Saigon Kids Emporium
June 2017
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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*.



Submitted by Stephen Lowe (ACS)

I, bro & sisters were living in Saigon 1957-59. Dad was among 1st 100 advisors, his 2nd tour, Dep. Commander Danang.

Lots of 8mm, photos, docs, stories to share.

Dad’s 96 and still sharper then me. Given the chance, he’d put Ken Burns’s Vietnam War film on a more truthful reality vs cliche dramatics.

Us kids-? Ever hear about the nuns kidnapping my sister for a couple days and the entire army searching for her? Yea, and more.

Admin Note: Welcome to the group Stephen. Glad you found us. Feel free to join in and share your Saigon experiences with everyone.



Submitted by Elvera Roussel (ACS)

I am documenting the experiences and emotional repercussions of American children living in Saigon at the onset of Vietnam war.

CLICK HERE if you’d like to support the funding for this film by DONATING to the project through the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

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Submitted by Carol Cini (ACS)

I’ve published the book I wrote.

The Spy and His CIA Brat is available on Amazon both in print and kindle

I look forward to seeing some of you at the reunion in September.

Carol (aka Carl)

“The Spy and His CIA Brat” is a tale of mystery, bonding, and survival in cataclysmic times. Reviewing historical notes, CIA documents, and letters from his parents, the author seeks to decode the secret life of his father, the mysterious Walter Cini. Walter Cini, a grocer’s son not interested in joining the family business opted instead for the arts and world travel. The turning point in Walter’s life was the attack on Pearl Harbor after which Cini, a man with a knack for languages and who preferred intellectual rigor over physical exertion, nonetheless enlisted in the Army where the ride of his life began. Starting in World War II as an integral part of MIS-Y, the OSS and finally a key agent with the Strategic Services Unit (forerunner of the CIA) the author reveals a world of mystery as he and his family accompany their father as he plies his clandestine activities. The reader is given unusual insight into secret mission which include “Operation Paperclip” recruiting scientists from Nazi Germany for employment at the U.S. War Department, “Operation Sunrise” the long range counter-offensive against the Viet Cong and “Operation Switchback’ the highly classified program recruiting South Vietnamese soldiers for covert operations in North Vietnam. From Paris to Italy to Holland to Vietnam to Honduras and back to Italy, the author recites a tale of family love and bonding all while the covert affairs of the CIA were run parallel to those of domestic life. “The Spy and His CIA Brat” is the tale of a human balancing act. On one side the loving, caring family man and on the other a man risking it all for the dangerous life of a spy.

About the Author

Carol Francois Cini was born in Paris, France in the year 1948 when he officially became a CIA Brat. His mother Stephane was French and his father was an American spy. As a CIA brat, he travelled the world experiencing the food and cultures of many countries. He witnessed two wars and had unique adventures including several dangerous episodes which nearly cost him his life. He retired eight years ago, from a three letter government agency after 32 years of service. He enjoys his life travelling, playing tennis, and investigating scam and fraud cases as a volunteer at a local law enforcement agency.


Submitted by Ken Yeager (ACS)

I haven’t posted anything of importance/interest in a long time, if ever, but thought I would share my days with those of you who are interested, if any.

We are still living in Grosshansdorf, Germany which is still a small community of about 9000+ individuals according to Wikipedia. It is pretty much a community of retired folks (hence the Yeager’s) and a bedroom community for those who work in Hamburg which is the 2nd largest city in Germany. Three U-Bahn (subway) stations serve the village, one of which is a 10 minute walk from our abode. In addition to Hamburg, we generally do our shopping in the towns of Volksdorf (actually a suburb of Hamburg) and Ahrensburg. Fortunately, German towns and cities are still make up of lots of little “mom and pop” stores and yes, we have the big box stores too but Gisela and I prefer to shop locally and keep the small businesses going. Services are better and a great example is that I recently had a problem with my coffee machine, one of those “multi-type coffee makers” and so having had it for 12 years, thought to replace it. Went to one of our local shops and bought a machine for, well, more than €500, and as we were leaving the shop, the sales man suggested to do something to my old machine. I did just that after getting home and it worked and my old machine is now working perfectly and I have a new machine, so we called and asked to return the new machine and the shop said, no problem. Ok, so other places would have also accepted the return, but this is not the first time I’ve returned something but I think it shows that small privately owned businesses are more amenable to accommodate customers than the big box stores (which are often too big with too few knowledgeable employees).

Hamburg is hosting the G20 meeting this year (July) but we will be off on vacation during that period so we get to avoid the chaos that will be everywhere within 50 miles of Hamburg. The USA representative, whose name I will not mention, is being put up at the InterContinental in Berlin, not in Hamburg. Exactly why, I don’t know but that should help eliminate some of the chaos that accompanies him. It will still be a mess but hey, what do I care…I’ll be on the beach.
Did a one week trip away recently and spend three days in Alsace, France and some sightseeing in Strasburg and a town called Colmar. Interesting. Struggled trying to recall our French but we managed, especially since many people in the Alsace region speak German. What pretty much astonished me was the driving. I’ve been very critical of the French with their driving habits but the driving in France was so calm compared to Germany. The highway speed is maximum 130 KMs (ca. 81 MPH) while in Germany, much of the Auto Bahn is without a speed limit and with three lanes of traffic, each driver can decide for himself how fast to drive with a minimum of 80 KMS. I can be driving 100 MPH and be passed by a Porsche pushing 120 or 130 MPH or faster. Fortunately, one can only pass on the left so that is a real plus for Germany and slower traffic is SUPPOSED to drive to the right, but ha, that doesn’t always work. But getting from point A to point B is pretty easy in Germany giving the high speeds and I have to say, accidents do occur but highway deaths are pretty low, call things considered. But to end this paragraph, hats off to the French because I understand their traffic fines are pretty high and there is no 10%+ leeway in speeds.

Sighs of relieve were heard around the country when the Netherlands avoided a right-wing extremist in their elections a few months ago and the same for France. Poland and Hungary are watched carefully as their governments are moving to the right more and more every year. The Czech Republic is another to watch. While the Germany government (CDU) is center right, it is really more center and includes representatives of the SPD which is more center left. The party to watch here is the ADF which is a real collection of hard right folks. Questions abound about the departure of the UK from the European Union and I, for one, as a dual national (US/UK) am living in Germany on my UK/EU passport so what arrangements come out of the Briexit are important to me or I should say US as Gisela is an American citizen. I suspect that after 13 years here, we will be allowed to say should the UK/EU breakup affect Brits here and Germans in the UK. But time will tell.

OK, enough boring stuff so I will stop and besides, its after 1700 and a drink is in order. Have a nice weekend and stay safe.


Submitted by Les Arbuckle (ACS)

As some of you may know, for the last fourteen years I have been working on a memoir about the eighteen months I spent in Saigon (1963-64) In 2010 I acquired a literary agent and we set about pursuing a publishing deal. After many years and dozens of rejections, we have finally found and signed with a reputable publisher and have begun the process of bringing my manuscript to market.

If all goes as planned, the book will be available in retail stores and online in August of 2017.

My story, in many ways, is your story, too. You may remember things differently, but memory is a fickle thing. I can recall many of the most mundane, ordinary events of this time as clearly as if they happened yesterday, while some of the more dramatic life-changing ones are hazy and undefined in my mind.

I hope my book brings back as many fond memories for you as writing it did for me. The Saigon we knew was a wonderful, sometimes terrifying city, and the Saigon Kids were special people, with a unique and (so far) unacknowledged place in history.

Pre-order Price Reduced 35%

The early Vietnam war years through the eyes of a U.S. military brat: In May of 1962, Naval Chief Petty Officer Bryant Arbuckle flew to Saigon to establish a new Armed Forces Radio Station(AFRS). Next to follow were his wife and three boys, Leslie among them. Saigon Kids is the candid, recondite slice of fourteen-year-old military brat Les Arbuckle’s experience at the American Community School (ACS) during the critical months of the Vietnam War when events would, quite literally, ignite in downtown Saigon. In 1963, Saigon was beautiful, violent, and dirty – and the most exciting place a fourteen-year-old American boy could live. Saigon offered a rich array of activities, and much to the consternation of their parents and teachers, Les and his fellow military brats explored the dangers with reckless abandon running from machine gun fire, watching a Buddhist monk burn to death, visiting brothels late at night or, trading currency on the black market.

Coming of age in the streets of Vietnam War torn Saigon: When Les first arrives in Vietnam, he is a stranger in a strange land, expecting boredom in a country he doesn’t know. But the American social scene is more vibrant than he expected. The American Community School is a blend of kids from all over the globe who arrived in Saigon as the fuse on Saigon was about to ignite. As the ACS students continue their American lifestyle behind barbed wire, Saigon unravels in chaos and destruction. In spite of this ugliness – an ever-present feature of everyday life — Les tells his story of teenage angst with humor and precocity.

Coming of age tale with a twist:The events leading up to the Vietnam War provide an unusual backdrop for this coming-of-age tale with a twist. Saigon Kids will also make a perfect companion to the documentary film (sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts) currently in production. The film chronicles the lives of “military brats” living in Saigon in the volatile years from 1958 to 1964.

About the Author

In the years between his birth in 1949 and his nineteenth birthday, Les lived in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Hawaii and Vietnam as a dependent of the US Navy. His father, Bryant Joseph Arbuckle, was a Chief Journalist who managed the Armed Forces Radio Station in Saigon, Vietnam, from June, 1962 until June, 1964. After a stint with the 50th Army Band at Fort Monroe, Virginia Les attended the Berklee College of Music (BA) and New England Conservatory (MM). He is a professional saxophonist living near Boston, Massachusetts with his wife, Joyce Lucia. He has performed with a variety of musical acts including The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Lou Rawls, Bernadette Peters, The San Diego Symphony Summer Pops Orchestra and The Artie Shaw Orchestra. His recordings for the Audioquest label and he is featured on the recordings of well-known jazz musicians Kenny Barron, Mike Stern, Cecil McBee, John Abercrombie and Victor Lewis.