houseboy to do all the housework.  Of course, Francis left yesterday, but we don’t plan to do any entertaining now and besides the house is torn up from one end to the other we couldn’t do much of anything anyway. 

The girls are delighted with the baby and my chief trouble is to keep them from playing with her all the time.  Alex came over this morning after her bath and put her in the buggy and took her over to his house so the boys could have her for the afternoon – so he could, too.  Poor guy – he sure is low.

They are coming along with the house improvements, but it sure is a mess.  The main trouble is that it takes about three Arabs to do the work of one American, so there are such numbers of them trailing down the hall, etc.  They are happy, friendly people and so eager to please – so you can’t mind too much.  We are in hopes they will get finished and we can do the painting, too, before we leave.  I’d rather be in the whole mess now and get it over with than to do it when we return.  We are going to splurge a bit on colors – working around the new rugs in the living/dining room.  Sure will be heaven to have a bath off our bedroom.  There will be a built-in dressing table and shower – no tub.  Neither of us ever takes a tub bath anyway.

The baby sleeps in Judy’s room and Judy is sleeping in with Susan, now – Judy’s room being the smaller and also the farthest from the front of the house and quieter.  I think she is the most alert two-month old baby I have ever seen, but maybe I have forgotten a lot.

Ken presided at the presentation of Sports awards last night.  They were the Helms Athletic Foundation Awards.  It was a Father-Son evening and after the awards, they had a buffet and movie.  Ken was presented with a medallion, too, as master of ceremonies. . .

The girls are back in school and all is well.

Bye now.  Love, Mildred

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
May 25, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Highest temperature this week in the shade 110 and lowest 76.  Inasmuch as the humidity has been low, we haven’t minded too much, but today was hot.  I mowed the lawn before noon while the shade temperature was just 99 and spent the rest of the time outside seeing friends off for long vacation via South Pacific, a 46-day trip by air.

Allyn and Lynn had us to a duck dinner last night and then brought the leavings for lunch today.  I am a sucker for duck, and enjoyed every mouthful.  The Long Island Duckling brought here are very good, weighting four to five pounds, but I wish someone at home would provide me with some wild duck when I get there.

Two babies this week, one boy and one girl.  Apparently this air- conditioned atmosphere is conducive to procreating.  From my personal observation driving around town, our facilities will be crowded in June. . .

We are leaving June 27th and will be in New York July 12th…All our plans are subject to change, emphasizing the need of shopping for clothes, etc., first, and we intend to see all our families one way or another.  It must be realized that we are home so short a time we must do various things, such as dental work, shopping, etc., and will arrange to spend as much time as possible with each branch of the family.  Bear with us, and help us make the schedule, so we can do what we have to do, with best results for all.

Love, Ken – Mildred will write a few words.

(Just to add my two bits’ worth.  The least I can say [is] that I have been BUSY.  I’d forgotten that taking care of a ten-week-old baby is a lot of padding around and pretty constant.  But I really have enjoyed her.  My leg muscles cried the first few days, but not more.  She is a darling and we are getting along fine.  I’ve introduced pabulum and fruit this week, along with the 5 bottles a day.  So I am back in the groove.  Lynn comes up every day to help out if necessary.  I don’t like to have her do too much, for she will have it all to do when we leave – but I do miss being free to just pop off any time the mood hits. My.  It is hot.  Seems early to me, but guess when it is hot, doesn’t make much difference how hot.  We are really less conditioned to heat than any of you, for we live in AC all the time.  Dash from one AC house or building to another – so we really notice it if we have to stay out in it very long.  No word yet from the baby’s mother – hope she gets taken care of and makes out OK.  She is much sicker than she knows.  Bye now – be seeing you soon.  Love, Mildred.)

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
June 8, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

The weather has taken a turn for the high side, and we think earlier than usual.  Memories are not good enough, but referring to records, we find this the hottest June and May in several years.  High for the week was 114 and low 81.

Three boys born this week, which helps mentally in a family like I have where I am completely surrounded by girls except for Louis the houseboy-cook and Goofus the cat.

All our remaining chickens are egg layers, as we gave away the rooster so that the people living near wouldn’t complain about his crowing.  Our total egg take has been six from chickens and one from duck as maximum, but lately has been to three per day.  Maybe the workmen building the trunk closet and second bath took them and maybe they aren’t laying. . .

Bought 160 pounds of wheat at 50 riyals ($12.50) which should last about ten months, as we feed them all table scraps, and at an average of four eggs per day, you figure if it is worth the trouble.  Of course, you have to add in the “pet” angle, as all are Susan’s pets, and also add in the “fresh” “handpicked” angle, as the eggs from home or Australia even if fresh when shipped are old when we get them.  I hope that every morning I am home I can have fresh eggs with country fried sausage (pork, which we seldom get here), and a glass of fresh milk.  This with fresh orange juice and coffee is what I would call a good breakfast.  It is funny that food plays such a part in our thoughts here, but after all, we think of the things we miss the most and probably won’t pay too much attention to such after the first few days. . .

Love, Ken et al.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
June 22, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Edith MacKenzie arrived Tuesday looking fit, but won’t be able to pick up the baby for several months yet.  They took little Laurie home last night and have engaged an Italian girl to take care of her.  Mildred and the rest of us will miss the little tike, for after so long a time she was as though ours.  Between having the baby and getting ready to leave on the trip, we have not done all we wanted to and have turned down invitations to dinner in order to have a rest.

We just finished packing a footlocker which we shall send directly to New York and pick it up there.  It had to be turned over to Shipping for customs inspection, several days before we depart.  We have the inventory, values, etc., completed and I shall give all to Shipping in the morning.  Next we must have all the laundry back, pack our clothes, pick up reservations from American Express, check out all sections of personnel, etc., buy travelers checks, more insurance, finish the dozen items in my new job that I haven’t done yet, turn job over to Bob Underwood, get on the plane and actually leave.  Once away from here we can settle back and smile and enjoy it.  We have hotel reservations for Rome, Florence, Venice and Montreaux, but not yet for Paris.  Very hard now to get hotel space in Paris and some talk of United Nations taking 40,000 rooms for their use.  Will know next few days. . .


Latest crude oil figures:  Actual production for May, 739,780 barrels per day.  January through May, 653,876 barrels per day.  Our president said in the annual report, “Aramco is now one of the three largest crude oil producers in the world.”  World production for 1950 is estimated at 10,274,000 barrels per day and though somewhat higher now you can see we produce roughly 7 percent of world output and do it with 83 wells.

There is little else to say or write, so will close and expect now to be in New York July 12th.  Weather conditions make the time uncertain and it is better that Sister not meet us but instead the New York office will have a car bring us to Riverside.  All of you can let us know any change in your plans by writing us at Riverside, and we shall contact you by phone after we arrive. . . Firm schedule is Rome nights of 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th; Florence July 1&2; Venice 3&4; Montreaux 5,6,7,8; and Paris July 9&10.  Will look for something for all, but make no promises.

Love from all, Ken

(Editor’s note:  At this point, the letters from Dhahran stop, a couple of short ones are written to Mildred’s family in Tulsa on the return leg of the Stateside visits then the Arabia letters and resume again when the Websters return to Dhahran in September 1951.  Interesting note:  While staying with Ken’s family in Connecticut, Ken and Mildred took Judy, Susan and their cousin, Dick, into New York to see the famous stage production, “Show Boat” at Radio City Music Hall.  That show was hugely popular in the early 1950s. )

Dhahran
Friday, September 14, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

We are back safe and sound and practically in the groove again.  Our trip was smooth and without a bobble.

Hotel Royal Monceau on the Champs-Elysees
The Hotel Royal Monceau on the
Champs-Elysees in Paris, as it appears today.
The Websters stayed here, along with other
Aramco executives and their families, while
returning to Dhahran from home leave in the
States. On the same floor with the Websters
were several members of the Saudi royal family.
Courtesy the Internet.

We stopped in Gander, Newfoundland, to refuel and eat – but not for long.  The crew elected to fly straight to Paris, which was fine with us and besides it gave us several more hours there.  We had forgotten it was Sunday, though, so of course, all the stores were closed – they are on Monday, too.

We went to the Hotel Royal Monceau, where the crew and passengers had reservations by the Company – cleaned up – had a bit to eat and then we all went for a walk down the Champs-Elysées, which was interesting, as it was swarming with the Sunday crowds and so we saw all sorts of people.  Stopped in to see a dog show for a few minutes.  After a while, we took a taxi to the Eiffel Tower, which we had only seen but not visited on our other trip.  I sat in the gardens underneath while Ken took the girls up to the top of the thing – not for me!  I do not like to go up on things.  Back to the hotel by taxi, which we caught in front of the U.N. building.

Eiffel Tower
View of the Eiffel Tower, around
1950. Courtesy the Internet.

Much to our surprise our friend, Bill Dunbar, was in the hotel and also another friend who lives in Paris, came to ask us for dinner, but Ken had already asked Bill to eat with us and also one of our Arab friends from here.  He was up there with 5 of the King’s younger sons – all in their teens – plus 3 of Prince Faisal’s sons and party.  They were all on the same floor with us.

Anyway, our friend Alex Puplidy joined us, too, and we all went to La Rotonde in Montparnasse for dinner.  It was very nice and had a good orchestra and several singers.  The girls liked that.  It was late when we were through, so we took the girls back to the hotel and as all our party were staying there, plus the crew, we let them go on to bed and Alex took the rest of us to a swanky nightclub called Dinarzade.  They had a wonderful orchestra and a bit of a floor show – the music being predominant[ly] Russian or Gypsy.  We really enjoyed it a lot – got home at 2 and up at 8 to see if we could get into the shop we had visited before.

Fortunately, it was open – a few are – and we got the dolls we had promised, but they were not the same nor as nice as the Can-Can dancer one of Susan’s.  We bought them anyway and hope they will do.  Bill Dunbar was to take them to the States for us. . . Also bought some French sheet music for Judy’s French class – back in a hurry and on to Orly Field.  We took off about noon Paris time and arrived in Rome some 4 hours later – stopped there an hour and a half to eat and were on our way.

La Rotonde in the Montparnasse section of Paris
La Rotonde in the Montparnasse section
of Paris, as it appears today. The
Websters dined here in 1951 and enjoyed
a great meal, orchestra and singers.
They later visited what Mildred called a
“swanky” nightclub – the famous Dinarzade,
which was one of the poshest clubs in Paris
at the time. Courtesy the Internet.

Arrived here Tuesday morning at nine.  Allyn and Lynn plus friends were there to see us.  It was quite warm, so Allyn took us all right home and left Ken to “rassle” with customs.  We go through without a hitch.  We didn’t have anything that was contraband anyway – just a lot of stuff and it took time.

Everything looked fine, as we knew it would, with Allyn and Lynn staying in the house.  Louis seemed glad to see us back, as we were him.  Francis isn’t back from India yet but is due this month.

Our nice big surprise was the beautiful silver grey Persian kitten that Gladys Stapelton had given Susan.  Allyn and Lynn had had him for over a month.  He is three months old and a beauty.  His name is Grey Boy.  He is a rascal and sweet as can be, but he wants to ‘help’ with everything you do!  We actually almost have to shut him out every time Louis starts to prepare food, as he gets right up on the counter to watch – and help.

Grey Boy
Grey Boy, a gorgeous Persian cat who became
a beloved pet of the Websters. He was a gift
from Gladys Stapelton to Susan Webster and
was very much a part of the family for several years.
Photo by Mildred Webster.

Ken and I have had trouble with our sleeping, but think we are about straightened out now.  It always happens when you fly right through.  Doesn’t seem to affect the girls so much, except Susan was really pooped.  She slept almost all afternoon and that evening we went out to dinner with friends and she went to sleep there for e hours, then they both slept 12 hours that night.  I slept 3. 

We have hung our lovely French pictures and they do look so pretty in the living room.

It is still over 100 in temperature, but I haven’t been out much.  Ken went to meetings (the ones he came back for) Thurs. morning and yesterday, too.  There will be some Sat., Sun., Mon., Tues. and Wed.  Then he will get down to work.  There are many changes – some new people and some old gone.  We brought three new wives plus families in our plane.

I have almost finished unpacking but will have much to do to get everything back in place. . . I have put up my glass shelves in the dining room window – it overlooks the patio with the shrubs and trees --= and have repotted the little plants – they came through in perfect condition.  Do hope they live, as it is a nice addition to the room.

The girls will start school tomorrow.  They have missed two weeks.  Judy has already been to two practices for the water ballet to be given in November.  They were waiting for her and called practically before we got our hats off.  I don’t mind – she has been in several, but don’t want her to get involved in too much.  She is inclined to overestimate her strength.  Anyway, will have to make up the schoolwork first.  Susan seems happy to see all her old friends.  She went on a picnic last night and swimming this morning and now they are off to the afternoon show.  This is our weekend.

We enjoyed our vacation very much and seeing all of you.  Many thanks to you all.  It is time to start the letters coming this way now – and we will try to write our weekly letter, too.

Love to everyone.

Ken, Mildred, Judy and Susan

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
September 21, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Today is officially the last day of summer and the Bedus predict an early Fall and cool winter season.  For past ten days since our arrival the hottest temperature was 108 and only 100 the last two days.  The house has been too cold, nearer 70 than 80 most of the time, and below 70 at night.  Consequently, we have had our doors and windows open much of the time.

Susan is in bed with a cold – has missed one day of school and will probably miss several more.  Her teacher came to see her yesterday and assured her and us that there was nothing to worry about missing a few days, as her work is very acceptable.  She has pitched in this year on her homework and taken the assignments very seriously.  Judy has more homework than ever and apparently taken it in stride.

I haven’t officially gone back to work at my regular job as I am taking advantage of Ned Scardino staying until his home leave in October and continuing in his relieving Bob [Underwood] while Bob relieves me, so I can spend a few weeks going through all divisions of the Dhahran District and getting acquainted with the employees and changes made in [the] past three months.  Also, I shall spend some time in Misha’ab as this District, created when I became District Manager of Dhahran, is being returned to Dhahran as a Division.  There is no question I shall be kept busy in all phases of the work.

Our crude oil production hi a new high in August for a total average per day of 837,797 barrels, making the average for the first eight months of 711,488 barrels per day.  No other oil company in the world is near these figures.

Our drilling barge, “The Queen Mary”, moved onto location to serve in offshore drilling.  It cost $1,500,000 and is the largest marine diesel-electric rig every constructed and the biggest single unit drilling barge in existence. . . It…furnishes power to the drilling rig . . . It took 80 days for towing here from Venezuela, by an oceangoing tug.

The trip back here was tiring and not as interesting as that enroute home, but we enjoyed Paris for an afternoon and evening.  We took two friends out to dinner, one a member of the Gazelle crew and the other an engineer stationed in Paris since last December.  The latter knows Paris, speaks French like a native, and could advise where to eat. . . We thought it might be the last chance for a steak, but have had a few here already, from Australia, that are not too bad. . .

That’s about all for this time.

Love, Mildred, Ken and girls.

Dhahran
Friday, September 28, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Another week rolls around – and we have been back long enough to feel we have never been away . . .

I surely have been on the hop ever since we got back.  Our dinner party turned out very nice last Saturday night – only had 12 so it wasn’t too much to do.  Louis is very handy and good help.  I cooked all the dinner, however, but could leave the rest for him to do.  Francis will be back this next week.  He left Bombay by boat several days ago.

Susan was out of school all last week – she ran a temperature and then it went into a nasty head cold – sort of a bug that is running around camp.  I thought for sure she was coming down with flu for the ached and felt very rotten.  She went back to school yesterday and apparently feels pretty well now, but lost a few precious pounds.  About half the children in her room had it – also the teacher.

Our good friends the John Rogers – he is vice-president of International Bechtel Corp. and they were out here four years – arrive today for a visit.  It will call forth great entertaining.  They are a very popular couple and so everyone will want to see them.  We are going to a big cocktail party Monday night and a formal dinner Thursday night for them.  Go to a tea Monday afternoon, a coffee Monday morning and one Tuesday.  It has been that way from the day we arrived.

Ken is busy popping off to Misha’ab twice a week for the day – to do with the closing of the Camp up there and absorbing it into the ones down here.  He is leaving some of his regular work to Bob Underwood and also Ned Scardino, who was acting Asst. District Manager while we were away.  They are keeping Ned in there until he goes on Long Leave in October so as to relieve Ken of some of the work in the district.

I have been trying to get the bedspreads for Susan’s room made this last week.  I am almost finished but will have other things to do in there, too.

Did I tell you we rearranged the furniture in our living room and that with the new curtains and the lovely white framed pictures, it looks quite pretty – all the plants we brought out are doing very well, so far, and look very nice on the glass shelves in the dining room window. . .

Allyn and Lynn and I drove down to Al Khobar this morning to look for some material for Lynn, but couldn’t find what she wanted.  They have many new things there now, but it is still too warm to stay and shop.

Guess that is all the news.  We are all fine now.

Love, Mildred

Susan Webster with Grey Boy
Susan Webster with Grey Boy, mid-1950s.
Photo courtesy Judy Webster Bauer.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
October 5, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Received my 20-year pin, although it dates back to July 13th when I completed the twenty years.  One old-timer retired after 32 years’ service and not yet 50 years old.  He says the farm in [the] Ozarks has greater appeal than longer service in Arabia.

New Consult General arrived and coincident with it the new consulate general buildings for offices were opened.  The walled compound covers 68 acres and includes 22 buildings all of native stone quarried here.  It cost about $600,000 and is one of the few consulates to be completely air-conditioned.  When all items are completed, the consulate will become the property of the Saudi Government and rent free to U.S.A. for 25 years, after which rent will be paid.  It is probably the only case where the State Department had to obtain approval of a private American company before building began.  Under the Aramco concession agreement with the Saudi Government, all such projects must receive Aramco approval before the land can be occupied.
Everyone her, as no doubt at home, are talking nothing but baseball.  Sure wish I could have seen that last playoff game between Giants and Brooklyn.  Seems like the finish by both leagues will do more good for baseball than any other could.  I haven’t listened to the games, but many of our people do.

Have the garden almost weeded, but it is still too hot to plant yet, according to our Arab friends.

No other news – Love, Ken, et al.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
October 12, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

High for the week 111 and low 78, but most of the days and all evenings are quite comfortable.

Aramco is sending 50 Arabs to college on new 5-year program, and at the farewell tea for the recent eleven to go, I found numerous of my former workers and friends.  Things like this should help keep Aramco high in the esteem of the Arabs of all countries, but of course, especially of the Saudi Arabs.  It will cost $100,000 a year.

The railroad we are building for the Saudi Government reached Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, this week.  All rail is laid but much ballasting remains, also stations to be built, etc.  It is 350 miles long, from the new deep-water port at Dammam, across the desert to Riyadh, and the total project will initially cost in excess of $50,000,000.

This month is Fire Prevention Month in Arabia, and we went to the Annual Fireman’s Dinner Wednesday night and the Bite and Drink and Annual Ball on Thursday.  Did you know that Fire Prevention Week is the USA is the week in October that has October 9th in it because that is the date of the Chicago Fire?

There just isn’t any news from here as all we do is work and sleep.  My garden is almost ready for planting, and our houseboy already has some beans up about four inches.  I am later than usual, but feel it is still a little hot to expect best results.  Some people have all their garden in, but my Arab friends say wait, so guess between waiting for the right moon and Arab advice, I’ll be lucky to get all items done next weekend, which is the Thursday afternoon and Friday.

I am too busy to leave town for visits to other districts, but will report on some in next few months.  Still have to go to Misha’ab weekly and should go more often, but Scardino leaves Monday on Vacation and Bob [Underwood] and I are wadjid busy with district affairs.  We are heading into a huge program of construction items and everything as usual is wanted yesterday.

Love, Ken

(Dear Pop and Nana:  [You] should see our “Grey Boy.”  He’s just beautiful.  Will be 6 months the 19th and he’s tremendous.  I’m waiting for a vet to return so we can have him altered.  I have curtains to make, then will be through with Susan’s room.  Had 11 for dinner Tuesday night and a couple for lunch yesterday.  Been going out a lot since we came back.  Francis is here now so I am a lady of leisure as far as housework and cooking is concerned.  Never seem to get through with other things just the same. . .  Love, Mimi.)

Sun & Flare Clipping Clipping from the Arabian Sun & Flare, showing a photo of the royal reviewing stand at the inauguration of the new Saudi Government Railroad, built by Aramco. Ken Webster was among the Aramco officials who attended the event at the invitation of the King and the Crown Prince in October 1951.
From Ken Slavin’s collection of Webster papers.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
October 21, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Last Thursday morning, Vic [Stapelton] called me to plan to visit Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia where the Royal family lives in many palaces.  The King had sent word that he was having yesterday set aside for celebration of the Railroad reaching Riyadh from the Persian Gulf 350 miles away.  The manager of the railroad had gone to Paris on local vacation, and our cable reached him four hours after he arrived there.  He immediately flew here, arriving Friday night.

I went to bed at eleven, after setting the alarm for 5 A.M. and lining up our radio station to call.  I awoke at one and three A.M and just before five.  Like a thief in the night, I went to meet the others in Executive House, after my usual breakfast of juice, cereal and coffee.  The others finally arrived and after coffee we departed for the airport at six.  Two planes had been set up for us, as the whole group of Field management are not allowed to fly in the same plane trip, so there were ten in one plane and nine in the other.  All but one member of top management went, plus certain Relations people and two photographers.  The Arab Government Passport clerk was very slow in clearing us, but we finally took off and were airborne at seven, with the sun just beginning to show.

It was only a one-and-a-half-hour flight, and we were met at the Riyadh Airport by cars of the King and rushed directly to the scene of activity after passing through several palace grounds for reasons we don’t yet know.

Our driver was a second Barney Oldfield and drove the new Buick sedan through crowds of camels, goats, people, cars and trucks as though we were going to a fire.  (Editor’s note:  Barney Oldfield was a pioneering automobile racer.  He was the first man to drive a car at 60 miles per hour.  His accomplishments led to the expression, "Who do you think you are? Barney Oldfield?"  Source:  Wikipedia.)  We held on for dear life and stopped only once at the first palace gates.  The radiator was boiling, steam and oil vapors gushed from the front of the car, and the dust was terrific.  We asked the driver in Arabic if he wasn’t out of water and maybe oil.  He answered no, the engine was just hot.  After being pushed to start again, and with all valves rattling, we went on to the end of the railroad, where many large tents had been erected.

Saudi Railroad
A picture of a section of cars from the Saudi Government Railroad, which was completed in 1951. It stretched 350 miles west from Dammam to Riyadh.
Photo from the Aramco Handbook.

Our tent was about 120’ by 40’, open in the front, and filled with soft cushioned chairs on beautiful Oriental rugs.  It was cool, elevation 1500’, and after shaking hands with the Crown Prince Saud, took our places just behind the front row where the King’s sons were setting, at least fourteen of them.  It was just nine A.M. and we were right on time, as requested by the Crown Prince. 

The flies were bad, numerous and very friendly, and we worked up a sweat waving at them.  Soon we were given coffee, about a third of a teaspoonful in tiny cups, the entire group of 300 being served in the same ten cups.  Then they brought us fruit juices, which were quite good. 
At exactly ten thirty the noise made by some 5,000 Arabs around us indicated the King was about to arrive.  Ten motorcycles, fourteen jeeps with machine guns, and many soldiers on foot, preceded His Majesty, who rode alone in anew custom built Talbot sedan.  It stopped in front of his chair, his door was opened by his favorite slave, all dressed in bright red robes and with rifle, sword, dagger and saber in full view, and the King pushed a button or buttons on the back of the front seat.  He seat went forward, turned ninety degrees right, and moved out slightly through the door.  He had only to slide off the seat to the ground, turn about, and sit in the throne chair waiting for him.  We all arose and one after the other shook his hand as the Vice President Relations called our names.  Then we sat down and awaited the start of the ceremonies.

We had a radio in our tent, with which the manager of the railroad talked to the engineers on the locomotives waiting to be driven by on dress parade so that all could see the different cars, etc.  Few of the Arabs there had ever seen a railroad train, and it was truly a great occasion.  We had set up a public address system for the tent group and the multitudes outside, and one elderly Arab spoke and chanted some long sermon for twenty minutes.  I don’t know yet what he said, but it sounded to me like a minister opening the meeting with a prayer.

The first train consisted of a 1,000 HP diesel electric locomotive pulling a Pullman car, a gondola, a boxcar, a flat car, and an improvised passenger car made from a flat car.  It blew its whistle, rang the bell, and slowly passed in review to the end of the line where it turned around.  The second train had improvised sleeping cars, dining car, tankers, etc., as it was the work train used during construction to house and feed the men.  It proceeded along the siding, unhooking and hooking cars, and showed how trains are made up, etc. 

Then the King departed, and the Crown Prince drove the Golden Spike (Gilded Iron) at the railhead.  We were then told we were invited to lunch with the Crown Prince and again entrusted ourselves to the care of the Arab driver.  Away we went toward one of the palaces, passing by 2,500-3,000 women kneeling on the ground in a mile and one-half line, awaiting money or other gifts which the King distributes to the poor on such occasions.

Entering the palace grounds, we saw flower gardens, swimming pool, patios, water fountains, etc., which would do credit to a Hollywood idea of a King’s Garden.  It was unbelievable that such verdant shrubbery could exist in the middle of the desert.  On the left, as we walked from the car, we saw the old palace, now converted into a school for the Crown Prince’s sixteen sons and 22 sons of other of the Royal family. There were basketball courts and other playgrounds visible, and were told each boy has a bedroom, bath, living room and mejlis (dining room) to himself. 

The palace we entered is brand new and I don’t know how many rooms.  The room we entered first was about 40 by 80 feet, ceiling fans and fluorescent lights.  The furniture was red rich soft overstuffed and seated about 100 people.  We all had a drink of tart bubby liquid that tasted like cider and may have been apple juice and phizz water.  Again we had a shot of coffee and the Crown Prince led us to his small dining room, which comfortably could seat over 200 people for meals.  There is an American in charge, Italians are the cooks, and Sudanese are the waiters.

We started with pickles and relishes, chicken noodle soup, fresh cucumber and cabbage salad, and fresh or frozen fish.  Hot rolls were excellent.  Next came roast veal, kernel corn, green peas, and roast potatoes.  Then chicken paprika and mountains of rice cooked with chicken livers.  Fruit juice, ice cream, strawberry shortcake, and fresh cow’s milk plus peanuts ended the meal.  Around the room, chest high, were lavatories for washing hands and face.  This is necessary to them as most meals have food that is eaten with the fingers.

On to another audience chamber for a last coffee, this room being furnished with blond period overstuffed chairs and divans, and more beautiful new oriental rugs.  Here pictures were taken, last goodbyes paid, and permission granted for us to leave the city, which is a must as planes do not take off without such permission.

The Crown Prince said if we would stop in the next palace, he would give each of us a gift in memory of the occasion.  On the way out we looked in on the main dining room used on State occasions when the group is over 300, and up to 1,100.  The room was 186 by 34 feet with a 40 by 60 serving alcove.

Once more we placed ourselves in Allah’s care and drove to the palace where we expected we would stay for about ten minutes.  Some two hours later, some slaves arrived, brining each of us a Swiss watch with the Crown Prince’s picture on the face, and a complete Arab winter outfit.  Instead of a wristwatch, I chose a pocket type with a hunter cover, gold apparently, no name of manufacturer, unless it is inside the back cover, although I don’t know what I shall do with it. 

Gold Pocket Watch
Gold pocket watch, presented to Ken Webster by Crown Prince Saud at a reception following the inauguration of the new Saudi Government Railroad. This watch, which features an etching of the Crown Prince’s face, now belongs to Ken Slavin. The Crown Prince gave another one of these watches to Webster at a future meeting and it now belongs to the editor’s brother, Al Slavin.
Photo by Ken Slavin.

The clothing consisted of a beautiful brown striped wool garment, like a Pendleton shirt, except it is long like a nightshirt and takes the place of shirt and trousers, a suit coat of same material, an outer robe of hard finish wool trimmed with some gold thread, and a 4’ by 41/2’ Kashmir shawl for wearing on the head.  This was white with very nice red embroidery.  It would be just the thing to wear to a football game in November, but is far too warm for here, at least most days.  Further inland the nights do get cold and these are typical outfits for winter season.

As fast as we could, we said goodbye to Sheik Abdulla Sulliman, the Finance Minister, for the last time rode in the King’s car to the airport, and at ten minutes to five took off. 

Arrived here at six thirty and home at nearly seven.  The railroad manager left a few hours later for Paris, to complete his local vacation.  I hurried through a shower, changed clothes, and Mildred and I went to a cocktail party or the Chairman of the Board of the Middle East Institute of Washington, D.C.  Home at nine thirty, after the usual buffet dinner, and about to retire when Bill Dunbar came in.  His father-in-law died last week, and his mother-in-law will live with Bill and Terry.  To bed at eleven, tired but happy, and ready to go again, but the day was a long one.

So endeth another day in this Garden of Eden.

Love, Ken

Dhahran
October 26, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

We’ve been busy this week – as you know from Ken’s letter last week.  There were several coffees for me during the day and last night was the official opening of the Saudi Arab Sport Center.  It was a huge success.  It is the large ball grounds, soccer fields, tennis and volleyball courts – all set up with huge floodlights.  This is just for the Arabs and is across from the Saudi Arab Camp – I mean employees.

Ken, as District Manager, was the master of ceremonies.  Guests were the Emir of Dammam, Abdul Musin bin Abdullah bin Jaluwi [ruler of the Hasa province], Prince Mohammed, 3rd son of the King, Brigadier General Day from our Air Base, Consulate General Bishop from the American Consulate here, all the top management of the company.  Ken won’t tell you this, but I will – He was directly instrumental in getting this built and the Arabs are so happy they wouldn’t have the dedication until Ken got back.  There is to be a swimming pool later.  It all goes for making contented employees.

Tomorrow night we go to the Consulate for a cocktail party to introduce Admiral Rose, the new head of the Middle East Theater.  Monday afternoon is the Fall Tea of the Women’s Club and will be outside on the lawn of the Executive House – a very pretty terraced lawn. 

Our cat, Grey Boy, is on the table by the typewriter and is playing hob with my progress.  He is a beautiful cat and very smart and full of beans at all times!

We shipped a very large assignment of old clothes and new baby gowns, which the women make here, to Beirut this last week for Palestinian Relief.  It is amazing how much stuff you can collect in an area like this.  This is the 4th large shipment we have made and the 5th of baby things.  We are limited as to the things of welfare nature we can do here – mostly because of the relations angle.

Judy is still busy with the Water Show, which will be the 15th and 16th.  I’ll be glad when it is over, for it takes so much time for practice.  The swimming is good for her, but she has so many other things to do, too.  They both [Judy and Susan] went to the Boy Scout costume party Wednesday night and had fun.  The Girl Scouts are having a big square dance party this next week and inviting the boys.

We are very proud of their reports this six weeks.  They always do well, but Susan came up this time – and Judy maintained her standard.  She has so many interests now, mainly BOYS, that we wouldn’t have been surprised if they had taken a dip.

Our local Little Theater group, Dramaramco, will present next week “Light Up The Sky,” a comedy by Moss hart.  All our amateur shows have been very good and are, of course, more fun when we know the players.

We must close now and leave for a picnic by the Construction Division of Ken’s District, at which about 1,500 men, women and children are scheduled to participate in sports, eats, etc.

Love, Ken and Mildred

Middle Eastern Brass Tray
A large Middle Eastern tray of brass, overlaid
with silver and copper. This is believed to
have been brought from Beirut by one of the
pilots of the Camel -- as a gift to Mildred Webster.
It now hangs in Sue Slavin’s house in San
Antonio, Texas. Photo by Ken Slavin.

LATER….October 26

Dear Nana and Pop:

Ken and I just came in from the picnic – tired but full of steaks.  It was lovely down there at what we call Azziziha.  It’s below the Italian Camp about 15 miles from Dhahran on a ‘spit’ of sand, which extends out into the Gulf.  It’s surrounded by water on 3 sides and is flat as a pancake.  The girls elected to come back by bus with the rest of their group.

Enjoyed your letter so much.  Glad everything is going well . . . We’ve just planted our garden.  Have radishes up and the beginnings of lettuce.  Have a few glads up, too.

Thanks for the clipping – the girls really did enjoy the riding out there.  (Editor’s note:  Judy and Susan had riding lessons in Tulsa while on Home Leave earlier in the year.) 

Bye now.  Love, Mimi

Dhahran
November 2, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

It is an awfully quiet house this early afternoon.  Both the girls are out.  Judy to swimming rehearsal, Susan visiting.

Ken is cutting [the] hedge and Grey Boy (the cat) is outside with him.  I can do with a little quietness for a change. 

The kids really had a big weekend with all the Halloween doings.  Both Scout groups had parties, plus a farewell party for one of the girls – plus a school play for Susan.  Seems I have been making costumes for weeks.  Now if we can just live through till the swimming show is over the 14th and 15th, we should be able to settle down until the rehearsals for the Messiah for Judy’s Orpheus group and the other group Susan is in will have a Christmas choral performance.  They wear robes, though.

The cocktail party at the Consulate was very nice.  The American Consulate has its own enclosed compound now with about 6 very lovely native stone houses – plus the one for the Consul General and his family.  A new one just arrived a bit ago – very nice.  Then they have their bachelor quarters and offices and a big Executive building.  More houses will be built as they go along.  You get a nice mixture of Consulate, Army and Aramco in those parties.  Most of our Executive House parties up here are that way, too.

Monday the Women’s Club had their Fall Tea on the lawn at the Executive House and it turned out to be a lovely afternoon.  Looked very pretty with all the colored umbrellas over the tables.  Had a large crowd, too.  They have two a year and also two formal dances. 

There was a costume party on the patio last night.  We had to go to a department departure party – a man who has been here for years is retiring.  Did go over afterwards to see the costumes at the patio.

We went to Al Khobar this morning and I bought some dark green velvet to make a cocktail skirt.  Lynn is going to make up my beautiful brocade we got in Damascus into a cocktail blouse.  [It will] be nice for the Christmas season.  I’m so glad she offered to do it for I would be afraid to cut into it – I’m not that good a seamstress.

I started a French class again and a bowling group once a week.  I want to bowl [more often] that that, though, and there are lots to bowl with.  Lynn went with us and did very well for her first time.  We were both creaking in our joints, though, for a couple of days.  I haven’t bowled any since last year, so it is just like starting again.

Guess that closes up my activities for the week.  I’ll leave a space for Ken to add a note.  Bye now.

(Well folks, still meeting Royalty.  Had lunch Tuesday with Prince Mitab and Sheik Abdulla Suleiman, the Finance Minister.  Only 110 at the affair, but it was fine, and the Prince cut a large cake made for him.  Highest temperature last week was 94 and low 74.  Fall is definitely with us, but the days are still warm.  Soon I can start wearing slacks or khaki instead of the cotton pants and short sleeve shirts. . . No other news and we all send love.  Ken et al.)

Dhahran
November 16, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

We never did get a letter written last Friday.  The time just away [from] us.  We enjoyed a long letter from Raymond this week and also one from Edward and Evelyn.

The weather is just beautiful.  This is what we call our “sweater” weather – not too cold yet except for two days last week.  It won’t be long now, though.  We were so thankful the temperature rose again some because of the water show.

Water Ballet
The girls in the water ballet, 1951. From left: Mary Pat Singelyn, Diane Estes, Ann Hawley, Mimi Kaufman, Judy Webster, Nan Cooper, Bev McCann, Ardith Manson, Anna Shultz, Marilyn McCann.
Courtesy Judy Webster Bauer.

I was sure the girls would all have pneumonia practicing every evening in the cold air and Judy did have a bronchial cough.  We kept doctoring it, though, and she came through OK.  The show was Tuesday and Wednesday nights and they all did beautifully, especially Mary Pat Singelyn and Judy’s solo.  It was perfect both nights and we were so proud of them.  They have worked so long and hard on it all and it did show the efforts.  That will be Judy’s last water ballet, here anyway, and I am glad it all went so well.  She was in the Star Dust number – all wearing blue suits, 12 of them – The Hawaiian number with yellow suits, leis and flowers in their hair – 12 girls – Judy and Mary Pat’s solo, “Sea Sprites” in chartreuse suits and caps.  The Flamingo and Heron number in coral suits – 8 girls.  The goldfish number in yellow suits and caps with huge fish eyes painted on them – fins on their arms and this one was done with fins on their feet.  Judy and Mary Pat were the only veterans of other ballets here and so led all the formations.  In the goldfish number they also pushed paddleboards in the shape of goggle-eyed fish.  It was all very effective and the stage numbers were good.  Bob Underwood was the Cannibal King his makeup and costume [were] wonderful.

I helped as dresser in the show so have been tied up all last week – that and making costumes – so I am glad it is over.  Mim Shultz came in Tuesday and I am so glad to have her back.

I have French one morning a week and bowl one morning.  Last week we went to the Consulate for cocktails and there was a coffee for me and dinner at the Cundalls last Monday night.  We are having guests tomorrow night for dinner, then a dinner for us Monday night and a cocktail party Thursday night.  I have all our Thanksgiving invitations out.  We try to concentrate on the single people so will have a mixed group, but they are so appreciative.  We will have fourteen.

Yesterday we went down to the Italian Camp to their “Festival” and it was very nice.  Lots of good food, too.  Judy went to Ras Tanura to the football game – the school’s – and then they stayed for the grownups’ game, too.  This weekend is the big tennis tournament up there, with contestants from Beirut, Iraq, Bahrain and others . . .

I’ve just washed my hair and am off to the mail center and commissary . . .

Well, I think I have pretty well covered the Webster family news.  We are all well and doing fine.  Ken is busier than a cranberry merchant.  So are all of us, I guess.  Write us soon.

Love, Mildred and Ken

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
November 30, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Mildred has done the writing lately as I have really been snowed under, and there hasn’t been too much news anyway. 

I still fly to Misha’ab weekly but in December will have the camp done to Wildcat size will only make monthly trips I think. 

My District now includes 3,000 Americans (1,000 wives and children) and 8,000 non-Americans from 27 different places, covers an area 30 miles in diameter here, plus a field 160 miles away (Misha’ab), a pump station on the Tapline 140 miles away (Nariya) and Royalty Tankage at a Tapline station 320 miles away.  In addition we serve field parties 600 miles north and 600 miles south, all the Royal family needs at Riyadh 400 miles west, and certain operations at Jeddah on the Red Sea 900 miles west.  All material and people coming to Arabia enter here, and the incoming cargo averages over 40,000 tons per month now.  Being “Mayor” has its advantages but also headaches, and I have no serious complaints, but do enjoy an occasional “good” day.

Last night we had seven bachelors and Mim and Sam Shultz to turkey dinner with all the fixin’s and it was fun.  The turkey was only 17 pounds dressed and was one of the new “close-coupled” kind with mainly a really large breast.  What we didn’t eat last night and lunch today we shall finish up tonight with Renfers and Shultzes, with Renfers’ turkey.  Had fruit and vegetables flown in from Beirut by friends and apparently all enjoyed what we had to offer.

Went out to dinner one night, a cocktail party at Executive House with buffet dinner one night, a stag party one night, and no plans until Christmas week, but a dinner we are giving for the MacKenzies who leave for vacation in Australia [in] early December.  Beautiful weather, no air conditioning, above 80 today, and no hint of a cold snap.  They are stuccoing our house as the red bricks were deteriorating.  It will be white with dark green trim.

Instead of next August, we may come home in early February if plans go through for me to attend a special course at Harvard.  We would be home from about Feb. 15th through June First, which means buying many warm clothes for all.  Where to leave Mildred and the girls during that period is a question, what schools to send them to, how much bad effect will it have on both as regards school, and we don’t have the answer.  It may be best to stay in a hotel apartment in Boston, and we are investigating that now through Daisy Cooper while she is there.  Bill [Cooper] “graduates” about Dec. 11th and we shall know about us in next two weeks. 

It will be quite expensive as all the company pays are my costs, except they will send Mildred and girls home and return them free.  We shall definitely need a car for Mildred for four months, and “Drive Yourself” may be the answer. 

Every day new problems for sure, but I don’t dare turn down this chance as it is reported to mean a great deal in the future by attending it.  It is called Advanced Management, and Harvard chooses from many applicants the ones they think have the best background to utilize the advanced training for the good of Industry.  The average age of those accepted is 46 and salary $15,000, so the group should be composed of high caliber men and association with such should in itself be very educational.  This is still confidential and should not be told until I have definite approval, as it might hurt my changes if the news is public too soon.

No other news, so will close.

Love, Ken

Dhahran
December 14, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

I am afraid we have been very lax about writing these last weeks, but Ken has been so busy and the time seems to get away from me, too.  We have had nice letters from all of you, which are much appreciated. 

I can’t believe that Christmas is so near.  Our weather is so beautiful now and still mild so that I can’t seem to get very excited.  There are the usual smash of parties planned, but we are only going to have a quiet family dinner with perhaps two bachelors.  Allyn and Lynn will eat with us.

Ken wrote you several letters back about our coming home Feb. instead of next Sept. for him to attend the Advanced Management Course at Harvard.  It is anything but a convenient time for us to go because of Judy’s school and the weather.  None of us have any real winter clothes and Cambridge is said to e very cold during those months.  But, Bill Moore cabled for Ken to go now, so that is it!

We really are very proud and thrilled over the opportunity for Ken and I think it will be a grand experience for all of us.  At present we plan to all go to Cambridge and stay for the whole time.  Ken prefers for us all to stay together and even though he will stay at the school all the time, he will have weekends off and the other vacation days – so we could be together quite a bit.  Besides, the Company pays all of Ken’s expenses, but only transportation to the States and back, so any traveling we do there is on our own.

We think it will be fun for the children to have some winter again – if they don’t freeze to death – so we will just put Judy in High or Junior High and Susan in a grade school.  We hope to get an apartment in the same place the Stapeltons stayed and I can cook for the three of us. 

We probably will leave about the 10th of Feb. as Ken has to spend a week in the New York office before entering the 24th.  School is out the latter part of May and so we will be back out here for Judy to finish June and July of school and graduate the end of July.  She sort of hates to go and wants to, too.  She is president of her class, editor of the school paper, and cheerleader of the group.  They have been having a great time this year.  School is out now for the month so there is all sorts of activity.

Judy Webster
Judy Webster as a school
safety guard, Dhahran, early
1950s. She is shown here
in full salute, with a whistle.
Photo courtesy Patricia
Dale Watkins.


We have a Youth Recreational Program for the month and I am Chairman of the teenage dance this Monday night.  Hope it will be a success.  There are 56 children in the 7-8-9th grades.  I have some able help so we are hoping the kids will have fun. 

The Women’s Club’s Fall Formal was last weekend and was a huge success.  There have the usual coffees, dinners and cocktail parties.  We are having 12 for dinner tomorrow night.  With my good Boys it isn’t too much trouble for me.

Allyn and Lynn are staying in the house for us and so will keep Louis right here.  We probably will farm Francis out as Lynn doesn’t think she needs the two boys for just the two of them.  Louis can take care of the chickens and the cat, too.  He cooks pretty well, too, and so Lynn will only have to do desserts.

Ken is at the office, Judy at singing practice, Susan at Hobby Farm riding, so Grey Boy and I are holding down the house.  Better go now.  We will have to think out any extra traveling we can do while home at a later day.

Love, Ken and Mildred

Louis, the Webster's Houseboy
Louis, who was employed as a houseboy by
the Websters throughout the 1950s. This
picture was taken outside the house, with an
array of Mildred’s flowers blooming below the
window. Photo by Mildred Webster.

Dhahran
December 21, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

Christmas is practically here and even though I have up all the usual decorations and tree it still doesn’t seem like tot me.

We’ve been to several nice parties – a big formal one last night (I wore the black evening dress I bought at Vandiver’s) – and there are many things scheduled.  Tonight is the “nativity” on the Patio.  I’m so glad they are having it again.   Seems practically traditional out here.  The S.S. (Sunday School) program was this morning.

We’ve had sad news from Riverside.  Gram is confined to bed with what they diagnose as “Slow Thrombosis.”  (Editor’s note:  Gram was Ken Webster’s mother, who lived in Riverside, Connecticut.)  She has lost the use of her right leg and arm and also affects her speech at times.  She had an attack while we were there last summer, but it cleared up quickly.  I don’t know just what it will mean – whether she will recover or get worse.  She doesn’t know the extent of it and the doctor has told her she will be better, but didn’t feel so optimistic to Alice.  Unfortunately, she can’t knit or use her hand that makes it doubly hard for her.   The strange thing is that her hearing has improved almost to normal!  Isn’t that strange?  Must have something to do with the flow of blood through the veins connected to the ear in some way.

I’m cogitating about going home in January and getting the girls in school the beginning of the semester – and maybe staying in Greenwich to help Alice out.  Ken would follow so soon and it would be so much easier for the girls.  This is just an idea, but may work it out that way.

The Teenage dance, or rather party, I had charge of turned out to be a huge success according to the kids.  And I’m so glad. I didn’t mind the work and had good help.  Tomorrow is the Teenage Formal for the kids returning from Beirut for Christmas and the Junior High group here.  We are on that committee so will be one of the chaperones.

Love, Mimi

Dhahran
December 28, 1951

 

Dear Folks:

I am sure you’ve had a wonderful family Christmas.  Ours was a good one but hectic, as usual. I don’t believe there was as much going on this year, but still plenty.

There were several lovely parties both for us and the girls.  They really go overboard here for the kids – guess they will all be spoiled for a normal life at home!

We had Allyn and Lynn plus three very lonesome men whose families haven’t arrived yet.  Francis fixed a wonderful dinner with all the trimmings even to the flaming plum pudding in brandy.  We had it Christmas Eve.  The girls went to Midnight Mass with friends, so we were very late getting to bed.  They were up at 8 and we rushed through our tree and breakfast so they could see Santa land in the helicopter – then distribute gifts to all the Aramco children at the club.  This is done each year by the “Aramco Entertainment Assoc.” – of which each Aramco employee is a member.

We spent the day having callers and making calls.  Then to dinner at the Shultzes – all the old Port Arthur bunch.  They are all coming here for New Year’s.

Thanks so much for all the lovely gifts.  We enjoyed every one of them. Ken gave me a beautiful clock from Germany – the ones under the glass dome.  We received many nice things.

The latest word is that Gram shows some improvement, but it will be another week before they know if the clot dissolved or not.  They can’t – or rather don’t – plan any treatment till then.  She still does not have the use of her hand or leg and still has some difficulty with speech at times. . .

I’m undecided now just what to do.  It’s possible I may feel I’m needed in Riverside to help out.  We’ll have to wait a bit.  Ken wants us to go to Cambridge.  We will just have to wait and see.

Bye now, thanks loads – all best wishes for a wonderful New Year.

Love, Mimi

Saudi Stamps
Saudi stamps with postmark – from one of the hundreds of letters mailed by the Websters during their years in Arabia.
Photo by Ken Slavin.

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Chapter 10
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Chapter 12