Sixty-Five Cent Orion Haircuts

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
 
 

In the 1950's, if you had long hair you had to be a first chair violinist with some major philharmonic orchestra, some guy playing Daniel Boone on T.V., a physics professor, a worthless bum, a light-in-his-loafers hair dresser or some guy who just reached civilization after a jungle plane crash.

Back in those days if you reached a point where six hairs on your head got over a half-inch long, your old man would threaten to buy you a pocket book, rhinestone earrings and a gahdam pair of patent leather pumps. It was an era where being caught wearing an earring left your only acceptable excuse being that you were a card-carrying pirate.

We had a Chief of the Boat who was convinced that an E-3's I.Q. could be elevated by 'in port' haircuts. He claimed that he had conducted scientific research on the subject and had reached the conclusion that enlisted intelligence was directly related to hair follicle length. I think he came to this amazing conclusion when he met with his fellow 'scientists' up at the Chiefs' Club and joined in alcohol-induced joint research. The major bi-product of this joint research was enriched bullshit.

But because of an unfair system of naval power distribution created by none other than 'I've just begun to fight' Jones, E-3s must do the bidding of an E-7. It appears that in his haste to improve the N.B.A., Lincoln absent-mindedly forgot to free the non-rated animals in the After Battery.

"Gahdamit Armstrong, go up and get a frigging haircut! Either that, or go buy a gahdam coonskin hat and a fucking muzzle loader."

"Damn Chief, we're going out Monday. You see the OP orders? We going out for some kind of underway fashion show?"

"You don't get a haircut and you'll find yourself wearing a red hair bow during the entire run."

"You've gotta be kidding?"

"Not on your ass, horsefly."

"Get one of those Mother Onion scalp jobs? Be a shipmate Chief… Don't make me go up there to those 'Lighthouse for the Blind' barbers with training wheels… C'mon Chief… Don't you know what a sixty-five cent Orion haircut can do to a bluejackets love life?"

"Dex, I've seen some of your love life… Trust me son, they won't care."

"Have a heart Chief… Don't force me to call the Arleigh Burke Center for Abused Naval Personnel and turn you in for being a gahdam insensitive power-mad sonuvabitch."

"Don't force me to plant this size 14 brogan square in your ass. Now haul your non-rated smart mouth idiot ass up on Orion and get your shaggy locks trimmed up."

"Thank you,… Aye, aye… I'ze gwine'a be goin' massa Boss Man… Gwine'a be go on up dere to da big house and gits masseff acceptable in yo sight… Gonna gits maseff sheared simply to retain yo love."

"You don't start moving horsefly, and there's going to be a whole lot of slow walkin' and sad singin."

"They treat qualified officers like this?"

"How'n the hell would I know, I've never been one."

The Orion… USS Orion (AS-18) was affectionately known to the animals living in the iron contraptions nesting on the other side of Pier 22 as 'Mother Onion'. It was like a floating community, crossed with a seagoing repair facility. I say 'seagoing' because every leap year or Chinese year of the Blind Horny Toad, Mother Onion went to sea. Since the interval between Orion's saltwater round trips, exceeded the length of time that officers remain qualified to con a ship underway, the Orion had to dragoon some poor smokeboat sonuvabitches to take the overgrown steel bastard out and back.

Orion had a ships service (miniature Seven-Eleven-like gadget stand), a small stores (official issue outlet), a snack bar, laundry and dry cleaner that actually ate clothing or stole stuff from seagoing sailors to redistribute to the ambulatory brain dead zombies who lived on Mother Onion. So all the smokeboat residents did business with the Chinese bandits who worked out of a beat-up truck at the pierhead.

And, it had a two-chair barbershop where grown men turned up, who had absolutely no self-respect and paid sixty-five cents to be turned into objects of amusement for their shipmates. One of the reasons the armed forces issues hats and requires that they be worn, is that they don't want the public to know what haircuts given by blind men, look like.

Orion's barbershop was a little larger than the trunk of a '49 Buick. Every time I went there, the two pretend barbers were standing damn near knee deep in unfortunate sailors lost hair.

"Hey sailor, don't leave… Sit down… Take a load off your feet, there's only four guys in front of you… It'll take about ten minutes."

"Ten minutes! Holy Christ… Whadaya use, a gahdam wolverine taped to a stick? Are you serious? Ten minutes?"

"Knock it off… For sixty- five cents a head, I don't include listening to a boatload of unnecessary submariner bullshit."

"Sorry sweetpea, didn't know that you gahdam cranium-butchers were so sensitive. A man who calls himself a barber and turns out work like you do, should be ashamed of himself."

"Would it be possible for you to pipe down… Take a seat and wait your turn?"

"You a Second Class? Second Class what? Second Class Barber, I'll bet THAT'S no lie."

"Is being a smartass a requirement for riding those stinking submarines?"

"Not necessarily, but being able to tie your shoes and eat with a fork is, which eliminates damn near every barbers mate."

"Next…"

"Hey Skitch… Did you actually want the tennis ball look?"

"What the hell, Dex we're going to spend three weeks of ping time, then put into 'Rosey Roads'... Who cares?"

"Hey barber person, how long does it take one of these half-assed sheep shearing jobs to heal?"

"Look… All this would be easier on all of us, if you could just shut the fuck up and wait your turn."

"The haircut is just worth a dime… I'm just getting my other 55 cents worth in pinning the tail on your donkey."

"Next…"

If you didn't get your haircuts on Orion, You could always get one from Quesada, one of the officers stewards.

'Que' (pronounced 'cue') was a damn good barber. I don't think I ever told him that. Abusing poor Que was a form of forward room entertainment. We treated the poor devil as if he was always spying for the wardroom. Que was a good-natured little guy, and always went along with the gag. He was quite likable and had all the qualities found in truly good shipmates. We were all proud to be his shipmate.

"Que, you little spying weasel, what kind of stuff do you tell the Old Man and the forty thieves?" (The forty thieves was raghat code for the wardroom.)

" I tell them all Torpedomans are good for nuthing sumunabitches."

"And what does the Old Man say?"

"He agree… He say Que, you don't hang around doze no gudt for nothing sumunabitches… Dey ruin you all time."

"Que, whatz the chance of getting a haircut?"

"Chance berry gudt after I clean up wardroom mess and start officer movie. You know me charge two dollah an no take no damn package of cigarettes… Want money. Captain say, Que, any no gudt basturd cheat you, you tell me anna I pin hell on dee inconsiderate monkey."

"Is that exactly what the old man said?"

"Not zackly but dat what skipper mean to say."

"What's the going 'By the ton bullshit rate' in the Philipines, Que?"

"You get pretty beeg pile of water buffalo shit for two torpedomans and a Marine who guard gate."

"How'bout that haircut?"

"You hand over da two bucks, I give you haircut dat make all womenz theenk you Cary Grant."

"How 'bout, John Wayne."

"John Wayne for manz…Cary Grant for womenz… You queer bluejacket? You play drop soap? I tell old man."

Que held his own… But more than that, he was a very generous and considerate shipmate. And he exemplified all the traits that you find in the best submariners. There is no man alive today who served with Quesada who doesn't break into a smile at the mention of his name. We loved the little guy.

One night we got word a lad's mother had passed away and he was back in the alley rooting through the gear in his locker and tossing stuff in an AWOL bag to head home for her funeral.

"Danny, slow down. Mr. Schilling no take you to airport for until haff hour. I give you haircut so you not look like gahdam submarine bum when you go say goodbye to mother."

And when he said, "I give you haircut" he meant I give you. Que's contribution to the funeral ~ 'Haircut in lieu of flowers.'

If you end up in Hell, you won't have any difficulty locating barbers off Orion… All the bastards are down there somewhere.

But if you've lived the kind of life that draws you a Heavenly duty assignment… Look around for Que's Barbershop… It'll be in the part of Heaven where they billet the really good guys.

Just don't tell him a forward room torpedoman sent you.


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