February 2024
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Before Saigon: Roy McDonald

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

Roy McDonald

Roy McDonald (1959-63)

In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the average American family’s worldliness was limited to a 50 mile radius from their home. My brother and I had just started our freshman year at Jeb Stuart High School (a two mile walk from our home in Lake Barcroft, VA). The year was 1959. We had returned from my father’s last tour with the State Department from Iran and Italy in 1956. A three year respite in the US was evidently taking its toll when my father announced that we would be leaving for Saigon, Vietnam in mid-school year for his next tour. We used to walk to school with two cute twin girls (both “HOT”, in the current vernacular) from the neighborhood and one day we announced that we would be leaving for Saigon at mid-term. Expecting to observe some limited disappointment on their part, we were surprised when they both, in unison, said “oh, will you be going by bus or train”? My point on worldliness and twins!

Third Culture Kids (TCK) not withstanding, neither my brother nor I had any adjustment problems being carted off or returning from various corners of the world. Our trip to Saigon started on the ocean liner USS Constitution leaving from New York for Rome, Italy, and a Pan Am Stratocruiser from Rome to Saigon with multiple stops. Arriving in Saigon we were whisked off to the Norodom Compound, our temporary residence, where we, for the first time, were introduced to the gecko, a harmless creature that artfully climbed the bedroom walls to the ceiling and, almost on purpose, released its footing to land on our sleeping bodies in the middle of the night.

We quickly adjusted to our environment which included being chased by Vietnamese “Cowboys”, tours of the city in a cyclo, membership in the then French Cerc Sportif club, the American Community School with University of Maryland correspondence courses, and limited use of Vietnamese and French that consisted of “Chai-Ai” and “Didi-Mau” and “Salo” and “Merde”. Life was good.

My father’s tour from 1959 – 1963 and my graduation from Brent School in Baguio, PI (my junior and senior years) were filled with many adventures. It was the formative years of adulthood. Unforgettable in many ways, rich in cultural exposure. First love experience, multiple lust experiences and an overall experience unimaginable (to this day) by many of our State-Side equivalents.

We were fearless, invulnerable and clue-less as many teenagers are. In retrospect, how we made it to adulthood remains a mystery.

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