Capt. A. C. "Skid" Frothingham, Seward, AK, 1983.
 

The photos and images on this page were generously contributed by Skid Frothingham. Skid's had an interesting life. He was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1929. Skid's father, Al Frothingham, was employed by GULF OIL COMPANY and went to Venezuela to work with MENE GRANDE OIL sometime around 1937. This is an approximate date because Skid recalls that his father went down ahead of the family and got on the list for family housing. He feels that it was about a year before an opening occured.

So Skid, his mother Marguerite, and two older brothers William (Bill) & Edward (Bud) sailed from Philadelphia to Venezuela on the SS Gulfhawk at the age of 9 at the end of October or the beginning of November in 1938, where they lived until 1940. The SS Gulfhawk was later the same ship that returned them to the U.S. in 1940. He remembers the approximate months that they sailed because, as he relates, “...(we) proceeded right into the heart of the famous hurricane that swept the whole east coast from Florida to Maine in 1938! It was an epic storm that damaged the whole east coast. We were off Cape Hatteras in a tanker that was in ballast heading for the Venezuela. The mess on a tanker was in the after house, we lived with the ships officers in cabins in the forward house. I was not allowed to go across the tank deck on the cartwalk by myself. I had to go in company with the second mate! I don't imagine he enjoyed convoying a 9 year old down the deck in a hurricane! That was my first experience at sea life...after we arrived at Cabimas and boarded the smaller lake tanker for the ride down to Maracaibo, I was amazed at the number of waterspouts we saw and passed on our way down. They were all over the place. For a kid from Long Island, New York, this was a whole new world to see and smell!

Skid attended Escuela Bella Vista. While they lived in Venezuela, there were a number of interesting occurences that he recalls. “One incident that I can remember from my short time at the MGO camp, was the alert to the fire that destroyed Lagunillas. We could see the glow in the sky from the fire from our lakeside view at MGO. Lots of excitement, but I don't think much action. It made LIFE magazine in either 38 or 39, I'm not sure which year, but I remember seeing the photo's as a kid....I don't know what started it, but consider a whole village, on stilts over the water and all wood frame houses and buildings! A cooking accident or a cigarette tossed away could have started it. The lake at that time was filled with oil scum. Swimming in Lake Maracaibo, meant a shower of 'Flit' first and then water to get all the oil and 'Flit' off!

I was also there when the B-17s, made their visit and got to meet Brigadier General Emmons, the boss of the flight. I learned later that Curtis LeMay was the lead navigator for the trip. My older brother Bill became a Navy Torpedo Bomber Pilot in WW2....[and] was ultimately shot down and killed during the invasion of the Philippines in January, 1945.”

After leaving Maracaibo, Skid's father got a job in Washington, D.C. with the British Purchasing Commission. “They provided us with a nice house out in the NW district of DC. Adm.Stark and other Naval Dignataries used to visit Dad at our house to discuss Lend Lease items for the British. There was usually quite a stream of Brass thru our house on the weekends.” Becoming well-traveled, they later lived in Leavenworth Kansas; Wahoo, NE; Denver, CO; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Seattle, WA; San Jose, CA; Oakland, CA; & San Lorenzo, CA.

Skid later served with the Merchant Marine during WW2; the U.S. Coast Guard for 10 years where he worked on Weather Patrol Ships in the Pacific & icebreakers for 4 years in Alaska & Greenland. He served two tours in South Vietnam with the Army, in the Mekong Delta and later as Harbormaster for the seaport town of Vung Tau. Retiring from active duty in 1970, he subsequently acquired a Master's License to operate vessels on the high seas, operated tow boats on Alaska's North Slope, then worked as a Tow Boat Master & government pilot on the Panama Canal. From there it was back to the northwest as an Ice Pilot for the U.S. Geological Survey, then captained another USCG operating in SE Alaska at the end of the Aleutian Islands supporting geologists with the ship & a helicopter for 7 summers. Before he finally retired for good in 2000, he served as an instructor at Seattle Central College.

On the CGC “Northwind”, Thule, Greenland, 1952.

Like I said earlier, Skid's had an interesting life!

Most of the following photographs were taken with an old KODAK Brownie box camera, “not much better than an old pinhole camera”. But I think all will agree that the photos are excellent, particularly considering their age. They provide a valuable historic perspective of Lake Maracaibo during those years, and we sincerely appreciate Skid's efforts & generosity in allowing us to share them here with us all.

 

“My father, Al Frothingham, at a café in Los Padres.”
“Al Sr. & Al Jr. (me) at a rare supper together.”
“Bill, 17, Bud, 15, my brothers, and my father Al at Cabimas, 1939.”
“Marge & Al Frothingham at our M.G.O. house across the street from the Club.”
“Wilma ? (Nurse), Al, Marge, & Leslie Ffrench, 1940.”
“Wilma, Ralph Tuero (sp?), & Marge Frothingham, 1940.

“Ralph Tuero, Leslie Ffrench, Wilma, & Marge Frothingham, 1940.”

 

M.G.O. Swimming Team, 1939 Swimming Sports. Photo was taken on the main steps of the Mene Grande Main Office Building. Back row, L-R: Bill Frothingham, ??, Caldwell. Front row, L-R: ??, Coleman, Wheeler, ??

“Brother Bill on shoulders of ?? Wheeler, 1939.

 

“Scene at Shell Camp - High Jump, Easter Sports, 1939.”
“Scene at Shell Camp - Shot Put, Easter Sports, 1939.”
“Mary Louise Peters, May 1, 1939 - Bella Vista School
“After work at the M.G.O. Camp Club. Back Row: Al Tuero (gray hair, hand to face), Al & Marge Frothingham.
“Lynn Nesbit (Nurse?), & Walter Schultz, fishing trip, M.G.O. pier.”
“Brother 'Bud', Jeanne Link (bottom step), Barbara Sievers on right.”

“M.G.O. personnel underway on the 'Machango'to All Star Games at Cabimas. My brother 'Bud' Edward leaning over in right of shot.”

 

 

 

 

My favorite shot - a beautiful photo of a Pan American Sikorsky S-42 Flying Boat taxiing on Lake Maracaibo in 1939, having originated in Brownsville, TX. Note how the two inboard engines are off with the two outboard engines providing taxiing power. Skid writes, "Must be Saturday, the Pan Am Sikorsky arrives at Maracaibo…I remember hanging around the plane, 'cause the crew would always give me Nestlé chocolate bars…Saturdays were almost like holidays down there, 'cause we knew the plane was coming in from the States…it really was a connection to the States for a lot of us.”

“Brother 'Bill' (William Frothingham) at 'El Lago' Pool, 1938-1939?”

 

 

 

 

“Brother 'Bud' Edward Frothingham (striped shirt) and classmates.”
“'El Lago' movie house & BOQ (Bachelor's Quarters) to the right in the picture.” This was the very first Creole Club movie screen.

Teatro Baralt " in Maracaibo.”

 

SHELL pool.”
“Launch that picked us up. Our steamer trunk is loaded.”
“Fishing on the Lake. L to R: Leslie Ffrench, my father Al, Nurse Wilma, and my mother Marge.”

“Ralph Tuero, Al Frothingham, & Leslie Ffrench.”

 

 

“Mom - Marge Frothingham - & Nurse Wilma.”

 

 

“Same fishing group as in the photo immediately above. Holding the string of fish is Sr. Ralph Tuero, native guide standing in the back, Leslie Ffrench, and Nurse Wilma standing in back of my mother Marge.”
“Santa Rosa, 1943.”
“Maracaibo” street scene.
“Maracaibo” - Statue of Simón Bolivar.
“Tanker at Las Cabimas”
“Gentleman standing in white alongside 1939 Buick is Sr. Ralph Tuero, a Venezuelan advisor to Gulf Oil.”
“Indian women, Santa Rosa, 1943.”

“Waiter and unknown shadow boxing at Club. The man on the right had bright red hair is all I can remember about him.”

 

“The two men standing alongside the cars are from my distant memory, 'Raul' & 'El Segundo', the driver and cars that took us from M.G.O. to Bella Vista. Some of the other M.G.O. people might remember our drivers, and the pile up of kids in those two cars every school day!”
“On board a drilling rig somewhere on the Lake. My brother 'Bud' is on the left and my Dad on the right. I don't know the man in the center.”
 
“The picture of [this] ship was at one of the downtown piers in Maracaibo, and was a Dutch ship. One of the ladies from the Shell camp took Mom and I aboard for lunch while they visited with the Dutch Officers of the ship. I was even given a taste of a great Dutch beer!”

This is “…a picture of Mom and Sr. Tuero, taken on the patio of the Mene Grande Club, across the street from our house!”

 

 

 

 

EBV REPORT CARD
 

This is Skid's official Report Card from Escuela Bella Vista for the 1938-1939 School Year, when he was in the 3rd Grade.

When I first saw it, I was struck by the similarities it had with the report cards thirty years later, in the 1960's - the same yellow color that was always met with anticipation, trepidation, or fear, depending upon one's particular circumstances; the small check boxes & check marks; many of the same kinds of blank areas where the teacher would write in your particular details and whether or not you were behaving properly, progressing satisfactorily, or making the required grades. And, of course, there was the oft-dreaded “parents signature” page.

I must say that Skid's report card was pretty impressive! Looking through it brought back many memories of my school years at EBV !

 

 

In April of 1939, the CARIBBEAN PETROLEUM CORPORATION, LAGO PETROLEUM, & the MENE GRANDE OIL COMPANY jointly sponsored the “Twelfth Easter Sports Meeting” at the Caribbean Club in Maracaibo. SHELL was also one of the meet participating companies.

This is the program for that meet as generously provided by Skid. It's in amazingly good condition, and the old ads from the sponsors are really a lot of fun to read. I spent quite some time going through the whole thing just reading all the interesting ads - in many cases, like going back in time.

The reading format is really quite easy to use. Once it starts, just place your cursor near the corner of any page. You'll see the page start to curl. Then just click or drag the page over to turn the page. So one can go backwards or forwards when turning pages.

This is a FLASH “movie” and so must load completely before it works. The gray bar in the middle of the blue page is the “preload” indicator. When it reaches the end, it will then play properly. [13.3 MB].