Patricia Flahie McClelland

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Home Ondas del Lago Contributed Content Patricia Flahie McClelland

The memories and photos on this page were generously contributed by Patricia (Flahie) McClelland. Patricia lived in La Salina (Las Cupulas/Hollywood Camp), Tia Juana, Caracas, & Maracaibo during an interesting time in the history of the oil camps - from 1947 to 1958 - a period of time which is often difficult to obtain information about. So the contribution of her memories and photos, and the time and effort she took in sending it on for all of us to now share, is greatly appreciated!

Anybody who remembers Patricia from her years there would probably remember her by the last name of “Flahie”. However, because she has lived in France for many years, she adopted her Mother's maiden name of “McClelland” because.....well, she can explain it far better than I, and her memories of living in Venezuela follows:

“McClelland is my mother's maiden name that I took because the French can't really pronounce Flahie! They do a much better job with McClelland.

“I will tell you my impressions of Maracaibo and La Salina when I arrived in August 1947 when I was about 8 and a half years old.

“My mother Pat and I, and my brother Mike aged 1˝ arrived on the “Santa Clara” (a Grace Line ship) in Maracaibo. I vividly remember the taxi ride with my father, John, (who was already there) from the ship to the Bachelor Quarters in Maracaibo. Along the way, we saw some Venezuelan boys (young ones) going around naked in the streets. I'll never forget my comment to my parents: 'Will we let Mike (my brother) run around naked like that?'. We spent the first night at the Bachelor Quarters and went over to the Club for a drink. My father had taught me how to count to ten in Spanish so with some goading, I spoke my first sentence in Spanish: 'Uno Coca Cola' said I - and it worked!

“One of my first contacts with Venezuela was the pool in the Maracaibo Creole Club. That was great since I loved to swim.

“After that we went over to La Salina where we were going to live - I say La Salina but it really was Las Cupulas - the quonset hut camp. I had never been in a quonset hut before! Also, they had just planted grass in our yard. I guess we stayed there about 9 months or so before moving to Hollywood Camp that had concrete houses built on stilts. No air-conditioning and I wonder, did we have ceiling fans? Don't remember those until later. What I do remember is being right outside a pumping oil derrick that I could hear every night, ronk, ronk ronk as it went around. What I do remember is that the asthma I had had for as long as I could remember had vanished as soon as I put my foot in Venezuela. What a blessing. That meant that I could run and jump and do all those things that you can't when you have asthma.

“I loved Venezuela as a child. You could be outside all the time (and I was). We would go to the pool and the movies and the Shell school the first year in a bus that picked us up from the Creole Camp. I was in hog's heaven.

“In the beginning, we would go 'shopping' for food at the Chino's little open shop - there must not have been a commissary yet. Well that place was really basic. What I'll always remember is that they had butter in a can!

“There weren't very many places to go - but as a child I didn't care. I would climb the mango tree in our yard and build a tree house where iguanas would corner me out on a branch. We loved to play in the space underneath the houses in Hollywood Camp which were on stilts. I remember that there was no hot water in the beginning. But it didn't matter to me since the air around it was warm.

“My mother, Pat Flahie, decided to keep herself busy and set up swimming lessons which she had taught at summer camp in Texas for anyone who wanted them at the Creole Club in La Salina. She also set up dancing lessons: ballet and tap dancing that she continued until we left Tia Juana. I remember dancing to Strauss' the 'Rosenkavalier' and the 'Third Man Theme' for tap . We had no TV until we moved back to Maracaibo in 1956; consequently, we would run around, play dolls, swim and have fun all day and even go to dancing lessons.

“Those were the carefree days. Then we moved to Tia Juana around 1950. We had a 'new' house with ceiling fans in them! I would play outside all day running around without any shoes on. We would go to school in a house that had been turned into a school. I must not have gone to it for a long time because the next thing I knew, we were living in Caracas. There my parents had decided that I would go to a Venezuelan school to learn Spanish: I did and went to Nuestra Seńora de Guadalupe for a year. That was really something else! I wore a uniform and learned Spanish alright.

“After going to a Venezuelan school for a year, I wanted to return to the American school so then I went to Campo Alegre in Las Mercedes for two years (November 1952 until May 1953) for 7th and 8th grades. I really had fun in that school. We played baseball constantly - at school and when I came home from school in the back yard until the sun went down. That's a lot of baseball as we would get out of school at 2 pm. We were ALWAYS picking teams to play another game.

“Meanwhile, my sister June arrived in 1951 and my younger brother Bill in 1954. So now there are four of us.

“We joined the Valle Arriba Club which had a golf course for my Dad and a swimming pool for my Mom and us and a snack bar we got the best hot dogs at. I remember joining the Excursion Club at school. That was great because we got to go to factories like Savoy Chocolate: it was one of the reasons I joined! One Christmas, my Dad just gave me golf clubs so I figured I'd have to learn how to play the game. That was murder because I couldn't hit the ball very far yet (no strength at 12). But I finally did. I really liked the downhill holes because the ball would roll down! I also remember getting Grenadines to drink there because they were free.

“At the end of that school year, I went back to the States for school at the Ursuline Academy - stricter than that is hard. I missed my family and Venezuela the whole year. That summer I didn't come 'home' to Venezuela. My Dad, who was in charge of the Pipeline department for Creole, was to spend the year in NYC so we lived in Rye, NY the whole year. When they went back to Venezuela in August, I begged to come with them for a couple of weeks - just so I could see Venezuela again. We stayed at the Tamanaco. Then I had to leave to go back to boarding school, this time San Antonio (to Our Lady of the Lake).

“When I came home for Christmas it was the end of 1955 in Maracaibo. And the next summer it was 1956. What a glorious summer I spent - going to parties, swimming until I saw a job advertised about at the club in July and August. I applied and got the part time job as Secretary for the Creole Club. So now I was a working girl. Still it was great experience. I do remember going to the Hotel del Lago to dance with friends there. That hotel still has fabulous music and good food. It is full of memories for me.

“I went back to Venezuela in 1997 and in 1998 to see what had changed. Not much had really but the people were not there in the camps any more. Basically it was as though I had just left Hollywood Camp the day before... Caracas is very built up now - unattractively so. But I must say that the experience taught me a lot. The last time I counted, I had been to 27 schools in 3 languages without ever being kicked out!

“I now live in Paris, France and have for the last 45 years! I have five children two of whom live in the United States and the other three in Paris. I have worked for Unisys and Digital Equipment as a Manager for Technical Documentation/Training materials then as a teacher at the American University of Technical Writing and Web Marketing.

“Now I take small groups of American and South American visitors around France to see the marvels of this country.

  “John, Bill, and June Flahie at the Country Club de Maracaibo, 1957.” “My brother Mike Flahie's B-day party, about January 1950, all taken in front of our house in Hollywood Camp in La Salina.” “Swimming race at La Salina, 1948, You can even see some of the very old houses around the club pool there.”  
  “Pat Flahie teaching swimming at the pool at La Salina, 1948.” “Under our house at Hollywood Camp in 1948. My mother, Pat Flahie, is giving a coffee.” “Mike & Pattie Flahie in front of the 'Alcoa Clipper' in August, 1949.”  
  “Patty and Mike Flahie on bike at Hollywood Camp, 1948.” “Patty Flahie, John Flahie & Mike Flahie in Hollywood Camp, 1948.” (That's one big sombrero!) “Gene Finnel & John Flahie with their drivers in La Salina, 1948.”  
  Pat & John Flahie (Pat's parents) on the bench, & Bee Muller (and her husband?) on the “Alcoa Cavalier” around July-August 1949. Patricia believes that it was probably taken at the Captain's dinner. This shot gives an idea of what the ship looked like on the interior. Pat dressed up as a ballerina. Her ballet class gave a classical recital of The Rosecavalier for the entire club. In this photo, Pat's standing in front of the La Salina club movie screen, which can be seen in the background, and standing on the club's tiled floor. Photo taken in 1949, at age 10.  
  The La Salina swimming pool, with the and baby pool in the background, during a swimming meet in 1949. These boys were supposed to cross the pool with their pyjamas on. The boy standing on the far right is (?) Pinhale & the boy in the middle with his hands on his hips is Clive (?).  
  A boy jumping in during the pyjama race with his pyjamas on. The Las Salina movie screen can be seen in the background. “My mother (Patricia Flahie) is on the far left and Sharon Cross's is right next to her. I'm afraid I don't know who the other people are.”  
  “From L to R: Shorty Hegglund, Pat and John Flahie.” (Bernie Hegglund advises that this photograph was taken at the Hegglund home.) “Post card of Lake Maracaibo, 1959...with the oil wells.”  
  “My sister went back in 1984 and took this pic of her” (by the Creole/Lago Maracaibo Club pool). “You know, somehow, I don't think Venezuelans like to swim that much. That pool was packed in the olden days. The picture I took when I went back is one of an empty pool. They were adding mosaics to it. This one is better.” “Front porch of House N° 36. Taken by my sister when she went back in 1984, this is the house we used to live in. The porch has been enlarged. It was very small if you remember. It's a good picture of the house close up. I couldn't get that close when I went back in 1998. In fact, there were barbed wire fences in front of it - a real compound.”  

Still wondering what it would be like to return to Venezuela again after all these years? For an unedited, often semi-“stream-of-consciousness”-styled account of Patricia's return in 1998 after 39 long years to re-discover her old haunts, please click on the links below and return with her to Maracaibo, La Salina, and Caracas:

Venezuela 39 Years Later - Chronicle of a Trip Back to Venezuela

bulletChapter 1 The Takeoff
bulletChapter 2 Finding Old Haunts
bulletChapter 3 Rediscovering Venezuela
bulletChapter 4 Seeing Old Friends and Making New Ones
bulletChapter 5 Revisiting Caracas
bulletChapter 6 Arriving In Maracaibo
bulletChapter 7 Checking Out The Place
bulletChapter 8 The Other Side of Lake Maracaibo
bulletChapter 9 The Way It Is In Venezuela
bulletChapter 10 Life In Maracaibo
bulletChapter 11 Getting Cultured (sic)
bulletChapter 12 With Friends
bulletChapter 13 Flying Away


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