April 2024
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Saigon Life 1955 – 1965: A Day In The Life …

by Admin and Richard Turner, Contributing Editor
© SaigonKidsAmericanCommunitySchool.Com

A Day in the Life: Saigon 1955 – 1965

The Saigon Kids American Community School website is assembling an archive of stories by people who lived in Saigon between 1955 and 1965.

This is your story.

We need your help.

The structure for the narrative is *A Day in the Life* of the members of the American international community in Saigon and their French, Vietnamese and Chinese friends and acquaintances.

The project will be completed in stages of 1 to 2 months each, ending in one year.Saigon Life 1955-65

The accompanying outline (with suggested topics) is the framework we will use to organize your accounts of life in Saigon.

Many of you have already sent poignant, humorous or thought-provoking recollections to the website.  We will begin the task of creating *A Day in the Life* by plugging these entries into the outline in the appropriate places. The author of each entry will be identified as will the years that the author lived in Saigon, eg. Jane Doe 1961-1963.

These entries and the material you send us will be arranged chronologically in terms of the time of day that it references and by subject matter.  For example all of your stories about afternoons at the Cirque Sportif would be grouped together.

Your contributions to *A Day in the Life* can be fact or fiction.

They can be brief or lengthy.

They can be something you have written or something written by another person, so long as the original author is credited.

We also want your images of life in Saigon to illustrate this history. Scan your photographs, slides, etc. and send them to the website. Identify, as best you can, the people in the photos and the events that they represent. If you have home movies taken while in Saigon that you’d like to transfer to DVD contact us for assistance instructions.

So, send us your stories and your images.

We were participants in a unique period of history.

No one can tell this story better than we can.

Submission Guidelines:

Submit all stories via the *Contact Form* on the website.

Stories should be submitted as a text document (MS Word, Note Pad, Open Office Writer, etc.).

Please include your name and the time period you were in Saigon. Ladies please include your maiden and married last name.

When submitting longer stories, please submit them as an *Attachment* to your message on the Contact Form by copying the text document with your story to a File Folder on your computer, ZIP (compress) the File Folder and send the File Folder containing your story as an *Attachment*.

Photos and images should be cropped, re-sized to 1000 pixels wide, and submitted in JPEG format.

Photos and images should include information identifying the people in them, location, event and approximate date taken (month and year, or at least the year).

Photos and images should be sent as an *Attachment* to your Contact Form message. When submitting multiple text files, photos/images copy them to a File Folder on your computer, then ZIP (compress) the File Folder and send the ZIP File Folder containing the text files and photos/images as an *Attachment*.

All photos/images must be your own. If they are not your own photos/images you’ll need to submit documentation the owner and/or copyright holder of the photos/images has granted you written permission and license to use them.

Phase Two

This phase of *A Day in the Life* project will focus on — *Saigon Arrival*. This phase will last for about 2 months during which we invite you to submit your stories about why and how you came to Saigon.

  • How did you arrive in Saigon – plane or boat?
  • What were your first impressions when Saigon first came into view?
  • What was your and your family’s reaction upon disembarking in Saigon?
  • Who greeted you upon arrival in Saigon?
  • What was your trip to your first living quarters in Saigon like?
  • What sights, sounds, smells, people did you experience while traveling to your temporary quarters?
  • Where did you stay in Saigon until your permanent housing was arranged?
  • What where your first impressions and reaction to your temporary quarters?
  • Who introduced you to the other kids in Saigon?
  • What was your first day in Saigon like?
  • What do you remember most about your first day in Saigon?

Submit your *Before Saigon* stories and photographs by using the
*Contact Form*.


Phase One

The first phase of *A Day in the Life* project will focus on — *Before Saigon*. This phase will last for about 2 months during which we invite you to submit your stories about why and how you came to Saigon.

  • What Brought you to Saigon?
  • Where were you when you learned you were going to Saigon?
  • How did you learn you were going to Saigon?
  • What was your initial reaction when you learned you were going to Saigon?
  • What was the reaction of your family members when they learned you were going to Saigon?
  • What was the reaction of your friends when you told them you were going to Saigon?
  • What was the reaction of your teachers and other community members when you told them you were going to Saigon?
  • What was preparing for your trip to Saigon like?
  • What was your trip to Saigon like?
  • What places did you visit en-route to Saigon?
  • What do you remember most about preparing for and traveling to Saigon?
  • How did you feel about moving to Saigon?
  • What feelings did you experience leaving your friends, class mates, family and community members to go to Saigon?

Submit your *Before Saigon* stories and photographs by using the
*Contact Form*.


Use the Comments form below if you have questions or need additional assistance or guidance.

Saigon Life 1955 -1965: A Day In The Life … Saigon Arrival

by Admin and Contributing Editors Richard Turner and Kevin Wells
© SaigonKidsAmericanCommunitySchool.Com

Below are Saigon Kids™ stories about our Saigon Arrival – when and how we arrived in Saigon and our initial impressions and experiences.

Bob LaysonBob Layson (1959-61)
How Did Mrs. Yamaguchi Know?!

After landing the plane taxied to the arrival gate. I watched out the window as they rolled the exit ramp in place. Once it was positioned they announced we could exit the plane and proceed to the terminal. Since we were in First Class they had us exit first. Following my parents I stepped out of the plane onto the ramp…. Continue Reading HERE

Kevin Wells

Kevin Well (1959-62)
USOM Guest House

Everybody new to Saigon had to start somewhere and our start was at the US Overseas Missions (USOM) Guest House. It was our first night and I lugged the luggage up the stairs, flailed my way through the mosquito netting and fell face-down on the bed. By the morning, the air conditioner had lowered the air temperature to a mere … Continue Reading HERE

Submit your *Before Saigon* stories and photographs by using the
*Contact Form*.


The Passing of Fred Bonner

Saigon Kid Fred Bonner passed away on March 30th from cancer and other issues. According to Mrs. Francis Bonner, his wife of 45 years, the last few months were not easy for Fred as he suffered from the radiation and contracted pneumonia. Unfortunately I don’t have any more details than this. Mrs. Bonner can be contacted via FaceBook (Francis Sutherland Bonner).

Rest in Peace Fred.


Edited by Mel: sorry Ken, and all, I was not notified there was a pending post. This one is from April 6. I’ll fix the notifications so I get to things sooner than months later. Apologies and my condolences to friend and family of Fred Bonner.

A bit about Bob, and a few other things.

Hi Kids 🙂

It’s been a long couple of months. After surgery and a few weeks recovery I went back to work. I have never been so exhausted.  I’m finally getting a handle on that, but it’s been a slow road.

As for the website, the site will go on, however it’s up to all of you to take over the story telling. I don’t have any further information to share, unless it’s about the reunion in Cody later this year, or any other PSA’s that I can help with. So with that, I’m officially requesting that each of you reading this go ahead and write a couple of paragraphs about your time in Saigon, or memories of Bob, if you were personal friends there. It was his wish that this site went on, so please help me out and give me some stories to post. You can submit them through the Contact form that’s on the sidebar. Thank you.

Bob not only left a big hole in my heart, but also a seemingly unending list of things to take care of. I’m just doing what I can now to tie up the loose ends.  I have one more trip to his hometown in Missouri to take care of things there, and then it’s just a matter of final communications and disbursements.  I am very much looking forward to having that part of it behind me. Hopefully by the end of April it will all be done.

One good thing is that I have had the privilege of meeting and spending time with his extended family. They are wonderful people and they had some stories to tell about Bob.  They called him 2Bob because his dad was also Bob, and 2Bob hated that name. So of course, now we all refer to him as 2Bob when we’re together, kind of joking and knowing that he’s smiling down on our poking fun at him. There were, of course, a few interesting things that I learned from his cousins that Bob hadn’t shared with me.  They told me about the parties that he had at the “big house” and his brush with the law when he was younger, long before we met. I have been in constant touch with them since December and they have become family to me too. I have handed over his and his parents remaining ashes to them when I was down there a few weeks ago, and they are taking care of the interment.  I am so grateful for all the help and love that they’ve shown me. They are truly remarkable people. They loved Bob as much as he’d let them, mostly from a distance. They were also very close to Bob’s parents.  His Mom’s younger sister is still there and she and I spent some time getting to know each other. I am so thankful they have been part of this with me.

Bob moved around a lot. Since Saigon he’d lived in at least 8 different states, sometimes maintaining 2 homes at a time.  He wasn’t good with authority figures, so working for someone else was not his way. He always owned his own businesses, and always had 2 more on the back burner if needed.  He told me that his employees thought he was fair but strict. I could completely see that about him. His businesses mostly either revolved around real estate/property management or later in life he did cabinetry/furniture building. It was a pretty high intensity life with the real estate stuff.

He lived in Alabama for a while, building furniture and breeding beagles.  My dog is half beagle and he didn’t like how I spoil her (because you don’t spoil hunting dogs), but he’s also the one that taught her to beg for table scraps so that argument was tossed right out the window. She’s also half rottweiler and very much not a hunting dog unless you count barking at anything that moves. She’s lost a couple of pounds in the last 2 months because she’s not begging at the table anymore. She misses him too, but mostly the rice balls that he’d feed her because he liked to spice up his vegan dishes and they would have upset her, so there was always rice for the dog, even if he wasn’t having any.

Bob gave his Alabama life/business up when his Dad got sick and had spent the year just before I met him helping his parents. His dad passed in Hawaii, where his parents had retired to after leaving their service to our Diplomat Corps in Asia. Dad was also a Marine Vet and WWII hero. Bob idolized him and rightly so.  Bob moved his mom back to their hometown after his dad passed. His mom passed shortly after that, and that’s about the time we met.

For the last 25 years of his life, from Alabama on, he gave up the real estate business and turned his skills with cabinetry and furniture making into an income that was enough to support him. He enjoyed the solitude of it, and didn’t think twice about no longer having high pressure quotas to meet and traveling all of the time. He also tried his hand at internet marketing. He was always talking about the next best way that he was going to make millions for his retirement, but somehow none of that ever worked much.  Small successes here and there kept him going though.

While he was caring for his mom, they lived in a beautiful big (3500 sq ft) house in Missouri, on 20 acres, with a pond and an outbuilding that he’d turned into his wood shop. I visited him there many times. It was so peaceful. Much more peaceful than my life in the city, and some of my favorite memories of him are getting up early and sitting on the back deck together watching the barn swallows hunt the flying bugs around the pond before starting our day. We watched a lot of sunsets from the front porch too. He bought that house so mom would be comfortable after living in a house that overlooked the ocean in Hawaii. The pond was small but at least there was scenery there for mom.  It was beautiful and peaceful, but more than he could handle on his own so he gave it up.

When he moved here, he brought his tool shop and set up in my garage.  He built bunk beds as his main gig. They were easy and in demand. His business took off pretty quickly here because there’s literally about 10 million people within 50 miles of my house and some of them wanted good bunk beds.  He also, occasionally, built some beautiful custom furniture. I have several pieces gracing my house, and I love them. He was quite skilled and woodworking was kind of a meditation for him. He was completely focused on making every element the best it could be, and his furniture showed it.

He was the same way with this website.  He worked on the idea for months before it launched. He wanted it to be the best it could. He’d pre-planned every page, every topic, and every little thing that he had in the side bars, and he loved that people were finding it and spreading the word. We talked about all of it, and I was along with him for the proverbial ride with this site. He was so hopeful that it would reach the people that he remembered from what was probably his favorite time of life. Saigon, in the years before the war, before any real violence, when he was there, was a place where he could do what he wanted, for the most part, as a 16 year old Man. He was always sensitive that there were Saigon Kids after him that didn’t have such a good experience as things got darker there, but he had some insane stories of stuff that he pulled off as a teenager that he’d never have gotten away with in the states. He was a wild child. It was those memories that drove him to making this site.  He gave a lot of hours to learning web mastering, SEO, word press, and everything else that he needed to know. I helped him at first but he surpassed my knowledge pretty quickly. He could learn anything he put his mind to.

Bob and I met on line at a point in our lives where we were both grieving and going through major transitions. His mother was dying, and I was going through an ugly divorce. We became friends and talked constantly, and 18 months later when he needed a home and I needed a roommate, I invited him to live at my comparatively little house on my 1/4 acre of land in the Chicago suburbs. The only pond I have happens when it rains and the yard floods. It was a culture shock for him after living in the country for many years, but he never complained. He brought up a truckload of tools and finished goods to sell, and took up residence with me. The rest is a very boring story of day to day life, that included him building furniture in the garage during the day and cooking most of our dinners while I worked my day job. The year after he moved in, I had back surgery and then went through a cancer scare. He did so much for me during that time, I will forever be thankful.  When he got sick with a lung infection that affected his heart and nearly died 2 years ago, as well as last when he got sick again last October, I was able to return the favor. It was not a great romance. We never really hit it off that way, but it was a comfortable, peaceful coexistence with someone that was slightly more than just a friend. We supported each other through some major things, and learned a lot from each other.

Bob never stopped learning. As a life long student myself, it’s one of the things I respected the most about him. His grades were terrible in High School. I found some of his report cards that he’d kept and they made me laugh. True to form, he didn’t want to learn what they were teaching. He never did do things the way any of the authorities required. His grades showed that. Later in life, he’d study things that interested him for weeks on the internet. He’d learn it from every angle and be able to argue its tenets it to anyone willing to discuss it. In his final few years he’d become a fairly strict vegan, and preached the vegan life until the day he died. Both times that he was in the hospital, we joked that he needed to get out of the hospital because the food there was killing people. I was bringing him food from home because it literally made him sicker to eat their mass produced hospital food. He legitimately had cured himself of heart disease and kept lung cancer at bay for several years through nutrition. He was passionate about sharing his story, and teaching people how to start living healthier.  He had just enrolled in a course to get certified as a nutrition and life coach, and he intended to spread the world far and wide about how all health issues can be solved by nutrition. It was the thing that he was most passionate about and it occupied most of his time for the last few years. He couldn’t build bunk beds anymore after the heart failure prevented heavy lifting, but he could and did do everything he could to learn what would keep him alive longer.  His cardiologist became a good friend while Bob was in the hospital in December. He’d sit with Bob on his breaks and just shoot the breeze. He respected Bob and was amazed that he’d come back almost completely from nearly total heart failure. He’d never seen that happen with meds, but food and exercise had done it and the doctor was amazed. That kind of thing was how Bob wanted to change the world. If he could get a few doctors preaching lifestyle instead of meds, that made him exceedingly hopeful for the future of medicine.  He was after all, the living evidence that diet matters.  He was disappointed that I never got on that bandwagon with him, because of course he thought it would be best for me. I am allergic to too many vegetables, and his juices were not for the weak stomached. He never stopped trying, in a gentle way, to get me to eat less meat, or more greens.  He just kept setting the example, and studying on how to make himself healthier. That’s how he was.  I, of course, resisted. I still can’t see myself doing what he did, but my diet has changed for the better, and I’m doing OK.

Bob was full of contradictions if you look at his life as a whole. He lived fast and big for a long time, but was happiest in his country house working in solitude. When I met him he was deeply humble and very spiritual and just went about his day to day with love in his heart trusting that things would be all right. He taught me about things like the I Ching, and some of the ceremonies and customs that he’d learned along the way from different Shaman and Kahunas. Learning about his previous life in the fast lane was kind of a shocker for me because that is not how he presented himself, but over the years I could see where he integrated the lessons he learned during that time into his way of being. He loved telling stories about his younger years but he’d finish most of them with “glad I don’t have to do that anymore”.

His best friend here was my next door neighbor who is a refugee from the Sandinistas in El Salvador.  He had great respect for what Jorge had been through and what he’s made of himself here through hard work and help from family, and they talked a lot about that. He made sure to tell me that Jorge would take care of me if I ever needed help. He was right. Jorge and I have had many conversations about Bob in the last couple of months. It’s nice to have that. He’s also helping me with a couple of things that Bob left behind to finish. It’s also nice to have that.

Bob also left me in your care. He loved his friends from Saigon, and asked specifically that I keep this site going. I’ve heard from a few of you and I truly appreciate the kindness that you have shown.  I hope I have given you a glimpse of this very private man, without violating too much of his privacy.  His favorite thing to do was talk story- A tradition that he learned while living in Hawaii after High school, and again later in the late 70’s/early 80’s. It’s hard to summarize a life that I’ve heard in 1000 stories into a few short paragraphs, but here it is.

Enough grief. Bob would want us to celebrate his life, with some loud music and ba muoi ba.

Rock onnnnn Bob, wherever you are.

Now back to being a site about all of you, Saigon Kids.






Well that took longer than expected

Hi Everyone,

If you’re seeing this, you are visiting the site on the new server. That move has been completed, now it just needs to replicate on the DNS servers worldwide.

I will be removing all of the ads on the sidebar. They’re all linked to Bob’s accounts that are being discontinued.  The move to the new server brings a great reduction in costs too. Basically my only additional cost to host this site is the price of renewing the domain name and I’ll use Bob’s funds to extend this one for 5 years once his estate is settled. He was pretty specific about his wishes to keep this site running, so I will.

It has been one heck of a month here at Chez Mel and I haven’t forgotten about you.  My surgery went well. I had one little setback and ended up home for an extra week.  I actually go back to the office in the morning after working from home for the last 2 weeks, wish me luck. I’m feeling good but my energy has not yet come back. They say that’s pretty typical for Sleeve surgery and it takes a few months to get it back.  I did win some money on the office squares for the Superbowl, so there’s some incentive to get moving in the morning.

I have not forgotten my promise to write a bit about Bob. He was an interesting character, but also very private, so I’ll do my best to convey his personality, and his life, without violating his trust.

In the mean time, as Bob would say, Rock Onnnnnnn  and I’ll add my wish for the world: Peace.



Thank you Saigon Kids

Hello again, this is Melanie.

I want to thank you all for your responses to my previous post. I responded to a few in the comments there but there are so many names that I recognize as Bob’s friends and I don’t want to miss anyone, so please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss of our friend too. He had a beautiful soul and loved everyone.

Bob created this site as an act of love and he certainly would appreciate how much you all cared. Frank, who was one of Bob’s friends beyond Saigon, asked that I write more about his life. I will do that, but it will be a week or two. Bob was a Jack of many Trades, and he loved to “talk story” as they used to do in Hawaii, so I have quite the repertoire of subjects to choose from. I don’t want to turn this into a memorial site to Bob though, so I’ll choose a few and write one more time about him. After that, we’re back to just being Saigon Kids together, and if you’ll all allow me to be an honorary one while I take care of his website, I’d be honored.

I am going on medical leave myself, having a small procedure on my stomach on Friday. I’ll be in the hospital overnight and home for 2 weeks. Once I get through the initial healing, I’ll have some time to write a bit. My daughter is also coming in to help me for a week, and while she’s nursing me she will also be the webmistress that moves this site from Bob’s host to mine.

I hope your holidays were wonderful, and here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous New Year for all of us.

Sad News

Hi Everyone,

This note is from Melanie.

Bob and I lived together for the last 13 years.

I am sorry to report this, but he succumbed to pneumonia on Sunday December 15th.
The end was peaceful and he knew he was loved. I was there with him through it.

He loved all of you so much, and was so jazzed about how this site brought everyone together. We spent many dinners discussing his escapades as a Saigon Kid. He had quite an adventurous life, and he smiled a lot when he told his stories and remembered all of the places he’d been. I feel like I know a few of you personally from all the discussions that we had about the people and activities there.

He has left the responsibility for this site in my hands and I will do what I can to keep it running. In the next few weeks I will be moving it to my host account. That should be invisible to you, I’m just moving it to a different server. It will be the same URL and should look identical. Once that is done I will let you know.

Thank you in advance for your kind words.