Tripoli brothel

1950s Libya – British Point of View By Victoria Giraud

It always amazes me how important the few years I spent in Libya in the 1950s have been in my life. I’ve been writing a blog, Words on My Mind, for over two years and during that time I’ve reconnected with classmates from Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli and with others, like the British,  who once lived and/or worked in Tripoli. The Internet connects us all through the cyberspace world.

At the beginning of the year, I received a comment on my blog from Ron Curtis, a Brit from Blackpool, England, who’d been in Tripoli in the 1950s. Ron’s father was in the Royal Air Force and Ron attended the British Military School. Ron even sent me some photos and I’m going to use two of them here. Ron and I have since become Internet friends and I’ve enjoyed reading about his retirement, which turned into a new career as a clown–Granddaddy Trumbell–for children’s parties. He thought he was going to enjoy a long vacation in Spain but he’s been so successful, he’s had to stay in Blackpool to keep his creative balloon art going, and make sure his clown makeup is on right. Even his wife has gotten into the act.

Before his new career started, Ron wrote to say, “I lived with my family in Colina Verde, just a short ride outside the town. It was close to the Libyan Army barracks, known as the Azzia barracks-–where Gadhafi later erected the clenched fist holding the broken US plane. I often visited Wheelus with my American friends, Flip Foulds, the Neil family, and more.  Thank you for bringing back some great memories from when I was a hot-blooded 14 year old.”

British kids in 1950s on a Tripoli, Libya Beach

We all remember different things of course. I recall some kind of orange British soft drink; it sounded like squash, perhaps? Ron remembers Pepsi and the prize inside the Pepsi cap: “anything from two piasters to two Libyan pounds.” He loves couscous and still makes it! Since my dad didn’t like lamb, my mother never made it.

My observation of Libyan men drinking tea brought up Ron’s memory of the men pouring the tea from “one tiny enamel pot to another whilst at the same time roasting peanuts.”

Like so many Americans, especially in the military, the British are partygoers. “My recollections are of never-ending parties thrown by both the Brits and the Americans,” Ron wrote. “My parents had an old tin tub in the yard of our villa, which was filled with ice and cans of beer. Most parties had a theme, usually some form of fancy dress. The parties, I recall, went on until everyone fell asleep.”

Ron’s home was in a unique location—right next to a local Libyan brothel. Even though the Curtis villa was surrounded by a high wall, like all the villas in Tripoli as I recall, Ron wrote, “My friends and I would climb atop the wall to watch the antics that went on. The large courtyard was home to a number of old bathing huts, the type used in England during the middle 1800s. There was a little ladder to the door. The idea was: if the door was open, then the lady was available. If the door was closed, she was either busy or absent. We witnessed many of the ladies wandering around the courtyard in their underwear. Most of these ladies were what can only be described as plus-sized women, something the Libyan gentlemen seemed to prefer.”


Libyan fisherman in 1950s




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