All photos by Willard Drumm
©Aramco Expats 2016
Willard Drumm was a senior Aramco executive through the 50s into the 60s. In his work he travelled to most of the company’s sites and installations in the kingdom, ranging from the Rub Al-Khali to the offshore field at Sufaniya. At home in Dhahran he and his wife hosted sumptuous parties – by Dhahran standards, enjoyed the beach, the town’s big events like the Nativity Pageant, the annual County Fair and mostly the company of good friends.
Fortunately for us, Willard was an enthusiastic, accomplished photographer. Thanks to him we have this fine collection of color pictures that truly capture the people of Aramco and the places of Arabia from 60 years ago. Much of this world has vanished and most of the people have long since passed away, but these photographs remain as a testament to their spirit and a sense of place that we all share.
KINGS AND KHOBAR
HM King Saud’s first visit to the Eastern Province after his father HM King Abdul Aziz passed away in 1953 was a colorful occasion for Willard’s camera.
Al Khobar was decked in arches, banners, flags and bunting to celebrate the visit.
Framed portraits of King Saud were for sale everywhere.
HM King Saud with an unidentified American oil executive.
Ten years later HM King Faisal visited to great fanfare.
The king goes over his notes while executives from Aramco’s parent companies await his comments. The man with the cane sat next to King Saud in the earlier photo.
Al Khobar in the 50s was always an interesting place to take pictures and Willard did.
The famous Green Flag store sold a wide range of products from handbags to mops, perfume to power tools. In the left hand corner is Fred Davies, the first American geologist to identify the Dammam Dome as the perfect place to find oil. He retired as Aramco’s president in 1956.
Willard’s wife Agnes, known as Babe, in front of the original Kanoo Travel Agency which is now a multi-million dollar conglomerate that operates worldwide.
Waiting for a haircut.
Babe shopping with a friend.
In front of Malik Brothers, The sign informs us that they are High Class Tailors.
Down the street the competition, Nazir Cloth Merchants proudly billed as a First Class London diploma holder.
A nice view of the north end of Prince Khalid Street, Al Khobar.
Back from Khobar, Babe picks up the mail. The safety signs on either side of the window read, “Drive with both hands on the wheel!” and “Have good brakes always.”
Meanwhile Willard visits the refinery at Ras Tanura.
He has lunch at the Surf Club and admires the newly installed terrazzo dance floor on the patio.
On his way to the North Pier he stops to inspect the pipe array extending to the tanker berths.
Before you know it, Willard is with the famous Italian photographer Ilo the Pirate on a pilot boat speeding out to greet the arrival of the first Saudi-Onassis tanker at Ras Tanura.
The Malik Saud Al Awa is actually the Malik Saud Al Awal, King Saud the First, but somehow it lost the L. Built in Hamburg in 1954, it is a 47,000 deadweight ton tanker with a 280,000 barrel capacity and one of the largest tankers of the times.
The tanker’s true size is best appreciated from pier side.
The Al Malik Saud Al Awal was at the center of a monumental lawsuit between Aramco and Aristotle Onassis that cost millions of dollars and four years to resolve before the company prevailed and the Greek shipping magnate relinquished his tanker contract with the Saudi government.
Coming next week: WILLIARD’S WORLD – CHRISTMAS IN DHAHRAN
Tim Barger is the editor and co-author of the international best seller, Out in the Blue: Letters from Arabia 1937-1940 by Tom Barger, the former President and CEO of Aramco.
It is now available as an e-book as well as print.
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