is my mother's maiden name that I took because
the French can't really pronounce Flahie! They
do a much better job with McClelland.
will tell you my impressions of Maracaibo and
La Salina when I arrived in August 1947 when
I was about 8 and a half years old.
“My mother Pat and I, and my brother Mike
aged 1½ arrived on the “Santa
Clara” (a Grace
Line ship) in Maracaibo. I vividly
remember the taxi ride with my father, John,
(who was already there) from the ship to the
Bachelor Quarters in Maracaibo. Along the way,
we saw some Venezuelan boys (young ones) going
around naked in the streets. I'll never forget
my comment to my parents: 'Will we let Mike
(my brother) run around naked like
that?'. We spent the first night at the
Bachelor Quarters and went over to the Club
for a drink. My father had taught me how to
count to ten in Spanish so with some goading,
I spoke my first sentence in Spanish: 'Uno
Coca Cola' said I - and it worked!
“One of my first contacts with Venezuela
was the pool in the Maracaibo Creole Club.
That was great since I loved to swim.
“After that we went over to La Salina
where we were going to live - I say La Salina
but it really was Las Cupulas - the quonset
hut camp. I had never been in a quonset hut
before! Also, they had just planted grass in
our yard. I guess we stayed there about 9 months
or so before moving to Hollywood Camp that had
concrete houses built on stilts. No air-conditioning
and I wonder, did we have ceiling fans? Don't
remember those until later. What I do remember
is being right outside a pumping oil derrick
that I could hear every night, ronk, ronk ronk
as it went around. What I do remember is that
the asthma I had had for as long as I could
remember had vanished as soon as I put my foot
in Venezuela. What a blessing. That meant that
I could run and jump and do all those things
that you can't when you have asthma.
“I loved Venezuela as a child. You could
be outside all the time (and I was). We would
go to the pool and the movies and the Shell
school the first year in a bus that picked us
up from the Creole Camp. I was in hog's heaven.
“In the beginning, we would go 'shopping'
for food at the Chino's little open shop - there
must not have been a commissary yet. Well that
place was really basic. What I'll always remember
is that they had butter in a can!
“There weren't very many places to go
- but as a child I didn't care. I would climb
the mango tree in our yard and build a tree
house where iguanas would corner me out on a
branch. We loved to play in the space underneath
the houses in Hollywood Camp which were on stilts.
I remember that there was no hot water in the
beginning. But it didn't matter to me since
the air around it was warm.
“My mother, Pat Flahie, decided to keep
herself busy and set up swimming lessons which
she had taught at summer camp in Texas for anyone
who wanted them at the Creole Club
in La Salina. She also set up dancing lessons:
ballet and tap dancing that she continued until
we left Tia Juana. I remember dancing to Strauss'
the 'Rosenkavalier' and the 'Third Man Theme'
for tap . We had no TV until we moved back to
Maracaibo in 1956; consequently, we would run
around, play dolls, swim and have fun all day
and even go to dancing lessons.
“Those were the carefree days. Then we
moved to Tia Juana around 1950. We had a 'new'
house with ceiling fans in them! I would play
outside all day running around without any shoes
on. We would go to school in a house that had
been turned into a school. I must not have gone
to it for a long time because the next thing
I knew, we were living in Caracas. There my
parents had decided that I would go to a Venezuelan
school to learn Spanish: I did and went to Nuestra
Señora de Guadalupe for a year.
That was really something else! I wore a uniform
and learned Spanish alright.
“After going to a Venezuelan school for
a year, I wanted to return to the American school
so then I went to Campo Alegre in Las
Mercedes for two years (November 1952 until
May 1953) for 7th and 8th grades. I really had
fun in that school. We played baseball constantly
- at school and when I came home from school
in the back yard until the sun went down. That's
a lot of baseball as we would get out of school
at 2 pm. We were ALWAYS picking teams to play
“Meanwhile, my sister June arrived in
1951 and my younger brother Bill in 1954. So
now there are four of us.
“We joined the Valle Arriba Club
which had a golf course for my Dad and a swimming
pool for my Mom and us and a snack bar we got
the best hot dogs at. I remember joining the
Excursion Club at school. That was
great because we got to go to factories like
Savoy Chocolate: it was one of the
reasons I joined! One Christmas, my Dad just
gave me golf clubs so I figured I'd have to
learn how to play the game. That was murder
because I couldn't hit the ball very far yet
(no strength at 12). But I finally did. I really
liked the downhill holes because the ball would
roll down! I also remember getting Grenadines
to drink there because they were free.
“At the end of that school year, I went
back to the States for school at the Ursuline
Academy - stricter than that is hard. I
missed my family and Venezuela the whole year.
That summer I didn't come 'home' to Venezuela.
My Dad, who was in charge of the Pipeline department
for Creole, was to spend the year in
NYC so we lived in Rye, NY the whole year. When
they went back to Venezuela in August, I begged
to come with them for a couple of weeks - just
so I could see Venezuela again. We stayed at
the Tamanaco. Then I had to leave to
go back to boarding school, this time San Antonio
(to Our Lady of the Lake).
“When I came home for Christmas it was
the end of 1955 in Maracaibo. And the next summer
it was 1956. What a glorious summer I spent
- going to parties, swimming until I saw a job
advertised about at the club in July and August.
I applied and got the part time job as Secretary
for the Creole Club. So now I was a
working girl. Still it was great experience.
I do remember going to the Hotel del Lago
to dance with friends there. That hotel still
has fabulous music and good food. It is full
of memories for me.
“I went back to Venezuela in 1997 and
in 1998 to see what had changed. Not much had
really but the people were not there in the
camps any more. Basically it was as though I
had just left Hollywood Camp the day before...
Caracas is very built up now - unattractively
so. But I must say that the experience taught
me a lot. The last time I counted, I had been
to 27 schools in 3 languages without ever being
“I now live in Paris, France and have
for the last 45 years! I have five children
two of whom live in the United States and the
other three in Paris. I have worked for Unisys
and Digital Equipment as a Manager
for Technical Documentation/Training materials
then as a teacher at the American University
of Technical Writing and Web Marketing.
“Now I take small groups of American and
South American visitors around France to see
the marvels of this country. Have a look at
my Web site at: www.patmcclelland.com.”