Oran had been back in Arabia long enough to warrant his short leave or vacation, which every employee could go on once a year. We had decided to go to Beirut, Lebanon, so at 1:30 a.m. on November 14, 1951, we flew out of the Dhahran Airport aboard a KLM airplane for a two week local vacation. It would be very cold there, so I had to get all my winter clothes out of my trunk that had come in the shipment and get them ready for use. We had still been wearing sun dresses and shorts, and other summer things up to that point. Oran had a bad cold when we left, but the trip had already been planned, so we went anyway.
Colleen Wilson Boards in Baghdad
The flight there was uneventful except that we had a two hour stop-over in Baghdad, Iraq, at about 3 o’clock in the morning. We couldn’t leave the airport, and there wasn’t a thing to do in the huge, cavernous, ice cold building, so we all paced the floor and nearly froze to death. We arrived in Beirut in the morning, and all along the drive to our hotel in downtown, we passed large refugee tent camps of the Palestinians, who had been displaced when part of Palestine was made into a State for Israel in 1948.
Oran and Colleen on the Mediterranean Sea
After checking into our hotel, we slept most of the day. That evening, Oran took me to see one of the old haunts of his previous trip, when he was still single, The Normandy Hotel. We looked all around, and then went out on the balcony overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. We met the owner, Roger, who made it a point to meet and remember all Aramco employees since they gave him a lot of business, and he treated us to dinner.
Colleen Shops Beirut
The next day, Oran’s cold was much worse, so we had a doctor look at him, and he stayed in bed all that day and night, and most of the other days we were in Beirut. Roger even came over to visit him and brought flowers. I spent my time nursing him, and shopping a little with an older couple from Ras Tanura, who were there when we first arrived. We rode a trolley car to a large town area with lots of shops, and sidewalk restaurants. Then we explored some small, narrow streets off that with interesting, exclusive looking shops.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Sidon
Oran & I did get to drive to Sidon, just to the south, where fresh fruits and vegetables were grown in abundance. We made plans to drive to Jerusalem for a few days, about an 8 hour drive, but then, I got sick on the food, which happened to quite a few people in that part of the world. So, after only six days of travel, we changed our plans and flew on back to Arabia on November 20, to recuperate and do what you’re supposed to do on a vacation - rest.
The only thing I really hated to miss was seeing Jerusalem because I was disappointed in Beirut. Lebanon was a beautiful country on the Mediterranean Sea, with snow covered mountains in the interior distance, and the city, itself, was more modern then than Arabia, but it just wasn’t that enjoyable for me, under the circumstances. We hoped to get to make the trip to the Holy Land on our way back to the United States in 15 months.
Oran and Craig Wayman Playing Donkey Polo
After we got back to Ras Tanura, we got really lazy, slept late every morning, took in all the activities, such as, swimming & lounging on the beach, playing tennis, bingo, going to the movies, having friends over for canasta or to eat. Oran was over the flu, so played pool and poker with the boys a couple of times, as well as participating in some donkey polo the company had arranged for the employees.
In an open area on the west side of the recreation building, in the business area of camp, a large oval of sand had been surrounded with a woven, palm frond fence. Donkeys were brought there by their Bedouin owners so the employees could have races and polo games. Both men and women participated in this, but I just went there to watch. The children also had races. It was a very popular event.
Aramco Women Playing Donkey Polo by the Recreation Building in Business Camp
Francis "Hondo" Schmidt
Displays His Catch
Oran also got his chance to go deep sea fishing. The company left a flat, pontoon-like boat on the beach, in the bachelor area of camp. It was really just 2 small fishing boats held together with a wide, flat board attached to both of them. It was for use by any company employee, so the guys really took advantage of that. So, one day, Oran, O.D. Fine, and another single guy, took the boat out a safe distance in the Persian Gulf to spend a few hours fishing.
Oran proudly hoists the fruits of his labor.
They had really good luck and brought back a large catch of the delicious fish found in those waters; Hamour, Seiken, and Spadey. When they got back to shore and pulled the boat up, they laid out their catch on the flat board between the two small boats and it almost covered the whole thing. After dividing it up, we all enjoyed some nice, fresh seafood for a couple of days.
We enjoyed this part of our vacation most of all, since Oran had just had five or six days off only since my arrival. It did us both a world of good. Thanksgiving was at the end of our vacation, so we just had a good meal in the dining hall, took in a movie, then Oran started on a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift.
It had become apparent by then that I was pregnant. We decided not to tell my parents or anyone back in the United States for awhile for fear they would worry about us going through that in a foreign country. But we were as happy as could be, and knew the company was well set up for that in our camps. So, like everyone else there, I started buying maternity clothes from other women who had gone through the same thing. In fact, luckily, I got all of Pat Cundiff’s clothes and baby things.
She lived in the same apartment building that we had before we moved to the business camp area, and had her baby in August. They were going on their home leave in a week or so, and Bob said he wasn’t coming back, but hadn’t resigned yet. They also asked us to “care take” their apartment, and if they didn’t come back, maybe we could get it for our permanent place. Sounded good to us.
December turned out to be a very social month. On Saturday, December 8, 1951, the annual Women’s Club Christmas Party was given. Charlotte Philips and I were the joint chairmen, so we had planned for a couple of weeks and spent all morning decorating. I was mistress of ceremonies and had to give a little welcome speech and introduce or announce the program. We all brought about a $1.00 gift and a man, dressed like Santa Clause, came to give them out to us. I got a set of 8 plastic coasters, which I needed badly. It was a very nice and enjoyable day.
The next day was the 1st anniversary of our marriage, December 9th. We didn’t do anything to celebrate because Oran worked 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. However, he surprised me with a beautiful belt & purse set made in India. I wasn’t expecting a thing because it’s so hard to do any shopping there without going some distance. The purse & belt were black velvet with silver cord woven into a matching pattern set on them. The purse had silver on one side & gold on the other. The belt was all silver. The purse was small, square and had a flap lid. The belt was wide in front but tapered to the closure in back.
A week later, when Oran got back on days, my friend, Olive McDonald, from New York City, gave us a surprise dinner party at the girl’s dorm to celebrate our anniversary. She had a cake baked with "Happy Anniversary, You All” inscribed on the icing. It was really nice. Her boy friend, Ken Cobb, from Alabama and Joe Schmidt (at our wedding) and her roommate, Jean Burdick, were there also.
Ken worked in the refinery with Oran, as well, and was a very good friend of ours. Since he was from the south, like we were, there was a lot of kidding in our crowd about the way we talked. That explains the “you all” on the cake. Ken & I really had those southern expressions and drawls, but Oran didn’t for some reason. Everyone there commented on mine, although I didn’t realize it was so pronounced until I got among so many northerners.
Between those two celebrations on December 14, we moved back to Nejma into the Cundiff’s apartment, in building N-1-E, located so conveniently to the theater, school, and bus route. We were in No. 1 the end apartment this time, instead of No. 3, where we had been before. This apartment had been taken good care of, so was in fine shape, which was more than you could say for a lot of other care taking places. By shape, I mean it was clean, and the equipment was well cared for. We were delighted, as it turned out to be the only other place we lived during the rest of the 5 and 1/2 years we were in Saudi Arabia in the early 1950’s.
The colors in every room seemed to be just right, as well, for my planned color scheme, except the front bed room. It was pink and, since my blue accessories would go with it, we would probably sell the yellow rug, and try to pick up some white throws. We were using all our household goods then except the big rugs. The living room one had to be cut, so we would wait to see if this was permanent before we tackled that. We uncrated the washing machine, cleaned it up and put out our first wash. I never thought I would enjoy it so much, but it was so nice after doing so much washing by hand or sending it to the laundry.
That year the company set up recording sessions for people to make a Christmas record to send home to loved ones, so we took advantage of that. A friend of ours, Jack Lane, from Jacksonville, Texas, was going home on leave and said he would mail it to my parents from there. We had him to dinner the night before he left Arabia, December 18, talked about living in Fast Texas and how much we missed it, especially at that time of year. We heard later from my parents that they received the record very near Christmas day, but the letter we sent with it arrived much later. Go figure!
About five nights before Christmas, there was a large formal dance held in our theater that we were able to attend. We were pretty lucky because Oran was working days during Christmas, so was free in the evenings to go to all the activities. We were able to decorate our apartment, as well, as there were artificial trees and decorations sold in the canteen. Ours was about 3 and 1/2 feet tall, so we put it on a little table in front of our double window in the living room with a string of electric bulbs on it and around the window. Most every house was decorated in some way. We received quite a few Christmas cards from family and friends, as well, so my first Christmas away from home was not turning out as badly as I had feared. In fact, quite the opposite.
On Christmas Eve, the company treated everyone to a Buffet Supper in the recreation hall with turkey and all the trimmings. Afterward, Santa arrived, talked to all the kids, and asked them what they wanted to receive. The recreation hall was really pretty with a floor-to-ceiling, “real” live decorated tree.
Our Christmas Day dinner was at our house and was a success. Of course, this single girl, Olive McDonald, and I stayed in the kitchen all day. Oran and Ken worked until 3 p.m., so we didn’t eat until about 7:30 that evening. The first thing I did that morning was bake a couple of pies; a coconut cream and chocolate whipped cream because we didn’t care so much for the traditional holiday pies. Then, during the course of the day, we baked a 10 lb. turkey, dressing, made a combination salad, stuffed celery and cooked candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, giblet gravy, opened cans of cranberry sauce, pickles & olives.
I’m happy to say everything was delicious, but you should have seen us two inexperienced cooks trying to get all that stuff prepared right. I followed the recipe in my Betty Crocker Cook Book for dressing, with the exception of one raw egg we added because Olive remembered her mother put some in hers, and it was good. We had 8 people all together, 3 single guys, 2 single girls, 1 guy whose wife was still in the States, and Oran & I.
But activities didn’t end there. We helped our friends, Desda & Bill Hale, celebrate their anniversary a couple of nights later, as ours are so close together. Then on the 29th, there was an Open House Party at one of the single guy’s bunkhouse in the business part of camp, and they served turkey and drinks, naturally. I just had plain Pepsi until they brought me a glass of champagne. I decided to try it since I’d never had any, but found I didn’t care for it, which was probably a good thing, since I was pregnant. In fact, just a couple of days after Christmas, I had started wearing maternity clothes, so was surprised when everyone was really attentive, treating me with great respect, even dancing with me, so I had a good time. The turkey was delicious, too.
Then it was New Year’s Eve, but we didn’t ring the old year out and the new year in the usual way. Oran was working 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, so we missed the company formal dance. In fact, he went to work about 9:30 to let another guy off early, and I went to bed about that time. I couldn’t sleep, though, because a party was going on in our apartment building, and it was quite noisy, especially at 12 o’clock when everyone sang, “Old Lang Zyne”. Then everyone was running in and out until about 3 o’clock in the morning. Oran said he was going to try to blow a plant whistle if he could get a hold of one. He did, but said he just gave it a little “toot” because that was how he felt. All in all, though, it had been a very social, active, and nice month, and year, 1951.