CHAPTER 2: ARAMCO LIFE BEGINS
“It seems like we’ve always been here…” Mildred Webster (known to family and friends as “Mimi”) proves a very thorough, observant and entertaining correspondent. Throwing herself headlong into the new and exciting life of the Aramco camps, she still reports regularly, describing husband Ken’s job, their friends and social activities, the Arab culture and history, automobile trips through the surrounding countryside, the steady influx of new wives and children, her family’s first Easter in the camps, her first “employee” (an Indian houseboy to help with cooking and cleaning), and a temporary move to Dhahran. She even shares the latest news on oil production!
The following excerpts are from late March to early June 1946.
Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia March 25, 1946 Dear Folks:
Mildred Webster, circa 1946
We’ve been here for 10 days and it seems like we’ve always been here…honestly, you can’t keep track of days or time. We haven’t had a letter from you yet. Surely hope nothing is wrong. I’m so anxious…I do hope you had a company cable that we arrived O.K. – but that darned S.F. (San Francisco) office is the worst ever! I’m very anxious to have a letter from you – and please let me know if you’d rather I wrote a personal letter to each of you not so often or continue this ‘family’ idea of passing them along…
We are all fine and like it here…It is such a quiet, lazy peaceful life and I think being on the water is very relaxing… It’s hard to get any conception of the great distance. It doesn’t seem possible so many thousand miles are between us! It would seem much like any other refinery on a desert. We’ve settled down into a routine – lazy, but there’s nothing much to be done when you eat all meals out. I rinse out a little underwear now and then, and press a thing or two, make the beds and sweep the matting over once in a while.
The weather is perfect. Beautiful clear sunshine every day, so far. Just comfortably cool. I wear my sweater or jacket to breakfast, leave it off at lunch, and wear it again at dinner – slacks and my flannel dresses are very comfortable and then right after lunch I take a sunbath with just a bathing suit. It’s much too cool for the water yet, except to wade, but we go for long walks barefoot on the beach and look for “cat’s eyes” and shells. The sun is wicked and both girls got a real sunburn on their legs and faces very quickly. So, we are taking it gradually now!
Monday morning, Daisy Cooper called Ken and asked us over for the day (we have no phone yet), so the taxi came at 10:45. Women can’t drive but there are two sedans available with Indian drivers at all times and it is gratis. So, we had a lovely time visiting at the Terminal seven miles away. The girls and Nan Cooper enjoyed being together so much. Ken came for us at 5 – a nice break in the routine.
Last night we went to Cramptons’ for dinner. They are an awfully nice young couple. He has been here for years. She’s from Boston and came out last summer by boat. Tonight Gladys and Bob Underwood are coming to play bridge. The 18th started the liquor – rationed, of course – each person is allowed 7 bottles per month – and you can take it in wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth and gin. So far, there’s been little trouble – all cars are locked in the parking lot after dinner and that helps. There was one accident, but both men are out of the hospital now.
There are 6 family apartments in this building but I’m the only wife in it yet. They are expecting more soon. Our apartment is very comfortable and attractive – we will collect a few more things as we go along. My teakwood chest is perfectly beautiful – and I love it. We acquired a radio yesterday but (it) hasn’t been hooked up. No one hurries with anything! I’ve read two books: “January Thaw” and “The Peacock Sheds Its Tail.” The library is better equipped than most back home – several thousand books and well organized. The meals are exceptionally good. We had grand rare steaks Tues. night – thick club steaks right off the boat! Right now, fresh eggs have run out, but they have native ones. We still have the lamb – he’s a nuisance, but affords the girls a lot of pleasure. They are out in the shade playing with him now. (Editor’s note: The homesick men of the Ras Tanura camp presented the Webster girls, Judy and Sue, with a beautiful black lamb as a welcome gift upon their arrival 10 days before.)
One of the mess hall boys went to his village for 4 days and brought back sandals for the girls as a gift. Ken said they cost him several days’ pay. But they love doing it, so you accept! I have a pair, too, but I’m not used to wearing them yet. The girls are getting a tremendous amount of attention from everyone and once we are in our houses, I’ll have to start all over again, they’ll be so SPOILED! Today the schoolmaster from Dhahran...Mr. Whipple…came about 2 o’clock and we have decided to let Judy continue with her workbooks plus some material he will bring her next week.
We are planning a trip to Bahrein but couldn’t get my passport cleared in time to go this week. There’s a fast launch from Dhahran and we’d probably only stay the day. We have friends there but don’t know if they have room for 4 extra and there’s no other place to stay.
Ras Tanura Undated
Dear Folks: Yesterday, being Friday and the Sabbath over here, we slept late. Had breakfast at 10 and then went for a ride in Ken’s command car – a two-seated jeep affair – went over to the docks where they were unloading the Marguerite Le Hand. Couldn’t go aboard but watched a while. Saw two schools of porpoises playing in the water – then we went by Coopers’ as Capt. Simmons had given them a pork loin for us and Daisy cooked it for us. We brought it home hot and had sandwiches at home for a change. Charles Johnson came over, too. We brought Nan Cooper back with us so went down on the beach for a while with them. Daisy and Bill came about 5 o’clock – also several others so we had a few cocktails before going to dinner, then we took the kids to the movies. Bob King, the Manager here, was with Coopers and as he fired his “boy” he arranged for Daisy to cook a ham for tonight – so Gladys Underwood and I are going over this afternoon we will all fix the dinner together. I’m to make apple pies. It’s a jolly bunch and we have fun together.
We have four women here now, plus the nurses. The weather is still perfect – suppose we will have a shamaal one of these days and the sand will blow! Eating won’t be cheap here by any means. It costs us 24 roupees a day to eat in the dining room – approximately $7.50 – and most say their grocery bills run from $120.00 to $190.00 per month, depending on your entertaining, I guess. Three of these guys can go through a case of beer in nothing flat!
LATER….. We went to the “Rec” Hall and wonders of wonders! Two letters! That really was a wonderful surprise! Thanks, Alice! (Editor’s note: Ken Webster’s sister, Alice Jenner, wrote them.) I read them aloud to the girls… (They) are outside all the time in just shorts and polo shirts – barefoot mostly. Still, they wore their snowsuits to the movies! Looks so funny to see everyone arrive with a blanket around them, Indian fashion – it gets very chilly sitting outside (to watch the movies) – but the stars are beautiful! Bye now. Love to all of you and best regards to all of our friends. At the price, I hate to ask that you all write real often – but I can see where “mail from home” is quite an item – so do as you see best.
Ras Tanura April 5, 1946
Dear Folks: Friday again and letter day for me. I just came to the office. Ken is at the beach with the kids and will call for me again in a little while. It is pretty warm today, but not hot. We just had a lot of fun – had breakfast about 10 then Ken got one of the little open jeeps and we took a ride out to the houses – our weekly jaunt – then we went right on the beach with one wheel in the water most of the time and rode about 7 miles up the beach. It is certainly the most beautiful one in the world, I do believe. The kids thought that was great sport – and so did I – then we wandered around and had lunch at 2. Took the jeep again and drove out to the golf course. It is quite a sight, but sort of pretty, too, with the cactus and some sort of palm – not date palms – growing all around. Drove on to a natural spring but there were two natives bathing in it, so we didn’t stop.
We were initiated into a shamaal first of the week – not anything like the one in Cairo, though. The sand here is very white and clean and even though it does blow and the wind does, too, it isn’t so terribly bad. This one wasn’t bad, anyway. The houses and apartments are built well enough that it doesn’t come in much. We had to go to a social (in Dhahran) right in the middle of it. (60 women down there.) The Dhahran Women’s Club had a tea for all the new people up here and none of us wanted to go, but felt we should. None of the nurses or stenos went but five of us braved the shamaal and went down. Drove down with a man who had to go to a meeting and had to stop three times to let the car cool off – then we stopped at the water well and refilled. No one knows how old this well is or the irrigation system there – but it is halfway and there is always water in the crude round stone walls. You see the old abandoned wells along the way as you drive – and where the sand has blown away it leaves this column of round stone way up in the air – some 8 feet or more. They are built flush with the ground originally. (Anyhow), the party was quite nice and we all put on hose and even wore a HAT – but I am sure glad we live up here instead of there. (Dhahran) is pretty because it is older and has vegetation all around – lawns with flowers, etc. A lot of them (the women in Dhahran) are sort of stuffy – really, way out here in such a place! They are very social conscious and spend their time sipping tea and visiting back and forth. But most … are very nice. Gladys Stapleton is swell and has been lovely to us – and the other top two, McPherson and Oligher, are equally as nice. The Stapletons have a very nice house and three boys – cook, cleaner and driver – for the two of them – but they do a lot of entertaining of visitors.
A plane came in Tuesday, but no women. We have had word that a lot of them left the 29th by boat and they are due into Alexandria the 12th – and will come down here by plane. Will be nice to have some more children – and the wives, too, of course. These men are so family hungry it is pathetic. One came the other day and brought his Christmas box, which had just arrived, full of candy, and gave it to the girls. Then another arrived with a pile of funny papers. (Judy and Susan) get an awful lot of attention from everyone, but they seem to be bearing up under it pretty well. Will have to sit on them I guess when we get moved, but won’t worry about it now – won’t worry about anything – period! I am getting just like all the rest – never hurry about anything – no homy homy – no one does.
King Ibn Saud is coming sometime in May for the big celebration of the refinery, so great plans are afoot. And I understand a fortune has been set aside to entertain them. Will be quite a spectacle and worth seeing. (Editor’s note: the visit was postponed until possibly the following year.)
A merchant came up one day with some very pretty things to sell – some Arabian and some Indian – but they were awfully high and still not too well made. He had nice pearls, but…none as pretty as mine. (Editor’s note: Another merchant, a friend of her husband’s, presented Mildred with a necklace made of Persian Gulf pearls soon after her arrival.) Mine aren’t too big, but they are perfectly matched and are what they call Rosy Tint – a lovely creamy, rosy shade. I am very pleased with them. Everyone still says not to buy anything now, as the prices are definitely coming down. We will probably get some rugs, but they are Arabian ones – not Persian – for the house and hope to get some read good ones before we leave for good. The (Ned) Scardinos got one 9X12, but that is too big, I think. They also have two beautiful smaller ones. I would have to have someone with me, for I do not know anything about them.
Daisy Cooper had a wonderful trip last week and we kept Nan for two nights for them. They went on a plane trip with geologists and Company officials about 4,000 miles down the country and saw so many wonderful things. I would like to do that. Mr. Whipple came up yesterday and worked an hour with Judy on her schoolwork. He gave her tests to see just what she can do and says she is a very bright and informed little girl. Also, her work is advanced and he doesn’t see any reason why she can’t do 4th grade work next year – in a school like this where they will get so much individual attention.
We are all fine – and all very brown! Susan looks like an Indian already and Judy has a goodly supply of freckles across her face. They are out practically all the time. It hasn’t been warm enough to go in the water very much, but we do spend several hours on the beach every day it isn’t too windy. They think we may get into the house in May, but Ken doubts it. There isn’t any furniture as yet, but we might move our things from the apartments, and use them for a while. It is going to be very nice up there, and the beach is even nicer there.
Ras Tanura April 16, 1946
Ken Webster, with his younger daughter,
Susan, circa 1946. Photo courtesy Susan
Dear Folks: We’ve been here over a month now, and it surely doesn’t seem possible! I feel as settled as if I’d been here for ages, and still everything is different, certainly not (an) organized daily routine like America. We now have 5 wives and 3 children. A boat is in Cairo with several women and children and the Company plane is up there being overhauled. When finished, will bring them all down. It’s an Army plane with bucket seats. We will soon have a real settlement.
The four of us have been playing bridge some. One has never played so we are working on that. Played here Saturday and Sunday, the children and I drove to Dhahran with Ken for the day, in a command car. Some ride! Sure makes you drop your uppers, if any! Judy went to school with Alice and Mike Fullmer. Susan stayed at Fullmers and played with the little (Fullmer boy) and Dick Squires from next door. We all came together and seem like bosom pals. I like “Zoups” Fullmer very much, and we had a lovely day. First I’ve spent down there.
We went to the club and shopped at the canteen and commissary. Dropped by to see “Kiddo” Hogg – another traveling companion – and Ken and Elmo Fullmer came for lunch. Susan went to school with the kids for an hour, and Zoups had some women in for tea. We stayed for dinner, too, and drove home by moonlight across the desert. Went down a different way, by Sufwa Garden – a date grove – quite extensive and a most surprising village of about 1,500, with buildings, some ten stories high. It is pretty and very interesting. The Portuguese once held all this territory and there is still an old fort at Dammam and on Bahrain. The influence is seen in these larger villages, the old stone gates standing alone. Must have been walls around the date gardens at one time. They have just passed a new law that white women can visit the villages.
We passed two camel caravans going down, about 25 in each, and coming back we saw one of almost 35 away off on the horizon. Also saw a red fox along the road. Yesterday, Mr. and Mrs. Stirton were up from Dhahran. He is Chief Engineer of Aramco, and has been here for 3 weeks, goes back to America in a couple more. She is sweet as can be. She wanted to go for “cat’s eyes”, so Ken drove her, Gladys, the children and me away up the beach, miles up, and we had fun for almost two hours trying to find some. They are snail-like shells, and inside there is a little trap door business on the end of the animal. He closes up the opening of the shell with it, and it is round and hard, a real stone – dark green, and somewhat like a mass agate. We only found two that were big enough to use. She is going to have earrings made of them. You get them at low tide and find them clinging to the rocks.
We were starved and ate everything in sight in the mess hall. I must have gained 5 pounds counting a possible two I lost en route. The girls look much better than ever in their lives. Susan is a beautiful tan with good color in her cheeks and Judy is tan, too, but has quite a few freckles on her face. She has gained four pounds, Susan only one, but you know what a squirmer she is! Her hair curls here but tangles so. Yesterday, I cut it off real short, shaped it a bit in the back, and washed it. She really looks darling with it that way, for it curls up so pretty, and frames her little face. Our lambie got tangled in his rope the day we were away, and was out cold when the neighbors found him. He is fine now. We plan to give him away soon.
We went to the movies last night – “Winged Victory” – not new, I guess, but we enjoyed it very much. It’s been a bit warm the last few days, still cool morning and nights. They turn on AC in May. We are in summer clothes – the few we have with us. No word as to whether our stuff (belongings from the States) has left or not, but probably won’t get here until the last of May or June. I guess Easter will be just another day. I haven’t anything for (the girls). There is no church, nor at Dhahran. There will be services in the Mission on Bahrain, but we won’t go, I’m sure. Love to all from us all, Mimi
P.S. We get large Kleenex for 60 cents. Candy bars – Planters mixed nuts 4 ½ oz for 50 cents. Groceries not too much off, paper napkins, clothespins, etc. Getting more stuff all the time. Butter in 5-pound cans!
Ras Tanura April 22, 1946
Dear Folks: Easter came to Arabia after all! I was sorry not to send cable greetings, but they are so lax in the S.F. office I just imagined that you would not get them for days after – if at all! But we were thinking of you.
Thursday, several ladies from Dhahran were up and Daisy (Cooper) came over so we all got together for a nice visit. Friday we had a grand day – it was perfect weather and the water was smooth. We had a late breakfast and then drove up to the houses – had the whole beach to ourselves up there. So we went for a dip and lay in the sun for a long time.
Our house is all ready for painting inside and I’ve picked my colors. You should see the cupboards – all over the place! It’s going to be very nice. We didn’t want to dress again, so Ken went to the “Rec” Hall and got hamburgers and milkshakes. It was low tide at 2:15 so off we were again, about 12 miles up the beach, driving right on the beach to a good rocky spot where we looked for “cats’ eyes” and just enjoyed the water. We found 22 good ones – two almost pure white. Dressed and had dinner and then went to the show.
Saturday, Mrs. Snyder in Dhahran had an Easter egg hunt for all the kids and we were invited – so drove down in the early afternoon. It was at the swimming pool (canopy over all), surrounded by grass and shrubs and a few trees. The children had a wonderful time – with refreshments afterwards. We brought Nan Cooper home with us and that night we colored our eggs. Yesterday (Easter Sunday), we took some – and some flowers – up to the hospital to “Whisper,” one of the nurses who fell from a jeep and has been in a sling with weights, etc., for weeks. She spread the vertebrae in the lower spine. She’s a darling and crazy about the children. Then we had our own Easter egg hunt with the four little girls here. Ken and I celebrated by opening the box of Whitman’s Samplers that Captain Hubbard gave me. (Editor’s note: Captain Hubbard piloted the company plane, The Sphinx, that carried Mildred Webster and her daughters to Arabia in March 1946.)
There’s a plane due this afternoon with 7 wives and several children for here. 7 children, I think. It was supposed to come in yesterday and all the men rushed down to get their families, then got a wire it would be today! Poor guys, they all seem to have the same break. Ken was down four times before we actually got here.
The AC was turned on yesterday – we really don’t need it yet at all, but the mess hall and hospital did. It’s very cool and nice – stays at about 70, depending on where the sun is. We are eating breakfast at home today. I’ve had mine and washed my hair. The kids are up now, so will make their cocoa with canned milk, give them cereal with “Avaset”, a prepared cream and apricot nectar, bread and butter.
April 23, 1946
…stopped by Dr. Flood’s on our way home. His wife and two-year-old son arrived on the plane with all the others and the nurses had a party for them at the Floods’ apartment. Bill Flood had never seen his baby. “Dotty,” his wife, is as cute as a button. I’ll see all the others today – the more the merrier! We now have 9 children and 12 wives – 5 stenos and 12 nurses – plus 3 wives and one child 7 miles away at the Terminal. Quite a gathering. We were so happy to have the letters last night…and thanks for the pictures. Ken left early for Dhahran. Will be back for dinner. It is such a grinding trip and he goes often, but it won’t be much longer now that he will have to go. He and two others are making a survey of every department and every man. Then he’ll return to his own job – Superintendent of Construction and Maintenance.
April 27, 1946
Dear Folks: Goodness, what a grand surprise to have your letter and the pictures! We did all right this last week – 5 letters – and believe me, it sure is swell to get them! We are all fine. Ken has gained 5 lbs. since I got here, making him 156 ½. The girls and I have all gained a few pounds. We all eat a lot and spend hours on the beach in the sun, so surely should derive some benefits!
Wednesday night, Bob King, the Manager here and Coopers, Assistant Manager, had a picnic for everyone at the Terminal on the lawn at Coopers and Kings. They live in a two-family duplex. It was lots of fun. The house is right on the beach and the moon was out. Everyone had a grand time. All our social activities came at once, though, for Thursday afternoon the Co. had a cocktail party for all the women at the nurses’ home, on the patio – and after dinner all who wanted to went back and danced. Mayfields (from Amarillo) kept the girls all nite so we went back and really had fun. They had colored lights and it is also right on the beach, so you can hear the water. It really is a beautiful beach, gentle slope all the way and the colors in the water with the fine, white sand make a lovely picture. We get waves and breakers and there’s a 9-ft. tide – but the waves are never big ones – I mean Atlantic proportions.
We spent most of the day on the beach yesterday – being Friday – and went to the show last night. The girls are still asleep – 9:45 – and I just fixed coffee on the hot plate in desperation! I’ve been up since 8. I was counting cupboards in the kitchen of our house yesterday and in it and the butler’s pantry there are 13 drawers and 17 units of cupboards and two closets! There are 7 other closets – one a huge trunk one – and a big cupboard in the bathroom. We have “Chase” brass fixtures. They really are lovely houses.
We went shopping in the “suk” or Bazaar, in Nejma, the Arab camp. Ahmin Kayat is the one who gave me the pearls – and in his place we bought two rugs – one a 6X9 Turkish and a real beauty, we think – all handmade, and also a 4X6 Arabian rung – handmade much cruder and coarse but pretty. I’m so thrilled with them. They aren’t cheap by any means and all say will be cheaper later. But we want some others, too. Ken also bought me a darling pair of Arab women’s sandals – red leather – inlaid with all colors of leather and little tassels all along the soles – also a “gutrah” – it’s a fine white cotton scarf the men wear on their heads. It’s hand embroidered and crudely done, but I like it for that reason. The Mim Sahibs wear them as head scarves. Wasn’t that all a lovely anniversary present? I don’t care for the Persian rugs much – the colors are so bright and harsh – at least all he had now were – brilliant blues and Turkish red – this rug we bought is red and blue and white and gold, etc., but all subdued – sort of faded and old looking.
Dhahran May 20, 1946
Dear Folks: Well, I have news. We moved to Dhahran yesterday and will be here 6 weeks or more! Elmo Fullmer, the Manager of General Services, left for America today and they asked Ken to take his place while gone. It’s quite a big job – he has charge of a great many things and Ken was very flattered and delighted. We have a darling house. The people are on home leave, and it is one of the very nicest in town. Living room-dining room (L-shaped). Butler’s pantry – large kitchen – service porch – two lovely bedrooms and a large bath with separate shower stall – a screened porch on 3 sides – and a yard – two large trees and surrounded by shrubs, etc. The house is practically covered by a Jasmine vine, there are several kinds of flowers and vines – and grass – small plots, but GRASS nevertheless! We have known a week that we are coming. Elmo was in charge of the New York office when Ken was there and she (Mrs. Fullmer) came over with me. I also have my first “boy” – he started today and I brought him down from Ras Tanura – he was in the mess hall there. He’s a Christian Indian from Bombay – Rosario D’Souza – and worked 7 years as cook and bearer to Judge Sullivan there. He knows some English cooking. This is his first day, but he looks as though he will be good. He gets 85 roupees (approximately $30) a month for 9 hrs. a day. I supply his food and uniforms – they figure close to $50 a month, considering vacation, etc. I’m liable for sick leave and if I fire him, I have to buy his deck passage to Bombay – about $45. He will cook, clean, rinse out children’s clothes and iron them. Of course, I’ll do most of the cooking – at least until I know what he can do. Also, he speaks and reads quite a bit of English, which helps. Seems funny to be cooking again – but nice, especially since D’Souza will do all the cleaning up and some of the preparing, too. I may have to start calling him Rosario, because every time I speak to Susan, he thinks I’m talking to him!
Judy is delighted to be able to go to school every day. And they go to the swimming pool every afternoon after school. I must get Susan up from her nap so she can go, too. Ken gets to the office at 7:30. We fell heir to Elmo’s nice business coupe, too.
NEXT MORNING: Zoups Fullmer had a tea for me yesterday afternoon, so I couldn’t finish this. When I got home, I planned to fry chicken for dinner, the first since I came – but D’Souza said, “I fix.” So I showed him how and he fixed and served the whole dinner. So – that takes care of that! He says he can make cookies and cake. They are extremely proud and really take over. Most don’t want you to interfere at all.
It is 8 a.m. Got Ken off and must get the girls up now and ready for school – Susan is going today, too. The Arabic teacher is giving Judy a few extra minutes each day to catch her up with the rest of the class. Nan Cooper (Daisy and Bill’s daughter) passed the adult test for writing, reading and speaking Arabic – after 6 months – pretty good, as there were only a few adults who did!
I was next door, yesterday, at Dr. Alexander’s, for a few minutes and they have some lovely Arabic things. He has just returned from Riyadh, the King’s palace, and the #1 Queen sent Mary (his wife) one of her dresses – a dress of purple silk completely covered with gold embroidery and a scarlet over robe, covered with gold embroidery. Both perfectly beautiful.
Dhahran June 2, 1946
I’ve sort of lost track of the time, but I’m sure it is time to write again. We’ve had a busy week here – there always seems to be something going on! Ken has been too busy to do anything much but work. He goes back (to Ras Tanura) every evening. It is all new to him and is a very big job, so he is trying to keep up. I am sure he can handle it and will do fine. He just had word he received a very substantial raise – all such gladly received. I don’t know whether this borrowing him temporarily will work into something else or not and whether we will be kept down here. I really like it better in Ras Tanura, but wouldn’t mind living here.
Judy loves the school, but they will have one up there (in Ras Tanura) by September. She just had a report card – all A’s, except B in Physical Education. She says it’s too hot to play games outside. They have a wonderful young man for a teacher (Mr. Whipple) and he’s so enthusiastic and works hard.
Wednesday morning I went to the choral group – imagine me singing – but it’s lots of fun there are enough so that you can’t hear me! One of the women used to teach singing in high school, so she directs. Friday I had “Zoups” Fullmer and her three children down to dinner – it’s her husband whose place Ken is taking . Yesterday, we went to a cocktail party at 5:30. Then rushed home to dress for a formal dinner at 7. I am glad I brought one dinner dress with me. It was next door at Dr. and Mrs. Alexanders’ and there were two other couples – Gladys and Vic Stapleton – he is third man down in Arabia – and the McPersons – he is first man. It turned into quite a party with this and that – mostly that –we didn’t eat until 10 o’clock. We had a grand time. Mary Alexander is a flamboyant redhead from Oklahoma and he is a tremendous fellow with pale read hair from Texas. He is an ex-Army doctor and head of all the medical departments here. They have a long-legged 11-year-old daughter, red-headed, named “Pinky.” Quite a family. We didn’t get home until late.
D’Souza stayed with the children for the first time. He was asleep on the matting on the kitchen floor – with the footstool in the doorway so no one could come in without waking him! We feel so fortunate in getting him. Alexanders have two Sudanese – so does Zoups – a cook and a butler – but I don’t feel that we rate or need two servants, especially as D’Souza is willing to do everything, even clean the “hammam” (bathroom). We like D’Souza and he speaks English. His cooking is very good. He cleans well and is cheerful and willing.
We had a very interesting and grueling trip Wednesday night. We drove 40 miles across the desert to Abqaiq (pronounced Ab-cake) in 120 degrees for the opening of the new mess hall there. That is where some of the drilling is being done and they have the new AC mess hall and 4 new AC bunkhouses so they threw a cocktail party and cold buffet supper. I thought I’d die before we got there. Left here at 5 o’clock and I never was so hot. But the trip home at 10 was cool and nice. They figure three wells a year with each string of tools – each well costs approximately $260,000 and four wells there produce 70,000 barrels per day! They find oil at about 6,000 feet and the place is just barely tapped. There are 9 wells at Abqaiq. The refinery at Ras Tanura is producing 90,000 barrels per day and some days there are as many as 14 tankers in.
We had a very gruesome event – a “Judicial Amputation.” Five Arab men broke into the house back of us and stole some very valuable rugs – one a gift from the King and also a gold award from the King. Three (of the thieves) were just fined, but one had a hand chopped off and one a hand and a foot. The Arabs had a big ceremony at the Mosque and the chopping is done out in front – only they sort of saw it off. They did let a nurse apply a tourniquet and brought them into the hospital here (in Dhahran) where Dr. Phelps, the surgeon, fixed them up. (They used to plunge the arm into boiling oil and the men would die from gangrene.) This is the first that has happened here for over two years, but they were all old offenders. The Americans had nothing to do with it. It is an old Arab law.
Next day… June 3, 1946
Since a friend is leaving by plane in a few days and offered to take this out, I’ll add a few lines. The Shamaal is over and it has cooled off – high last week was 116 but somehow it doesn’t bother me much. With the AC we are so comfortable inside – I don’t wander around outside much. It’s cool in the water at the pool. But even so, it doesn’t seem that hot. I guess it is Aug. and Sept. when the humidity is so high and it really is hot – I’ll just hibernate with some good books! I’ll be so happy when our things come and we can really get settled. I still feel like I’m visiting and we are short of summer clothes – but we manage. ‘Bye now. Wish I could chatter on and on, but think I’ve covered everything up to date. There’s a “Dance Under the Stars” scheduled for tonight, but doubt very much that we will go. Best love to all and hope all is well. Mildred, Ken and Girls P.S.
Some of the things grown here: Oleanders – large bushes Bird of Paradise (tree) Date Palms Fig Trees Acacia (several kids of trees) Tamarix trees Bitter Almond tree Milk Tree – Big elephant like ears – grotesque trunks Camel bush Hibiscus – Spider lily – Milkweed or dill – Cosmos, Petunias, Zinnias, etc. False Jasmine vines – Bougainvillea. Several others I haven’t found the names for. A lot from India. The company gardeners water all the time, but things flourish.