Hairy Tales II redux, redux

My posts about my beardette drew more comments than i expected. The below is a reprint of a Lebanon Democrat “Notes from the Southwest Corner” from about ten years ago. i posted the first column i wrote about hair here last January. i have had a long association with the lack of importance of hair, poking fun at our concern about hair for as long as i can remember. This one is a look at the military’s preoccupation with hair length:

SAN DIEGO – If you look at my photo accompanying this column, you can tell I am hair-follicle challenged. This could be the reason for my fascination with barber shops.

To be honest, it does not seem fair. My father, at 93, still has an almost full head of hair. My brother’s hair, at 57, is starting to thin. I figure he will catch up to me in about 2040. Even my old buddies, Henry Harding and Mike Dixon, have full locks (although the color has changed). Every one has their burdens to bear, and this is one of mine.

Yet after a few forays in hair restoration treatments as my hair got serious about leaving in my mid-30’s, I decided fighting the futile fight would only make me look like not me. Observing those who had tried different solutions, they don’t appear natural, normal. I realized I had a more serious challenge of keeping the real me in somewhat reasonable condition. If you have seen me lately, you know I have not fared too well in that arena either.

But I am happy and I loved barbershops. Another reason just might well be my spending some 14 to 15 years on Navy ships.

In case you don’t know, Navy ships had barbershops when I went to sea. Some guys with the “storekeeper” (SK) rating manned the barber chairs with not much barber training and guidelines to make the haircut conform to regulations, regardless of the desire of the barberee.

Officers on ships could get appointments. The enlisted waited in line. The haircut normally took about five minutes. In no way did the one-chair barbershops, except for the chair, resemble Pop’s, Mr. Eddins’, or Alberto’s barbershops, of which I previously have mentioned fondly.

When I completed “destroyer school” (what a lovely name), I reported to the USS Hollister (DD788) and became the Chief Engineer. The Hollister was a reserve ship out of Long Beach. It was in the early 70’s and the men’s style of the day definitely did not include Navy regulation haircuts. Length was glory, apparently. The reserve units of the day were very relaxed in enforcing haircut regulations, because hair was so important to the younger set, it was assumed many reservists would simply quit rather than whack their hair.

It was also a common practice for the wardroom officers to leave early Saturday afternoon on the reserve weekend to frequent the officer club on base. This occurred one spring Saturday when I had the duty as command duty officer (CDO, the senior officer in charge while the captain and executive officer were ashore).

One of our regular officers was a brand new Naval Academy graduate. After the officers left for the club, I changed the watch bill and put the new ensign on the quarterdeck (the only egress and ingress for the ship), and directed him to make sure no one went ashore without a regulation haircut.

Around 1400 (2:00 p.m.) after the ensign relieved the officer of the deck (OOD), at noon, I walked out to see how it was going. About 80 reservists were in the barbershop line, spilling out of the superstructure just forward of the after gun mount and around the fantail.

A few minutes later, the ensign called me in the wardroom. One hirsute second-class petty officer had requested to speak to the command duty officer. I agreed.

The young man was enraged. “I have an appointment with my hairstylist at 1600. If you let me go ashore, I will get a haircut.”

“Sure you can go see your hairstylist at 1600,” I said sympathetically, adding, “Right after, you get a regulation haircut.”

It took almost four hours and a tired barber, but they all finally went on liberty.

Nearly all of the officers who had gone to the club did not return for the evening. Next morning, quarters exhibited probably the most regulation haircuts seen in the reserve units of the period. It also produced more screaming and yelling than one would expect. The reserve officers were enraged we required their troops to get haircuts. Fortunately, my captain thought it was as funny as I did.

Oh yes, all who had suffered the barber’s shears that weekend remained in the reserves. Reserve pay was a good augmentation to one’s income, which suggests, hair isn’t quite as important as we often think it is.

Of course, I don’t have to worry about that. Look at my photo again.

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