Aramco Plane Bob's Family On the Way to Saudi - 1951
Bob, Jo, Susan and Little Bobby
Layover in Amsterdam
Photograph Contributed by Bob Waters

We caught the Aramco Company airplane, a four motor prop job which I believe was a DC-5. There were two similar planes; one named the Camel and the other the Gazelle.

There were sleeping quarters for the wives and children, so Jo, Susan and Bobby had a place to sleep on the overnight flights and we men all slept sitting up in our seats. We spent an over-night in Amsterdam, then on to Rome, next Beirut and finally Dhahran.

We arrived in Dhahran, survived customs and went up the hill to our home in the Aramco compound. Our home was on the east end of town on 3rd street, which overlooked the airport. Someone had switched our house from the one I had looked at but I made notes for Jo, so she could pick out matching things for our new house. The floor linoleum was a different color, as was the furniture, but it really did not make too much difference as it turned out, because I had been transferred to a different city, Abqaiq.

Family Housing Family Housing with Gareed Fence
Photograph by Bob Waters

Abqaiq was located about an hour by car west of Dhahran, out in the desert. They were drilling up the Abqaiq Field, and starting to drill in a new field another hour west of Abqaiq, called the Ain Dar Field. So now I was an Assistant Drilling Engineer. We lived in a portable, converted for families, on 13th Street. The portable was the same as those for single status personnel, but one wall was taken out between the front left two rooms, which made into a dining and living room. Across the hall, the front bedroom had been converted into a kitchen. The back two rooms were bedrooms, and the bathroom was about the same as for the bachelors, but a different number of showers, commodes and wash basins. We all had grass yards in front, with a Gareed fence around our area. Gareed was palm tree fronds made into a fence.

Living in Saudi, far from home, without our extended families, we found that our Aramco friends became our new families. Friendships that we made during our Aramco days lasted through all the years.

Jo's Craft Booth Jo's Craft Booth
Photograph by Bob Waters

We arrived in Abqaiq just before the July 4th celebration. Fred Abbott and his wife Jeannie greeted us. The celebration was held in the old Clubhouse, with Indian waiters and alcohol was still available. The 4th of July Picnics were later held on the ball diamonds, complete with watermelon. Years later they became the Manager's Picnic and were held on the clubhouse patio. During these events crafts were sold by the community members. Jo really enjoyed selling her crafts. She came out each holiday with a new article and folks would crowd around to get Jo's latest before she ran out.

When we first arrived in Abqaiq, there was a small patio outside the clubhouse. Adjacent to the clubhouse was a small portable type building that served as our theater. We also had a mail center, dining hall, barbershop, laundry, small grocery store, beer hall/snack bar for the men, as well as a swimming pool and tennis courts.

Since I was on 24 hours call, 7 days a week, as a drilling petroleum engineer, we had a telephone in our house, but most folks did not have a phone. However, there were some phones available, back in the alleys on telephone poles that people could use. These were for local calls only within the Aramco compounds. Saudi Arabia did not have long distance service to the States at that time.

Rig Rig
Photograph Bob Waters

I was assigned under John Calligeros to work in the Ain Dar Field Drilling Program, developing the new field. I lived in Abqaiq, but spent considerable time in the field at various Ain Dar Oil wells and Water Wells. The first one I remember was Ain Dar #26. John took me out to the rig, introduced me around, and then told me he had to go to Abqaiq. He wanted me to spend the night on the rig and said he would pick me up the next day. Time drug on and it looked like nothing was going to happen anytime soon. Since there was no foremen’s trailer, I went out under the drill pipe racks and decided to lie down on the soft sand, with my hard hat under my neck to get a few hours sleep. In the morning, I went back up on the rig floor to see how much progress had been made when a driller told me, ”I sure wouldn’t want to sleep under those pipe racks, cause I have seen a lot of snakes out there, and they were sidewinders”. Never again for me; I took my naps lying across the seat of my pick-up with both doors open, since we did not have air conditioning in our vehicles at that time.

One other night as I came down off the rig floor, about 15 feet above the ground, and I started to walk back to my pick-up. I saw something out the corner of my eye on the ground chasing me. It looked like a great big long legged hairy spider, so I took off running and it finally gave up and turned away into the desert. I found out later that it was what the locals called a camel spider. They hung out around camel caravans, so that’s how it got its name. But, boy were they big, black and fast. I swear he was jumping towards me and I was running full bore to keep ahead of him.

Several of us in Abqaiq were invited to come down to Hofuf for a luncheon honoring King Abdul Aziz. We were all honored and decided to take a shortcut from Abqaiq to Hofuf which was a rough old bumpy sandy road. Unfortunately, we had a flat tire, got stuck in the sand and by the time we corrected that and arrived at the reception for King Abdul Aziz, he had been there and already departed. There were no seats available, but whoever was in charge found us places by pulling several fellow Arabs away from the table so we could take their seats and be fed. It was a mammoth gathering. The food was delicious, but we were very disappointed to have missed meeting the King. We had all dressed up in our finest "bib and tucker" as they say, with suits and ties!

In the early days there was no place to eat outside of our compounds. We all had to have our own parties, and entertainment. Parties were given for just about any excuse you can imagine. There were parties for folks going on long leave, coming back from home leave; any excuse was a good one. We also had our Friday morning brunches in our homes.

Jo and I planned a cocktail party and invited several of our co-workers and supervisors and their wives. I spent a lot of time out in Ain Dar and as luck would have it one of my wells was being completed and I could not get anyone to fill in for me, so I missed the party. When I did get home late that evening, there were only three couples left. Unfortunately, they were my three bosses and their wives. The three wives were all talking at once about different subjects and we men thought we would never get them to go home. The girls were having too good of a time!

Santa and Mrs. Clause The Clause's, Bob and Jo with Jane Beamer
Las Vegas Women's Mesquite Club
Photograph Contributed by Bob Waters

We spent our first Christmas in Abqaiq. Jo went down to the store early the morning they were selling Christmas presents, toys, decorations and etc. There was already a line, so they decided to tear up pieces of paper and assign numbers for the wives so there would not be any fuss about who was next.

Back in the early days, Dhahran always put on a Christmas Pageant out on the ball diamond, reenacting the story of the three wise men on their visit to find the new born babe. There were live animals, including full-sized camels, sheep and donkeys. The costumes were really beautiful and there was always a great turnout for this pageant. The last pageant was held about 1975.

There were also all sorts of Christmas Decorations inside and outside of the houses and community buildings. The Arab and expat families used to drive all over camp at night to view the lovely displays.

Bob Waters at Old Wellsite Bob Waters at Old Wellsite
Fence to Keep Out Passersby from Opening or Changing Valve Settings; also to Keep the Wandering Livestock Out
Photograph Contributed by Bob Waters

I first started to "Play" Santa for the Abqaiq Women's Group. I remember my first visit there was to Ron Nazeley's house and their young baby took one look at me and I just scared the daylights out of her. So they calmed her down in the bedroom and every time they brought her back into the front room to see Santa, she started screaming again. So, I hastily took my retreat to another house. What a lousy start that was!

We had a nice Christmas that first year. We bought Bobby a little carpenter’s toolbox, complete with hammer, saw and other tools.  He was told not to hammer or saw anything in the house, so he took his tool kit outside and in a few minutes Susan came in and said that Bobby had cut the front yard hose in two. We just laughed because he had done just as we had told him, “Don’t use your hammer or saw inside the house.” Old Big Dad had to splice the hose; however, Bobby never sawed the hose in two again.

Shortly after Christmas my boss called me in and said they were going to open up a Wildcat Drilling Camp in South Ain Dar because it was getting to be almost a two hour drive to the wells as development moved south. They wanted me to move my family to the camp and there would be only 12 families out in the desert at a brand new site. I talked to Jo and she was not too eager to move as they did not have a school for Susan to go to. So, I asked the boss if I had to go to Umm Unaiq Camp.

He said "No, I had a choice, I could either go to Umm Unaiq or I could go back to the USA."

Guess where we moved to? You’re right, it was to Umm Unaiq.