A WANDERING MINSTREL by Louis Christian

Louis Christian Photo 2

Louis Christian

The small Hill Station of Kalaw lies half way between Rangoon and Mandalay, Burma (to find Rangoon, go to Singapore and turn left). I was born here in my mother’s bed, an English midwife presiding, without a doctor or hospital. We lived in Burma because my father was principal of the Meiktila Technical School from 1927-35.

In those days Burma was a British Colony, with inadequate roads supplemented by paddle wheel steamers churning up and down the Irrawaddy River and wood-burning locomotives pulling narrow gauge railcars to such quaint towns as Taunggyi (Big Hill), Maymyo (Summer Capital), Yenangyaung (smelly creek), Bhamo, Henzada, Myaungmya, and Pakokku. Mong Nai and Ft. Hertz could be reached by elephant back or mule train.

My fifth birthday was spent leaning over the side during a very rough Pacific Ocean crossing on the German freighter Saarbrücken (or English freighter Golden Horn, or Dutch freighter whose name I forgot), enroute from Rangoon to Penang to Singapore to Bangkok toManila to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Tsing-Tao to Northern Japan to Seattle to San Francisco, stopping a week or so at each port, and reaching Peking and Mukden by rail for a month or more while my father was studying some of the local history and political economy.

The next thrill was entering Stanford University. I started kindergarten while my father completed his M.A. in History and Political Science. Shoes, socks and underwear were suddenly forced on me (in the tropics, these had often been dispensed with). One week into kindergarten butterflies were deemed insufficiently challenging, so I was advanced to first grade. The very next day I wet my pants and was busted back to kindergarten.

The next crisis was severe car sickness in Idaho on old U.S. Hywy #95 (“95 bumps in a foot”). In 1937 this was a dirt and gravel road with sheep and cattle herds being driven down it. I restarted first grade in the one-teacher/one-room school in Blowout, Idaho, near the Wyoming border. The teacher on day one said to me, “Louis, you are the only pupil in 1st grade, so I’m going to put you into 2nd grade.” (In 8 grades I attended 9 different schools.) During a 4th grade recess in Tuolumne, California, I once tried to pry a larger boy off the back of some small fry he was beating up. I was knocked out cold for interfering and thus learned another lesson: never try to be a hero.

Seventh grade found me in Seattle, where my father was teaching Far Eastern History and Political Science at the Univ. of Washington, until Dec. 7, 1941. After Pearl Harbor….well it was off to the Pentagon (Army Intelligence), where my father was the only Captain or Major who could speak, read, and write Burmese, and knew the country well.

I began 9th grade in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, but, OOPS, Dad got sent to New Delhi (Lord Louis Mountbatten’s SEAC Hdqs), and so I finished High School in three years at our old house back in Berkeley. There was a war going, my older brother, already in the Navy, advised me to get in a year of college before being drafted, so I began college at 16.

In May 1945 my father lost his life with a British force advancing on Rangoon. Thereafter, I qualified as a “war orphan” and received a 4-year Gold Star Scholarship at Stanford University. I earned my B.S. and M.S. degrees with a major in Geology.

Career? It has been an adventurous one which has taken me all over the world. I lived in Manila for 3 years with Anglo-Philippine Oil. I was employed for 21 years by Mobil Oil Corp., serving 7 years in Libya, 3 years in Indonesia, 11 years in Dallas, including rips to Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Iraq, Australia, Colombia, Tunisia, London and Paris. I worked for Nelson Bunker Hunt in Dallas, and for Phil Anschutz in Denver. Advisory projects for Amoco, Arco, Enron, Hunt Oil, Transworld, Türkan Petrol (Ankara), and the U.S. Geological Survey (Denver), sent me all over the Middle East. Since retiring, I busy myself making subsurface geological maps which are published in Bahrain and sold to oil companies.

Two of my three daughters were born abroad. Their mother took “early retirement” in 1985, leaving me to raise the two younger girls here in Dallas. They are grown and independent now freeing me for my favorite activities such as summer hikes and winter ski trips with Annelies, the Over the Hill Gang, Dallas Ski Club, and attending the Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, Dallas Bach Society, reading history and biography and travel.

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