CHAPTER 6: “LITTLE AMERICA IN A BIG WAY” -- THE ARAMCO BUILDING BOOM CONTINUES; THE CROWN PRINCE PAYS A VISIT; TRAGIC LOSS OF A FRIEND AND CO-WORKER.

1948 shapes up to be another boom year for the Aramco. Mildred Webster continues to chronicle her family's lives and interesting tales from Arabia. Ken Webster even manages to augment her faithful correspondence with a letter about some of his responsibilities as manager of Aramco's construction department.

The following excerpts cover January to early April 1948, touching on such topics as the United Nations' vote to partition Palestine to create a Jewish state, specifics on daily oil production and continued company expansion, improved mail service (which was very important to American Aramco employees living so far away from home), Crown Prince Saud's visit to the camps, school days for the Webster girls, Mildred's increasing social responsibilities as the wife of a fast-rising manager, and other activities that were shared by most Aramcons living in the camps at that time.

Bedouin
Bedouin on a camel at the Ras Tanura refinery.
Aramco photo, from the editor’s personal collection

Dhahran
January 14, 1948

Dear Folks:

Still no mail from anyone.  I do hope you are getting ours – if not, I am sure you are worried – especially since returnees tell us the headlines at home tell of all the trouble at Palestine.

Well, it doesn’t touch us at all – there is not even a suspicion of any trouble here and the King even issued a statement in Time magazine that nothing concerning the problem had any bearing with his relations with Aramco.   There are no Jews even allowed in Saudi Arabia and so any uprisings along those lines don’t even occur.  There are several merchants in Bahrain and I understand they have asked for protection from the Arabs.  But I have not heard of any trouble.

(Editor’s note: This passage refers to political unrest in the Middle East due to the United Nations General Assembly’s vote to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947.  Following is the quote from Time magazine, from its free online archives:

Time, December 22, 1947…Arab leaders, united in opposition to Zionism, were not uniformly zealous in planning war. Iraq, Syria and Lebanon were for all-out war by League members and economic pressure on backers of the U.N. partition plan. But Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Trans-Jordan advised caution. In his desert fortress-capital at Riyadh, King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia said that reports that he would cancel U.S. oil concessions were "untrue and irresponsible." "Our friendship with the U.S. is solid and well established,'' said Ibn Saud. "We believe [the U.S.] made a mistake in the U.N. Palestine decision, but we hope [the U.S.] will correct it.")

I feel sorry for Allyn (Ken Webster’s brother), as he has not had a word from any of the family and it is hard when you are so far away and it is new to him yet.  He doesn’t say much, but we would all welcome a letter.  We are going to try send this out by friends on the Camel, which is due in tomorrow or next day. . . (Editor’s note: The Camel was one of the Aramco company airplanes.)

Social activities have slowed down considerably.  I went to a very large coffee this last week, had a few guests for dinner, went to Women’s Club and tonight we are going out to a bridge dinner.  Ken has been terribly busy and works long and late.  I am busy, too, just keeping up with the work.

We have ordered a Sudanese from Jedda, but goodness knows how long it will take to get him.  He is a friend of one of Zoups’ boys and should be very good.  We will have to fly him in, no less, at $50, but otherwise would have to pay him salary while he was waiting for transportation over there besides being without his services here all that time. . . The situation is as bad (as) at home when it comes to help.

Judy is going on a Scout trip to Ras Tanura tomorrow for the day.  The Brownies are going on a hike, too, out to the Hobby Farm.  I’ll be sorry because there are some horses out there now and I didn’t want Susan to know – she will want to go out all the time. . . (Editor’s note:  My mother was crazy about horses.  Several years later, my grandparents presented her with a beautiful Arabian horse on her 13th birthday.  Mom’s riding adventures will be chronicled in future installments of this series.)

The boat with our things has been in the stream since the 1st – and they are unloading some of it today.  We hope to get the piano first – but it may be weeks yet – you never can tell.  We were told the piano was on top of the hatch they were to unload first.  Hope it is true.

I’d still like to have some sort of a party on Ken’s birthday.  Susan has one coming up before too long.  I am sure we will not get her bike and other things by then.

I’ll cut this short – hope all are well – I really worry when we don’t get any word . . . Bye now – best love to all of you – and take care of yourselves.  Don’t worry about us.  The Co. wouldn’t let us stay here if there was any reason not to.

Prince Saud
Crown Prince Saud visits President Harry Truman at the White House during a U.S. trip in 1947. Here he receives an award for Saudi Arabia’s help during World War II.
Photo from Webster collection – uncredited
Editor’s note:  This short item appeared in Time magazine on February 24, 1947 (reproduced here from Time’s free online archives):  Crown Prince Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia finished his cross-country tour of the U.S., prepared to head for home this week after a month's visit. Detroit, where Prince & party occupied two entire floors of a hotel, would not soon forget him. He saw the auto capital's numerous postwar wonders, but what he really wanted, he said firmly, was one of those good old 1936 Pierce-Arrows. His father's—very roomy and comfortable—was wearing out.

Dhahran
January 24, 1948

Dear Folks:

Still no mail for us.  Allyn did get three letters from Lynn (his wife) – the last of which was written Jan. 9th.  It is funny that some come through and not others.  It is a bit discouraging.  I am sure that some of you must have written.  There was a lot of mail … this last week and we did not get one letter – then a lot is in today.  So far it isn’t all distributed and maybe we will find something for us.

Starting next week we have been told our mail will be brought to London by Pan Am and BOAC from there down to Bahrain.  Part of our trouble is that the King will not let anything come into here through Egypt – and TWA brings our mail that route, so we understand it is holed up someplace.  This batch coming in today was held in Jedda for five days in quarantine.  He (the King) isn’t so dumb, for Egypt has not been declared free of Cholera and he isn’t taking any chances, but it is hard on us waiting for mail.  Anyway, it will come this other way now.  But, when a little does dribble in, there isn’t any for us – woe is us.

We have word that the Sudanese from Jedda we ordered and put under contract is processed and should be (here) in a few days.  I sure will be glad to see him!  I have 20 coming for buffet dinner Thursday night, for Ken’s birthday – easier than doing it Sat. night as that is a work night.  Hope I don’t scare the poor boy to death. . .

We went to the airport and contacted the “ham” operator and he is going to try and contact either Phillip Rand’s Amateur Station in Norwalk (Connecticut) or some other close by and send a little message for us.  We listened to a man here talk to his son in Kenya, South Africa – then the son replying – it is surely fascinating.  He picked up a New Jersey station while we were there.  Unfortunately, this operator is going back to Germany in the next 10 days.  We hope there will be someone else down there interested in Amateur Radio Broadcasting so we can get a message off once in a while.

Monday we are invited to a tea aboard a British cruiser in Ras Tanura. . .

The piano came through perfectly and so did everything else except the stemware.  Most of that is lost – one barrel was totally empty and there is still one box missing.  So, altogether there were 56 pieces missing.  Also, the new electric iron and the ice crusher were lifted – I’m sure at customs, as I don’t think Doran Bros. (the moving company from Connecticut) would do that. . . I am just sick about it, but there is nothing to do.  It is all insured, but that is the least of it.  I’ll decide whether to try and have more sent out later – but probably not.

Susan is having a party at school for her room, which includes the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades.  Just think, she will be 7 – doesn’t seem possible.  We must get the bike assembled for her.

Well, it is late-ish – Ken is back at the office working – the children are asleep and Tommy, the cat, and I are holding down the fort.

Guess I had better fold up and go to bed.  Our mail goes out BOAC now and that is much more expensive – so will confine myself to one page.

Love, Mimi

Dhahran
February 13, 1948

Dear Folks:

Today is Allyn’s birthday and we had him here for the weekend.  Had a few friends in for dinner last night and one of his friends today.  He doesn’t like being separated from Lynn, but the future looks good and he is making out well. . . I know it will lead to even better opportunities here or at home.

Business is picking up and they have approved twice as much for next eighteen months as we had before.  We hear that papers at home print stories about this project folding up, but . . . We are making every effort to double crude oil shipments which now are over 300,000 (barrels) per day.  Many houses and material for other construction are on order from Sweden and the housing program is staggering.  We completed $3,200,000 portable building program January 31 and have $4,000,000 more to erect as soon as possible to house and office the men due here as soon as bed spaces are ready.

There are over 3,000 Americans now in Arabia, and 130 scheduled to arrive each month.  This number will be increased as material arrivals permit construction progress.

The railroad track is laid for over eleven miles now, and we are approaching one-half mile per day in progressing it.  You never saw so much material, which is now being offloaded from boats at rate of 1,000 tons per day.  It really is a growing concern.  Permanent houses are being built at rate of nine to ten per month and this should go to twenty by June.  This is really Little America in a big way – and I am very glad to be a part of it.

The kids are growing like weeds, both getting fat and sassy.  Mimi adds a few pounds and looks better.  I dropped five as expected, but should hold what I have left. . .

(Y)ou folks have had a bad winter.  Why don’t you come over and stay with us?

Love, Ken

Aramco Truck
An Aramco truck, equipped with extra-large tires, drives across the desert from the American Agricultural Mission at Al Kharj to the refinery at Ras Tanura.
Photo from the April 1948 edition of National Geographic magazine, courtesy Ken Slavin’s personal Aramco collection

Dhahran
February 14, 1948

Dear Folks:

Happy Valentine’s Day!  The weather has changed and it is beautiful today.  It has been very cold for here –even for anyplace, really.  When it drops into the low 30’s here, it is COLD.

Well, we have had three-day measles, I think.  Susan came home with a few spots on her tummy and arms, then next morning Judy had the same, so we surmise it is the same that has been going the rounds of the grownups.  They (the girls) certainly haven’t been sick and the spots are about gone.  I did have to call off Allyn’s dinner party for his birthday last night.

Allyn is coming down (here) for some special job – setting up tests and records, I believe.  Ken has been trying his best to get Allyn’s job classification changed so he would get more points on housing, but so far, hasn’t succeeded.  His hands are more or less tied because it is his brother.  We are still hoping that something will happen soon enough to make the difference.  Please don’t tell this to Allyn, as Ken is working on it and it might not happen.  Of course, all those fellows came with the understanding their wives could not come on a first contract – but you have to go through it to know just how hard it is to be apart.  I think some of them are tickled to death to be away from their families, according to their actions – but it is tough on the ones who really care.  I’d certainly hate to go through it again!

We have been told the Aramco article in Life will be in the Feb. 28th issue.  They took scads of pictures of everything imaginable, but no one knows just which ones will be used.  Even Aramco did not pass on them.

We are still excited about our prospective trip home so much sooner than we had thought.  We have our fingers crossed that nothing will happen to prevent – but it does hinge somewhat on the Coopers – and they won’t know until Vic and Gladys Stapelton get back in two weeks. . .

I’ve been to Women’s Club this afternoon and we saw a very interesting film showing the Pilgrimage to Mecca – it was made some years ago with the sanction of the King – and as unbelievers are not permitted in the City at all, we will never be allowed to go there.

Did I tell you we lost our beautiful Tommy Cat?  He was killed out on the street in front of the house.  I feel terrible about it.  We had him over 2 ½ years.  He was definitely my baby and I sure miss him.

Ruth Cundall came back from Bombay a few days ago and brought the girls two goldfish, which they have named Flip and Dip.  For us she brought a teakwood India screen – you know the beautiful carved ones.  I am so thrilled to get it (that I) can hardly contain myself. . . She ordered the nest of tables I have been wanting from there – they will be of rosewood.  I really want these things for when we go home to stay, but will make use of them while here.  Also got a screen to send Zoups.  It is practically impossible to get these screens into here – but the Cundalls were down on business in a Co. plane and brought back three – lots of other lovely things.

Love to all, Mimi

Dhahran
February 20, 1948

Dear Folks:

TWA service has been established once more and we have a plane in three times a week – no excuse for no letters coming the other way, either.  You’ve all been neglecting us, for all the mail that was holed up in Cairo and Jedda has been distributed and we just didn’t get any!

Allyn has been hearing regularly from Lynn.  He is fine, looks very well and from all I can gather, he likes his work and the set up very much.  He is very well known and liked and gets around often, so he isn’t too lonely up there (Ras Tanura). . . He is putting in a lot of overtime, which makes time go faster and brings in “wajid floose”, too.

At long last our boy reported for work – and so far he shows promise of being OK.  It takes a while for them to get adjusted to a family and our ways.  He speaks very little English and I speak no Sudanese and very little Arabic, but good old sign language can accomplish a lot. He is tall and thin and has three “tiger” marks down each cheek – a moustache – wears a long white nightgown (thob) affair with an intricately wound turban of snowy white – is very neat and clean about his person and is pleasant.  So many Sudanese aren’t very happy looking, but he smiles.  His name is Hamed Ibrahim Jaffi.  He cleans the house, does all the dishes and serves the meals – sets the table – peels potatoes and onions and helps in the kitchen and watches stuff after I put it on to cook – then takes it up.  He irons and hangs out the clothes.  He isn’t the best house cleaner in the world, but it doesn’t pay to be too fussy. . . Anyway, it is a relief not to have it all to do myself.

This is Friday morning, the one we usually sleep in, but the girls had a guest last night who had to make Mass at 8 – so I got them up and off then Susan and I had breakfast.  Ken is still sleeping.  He needs his rest, so I am out on the side porch with the door closed.  He is working very hard, as usual, but seems to love every minute of it.  He just received a very nice and substantial raise.  He is doing extremely well, but sometimes I wonder – the farther up you get the harder you work it seems, and the less time you have for anything else.

We have just had a sad happening. Our friends the Fullmers – Elmo has been having terrific headaches for sometime but would not go to the clinic – anyway – now they have discovered he has a blood pressure so high the doctors can’t understand why he hasn’t had a stroke.  He has been confined to bed for two weeks now and in the hospital for tests, too. . . they are shipping out Tuesday to see what can be done at home . . . they have reservations for a lovely European tour and boat trip home in May, but have to cancel all that now.  So we have all been trying to help them get off.  They are very special friends of ours and I am so afraid this will turn out to be something very serious, as it already is.  ‘Zoups’ came out with me the first time and we have been close friends ever since.  Elmo has climbed right up out here.  He is Asst. Gen. Mgr. of the whole thing, with Vic Stapleton (as) Gen. Mgr.   He has worked very hard for 22 years with the Standard and is the type that drives himself and never lets up . . . Mr. Mac (MacPherson) is making arrangements for the Fullmers to go with them by boat – they don’t want Elmo to fly all the way. . .

I have taken Grace MacPherson’s job as Secretary of the Scout Troop Committee. . . we have a very active Scout group out here. Susan loves being a Brownie – they went on a trip yesterday to Quatif Wells and gardens – were gone from 8 till noon.  She has gained 5 pounds and has more energy – if possible . . .

Tomorrow is Judy’s birthday.  She and a friend, Ann, are having a party together next Wed.  They are going to the 5 o’clock show, come here for dinner and then to Ann’s house for ice cream and cake and for a slumber party there.  There will 10 of them.

They had a Scout tea the other day and all went dressed as their mothers.  You should have seen Judy in a black dress, red high-heeled shoes, red gloves, a black hat with a veil – and her hair done up and make up on.  She was a knockout, if I may say so!

I finished the curtains and put them up this week and they really are very lovely.  Hamed washed the windows for me and now they are all fixed.  The house looks very homy with the piano and the desk.  I may buy some all-over carpeting from a friend who is going home in June.  It is Bangalore matting from India – but is a cotton weave, not straw.  The painted cement floor is hard to keep and besides, the paint comes off.

Please write soon – we wear a path to the post office.  We have a new Center now – PO, Canteen and Laundry, Liquor Store, Beauty Parlor, to be all in separate buildings down by the Commissary – makes it very handy.  Really, we are a CITY – have the snazziest new garbage trucks – the big closed kind they have at home.  The – new mess hall, a tremendous affair, will be done by Easter, we hope.  Then the old one will be a recreation center for the fellows.  Our Club has been much too small for ages – we are to have a new movie (theater) soon, too.

We had a flower show – arranging – (at the) last Women’s Club (meeting) and I won the first prize for original arrangement, much to my surprise.

LATER…

February 24

I have been so busy these last few days helping Zoups get packed and all their household things stored, I forgot to mail these – and it is almost a week since they were written.

The Fullmers and MacPhersons got off this morning and will be in New York the 10th of March – and we all have our fingers crossed for Elmo’s quick recovery. . . Feel so sorry for them – but she was holding up fine and Elmo already looked much rested and better – but the pressure is still there.  By now – best love to all.

Dhahran
February 25, 1948

Dear Folks:

I have been working this last week.  I am chairman of the Women’s Club committee to do anything for the hospital that they need.  I rustled up shirts and diapers for them recently to tide them over until an order could arrive from the States.  We are having babies by job lots now.  They are building the new nursery now and so I have parceled out material to make 24 crib sheets and 24 receiving blankets.  I am making the five crib mattresses out of bed pads – then we have to make mattress covers, etc.  I really like to do things like that where it is needed.

I am enjoying the French classes very much.  If we get to France, I can see that we do not starve to death and can buy hats, dresses, shoes and underwear.

We are waiting for Stapletons to get in to find out a little more about our trip – but we don’t expect them to do much about it, however.  Ken hasn’t written for reservations, yet.

The American Home magazine will have an article soon.  I’ll let you know when I know.  (It’s) about an American family in Arabia.  It is a Company project and it is about our good friends the Singelyns – Pat, Al, Mary Pat, Michael and Margaret Ann – plus the grandmother, Gaga.  I think I wrote about them once before.  They are Irish and a darling family.  They live in a house identical with ours and on the next corner from us – except they have a two years’ start on the yard, which is very pretty.  Gaga is the gardener and spends most of her time outside working.  We have been friends from the very first.  Pat arrived with Gaga and the children just a month after we came.  She lives next to Zoups’ house and the three of us have been together ever since.  He is Chief Comptroller in the Field.  They are from Los Angeles. . . Pat had polio in both legs when she was 18 months old and limps badly and both legs are deformed – but it doesn’t stop her from being a wonderful dancer and doing everything everyone else does.

I was in a couple of the pictures, but no one knows which ones the magazine will use.  I am anxious to see the Life pictures . . .

I have zinnias, sweet peas and nasturtiums in bloom – also one bloom on the bougainvillea, but it doesn’t grow at all.  I keep giving everything vitamin boosts, as the soil is very poor, but the yard does look nice . . . I saved the Palos Verde tree on the patio with huge vitamin shots and also commercial fertilizer.  Oh, yes, I have five tulips up – bulbs from Holland – and several glads. . .

LATER . . .

Couldn’t finish this yesterday – it seems I have had a steady stream of people in and out of here for days.

Ken, Allyn, Daisy Cooper and I drove down to Al Khobar yesterday and shopped in the Suk.  We got some Arab coffee cups of imported English Bone China, no less.  Only thing, I am sorry I didn’t buy more.  Allyn bought 8 for Lynn.  They are like little Chinese teacups – no handles.

Coffee Cup
An example of the small coffee cups Mildred
Webster bought in the suk at Al Khobar.
Photo by Ken Slavin, from his personal
collection of Webster family items

I walked to the Commissary and back a little while ago and it was cloudy and rainy looking.  In five minutes’ time it has just now blown up a shamaal so thick you can’t see across the street.  We have had lots of them this year – guess they are reverting back to the old season of “40 day shamaals” they claim they used to have out here.  I just got through having all the windows sealed – all but one in each bedroom.  Hope it helps keep the sand out of the house.

Allyn has been blue – they all do have bad times – but feel he will stick it out.  We haven’t given up all hope of Lynn’s getting out before the contract is up…it is very tough, as I well know, but we feel it has been a good move for Allyn just the same.  His work is fine and he couldn’t hope to do as well in the States – now, anyway . . . We plan to keep him as close to us as possible here so as to help him over the rough spots.  He enjoys the children and we like to have him here.

Dhahran
March 9, 1948

Dear Folks:

We enjoyed your letter so much – thanks for the pictures – nothing prettier than snow scenes…

Well, you will be interested in hearing that Ken was promoted to Manager of the Construction Dept. yesterday – that covers all the construction in Saudi Arabia.  Bill Cooper was moved up to Asst. Gen. Mgr.  We are very happy about it and I am very proud of Ken.  He deserved it . . . it would have happened eventually, but probably not just now and that is the only sad part – because the moves at this time were brought about by the death of our dear friend Elmo Fullmer, who was Asst. Gen. Mgr.

Elmo has been very seriously ill . . . (he) died in Alexandria, Egypt, before he ever made the boat on the day they were to sail.  We are heartsick about it all and feel so sorry for Zoups.  Fortunately, they were traveling with the MacPhersons, good friends and Vice President out here.  He was able to take care of things.  (Elmo) was cremated in Cairo and will be buried here.  Zoups continued on with the kids.

I have been busier than a cranberry merchant and will be more so now, for I take on new duties, too.  All our department entertaining will be my job now – and there are 400 men and mostly married men in the department.  Daisy was good at it – hope I can hold up my end.

The girls are fine and busy – Susan…can ride her bike now -- and is she proud!  Judy will be invested into the Scouts this Friday – and Susan into the Brownies soon.  They both love the work and I am now Secretary of the Scout Troop Committee for Dhahran.

Dhahran
March 24, 1948

Dear Folks:

Enjoyed letters from Mother and Alice this last week.  The new mail service is very good.  Letters are arriving from 3-6 days, which isn’t bad.

You should see the outdoors right now – or rather you can’t see it.  I went out to a coffee at 10:30 and while there a terrific shamaal came up and coming home I couldn’t see a thing.  Luckily, I had a scarf with me and could tie up my head and cover my nose. . . Hamad’s nice clean house is now covered in sand!

Well, we are having all sorts of excitement this week.  The Crown Prince arrived yesterday for a visit and mostly to see the American Aircraft Carrier which came into Ras Tanura this morning for three days.  Has a convoy of four other ships and everyone is interested in seeing them.

Prince Saud's Motorcade
Crown Prince Saud’s motorcade arrives in Dhahran.
Photo courtesy Patricia Dale Watkins

There will be all sorts of stuff going on.  Ken went to a big Arab dinner last night at Dammam, given by Ibn Julawi, the Governor of this area, for the Crown Prince.  And there is a party for him at the Executive Mansion tomorrow night, which he will have to attend.  Of course, the women aren’t in on any of that stuff.

Dorothy Oligher had a few of us women in last night for dinner while our men were at the dinner and also had the wife of the big Navy commander who is down to greet the ship from Cairo.  This is the first aircraft carrier to come into the Persian Gulf.  We may drive up Friday and take the children to see it.

Ken just came in literally covered with sand.  He took the Crown Prince’s party out to show them the railroad – and the CP drove the locomotive, pulled the whistle, etc.  Ken said they had a wonderful time except the sand started to blow.  He just washed his hair and is in the shower.  It’s lunchtime.  I didn’t want the children to go back to school, but they tied up their heads and off they went.  Judy had an Arabic test and didn’t want to miss it.

You can imagine how happy we are out here in the change of the Partition plans.  Even though there has never been the slightest suspicion of any feeling here, there might have been.  Of course, the King has said all along that even if the U.S. had done wrong, Aramco was still his friend – and after all he is getting “wajid floose” out of this project.

Prince Saud
Crown Prince Saud, 1940s. He visited the
Aramco camps in the spring of 1948. Ken
Webster escorted His Highness and a tour
that included riding in a train on the new
railroad being built by Aramco at the time.
The Crown Prince joyfully drove the locomotive
and operated the whistle.
Uncredited photo from the Webster collection

We have had the first death of a child – a baby born out here – a twin of which one was born dead and the other was a hopeless (down syndrome) – it lived 10 ½ months.  A lovely young couple and we were all so sorry for them.

Elmo’s ashes have not been released by the Egyptian government yet, so there has been no service here.  I dread that.  We heard of one case where it took four months to get a release in Europe.  I wonder why.

Our kitchen is on the north – in the path of the prevailing wind and you should see the sink and drain boards.  With the windows down and locked and the blinds down, the sink is (still) full of sand.  Poor Hamed.  It will take him a week to dig out.

I’ll sure be glad if Machmoud – Zoups’ cook – comes back to me.  There is just too much to do and too much to keep up with on the outside.  I’m always hurrying home to fix meals from something – not that I mind the cooking, actually – I like to cook.  But it is the rush, rush all the time.  Gets me down.

I had 12 to dinner Saturday night – obligations that have been hanging over me for ages.  We received a lovely loin of pork – a little bucksheesh – so had that with all the fixings.  Also cooked chicken in case there wasn’t enough – a big salad bowl and (I) made apple pies for dessert.  All went fine.  Hamed had two of his friends in to help him serve and that was a help.  Boy, do they like to strut.   Now if we give a big cocktail party soon we will be more or less caught up – except they pile up again very fast.

Did I tell you we had three baby rabbits?  The children were so happy about them.  They are two weeks old today.

The girls started piano lessons Sunday – from one of the women and I am glad she could take them.  We do enjoy the piano.

Dhahran
April 2, 1948

Dear Folks:

“And the wind doth blow.”  Brother, it is the shamaal season with a vengeance!  They say it is like the season of two years ago.  Anyway, the wind has been blowing for days and every once in a while the sand swirls up until you can’t see a thing.  Reminds me of Oklahoma and Texas dust storms.  I try to stay in as much as possible for I have developed a tendency to very severe sinus headaches – from the wind, I guess.  I keep the AC blower on and it circulates and filters the air.

This is a sad day.  This afternoon is the memorial service for Elmo and this morning was a funeral of one of the women here who died suddenly – or, rather, after a week’s illness.  She had cancer so badly it was hopeless.  I guess it was a blessing it came so quickly.

So much seems to be happening out here now.  But of course, as we get to be a bigger community, I guess it is bound to come about.

There are almost 3,000 Americans here in the 3 camps – and will be 5,000 before long.

Zoups went right to Bakersfield with the children and is trying to find a house.  I will sell her things – the ones she doesn’t want – as soon as I get a list from her.

We are all fine.  School is out for the month.  Hope the weather clears up so the children can go swimming – it has been too cold.

Ken keeps very busy, but he is reorganizing the department so some of the others can take over some of the load.  It means everyone has a lot to do, but they all seem to love it.  I hardly see him, but he keeps well and just had his physical and was in A-1 condition.

Allyn called last night . . . he keeps busy, too, and gets paid for overtime, so he is making wadjid floose.

Judy brought home her artwork and I was absolutely astounded!  She has a color design study in colored chalk – about 24X15 – that is just beautiful – and an oil painting on canvas, about 12X8 that is very good.  It is a dow in the water in full sail.  It was to have been our Christmas present, but she got waylaid on it with so much outside activity.  Her teacher is quite a good artist and encourages their artwork a lot.  But everyone goes into raves over the color design especially – maybe we have a budding artist.

She still does good schoolwork, even with losing three months, but dropped into two A-minuses this time instead of straight As.  Susan hits her stride at B-plus and two Bs – not bad at all.  (We don’t) aspire that they be superior A students.  They are enjoying the piano lessons.

I want to try to have a coffee this next week if I can work it in . . . there are ONLY 450 men in Ken’s department and a good many of them are married!  Then there are 11 girls in the office.  I’ll have a tea a little later so the girls can come, too.

Ken’s private secretary is a lovely girl and helps him tremendously – she won’t let anyone in even – unless it is necessary – and so saves him a lot of piddling stuff.

Aramco Flare
An Aramco flare, near Dhahran, 1948. These
burned off harmful fumes, byproducts of oil
production.
Photo from the April 1948 issue of National
Geographic, courtesy Ken Slavin’s personal
collection of Aramco memorabilia

The boy is working out fine.  He has the makings of a good cook.  We have had word, via the Sudanese grapevine through Hamed, that Machmoud will be back and will come to us as a full-time servant.  I have never wanted two – seems they would get in my hair – but for all the times it would be a pleasure, I guess I can overlook the few times it wouldn’t.  There really isn’t enough work here for two, but there are so many times it is almost necessary, and I do hate to be forever rushing home from something to fix meals.  Anyhow, they are available out here and don’t cost too much, so guess I should take advantage of it – in our position, too!  Ha-ha!

There are so many letters I want to write, but only seem to get around to the family ones.  I have a list a mile long, among them is one to Lynn.  (Allyn’s wife.)  So please tell her I haven’t forgotten her, but will make it eventually.  Surely would be nice to have her out here.  I’m sure she will like it.  Being together and getting along financially so well compensates for the few undesirable things.  Of course, we regret being so far away from our families – that is the worst of the whole deal.

The children love it and certainly thrive.  The women mostly like it and get fat and lazy – some hate it.  The men don’t want to go anyplace else – ever.  (That is, most of them.)

We are getting a set of swings and chinning bars this week with rings to be attached to the swing part.  Now, if they could get the sidewalks and patio in, all would be set – until they get around to putting on another bedroom and bath, which probably won’t be until the end of this tour.  They are working so frantically to get housing ready for families to come out.

We manage OK, except it would be nicer to have those two items (the room and bath) – the girls could do with separate rooms and I could spread out with some more space.

No magazines yet, but Daisy, as wife of Assistant Manager, gets a set of current ones which comes out on the Camel each trip and shares hers with me.

Well, I must get myself ready to go over to the Club for (Elmo’s memorial) service – I’ve been interrupted so many times with 15 kids, more or less, I’ve been hours writing this much – and the wind still howls.

Bye now – best love to all, Mimi


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Chapter 5
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Chapter 7