An Interesting Proposition
"I landed it by myself with no help!"
The Persian Gulf, 1952.
Photograph Contributed by Betty Felice
Three months prior to the end of my "tour of duty," I met a young man from Syracuse, New York, named Charles Felice. This was his second assignment to Arabia and he worked in the Accounting Department. He had a little sports car Singer that he drove around camp.
A friend invited me to a dinner party and wanted to introduce me to Mr. Felice. I had no intention of getting involved in a relationship at this time, as I was due to go on leave for my vacation.
Mr. Felice persisted in getting acquainted, so we started dating. He said he didn't dance, which was my favorite activity, and I knew most guys say that even though they do know how. I loved to go to the Friday night dances at the Club House. I couldn't get Charles to dance, but he was very kind, intelligent and spoke well of his Italian mother, so I figured he was a pretty nice gentleman. In short order, he convinced me to go home to the United States and get the necessary papers and meet him on December 22, 1953, in Rome at the Vatican to marry him. He sounded serious and with some thought, we agreed to make the plans.
On my way back to the U.S. I had planned to stop in Rome briefly, then on to Madrid. In Madrid, I checked into my hotel and did a little shopping. I managed to get to a bullfight. When I returned to the hotel I was starving. I went down to the dining room about 6:00 p.m. and there wasn't a soul in sight. I then found out that they opened at 9:00 p.m. There was a custom of not eating dinner until very late. I had to leave the next morning early, so I had a snack and went to bed. I had time to reflect on the activities of the bullfight, and I decided I would never attend another one. I could not see any sport in it, and luckily no one was seriously injured, including the horses.
When I landed in New York I went directly to Macy's and with the help of a personal shopper purchased everything I would need to start housekeeping, other than furniture as the Company provided the furniture. I had two shipping labels to be used to send necessary items back to Arabia, one from the east coast and one from the west coast. The shopping was exhausting but fun. I obtained all of Charles's papers from his parents in Syracuse which would be required to get married in Rome. I then visited family in Ohio and gathered the necessary papers I would need such as a Birth Certificate and Baptismal record. Finally, I flew to Phoenix, Arizona to finish shopping and visit my friends.
I was to be in Rome on December 21, 1953, and Charles was to fly in from Arabia that day also. We planned to marry and fly off to Austria for our honeymoon on December 23rd. Charles, however, was delayed in getting to Rome and I waited nervously at the airport all alone, all night. When Charles finally arrived, he got off the plane blowing a whistle and the guards ushered us immediately to a cab. We didn't go through customs and were off to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, Chuck immediately phoned the Monsignor who we were to contact to arrange the marriage at St. Peter's Church. At this late stage, the Monsignor advised us that we could not get married at St. Peter's as it was closed for Christmas.
Disappointed, but not yet giving up, we went to the American Embassy to see if they had any suggestions or solutions. A lovely American lady who worked there suggested we contact Father Cunningham of the American Church in Rome. We managed to reach him and arranged to meet him so he could review our papers. Once he checked them over, he said they looked sufficient. We then made plans to meet him at 11:00 a.m. the next day at the Vatican. It was a relief to know we had a plan and could keep our reservations for Austria the following day.
We entered through the Swiss Guard entrance at St. Peters, and Father Cunningham sent word to the Monsignor in charge of St. Peters that he had two Americans that wanted to get married, "today!" Father Cunningham said the Monsignor dropped his spaghetti immediately and came to assist us in our mission.
We were interviewed for several hours. All the documents I presented were studied and it was decided that although I am a Christian, I should be baptized again. That was okay; anything to get the show on the road.
We were ushered to a chapel off to the left side of the main sanctuary. Being December it was very cold. They do not heat the church but have basins of charcoal placed around at various places to help take the chill off. I had to have an American witness so we arranged to have the lady at the American Embassy stand up with me. (You would think that I would remember her forever for all the favors she gave us, but I cannot remember her name.)
Pictures were taken on the steps of St. Peters and we were fortunate and happy that the marriage took place as planned. I would have enjoyed to have had my family there for the special occasion.
Our Honeymoon in the Alps
We were scheduled to go to Innsbruck, Austria for a ski experience. Charles liked to ski, and I had no experience. While we were there, an American lady befriended us and insisted we go to Kitzbuhel to her home to celebrate our marriage and the season. She was so happy to speak English with Americans. I recall that she told us of a Count who was pursuing her affection and money, but she was not too interested in him. She was a fun person.
With the help of an instructor, I tried to ski and didn't fall down the first day. They thought I was a natural skier, however later I did fall and had a slight cut on my leg so was advised to stay off the slopes for a day or so. Chuck and the Instructor decided to go for a day trip. I accompanied them to the "lift" and we went up for what seemed like 30 minutes and then changed to an "overhead lift" which took us to the top of a mountain where there was a chalet. It was a lovely sunny day so they took off to ski back to the lodge and I returned on the tram. It took all day for them to ski back to the lodge. What an experience being at the top of a mountain in the snow-covered Alps.
In no time, our honeymoon was over and we had to leave for Saudi Arabia. We left our ski equipment with the caretaker of the lodge who assured us that all we had to do was let him know and he would ship the equipment to us. He ignored my request on several occasions. We never did see our ski equipment again.
I Got a Car!
Chuck had six more months on his tour. He didn't want me to work, so for six months, I tried to adjust to married life. When it was time to leave for the U. S., I had hopes that Chuck would enjoy living in Phoenix, Arizona with a climate similar to that of Saudi Arabia. He had ordered a cream colored Mercury Convertible to be there when we arrived. We picked it up and headed West.
I guess I received more than what I wished for as I took that job with ARAMCO to save enough money to buy a car. I had no idea that I would have a mate to go with it upon return to the U.S.A.