September 2023
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Saigon Kids™ Stories: Michael O’Brien Saigon Summer of 1955

Submitted by: Michael O’Brien (ACS 1955-56)

Michael O'Brien with mother, Dorothy Eggers, and brother Pat. Circa 1955 Saigon. Michael O'Brien Collection.

Michael O’Brien with mother, Dorothy Eggers, and brother Pat. Circa 1955 Saigon. Michael O’Brien Collection.

My brother Pat and I traveled from Portland, Oregon to Saigon in the summer of 1955 with our stepfather, Jodie Eggers, and our mom, Dorothy. Jodie was going to work for USOM, the United States Operations Mission to Vietnam. We lived in an apartment building on Rue Catinat, about halfway between the cathedral and the opera house plazas (across from a small park). Pat and I spent our 6th and 8th grade school years in the Quonset hut on the embassy compound. Mrs. Gettinger was the 8th grade teacher, who worked with us to do assignments from the Calvert School in Baltimore, where we sent our papers and tests to be graded.

I regret that I don’t remember the names of the other kids who were in that 8th grade class–I think there were only a handful–and would love to hear from anyone who does know them. Leland Barrows is the only name I can recall.

Pat and I took French language classes, which enabled us to sort of read Tintin and Asterix from the bookstore on Rue Catinat, and we had weekly watercolor painting lessons from a Chinese artist–I was more into it than he was, as I recall.

Our favorite hangout was the Cercle Sportif. I don’t think we were actually members, but us kids could use the pool, which was a relief from the heat and humidity (and turned bright green with algae by the end of each week).

Jodie worked on several projects, primarily to set up training schools to teach young men technical skills needed for the war effort. He helped another dad to organize a Boy Scout troop, and a group of us tenderfeet traveled by freighter from Saigon down the Mekong and up the coast to Nha Trang. We saw night phosphorescence and exotic flying fish along the way. I remember the beach there as a tropical paradise where we picked up beautiful intact seashells.

A group of people from USOM and the embassy chartered a plane a took a trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in 1956. We were the only foreign visitors in the whole place, so it was quite an adventure for all of us!

I’ve attached a photo of myself, our mom Dorothy and brother Pat, and can add more if anyone is interested.

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