Saigon Kids Emporium
September 2017
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Submitted by Suellen (Oliver) Campbell (ACS)

Charles and I are planning a cruise to Asia next year (2018) that includes a one-day stop in Saigon along the way.

The ship will provide transportation to the city from the port with a short tour of the city included.

We have no interest in seeing the tunnels or areas outside the city.

I am wondering if any of the Saigon Kids who have returned in the past few years would recommend investigating the city on our own after the day tour is over?

I would like to find our old house on Phan Dinh Phung, if possible, but we want to be safe if we venture out on our own.

Is transportation still easily available these days?

Did you find the currency easy to calculate?

Are there any obvious pitfalls to avoid?

For all intents and purposes, my Vietnamese is non-existent.

Should we stick with the ship tour, or add our adventure?

Any suggestions are welcome and appreciated.


Suellen (Saigon ACS ’58-60)


by Admin

I know it has been awhile since I posted to the site. But, I’ve been engrossed in my adventure into the world of cancer; and, doing extensive research about it.


First let me say I was deeply touched and overwhelmed with gratitude by all your comments and emails of encouragement and support.


But, words can’t even begin to express how deeply the compassion you’ve expressed has touched me.

I’m truly blessed to be connected with all of you through this site.

So, were am I at in my journey with cancer? That’s a damn good question – LOL.

In a few days I’ll be making a longer Post with more details, but for now will just give you the short version…

Official diagnosis? None yet.
Treatment options available? None yet.


I found it necessary to fire my Lung Specialist Team. I’d selected this particular group mainly because the head of the team has been recogonize for the past few years as one of the top 10 lung specialist in the country.

(Note: You might have noticed above I said I *fired* them. This might seem strange to some of you, but I view medical professionals as *contract employees*. When I have a need for specialized skills or services, I have a choice of hiring qualified on the payroll employees or hiring qualified individuals on an independent contractor basis. Either way, as their employer, if they don’t perform to my standards and expectations I fire them and replace them with people who will.)

When it became evident they were more interested in how many highly profitable tests, scans, procedures, etc. (many unnecessary) they could rack up before issuing a diagnosis, I fired them.

I’ve assembled a new team and contracted with them. They are in the process of gathering up all my medical records and history. Once they’ve completed that and reviewed it they should have enough information to make a diagnosis and provide available treatment options, etc.

This entire adventure has proven very interesting, to put it mildly. One thing that stands out the most is how they constantly bombard you with *fear tactics*… if you don’t do xyz right now you could die, etc. etc. … Really doctor?! Now tell me something I don’t know. Hell I’ve known all my life I’m going to die. I’ve just never known how or when.

Anyway, that’s where things stand at the moment.

I’ll write another Post with the details of my cancer experiences to date (what a mine field), and my research discoveries which I’m certain most of you will find shocking.

Until then …

Rock Onnn…. Saigon Kidssssssssss



Submitted by Les Arbuckle (ACS)

As some of you know, my memoir, “Saigon Kids, A Military Brat Comes of Age in 1960’s Vietnam” will become available on or about this Tuesday (September 12) at Amazon and other booksellers. As far as I know, it will be the first Military Brat memoir ever presented to a large audience and the only one that is not a self-published book.

Let me start by saying that I know I got a lot wrong. I tried to paint a realistic and gritty literary picture of my life in Saigon during the years I was there. But I didn’t start writing Saigon Kids until I was fifty-three years old (fifteen years ago!), and my memory has not gotten any better over the years. I’m not saying ‘this is the way it was” as much as I’m saying, “this is the way I remember it.” Memory is a fickle friend at best, and at worst, a damned liar.

As a life-long musician, I would have loved to be able to include a sound track to go with the book. Music can evoke emotions that no amount of writing will ever touch. When I started writing “Saigon Kids” back in 2002, I often listened to the tunes I remember hearing then, songs like “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain,” “Walk Like a Man,” Little Deuce Coupe,” etc. Whenever I hear those old songs, I can close my eyes and feel the cool air of the bowling alley on the back of my neck, smell the burgers and fries, and hear the crash of the balls and pins. Saigon was a magical place and nothing stirs my memories of that place more than the music of the era.

I’ve changed most of the names in the book with a few notable exceptions, which most of you will pick up on at a glance. But don’t be too quick to assume that you know whom I’m talking about when you follow my characters through a world of hijinks, misadventures, and assorted teenage craziness. In some cases, I’ve made the characters difficult to identify, but if you were there, you might make a lucky guess or two. Then again, you may be dead wrong.

Some of you will like the book, some of you won’t, but in order for any artistic endeavor to succeed, the emotions of those partaking have to be engaged. I would prefer you hate it passionately rather than feel indifferent. But I do sincerely hope you like it and that reading it stirs up at least a few good memories for you the way writing it has for me. We Saigon Kids occupy a unique place in history and I tried to do justice to our absurdly abnormal past.

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.


Submitted by Donal O’Callaghan (Friend)

ObituariesI am a friend of Steve Johnson.

Friends of Steve on this site may be interested to know that Steve has passed away, a few days ago (on or about September 8, 2017), after a 4-year battle with colon cancer.

I would love to hear from those who knew Steve, to share stories of his times in Saigon.


Donal OCallaghan, Cork, Ireland

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*.



by Admin

A long time, since the 1960s, very good Chinese friend and former business partner sent this to me.

“The best man was not long life enough to live. But, on the contrary, the Heaven was not fair without protecting the good human beings.”