Al mashriq - The Levant

Weekends at ACS - Late 1920s

by Betty Witherspoon '37

We always looked forward to the weekends at boarding school because if we didn't have special things like a picnic scheduled, we went away to our homes. As I lived much too far away from home to go back during the weekends, kind friends often invited me to their homes. I enjoyed visiting Margaret Nicol '35 very much. Living in Beirut, she of course didn't have to be in the boarding department. Every Friday night we had Christian Endeavor to which Margaret and Edward '34 stayed and after that we would go to their home on the street-car. The Nicols had a large house, the lower part of which they used for Mrs. Nicol's kindergarten and any other work which she had for the Syrians. There was also a beautiful garden and a fine playground. Coming home at night, it was always pleasant to be greeted by Mrs. Nicol, smiling at the head of the staircase, and by the spaniel Nicksy, who jumped up and down in glee at having the rest of the family come home.

Often on Saturday afternoons Margaret and I would go out with her family to the golf course. It was a lovely place and the clubhouse itself was very comfortable for the ladies, who enjoyed sitting on the porch sipping tea while their menfolk played. There were some good playground apparatus among the pine trees, and when we tired of that, Margaret and I would go over and have fun rolling down the sand dunes.

Saturday nights we got to stay up late, and in the winter we would sit around the fireplace while Mr. Nicol, in his fine deep voice, read out of Dickens to us. Part of the time I would not be listening to the story, with my mind far away. However, if I started listening to it, even in the middle of the tale, I would enjoy it. That is the way with Dickens. You can pick up a book and, opening it anywhere, enjoy it.

Sunday mornings we had a delicious breakfast, got dressed up, and went to the Anglo- American church where Edward was an usher. In the afternoon after a rest, we went back to the school where we had Sunday school. After that, we either went out to tea or the Nicols had company. Then came those delightful pick-up suppers which can't be surpassed on Sunday nights. The weekend then came to a happy close with a mile-long walk to school the next morning with two congenial companions.

There were three churches which the boarding department usually chose from. The University chapel, the Anglo-American, and sometimes we visited the Church of England. If there were only a few of us when Miss Stokes was there, she took us to the German church if we pleaded enough. Sofie was Catholic and usually went there, so once we persuaded Fraulein to let us go there. But, as the University was only a few blocks away, we usually went there. On some Sundays we went to the Syrian church where Mr. Freidinger preached in Arabic like my father in our church in Aleppo, and where Mrs. Freidinger played the organ. Both Mr. and Mrs. Freidinger sang well, and often of an evening they would gather together around the piano and sing. Whenever I hear "There is a Green Hill Far away," it reminds me of them because it seemed to be one of Mrs. Freidinger's favorites, and it was beautiful when they sang it together to a melody which I have never heard sung in America.

Quite often in warm weather we would spend the day at the beach, playing in the sand, swimming and eating our lunches by the water. Sunday mornings before church some of us would take a walk by the seashore, watching the spray and the gulls, and climbing over the slippery mossy rocks. The time when we liked best to watch the ocean was when it was windy and stormy. Then, the sea would be dashing high and roaring in anger -- one could imagine anything. The lighthouse, which we enjoyed visiting, would be sending beams across the dark waters, and it would be truly exciting.

Sunday night suppers were always fun because our manners were not watched so much then, and we had delicious food like fruit, cocoa, sandwiches, cake, and peanuts. After supper we would often retire to our living room to play games. On other nights we would turn on the Victrola and some of those who knew how would dance and try to teach the rest who didn't know how.

Our living room was quite large and really should have been called a playroom. There were games, tables to play them on, and a bookcase full of books, the two lower shelves being filled with bound volumes of "St. Nicholas."