My grandfather's YouTube video circa 1954

• ~600 words • 3 minute read

I found a remarkable video on YouTube from 1954 or 1955 filmed by my grandfather. It's always fun for me to find artifacts from his life as he and I share the same name.

His life is an interesting story — he was given up for adoption at a very young age and never quite knew who his real family was, where they came from or what the story was. He ended up working for ARAMCO in the 40s and raised his family in Saudi Arabia, of all places (Stories from my dad's life growing up sound like The Wonder Years set in the Rub' al Khali. It's hilarious. Boy scouts and Christmas pageants mixed with pet sea turtles and scuba diving in the Persian Gulf.). He managed to track down (Or he himself was tracked down — it's still not clear to me.) his original family members, including an older brother he'd never met. They made arrangements to meet in the early 1970s but then they both passed away. And... that was that.

This was all done somewhat in secret from his family, as I understand it. Sort of an open secret — my dad, aunts and uncles on that side were all more or less aware of it but it wasn't something they could openly discuss or pursue with my grandmother.

Long story short (And it is absolutely a long story worth documenting, I feel.), I was fortunate enough to be in Istanbul at the time when my aunt pulled all of the remaining pieces of the story together. She made contact with what would be my grandfather's long-lost brother's descendants and put me in touch with them.

It was an emotional, lovely thing when I came to meet them. The highlight of my year and something that legitimized the value of the entire trip for me, on some level. At the airport I met a man old-enough to be my father — though actually my second-cousin of some variety — who was supposed to accompany his grandfather (my grandfather's brother) to meet my grandfather shortly before they both passed away. He was very young then and it was a lovely thing for him to finally get to fulfill meeting "George Mandis" many decades later (I think it was doubly emotional as I'd been away from my family and loved ones a good, long stretch at this point in the trip and had zipped through many countries. Everything from Africa and after in my mind  was a little more emotionally charged; once you swing so far outside your cultural relativism and comfort nothing quite looks the same later. I just remember seeing this lost family and it being the first time I'd been hugged in months and months.).

But that story isn't what I set out to write here. I simply wanted to share this film my grandfather made of King Saud visiting Lebanon, circa 1954 or 1955:

I remember seeing this video before at a family reunion. My uncle had pulled out old reel-to-reel films my grandfather had made and this was one of them. There was another one involving a sword dance of some kind but I can't seem to find it on YouTube. It was all mixed-in with home videos of his family — a pretty rare thing in the 1950s.

Anyways, it's fun sometimes when you Google your own name and unexpected stuff from your grandfather shows up.

UPDATE: I totally found the sword video! That's amazing! Per this article from the ARAMCO ExPats site, this was produced with the footage my grandfather shot. Around 1:45 you'll see the sword dancing, which is the part I remember: