Last month we featured an article about exquisitely-crafted hard hats certain fortunate Aramcons were able to purchase back in the ‘70s by an artisan from Iran. Since then a number of readers have written to us with similar stories. We found them fascinating and would like to share them with you.
1) This from Ann and Rick O'Flaherty (Dhahran 1988-2004): (see above photos) Rick and I enjoyed your article about the hard hats. Rick had a decorated aluminum hard hat commissioned in Jakarta, Indonesia in the early 1980s, introduced by friends with Conoco. Local Banka tin artisans were making these to order. Rick was able to personalize his with a sailing ship (he was in the Merchant Marines) and the Palapa B Satellite Program (he was involved in the insurance). The artist also included the Indonesian National Garuda Symbol, "Unity in Diversity" and a stylized Sumatran tiger. I have read that aluminum became a standard for hard hats around 1938, except for electrical applications. Safety helmet materials evolved to be non-conductive, stronger, and more heat resistant. It wouldn't be surprising that the decorated aluminum hard hat art form concept traveled with oil and construction workers living overseas.
2) This from Mary Ann Littlejohn: When my husband and I first went to Isfahan in 1973, we went with Bill and Mary Ann Hosteler and maybe some other people to the shop of what they considered to be the premier metal artisan. I remember his name as being something like Bin Mayouri. A brother or nephew or some other family member also worked out of that shop and his work was beautiful but not up to that of Bin. In those days Iran Air had a very generous baggage policy for the Aramco tourists. They would get anything you purchased back to Dhahran. If the sofa and chairs or trays didn’t accompany you on the way home, they were sent on the next regular flight. People bought all sorts of metal arts, carpets, and furniture.
Bin Mayouri would take orders for commissioned pieces (trays, lanterns, personalized hard hats) and the next group of Aramcons would pick them up and bring them back. I remember we picked up a couple of commissioned hard hats that day, but I think that was about the end of that art. Somebody else who wore hard hats might be able to verify that it was about that time that synthetic material came into use for them. They didn’t provide as good a surface for the art work.
3) This from Brent Cleaver: I had my engraved hard hat made while working for a drilling contractor in 1974 and before joining Aramco in 1979. One of our drillers knew how to order them and get them shipped to KSA from Iran. I do not know where in Iran it was made or by whom. I do know that the maker took the liner out and filled the hat with a tar-like material. This was done so that the hat would not bend during the engraving process. After the hat was completed, it was heated so the tar-like material would melt and be cleaned out. My hat still has some of the material stains on the inside.
I proudly wore mine until better safety procedures on the rigs were mandated and metal hard hats were no longer allowed to be used. I think that was a contributing factor of them dropping from demand before all the issues associated with the 1979 downfall of the Shah.
4) This from Ken Duell: The number 2222 shown on the hat in the original article, Hard Hats for Hardy Men, is Don Carroll's employee number which Aramco issued each person.
My mom and dad both worked for Aramco and have employee numbers much lower than the 2222 of Don Carroll, as Mom went out as a single nurse to look after the King's family and Dad flew the second DC3 out in 1947 with Mo Moses, a trip that took two weeks from Texas to Dhahran.
Dad got sick on the way out and on landing in Arabia he went to the hospital, where he met Mom, who was Sally Crawford at the time. They got married six months later. Myself and my sister plus two more brothers were all born in Dhahran. We now live all over the world.
Many guys had their hard hats done like my dad did. But when the tin hat was replaced with plastic these became trophy items.
Read Hard Hats for Hardy Men.