by Willie Lagarde
I was at the Balboa Park Naval Receiving Barracks San Diego for FFT’s being transferred from Ream Field near Imperial Beach CA to NAS Ford Island and eventually to USS Yorktown. All of the buildings there had been constructed for the 1935 Worlds Fair. I never had any contact with the CO but at least a couple of the officers there were typical AO's*. Permanently stateside, probably unfit for anything else, the only way they could justify their existence in the armed forces was to inspect for the pettiest infraction of Naval uniform and personal appearance regulations. Almost all of the men here were passing through, to and from stations all over the US and ships at sea. They hadn't been subjected to such BS since boot camp.
These officers had been known to confiscate tailor made uniforms and actually slit regulation uniforms that had been modified in any way. Anyone whose hair was longer than what they deemed "regulation" had his ID card taken away and given a "blue chit". You were then instructed to show the chit to a station barber whereupon he cut the hair boot camp style and apparently took great pleasure doing it. After showing your haircut to the AO your ID card was returned with a lecture and warning that any future violation of hair regulation would result in a stretch at Mare Island Naval Penitentiary.
Coming from a auxiliary NAS practically on the Mexican border and with very little regulation I had let my hair grow too long. On my first liberty from BP one of the AO's was on the gate and pounced on me like he was scoring a major hit on the enemy. I was forced to surrender my ID card and handed a blue chit. Earlier in San Diego I had acquired a fake ID card showing my age as 22 to be admitted in the local bars and clubs. Actually only my name and birthdate were changed along with another thumb print. How I got this card is another story for another time. I wondered why Californians were so concerned about that, back home I had been admitted and served alcohol (if I wanted it) since I was fifteen. What a silly bunch of crap I thought.
As much as I hated losing my hair I had no choice but to comply. I would have had no problem having it cut regulation but not boot camp style. I went in the barber shop and sat in one of the chairs to wait my turn with the blue chit in my hand. One of the barbers told me, "if you’re in here for a blue chit hair cut you don’t sit and wait, you stand." This from a barber; I couldn’t believe it. I replied with some choice "profanity" only heard on the docks and streets of my hometown then walked out as he shook his scissors at me and said, "you’re in real trouble now mac." I thought he was probably right when I turned and said, "f… you."
I stayed out of sight the rest of the day and planned to go over the fence after dark to let a local civilian barber give me a regulation (but not boot) haircut. Throughout the rest of the day I heard a PA announcement calling for someone to report to the station commanders office. I recognized the name as the one on my fake ID card. I carried both cards and had handed the fake over by mistake. Turned out it was a fortunate mistake.
I went over the fence and got the haircut and then made the most of the evening. Approaching the gate on return I saw the AO on the gate inspecting a jumper and getting ready to cut it up. Besides the possibility he may recognize me my jumper had been cut and altered since I left the NTS. He didn't get around to that the first time he saw me and I couldn't afford to let him cut up my jumper. I was forced to go in like I came out, over the fence.
I was around Balboa Park for a few more days but heard I would soon be leaving so I never risked going through the gate again. They never stopped calling for Edwin G. B…….., and probably every SP in southern California was looking for him by the time I left the states. To this day, seventy three years later, he may be listed as a deserter. All they have is an old ID card with the picture of a sixteen year old boot formerly known as Willie and the thumb print of a once pretty night club photographer. * anal orifice.
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