The company did not allow anyone but personnel to travel on their plane, but Dhahran was a commercial airport for TWA, KLM, BOAC, and several other large, well-known lines. The round trip plane ticket would average around $1000, varying with the season and place of purchase. Other expenses would total about $350. This was an approximate estimate that Oran figured would be the least amount of money it would take for the round trip. It would certainly be wonderful to have her come over, but I didn’t know that Jolene would be serious after seeing these figures, and of course, she didn’t even know about the baby yet. (Editor's Note: Jolene is Colleen Wilson's sister, who is first mentioned in Chapter V.)
Coincidentally, I received a letter from my mother right after that saying she had had a dream that I was pregnant, but was deliberately keeping it from her. So, I decided it was time to tell everyone. I wrote my mother first, on March 24, 1952, and told her she was certainly having some mighty fancy dreams lately, but I must confess that it was true. I wasn’t doing it to punish her though, honest. I just didn’t want her to worry about me for nine whole months. I was going to tell her soon, anyway, because the baby was due in about two and a half months. It really had required effort not to tell her this good news, and I had been deciding to one minute, then deciding not to again ever since we knew definitely.
I told her I felt wonderful and had from the beginning. I was surprisingly free of problems, was happy, and healthy. It seemed the most natural thing to be doing. Even my “morning sickness” in the second and third month didn’t keep me from doing anything or going anyplace, because, outside losing an occasional meal, I felt in tip-top shape, and there were periods of several days when any food didn’t bother me at all.
Since there were so many women who had babies there at that time, the Aramco Company had employed a doctor who did nothing but handle the maternity cases in all three districts, and he was very good. He was about 32 years old and this was his special field of study. He averaged about 15 deliveries a month. His headquarters were in Dhahran, the main camp, but he came to Ras Tanura once a month to check all pregnant women. My last month of pregnancy, I would have a weekly check-up by the permanent doctor in Ras Tanura, and about a week before my due date, I would go to Dhahran and stay there until the arrival.
The hospital at Dhahran was better equipped and had an annex just for maternity cases, and a separate building entirely for the mothers and babies after arrival. The time you spent at Dhahran before hand, you were free to come and go as you pleased, to visit any friends you had there, to go to the movies, or ball games or other acceptable activities they had at that particular time, and best of all, you were free of all cooking and housework and could rest as much as you wanted. You couldn’t beat that with a stick.
Unfortunately, I gained a lot of weight right away. In fact, I was beginning to look like I had swallowed a watermelon seed and it grew one of those big East Texas melons. At the last check, I weighed 140 lbs. My appetite had just doubled, but I was on a diet then to keep from gaining too much more. I drank a quart of milk a day, took calcium pills, iron pills, and some pill for my teeth that the dentist gave me. He checked my teeth several times and would again after the baby got there. The company really took good care of you.
I was very fortunate, too, about maternity clothes and baby things because I purchased everything I needed, or would need, to finish my pregnancy and raise the baby up to 1 year old. Besides getting everything from the Cundiffs before they left, I was able to pick up everything else I needed here and there from girls selling out to go home. The extra items that I had for the baby, other than essentials, were a buggy, scales, and playpen. The company furnished a crib and highchair.
I had had an Indian Houseboy for the past month working for me two or three hours three days a week, and I would keep him until the baby was 4 or 5 months old. He washed, ironed, mopped and waxed and did some smaller odd jobs that were a little difficult for me to do then. He was very clean and thorough and ironed beautifully. I paid him approximately $3.00 a week. I cooked, washed dishes and did general housework, which was really good for me.
Last, but not least, Oran and I were very happy about the prospect of being parents, and were anxious to start assuming that job. Of course, we hoped for a boy, but would have been just as tickled over a little girl. We would cable my parents when the baby arrived. We didn’t tell anybody else at home yet because we wanted Mom & Dad to be the first to know. But I wrote Jolene right after that with the same news, as well as the information about a trip over to Arabia. In about a week, I heard back from her. She was thrilled about the baby, but, as expected, wasn’t going to be able to come over.
In early April the weather was getting nice again, but we had a swarm of large grasshoppers or locusts, fly into our camp. They literally covered everything, the hedges, grass, trees, even the streets and sidewalks. It was a mess getting anywhere for a few days, but the Arabs were delighted. They gathered as many as they could in any container they could find to take home or to work to eat. They were a delicacy to them. Oran said they cooked them on their hot plates in the Refinery to eat right on the spot. Oh well, to each his own.
I had been waiting to write my parents another letter after I heard from them to see whether or not I was disowned, and was very glad to find out I wasn’t. I didn’t really think I would be, though, because I figured they would be as happy about the baby as we were. All the women in camp had been amazed about mother’s dream, too, and thought I had been quite mean not to let her know sooner. They had been very sweet to me, though, offering help, both then and after the baby got there. The older ones had a tendency to “mother” the younger ones, which I really appreciated, having just left home for the first time to go to Arabia. Everybody else in camp, including the single fellows and girls, and the foreign employees of the company were as nice as could be, too, and went out of their way to show you little courtesies. A pregnant woman really seemed to have a high standing in the community. So it really made me feel good to be in that condition.
My parents wanted to send a gift, but I really didn’t need anything, but ask them to send some announcement cards, you couldn’t get there, not even in Beirut, Lebanon, and some nursery decals of little animals you could stick on cribs or dressers or chests of drawers for decoration. A friend in the States on leave was bringing us back a baby record book. We had selected only a name for a boy, Olan Keith. The girl’s name was more allusive, and I really felt like it would be a girl.
There was an unusual happening on April 23, 1952, that just about made history in Arabia. A wind, rain, and hail storm blew through Ras Tanura. It was really a freak hurricane that hit just our area, and it did considerable damage. Most of the damage was in Rahimah, the camp right outside ours for Arabs and all other foreign personnel besides Americans. In Nejma or, American City, two houses had their roofs blown completely off, a third one had half the roof blown off, and many windowpanes were broken throughout camp. The hail was really an unusual sight to see all over the grass and streets, and piled up along the fences and porches. Oran just couldn’t get over it, and I kept asking him if this was the usual kind of weather they had there. Our only damage was when our front door blew open and our rug got wet. It didn’t hurt it, though, because it was cotton.
After that, the weather settled down and just got hot. Oran went down to the beach to swim nearly every day. There wasn’t much to do for entertainment, but we did play some bingo. Of course, we were just waiting for the big event. We had a lot of fun planning things for the baby, and the nursery was all fixed up. About the last thing we did was put up some nursery cutouts made of heavy cardboard on the walls for decorations.
All the expectant mothers were sent to Dhahran to wait in a house right by the hospital approximately two weeks before their due dates just in case the baby decided to come early. Our baby’s due date was May 29th, so I expected to go down on the 15th, but on the 8th, I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink when my water broke partially. So I called the Dr., who thought I should go right down to Dhahran in an ambulance. I called Oran at work and started getting things ready. Oran got home, the ambulance arrived, and they wanted me to lay down in the back. But, I felt fine, so ended up sitting up front with the driver while Oran slept on the bed in the back. He was tired from working most of the day. But we got down there all right without any further problem.
So there I was in the Dhahran annex waiting for the arrival of our little pumpkin. I didn’t know exactly what sort of place I would stay in, but was pleased to find it was just a regular house located on the hospital grounds, right next to the hospital, and was cleverly named “The Stork Club”, also called “The Mother House”. It had a large living room, dining room combination, a kitchen completely furnished with stove, refrigerator, cabinets, sink, dishes, pans, silverware, a washing machine, iron and ironing board, a large bathroom, a hall and two bedrooms, one containing two beds, the other three. A houseboy cleaned the entire place every morning, leaving the “mothers”, “ladies of leisure”.
Colleen Wilson in maternity clothes at the gate entrance to "The Mother House" in Dhahran.
Meals were served three times daily in the hospital dining room, so no cooking was necessary, although certain foods were kept in the house by the hospital in case we wanted to snack between meals, and we could purchase any item of food we cared to in the commissary to store there for our personal use. There was enough equipment to cook and serve an entire meal there if anyone should desire, but most felt that was one thing they got to rest from during their stay, so hardly anyone ever bothered. All of this was free gratis, including our meals in the dining hail. In fact, all of our medical treatments were free while living in the camps in Saudi Arabia. Wasn’t that wonderful?
The occupants were free to come and go, as they pleased, anywhere in that one district day or night. The usual amusements were the movies, bingo (one night each week), church, or visiting friends you had there. (I knew three different families, mostly former residents in Ras Tanura). We had a telephone we could use at any time to call our husbands, friends, for business, or to call the hospital in case we went into labor. I could reach Oran in Ras Tanura directly by dial system and there was no charge, so we talked to each other 2 or 3 times daily.
Colleen's roomate Rosemary Gushue and
husband, John, in front of the screened-in
porch at "The Mother House."
There was also a buzzer located in each bedroom, which was connected to the hospital and brought a nurse immediately when pushed. Several times during the day, nurses came in to check on us or get us anything we needed. One of the nurses working there at the time, Jackie Ryan was from Tyler, Texas, where we came from, so I looked her up, particularly, when I arrived. I met her mother working in Sears while I was shopping to go to Arabia, so found out she was a nurse in the Dhahran hospital. That was a stroke of luck, as we all found her to be one of the most considerate and friendly nurses over there. It was really all a very nice set up. There were three other expectant mothers staying there when I arrived, so I wasn’t alone.
The husbands weren’t allowed to spend the night in the house, but could come and spend any part of the day, all day, or evening with you. The first week I was there, Oran would visit me most any hour of the day, according to what shift he was on at that time. When he went on day shift the second week, on Thursday night, May 16, he came down about 7:30, so we went to dinner and a movie, then he caught the 11:00 bus back to Ras Tanura. It was just like dating again, almost.