“Dear Folks”: The Webster Letters from Arabia 1944-1959

CHAPTER 5:  NEW HOUSE; HOME LEAVE; KEN WEBSTER’S BROTHER TAKES A JOB WITH ARAMCO; CHRISTMAS CHEER IN ARABIA

Mildred Webster continues to be a faithful correspondent as she settles into the new house in Dhahran, works on committees and keeps up with the increasing “social whirl” that is expected of the wife of an up-and-coming Aramco executive.  These excerpts of her letters cover April 1947 to the first week of January 1948.  Several months of letters are missing from this time period, due mostly to lost mail between Arabia and the United States. Still, despite the gaps, Mildred paints a vivid picture of life in Dhahran – very typical of other families living there in 1947.  Also included are accounts of fast launch trips to Bahrain, shopping for treasures in the suks, and other accounts daily Aramco family life.

To top off the year, the Dhahran schoolchildren stage a beautiful Christmas pageant with live animals – which eventually becomes known as “The Nativity.”  According to the mimeographed program from the 1947 event (recently given to me by Patricia Dale Watkins), Mary is played by Nan Cooper and Joseph by James Sullivan – assisted ably by many other students in various roles, including my mother, Susan Webster, and her friend Gracie MacPherson, who portray angels – and my aunt, Judy Webster, who sings a solo with the choir.  Piano accompaniment is by James Bopst, music is directed by Mrs. Leslie Biggins and “general assistance” is attributed to Mr. Leslie Biggins.

Mildred
Mildred Webster in the yard of the Dhahran house, circa late 1940s
Photo courtesy Judy Webster Bauer

Excerpt from Time magazine, Monday, March 3, 1947 (online archives):

The development rights to the world's greatest unexploited oil pool, under the sands of Saudi Arabia, belong to Arabian-American Oil Co. In the first major step towards marketing these vast resources (estimated potential: up to 26 billion bbls.), Aramco last week awarded contracts for the biggest and costliest pipeline in oil history. Straddling the Middle East for a distance of some 1,000 miles, the 30-inch pipe will shortcut the long haul by tanker from fields on the Persian Gulf to ports in the Mediterranean. It will cost some $100,000,000, will deliver up to 370,000 bbls. of crude oil a day…

The route of the line and its Mediterranean terminus have not yet been determined. The biggest snag in exact planning is troubled Palestine, where Jewish terrorists last week blew up the Iraq Petroleum Co.'s pipeline in two places (see FOREIGN NEWS). But Aramco, owned by the Texas Co. and Standard Oil Co. of California, is so confident of solving—or skirting—such difficulties that it is going ahead full speed. It sent one U.S. expert to Arabia last month to set up the job, will soon send technicians to make final surveys. . .

Dhahran
April 30, 1947

Dear Folks:

I guess you have not been getting our letters . . . but it all seems to be back on an even keel now, for the mail is coming in fine.  I got a letter from Houston, Texas the other day in 6 days – just made the plane right, I guess.

We are all settled again and have been assured we are not to move again.  So we have our fingers crossed.  That makes four moves in 13 months – and that is enough in any family.

I did have some help this time, though – a Sahib and four Italians to do the actual moving.  D’Souza and I packed it all, though.  They stayed right with it that day and we unpacked everything – dishes, etc., put up the curtains and down the rugs and that helped, for Ken was too busy to take off more than the one day.

The house is identical with the one in Ras Tanura, so we really just put things in the same places.  We had no more than gotten in than we had the worst shamaal since we had been here.  This is the season, I guess, for we have been having them every day or so – and one today, too.  That other one, though, lasted for three days and was a dilly.  Pretty much like the Oklahoma dust storms.

I get hay fever from something that blows in on the wind.  But I believe I have hit upon something that helps.  A friend gave me some Benedryl capsules and I asked the doctor here about them.  He said they were comparatively new and they didn’t know if they really helped or not.  They do for some (and he said it was okay if I tried some).  I took one night before last (they have a tendency to make you drowsy) because I was going to Bahrain yesterday and always get it (allergy symptoms) over there – and I had a fine day, no hay fever until last night late. . . my head and throat and all were clear as a bell. . . I don’t get it (hay fever) too badly out here, just now and then.  But something isn’t for me here.  We think it is oleanders – they don’t have any serum of it to give tests.

We have been having a very social month.  Marion and Lucinda Martin got in on the new Aramco plane – a lovely DC-4 all fixed up inside with sleeping compartments and a bar, etc.  Very, very snazzy.  The crew is grand and two of the cutest hostesses you ever saw.  They got here on its maiden flight just two days before Easter and Lucinda brought about 20 huge florist boxes of Easter flowers for all top management – to us, too, as old friends.  My box had 4 calla lilies – two dozen white, yellow and purple iris – 5 white and coral glads – and two dozen white carnations.  They were beautiful.  Then they bought all the Easter eggs in Cairo for all the children.  Wasn’t that a lovely thought?  The flowers were from Cairo, too.  She brought from New York all the latest magazines and boxes of Roquefort and cheddar cheese – to friends – we got some.  He was superintendent in Lockport for two of the years we were there (and) we were very fond of them.  He is (now) one of the Vice Presidents.

Of course, there were parties and parties – both here and in Ras Tanura.  We were in the throes of moving most of the time they were here, but we made all the parties.  Then three couples from Ras Tanura were going on Home Leave and we were leaving (for Dhahran), so there were all those parties for us, too.  Happy Day!  It was a pleasure to get moved and to bed for a change.  Of course, it is all lots of fun, but guess I am getting too old to stay out every night and not get my sleep.

We have been to several parties and a lovely formal dance since we got here.  The Women’s Club dance just for members – and it really was a lovely dance.  Usually the dances are surrounded by so many stags and quite a few drunks that it is sort of a rat race!  I love to dance anyplace, anytime, just the same.

Our house here is one of the new ones in a new section, so we have no yard or flowers or such yet.  They hauled in soil all last week and it is spread.  And today they are continuing the back wall across the block – of stone.  Each yard is enclosed in a wall, which makes it attractive.  But they have to get to it yet.  Then we won’t be able to do any planting till about September or October – TOO HOT from now on to try and start anything.

Everyone advises planting alfalfa all over the yard to hold the soil down and enrich the soil till then.  So we probably will.  They have lovely yards and gardens here.  We will have a patio, too, at the side off the screened in porch.  It should all be very nice about a year from now.  October is the transplanting and planting month and we can get cuttings from all over town.  You just hire a gardener by contract and he does most of it.  By then, the walks and walls will all be in and we will have some sort of an idea what we want to do.

Fast Launch
View of the fast launch that shuttled Aramcons
from Ras Tanura to Bahrain
Photo courtesy Ken Slavin, from the Webster family papers

We had quite a trip to Bahrain yesterday.  Zoups, her son Mike, Susan and I.  Judy had a trip over last week with the Brownies and Scouts, so I promised Susan a trip.  There was a shamaal the day before and it was a very rough crossing – but not half as rough as coming back.  We went on the fast launch, which will hold 8, and because it was warmish, we didn’t want to sit inside the cabin, so consequently, with all the roughness, we were soaked to the skin.  When we got in, they said they hadn’t even expected us to get back – that they hadn’t thought they would send the launch out in such rough weather – but we made it fine, except for getting wet and one woman got sick.

I didn’t get anything very startling this time – more of the practical things.  Pearl buttons – they make them in any design – sandals for the girls – toppees for us all (sun helmets) – a couple of ivory figures for the girls – they have a collection now.  Some lovely square scarves from India to take home to all of you, paper napkins, oatmeal, etc.  Stuff we are out of over here.

It is getting too hot to go over now until Fall.  Is much hotter and more humid over there than here.  It takes an hour and about 20 minutes to go over on the fast launch, but you have to go when some of the men are going for business to go on it.  The slow regular launch takes 2 ½ hours – and that is too long for me.  The suks close at 12:30 and if you don’t get there early, you haven’t enough time to shop to pay for your trip…We go to Aramco House and leave our stuff and they take us, if necessary, then we can get dozens of little boys to guide us.  It helps, for even though I know where all the places are now, I can’t speak enough Arabic to do any bargaining.  Things are still very high and I don’t think the days of cheap things will ever come back.  The soldiers and sailors ruined that.  They bought anything at any price and the natives are smart, you know…they are the best when it comes to bargaining.  No one EVER gets the best of them.

Tomorrow is our 10th wedding anniversary.  The years sure fly. We will have some people in for dinner.  Friday we are going to the first real wedding ever performed out here.  Several have been married on Bahrain and one couple on a boat.  But this is to be a real one with white satin and all.  A darling young couple both finishing their contracts this month.  Her mother sent out all the things for the wedding and it will be at the Club House with a minister from Bahrain officiating.  They had to get a special permit from the King.  Then Doug and Marge (Editor’s note:  my grandmother didn’t write their last names.) will go out on the plane that afternoon and have their trip home as a honeymoon.  They will be back to live here.  Everyone is very fond of them.

School starts again Saturday morning.  These last three weeks of vacation have flown by.  Now they (the kids) will go until the first of August when they get that month off.

The girls enjoy the pool so much here and have swimming instructions twice a week during vacation.  Probably will have it in the afternoons after school the rest of the time.  Judy is a lovely swimmer – she does a perfect crawl and dives very well.  Susan is progressing, too, and I hope this summer to see her really swim.  She puts her head under the water, gets her feet up and dog paddles half across the pool, but of course, has to come up to breathe, so can’t get far.  She has grown so much – they both have.

It was Judy in Life magazine – and the little girl by her in the same kind of hat was Alice Fullmer.  Susan was in the hospital with a strep throat, so missed all the affair.  I guess none of you got the long letter I so laboriously wrote all about the King’s visit, describing all of it in detail – how we met him and all – I have a picture of Judy shaking hands with him.

The girls’ picture was in Time, too, several issues back – the same one of them with the camels.  (Editor’s note: It headed the article about Arabia.

Gram and Dick went up to a church in Darien (Connecticut) to see the movies Mr. Ritchie (the company photographer who took all these pictures) showed of his trip out here. (Editor’s note:  Gram was Ken Webster’s mother and Dick is his nephew – sister Alice’s son.) (They saw) some of Judy and Susan – so he sent (Alice) some enlargements.  Anyhoo, the girls are doing all right:  Life, Time, Standard Oiler and Texaco Topics.

Ken is terribly busy and very short-handed.  Bill Cooper won’t be back till the end of June.  He seems to like the work, but has to work too hard and such long hours trying to get it all done.  It is a very fine promotion for him – but won’t be easy.  Keep your fingers crossed for we just might be able to come home when Bill gets back, which would mean we would be there some time in early August if we come by boat.  The accommodations by boat are very poor, however, and we might fly, even though we don’t want to.  All I have seen coming out here is the inside of a plane.

It is lunchtime and Ken will be home soon – so I had better stop.  D’Souza is slipping decidedly.  If there wasn’t the possibility of our going home before long, I would fire him.  He has never been the same since we took him back to Ras Tanura – but it is better than none.

Dhahran
June 1, 1947

The Websters
The Websters in Dhahran, late 1940s.
From left, Susan, Judy, Mildred and Ken
Photo from Ken Slavin’s personal collection

Dearest Folks:

We enjoyed having your letter so much.  I noticed you had quite a bit of postage on it.  You know…that the rate has been reduced.  I think it is 10 cents for one sheet of onion skin paper.  You had better check to make sure, but it is greatly reduced.  Ours is, too, but not so much.  We now can send three sheets for one roupee – approximately 30 cents.  The rate varies but not to any great extent.  I mean the rate on the roupee.

You are having a cold, wet spring. . . It is anything but cold here.  We are having a very unusual early summer and it is very hot – was 112 yesterday.  Today it is blowing and cooler.  A shamaal usually cools it off for a few days.  I don’t circulate enough in the real hot part of the day to mind it much.  Go early to the commissary and get back before I cook my brains.  I take salt tablets and wear a hat or sun helmet – or take the bus – so it doesn’t upset me enough to worry about.  The house is very cool and we sleep with light blankets, so that makes it better.  As long as you can get a long night’s sleep it doesn’t matter so much.

We are still hoping to get away the first of August – and all things being equal, we will.  How we will come is the question.  We want very much to make a boat trip home.  The Co. allows you 28 traveling days from this end – but not from the other, so the tripping will have to be done from here.  Transportation is so tight, though, and the accommodations aren’t very good – so we don’t know but what we will just fly home trip on the Co. plane.  Ken has them working on trying to get reservations for us, on a boat.  There are a few out of Egypt and there are so many trying to travel that it doesn’t work out very well.  Several are going up through Europe, but sort of have to hitchhike your way by plane – and that isn’t too good with children.  Since we definitely plan to come back for one more contract, we can do that trip next time when things will be better and the children older.

If we make a boat, we wouldn’t be in the States before about September or late August.  If we fly, we would be there in about five days.  I want to do as much of my shopping in New York before we start visiting as possible so those things can be shipped right out and be on their way – then we won’t have to wait for months for them.

Ken has been so busy these last two weeks, (we) have hardly seen him.  We went to a very nice dinner last Wed. night – for 16 – but got there late and left early.  Thursday night we went to the dance just for about an hour.  Ken was so pooped I didn’t have the heart to stay.

All these boys who got in on the ground floor of this were lucky . . . it was terrible work for those first 18 months and still not easy, but the boys are doing OK!  Ken couldn’t hope to have advanced this far so rapidly at home for years – both in position and salary.

The girls are fine – still growing so fast I can hardly keep up with their clothes.  They are brown and happy.  Still can’t fatten up Susan but as long as she is well, guess it is foolish to worry about her. . . Judy carrying the 4th grade work fine.  I was a little worried about her making two years this year, but it doesn’t seem to bother her.  Of course, with the classes so small it is like private tutoring.  She is very smart, anyway, and I am not boasting.  Her Arabic teacher told me yesterday she was his best student and that if he could just take her alone he would be delighted.  She just eats it all up – Amazin’.

Susan’s teacher tells me she is doing very well – holding her own and progressing very well.  Her printing is lovely.  She is months younger than any of the first graders, too. . . The teachers are very good and interested in each and every child.

They have been working on our yard all this week and have the stone wall across the back partly finished.  You should see them work!  It takes about a dozen to do any little job – and they are so slow it is funny.  They carry rocks on their heads – one at a time, sort of like a bucket brigade.  One mixes mortar and one puts it on.  It is amazing, though, how they can fit the rocks together.  This one happens to be of real rock, but most of the fences and lots of the Arab houses are made of faroosh, or sea rock.  It comes in rather large slabs and not very thick.  The yard they have made into small terraced plots with a regular irrigation system about it all.  They will plant the whole thing in alfalfa and hedges of jasmine.  Then in the fall when it is planting time, they will turn the alfalfa under.  We will have a cement patio off the side screened in porch.  You can’t use the porches so very much, but are awfully nice these few months when you can.  But it is too hot even now to sit out unless in the evening once and awhile.

We went to a surprise party last night – Dr. Alexander had it for his wife, Mary.  Lots of fun and scads of food.

We have so many planes out here now I can’t keep track of them.  Used to be when you saw one you knew right away if it was TWA, BOAC or the little Norseman or the Fairchilds.  But not now.  They have 4 Norsemen alone – Little Red Bugs we call them – they scoot back and forth to Ras Tanura, Abqaiq, Al Karj and Bahrain all the time.

Fourth of July
Fourth of July 1947 – a children’s inner tube race at the Dhahran swimming pool.
Kicking up a storm in the water, from left, are Patty Dale, Judy Webster and Alice Fullmer
Photo courtesy Patricia Dale Watkins

Editor’s note:  The letters from 1947 stop at this point and resume six months later in early December, shortly after my grandparents, Aunt Judy and my mother returned from Home Leave.  Because there are no letters in the ensuing months, there is no record of how they eventually traveled home to the U.S. or what route they took, except it is known that they came through parts of Europe – most likely by plane, not by boat as they had hoped.  They more than likely traveled on leave from August to November.  It is also known that they visited family in Connecticut, then in Oklahoma, then again in Connecticut, where they enjoyed an early Thanksgiving at Ken’s sister’s house before flying home to Arabia.

View of Dunes
View of dunes near Dhahran, late 1940s
Courtesy Patricia Dale Watkins

Dhahran
December 5, 1947

Dear Folks:

‘Tis the Sabbath – but I haven’t stopped long enough to really know it.  Ken has gone with Bill (Cooper) – been gone almost all day ‘shoofing’ the area and showing Ken all the new developments.  They were to go to Abqaiq – where the wells are – then to Ras Tanura before coming back – by plane.  Bill has his license now.

Well, to get back to the beginning – we left La Guardia field on Thanksgiving morning – at ten.  All the family went down with us to see us off.  Our trip to Gander (Newfoundland) was smooth as silk – but dreary and rainy out.  Also very cold when we got there.  We only stopped to eat and refuel, so they met us with a bus and took us to the dining hall.  The food there has not improved but we did all right.  Walked around a bit – you know there is nothing there but the terminal and barracks and the mess hall.  We sat with friends in the terminal until our plane was called – about 6 their time.  It was dark when we left and as all were tired, we went to bed early.  We were fortunate in getting a compartment again – there were four women and four children – all girls.  Two new wives and one other veteran besides me.  Susan had an upper – Judy and I the large lower.  Ken the other upper and we asked Dr. Black to use the other berth in our compartment.  We made a non-stop flight to Lisbon, arriving there about 8 in the morning their time.

There were 28 on the plane so they could not accommodate us in Lisbon and took us out to Estoril again.  The hotel out there is very nice and food excellent, but we had stayed there before and I would have liked to stay in Lisbon for a change.

The hotel was quite chilly in the rooms, so we sat in the lovely parlors and just visited with others . . . Went a few blocks over to the shore road and walked along there till we came to another little settlement called Cascias – there we took the electric train back down to the Estoril station and  . . . walked up to the Casino and through the shops.  Stopped in a nice place and bought chocolate and some grand cheeses to bring back.

Most of us met for a cocktail in the bar before dinner and then had an excellent fish and roast beef dinner.  You have to buy water to drink – bottled – the local stuff isn’t good.  Most everyone drinks wine – they serve no desserts – only a lovely array of fruit – and the coffee is lousy plus!

We took off at 9 the next morning after the 45-minute drive along the coast back into Lisbon and to the airport – very pretty.  It was rough, very rough, and so we were 6 hours getting to Rome instead of the planned four.  It cleared just before we landed and we got to see Rome from the air – but couldn’t really distinguish anything in particular.  Saw lots of ruins that looked ancient.  It started to pour just after we landed.  We were only to stop and eat and pick up a couple for here – Andy and Evelyn Anderson.  They took us into a rather nice dining room and we had a surprisingly nice meal, but the electricity went off in the midst of it so we ate by candlelight.  The crew said it made it much nicer.

There were some nice things to buy, but we couldn’t see in the dark and just as the lights came on, they called us for the plane.  Ken did get me a red leather belt – lovely angora sweaters and pretty silk scarves – and silver jewelry.  The Andersons had spent their local leave in Italy – all over it – and were very pleased about the trip.  So that is an idea for our local leave.

We made a 13-hour non-stop from Rome to Dhahran – very smooth and nice.  We all went to bed early but I couldn’t sleep – excitement, I guess.  Then, too, the change in time makes a big difference.  At four o’clock we four were all awake and hungry, so Ken got up and brought us ham sandwiches and the last of the American milk – so good!

We arrived in Dhahran at 9:30 our time – and really, when we saw all the gang at the airport waving as we came down it gave us a very good feeling.  They all seemed glad to see us and made us feel as if we had been missed.  A grand feeling – it is a very swell bunch out here.

Zoups and Elmo Fullmer brought the children and me to our house.  Ken stayed to go through customs.  Zoups had brought one of our Sudanese boys over and he had breakfast all ready and the house slicked up – flowers in the living room and everything.

We had dinner at Fullmers’ that night – and to bed early.  Monday I started in to dig out of our bedroom where we stored all our things.  What a job!  Our Mohammed left a month ago, so we have nobody, even though I have a line on one I hope to get before long.  (Editor’s note: Due to the lack of letters between June and December, it is unclear what happened to D’Souza, the first houseboy.  But given my grandmother’s comments about him in the spring of 1947, it is likely she fired him.)

I got a little Arab who works in the hospital – “Ha-bib” – to scrub my kitchen inside and out.  Wednesday night we went to a cocktail party at the club given by Daisy and Bill Cooper for the Construction Department.  Tonight we go to a formal dinner by MacPhersons.  I’ll have to get into condition again for life out here.  Now you can see why we were so content to just sit and visit and not go much while we were home!

The children have hardly been home since we arrived.  Judy got up that first morning at 6 and went on a Girl Scout hike out into the desert.  They go to school an hour each day for concentrated work to catch up before January 1st.  Also go to practice the Christmas play.  They went swimming yesterday but it is too cool for me.  You need a wrap at night and in the morning, then it warms up by noon.  Both children are picking up color already and Susan looks fine.  She is eating much better and seems full of energy.

The house looked much better than I expected.  Just the kitchen needed a real good cleaning.  The yard is coming along fine – the grass is up.  We have a new “barristie” fence across the front and down the sides.  We already had a very nice stone and brick one across the back.  My vines didn’t die.  In fact, they are thriving.  And Zoups, bless her heart, had even planted some flowers in our front flower box.

The camp is growing by leaps and bounds and so much building has been done I hardly recognize the place.  Rows and rows of new houses and all sorts of buildings – to say nothing of all the new people I don’t know.  It would be hopeless to know all of them now.

We want to go into Ras Tanura next weekend.  The gang wanted us to come up this one, but there was too much cooking here.  Besides, I haven’t the desire to pack even a pocket handkerchief again for some time.

It is really nice to be back, even though we had a grand time seeing all of you and enjoyed every minute of it.  Thanks to all of you.

The children went to Sunday School this morning – Ken left on his ‘tour’ – I cleaned and fixed dinner for us.  Now must go press something to wear tonight.  Wish our trunks were here so I would have something new to wear but I guess I just get out my old lime green dinner dress.

It doesn’t look too promising that our things will be here before Christmas.  And if they should arrive it is doubtful they would get unpacked.  Ras Tanura is full of ships now.  The Christmas boat is due the 20th – and it has priority, so will be unpacked at once.

We will be looking for letters – and thanks for everything.

Love, Mimi

Tray
One of many other trays collected by Ken and
Mildred Webster during their years in the
Middle East. Some came from suks in Khobar
or Bahrain, some from as far away as Beirut.
This one is of unknown origin, but is made of
brass with copper and silver overlay
Photo by Ken Slavin from his personal
collection of Webster family items – given to
him by his mother, Susan Webster Slavin

P.S.  The dinner last night was really lovely – buffet for 80 on the patio at the Executive Mansion with everyone so dressed up and looking very pretty.  It was also for guests from Tehran, Persia – the ambassador there – and our own ambassador, here, who had just returned from home with his wife – plus the Dale Nixes – from home, but just out on business.

Dhahran
December 21, 1947

Dear Folks:

Still no mail.  I hope they finally get all the stuff holed up in Cairo.  We haven’t had a thing but one Time magazine since we arrived.

It was grand to see Allyn and I am sure he was more than glad that the trip was over.  (Editor’s note:  My grandfather’s brother, Allyn Webster, came to work for Aramco in late 1947 – assigned to Ras Tanura. He was joined the next year by his wife, Lynn.)

They bring them through so fast on the commercial flights it isn’t funny.  He was only 31 hours coming and that included three 45-minute stopovers to refuel.  That is a grueling pace but he seemed to be in fine condition when he arrived.  Said he slept all the way since (he) couldn’t do much eating!  He is staying with us and may do so until after the holidays.

There is a lot going on.  So many Christmas functions and private parties.  Tonight is the Women’s Club party at the Patio at which they will draw the winning sweepstakes tickets.  Tomorrow night is the Children’s program.  They are giving a pageant at the Patio and from the rehearsal last night it will be lovely.  Judy is in the choir group and sings a solo.  Susan is an angel (!!) in the pageant.  They have worked so hard and those women who have helped the teachers surely have done a lot.

The next night is the AEA (Aramco Entertainment Association) program for the children.  And we are all going to Coopers for dinner before.  Christmas Eve we are having several in for our Christmas dinner.  We decided to give it then instead of on Christmas Day as there is so much going on then it would be hard to find time.

Allyn seems to like what he has seen so far.  He still doesn’t know where he will work or live.  The weather is lovely and he can sleep on the screened in porch here indefinitely.

I have my fingers crossed – I have a little boy part-time from the hospital – not the one I wrote about before – and he is a big help.  I only hope he can keep working until I can get a boy.  He comes after each meal and washes dishes and cleans for an hour or so.  We used to know him in the mess hall in Ras Tanura.

Time out to make a cake and see about the pot roast.  We had a reefer boat in and have lots of nice things to eat – including potatoes.  I’ve no idea when you will get this, but surely not before Christmas.

Blanket Chest
Mildred Webster’s Arab blanket chest, presented to her when she arrived in Saudi Arabia. Carved in the lid is the inscription, “Mildred Webster, 1946,” in English and Arabic. (The Arab year was 1365.) The chest now belongs to her older daughter, Judy Bauer
Photo by Dale Bauer

Dhahran
December 30, 1947

Dear Folks:

I am a bit behind in my letter writing, but I don’t seem to be able to get out from under it all.  This business of no houseboy and trying to go morning, noon and night is getting me down.

We really had a very nice Christmas and ended up with a beautiful tree from home.  Only a few came in on the reefer boat and they were parceled out among the brass – but (Floyd) Olighers didn’t want theirs and offered it to us.  Considering the price of chill box space and transportation, the price of them – to the Company, not us – was some $90 apiece!

It was ever so nice to have Allyn and made it seem that there was more ‘family’ for the holidays.  I think he enjoyed himself, too.  I put (out) all our own decorations – the village and stuff – and the house looks very nice.  The weather was very cold for a few days, but for our Christmas Eve dinner we were able to eat on the porch, making it very pleasant.  We had twelve, including Allyn, and had turkey with all the trimmings – plus plum pudding and brandy sauce.  We had to serve it buffet, but was fine.

The children were delighted with their gifts – especially the dolls, which they have played with constantly ever since.  They ended up with quite a lot of stuff and with the things I bought here – via the Company – they had more than plenty.  Ken and I didn’t exchange, except the vases and a red leather belt – the belt from Rome and the vases from Lisbon.  I got the boys (Allyn and Ken) a pair of Arabian sandals, but that was all that was available.

There have been scads and scads of parties and more to come.  Ken had a cold right in the middle of it all but he is much better now.

Allyn is to stay in Ras Tanura – I guess it is better that way, even though we would liked to keep him down here.  He went back . . . last Friday and we expect him back for this weekend, tomorrow – he seems to like it out here.

The children’s program was lovely and the other festivities equally so.  Everyone has broken their necks to make it a grand season.  The children thrive and are on the go constantly – I will be glad when schools starts the 3rd so I can keep up with them a little easier!

LATER…. January 5, 1948

I certainly got this letter finished in a hurry, didn’t I?

They finally released the mail in Cairo but we didn’t get anything.  One letter from Alice written the day we left – and since then, one letter from Mother.  Haven’t had any word from Tulsa since we left there in November.  Surely hope everything is okay.

Somebody or everybody get busy and write us a note.

School started Saturday and I was glad.  However, Susan has caught Ken’s cold and is home today.  No fever, but a cough and I am keeping her in bed just for protection’s sake.  There is quite an epidemic of colds now.

Susan has just had a long nap and is clamoring for a story – I also have to ice a cake.  Thought sure I had a houseboy, but he couldn’t pass the physical.

The Websters
The Websters on home leave 1947
Photo courtesy Susan Webster Slavin

One of the men here has gone on his home leave and left his record changer with us.  I have been really enjoying the records.  It is a table model Victor and pretty good.

I’d better get along and get busy.  I find I can’t do much else when I do all the work in the house. . . I have accepted a place on the Scout Council and will like that, but had to drop the French – it took too much preparation time and I was too far behind.  I was sorry, too, for I would have liked to stay in it.

I have a new tray – is brass with silver overlay work – Ken had one of the pilots bring it from Beyrouth (Beirut) for me.  It is very pretty.  Not quite as large as the copper one.

Love to all, Mimi


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