Saigon Kids Emporium
October 2017
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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


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.”


By Admin

A quick update to my previous post.

As of yesterday the unofficial diagnosis is in.

It’s not good!

Additional test and evaluations are being completed by specialist. They well be finished by August 8th. Official diagnosis will be made at that time.

As it stands now the unofficial opinion is I have Stage 4, Small Cell Lung Cancer. The most aggressive type. The only treatment option available is Chemo. Time wise I’ve got from 1 month to a max of 6 months.

I’ve already started putting my affairs in order.

I’ll post another update once the official diaginois has been issued.

Until then …

Rock Onnn… Saigon Kids


“In the end all we are left with is memories.”


Why Don’t Doctors Routinely Include A Chest X-Ray Anymore During Patients Annual Physical Exam?

Well that’s what I asked my doctor.

During my annual physical exam in late June it occurred to me I hadn’t had a chest X-Ray since 2012 – 5 years ago. I mentioned it to my doctor who informed me they are no longer done routinely. I told him I’d like to get one as I thought it would be interesting to compare to the one done in 2012. He replied they are only done now if there are symptoms to warrant one, such as, experiencing some type of pain, etc.

So I commented to him (with a slight smirk on my face) that I hadn’t mentioned it before because it didn’t seem significant to me, but that I do occasionally get a light to mild pain on the right side of my chest in the upper rib cage. But, it goes away in a few seconds, so never thought much of it.

He immediately said “let me listen” and proceeded to listen to my chest/lungs front and back. Then commented sounds good, but if you’ve had chest pain we better do an X-Ray just to be safe. He wrote up an Image Order and told me where the X-Ray department was located in the building.

About the 2012 chest X-Ray. This was done in the ER. (Why I’m mentioning this will make sense later.) At the time I was in the process of transitioning off high blood pressure medication. One day I had a reaction so phoned the doctors office explaining what I experienced. He instructed to go to ER as he wanted to make sure I hadn’t had a minor stroke. While in ER they did an X-Ray along with 8 1/2 hours of other tests and scans, etc. Finally, telling me everything was good concluding I must have developed a sensitivity to the blood pressure medication and to stop taking it unless my blood pressure went up then to only take 1/2 dose.

After leaving my doctor’s office I went over to the X-Ray department and got the chest X-Rays.

The next day my doctor’s office contacted me saying the X-Rays showed some nodules on my lungs; and, recommending I have a CT Scan to check for cancer.

Two days later I had the CT Scan. The next day my doctors office contacted me with the results and recommendations from the doctor who read the CT Scan, then emailed a copy of the report to me.

It was a lengthy report and of course written in *Doctor-EZE*. That strange foreign language that only doctors understand and comprehend, but leaves us lay people, such as myself, totally clueless as to what the hell they are talking about – LOL.

The essence of the report was there are multiple nodules of varying sizes on both of my lungs. Two of which are of primary concern. A round 8mm one on my left lung and a round 1.8 cm one on my right lung, which according to the doctor who completed the report appear to be okay … BUT … (there is always that damn but, isn’t there – lol) to quote him, “… Cancer can not positively be ruled out. No biopsy should be considered until completion of a PET Scan …”

He recommended doing a PET Scan now. Or, as a minimum do another CT Scan in 3 months. And, that I might want to talk with a lung specialist.

DAMN! What the HELL?! All I know so far is that I have multiple nodules on my lungs and that 2 of them seem to be of concern. (By the way, nodules on the lungs are not uncommon and nearly everyone has them. Less than 2% are cancer. There are over 80 known cause of lung nodules.)

And now I have a long list of additional questions, such as, are the 2 nodules in question cancer or not. Are they stable. Or are they growing. If growing, at what rate. Which brings me back to the 2012 chest X-Ray.

The 2012 X-Ray was done mainly to check my heart. But, the doctor who wrote up the report on the current X-Ray did compare it with the 2012 X-Ray. The report for the 2012 X-Ray mentioned multiple lung nodules that appeared to be stable at that time. This made me curious why I wasn’t made aware of this finding. So I asked my doctor about it who replied because the X-Ray was done in ER he was never made aware of it. It seems that ER only brings to his attention what they consider to be *abnormal* findings. Since the main focus of ER doing the X-Ray pertained to the heart and it didn’t reveal any heart abnormalities the report was not forwarded to my doctor. Had I been aware of the nodules on the 2012 X-Ray I would have insisted on annual X-Rays to monitor them.

Lesson learn: Always, always, always insist and demand that I personally view all images of X-Rays, MRIs, and Scans with a specialist who can translate them and explain the finding in lay terms I understand and comprehend.

After learning I might have lung cancer I did considerable research on the Internet into the scientific medical literature on lung cancers. One of the first things I discovered is that lung cancer rarely, if ever, have any symptoms. They are usually only accidentally discovered when they show up on X-Rays (or other types of scans) done while treating people for other ailments by which time they have usually progressed spreading to other areas in the body.

This reinforces my conviction that annual chest X-Rays should be routinely done as part of annual physical exams, thereby, increasing the chances of finding lung cancers earlier before they’ve spread.

So What I’m I Gonna Do About All This?

I’ve decided to not do the PET Scan at this time (I’m not fond of injecting radio active material into my body, if it can be avoided). Instead I’ll do another CT Scan in 3 months to see if the nodules in question are stable or if they are growing. If growing, at what rate.

Also, I’ve made an appointment with a lung specialist to view the X-Rays and recent CT Scan with me and translate the findings into lay terms that I understand, etc.

After meeting with the lung specialist I’ll get 2nd and 3rd opinions then re-evaluate.

So Does Bob Have Lung Cancer?!


But I’m sure I’ll be finding out in the near future. I’ll update as I learn more while on this little adventure.

Until then …

Rock Onnnnn … Saigon Kids

PS:NO! I’m not turning this site into an old people’s health discussion site. I just thought some of you might find things I’m discovering on this journey of benefit.

PSS: If any of you are knowledgeable in these areas please feel free to share anything you feel might be helpful to me in the Comments below.