Juanita, Maria and Julie Go To Camp – Vam
“You girls are being transferred from the Youth Authority. You are all over 18 and your stay with us here is officially over. The rules have changed and now 18-year-old girls with criminal charges serve their terms in corrections camp. You girls will be the lucky ones because you’ll be out of the system in 6 months, if you don’t cause problems.” My supervisor read that to the 3 girls who were going to the first girls transferred to boot camp. I had been their counselor and GED teacher for the past year and knew the girls well.
Today my job was to transport the girls to the boot camp. They were all good girls who had made big mistakes in their pasts, but were changed. I wondered about what boot camp would do to them. As all this was new no one knew what to expect. “Let’s go, the van is ready. I’ll be bringing your things back for your parents.” My 3 charges were apprehensive but followed me to the parking lot, while my supervisor gave each girl a hug and wished them good luck.
Juanita Albano, a Puerto Rican girl with a beautiful smile, dark captivating eyes and straight black hair that hung to her shoulders wanted to know how long the ride was. She started combing her hair, and said, “I want to make a good impression.” Julie Ng, a very bright Asian girl who had top honors in history and math, nervously fidgeted as she thumbed through her address book. “Tell my mom how to keep in touch”. Julie was Chinese and looked far younger than her age 18, she had brown skin and long black hair that reached her waist. Maria Guilbert was a French Canadian girl, who had learned all her English in my classes. Maria was a very pretty girl, full figured with dark brown hair tumbling down her ample breasts. All were nervous about going to boot camp. I knew nothing about what lay in store for them.
We pulled into the driveway, and up to Processing. I was met by a stern-looking woman in uniform at the gate. As I parked the van she motioned to me to follow her into the office. “Girls, follow me to the nurses,” she said. “I’ll see you soon after you have your physicals.” And with that she led my girls into the complex. As they were leaving, she turned to me and said, “Wait in here,” and she led me into a room that was separated by a larger room by a screen.
Corporal Wayne came into the waiting room in about 10 minutes. She said, “Are you a counselor?”
I replied, “Yes, I’m Don Rawlson.”
She said, “Well this is what’s going to happen, they’re at the nurse now, then they will be sent to Processing one by one.” Corporal Wayne said, “Follow me, by the way are you a vet?” as she led me into a large room that looked like a hospital clinic.
“Yeah I was drafted in 1970 and did two years in Germany,” I responded.
“Well you remember basic training, well that’s what we do here only without the weapons and here it lasts for six months.”
I kept thinking about my own basic training experience, which I hated.
“It all starts here,” and she pulled back a white curtain revealing a barber chair. “I was an Army barber for 5 years and I have seen everything you can imagine in that chair,” and she showed me the seatbelt and arm restraints. “Oh yeah, some girls resist, that’s why I don’t use scissors or razors .Last week a girl grabbed the scissors and tried to stab the nurse who was holding her in the chair. I shaved her bald on the floor because she was kicking both of us. Now I use the electric razor, for a nice clean shave.” I kept thinking about the shock that the girls were in for. Then the phone rang. “Processing, O.K. send down Albano first. I’m almost ready, you don’t need to send a guard – their counselor is here if I need help,” and she said, “Your girls are coming down now. I might need your help.”
Corporal Wayne sat at her desk getting the admissions papers ready, then she walked over to the barber chair and laid out a massive pair of clippers and an electric razor. She asked me, “Do these girls have long hair? We send the long hair to Locks of Love if its more then 10″ long.” I said yes. She took out three rubber bands from the drawer. She noticed my concerned expression. “Don’t worry, they get used to it, we shave them weekly for the first three months and then they can grow their hair again unless they get demerits, then it’s back to bald until they are discharged.” I could see by her expression that she really enjoyed her work!
“Albano number 001512,” said the guard at the door. I had moved into the small room adjacent to the Processing room, where I could see everything and would be able to help Corporal Wayne if necessary. Juanita was wearing a red jump suit and white sneakers, her hair was hanging loose. She sat at the desk nervously.
“I’m your training instructor, Corporal Wayne, you have to sign these forms and we can get underway. Sign wherever you see an X.” Juanita signed all the forms and handed them back..
“O.K., we got that out of the way. Get into the chair, it’s time for your haircut.”
Juanita grabbed her hair and screamed, “No you can’t do that!”
“Sorry Albano, that’s the rule here. Don’t worry, it will grow back before you leave, now into the chair, Albano.” Juanita slowly got up and sat in the barber chair. “Are you going to give me a hard time?” Corporal Wayne asked as she combed Juanita’s thick hair into a ponytail on the top of her head, putting a rubber band around it.
Then she turned the chair around so that it faced the mirror giving me a clear view. “You’re not going to need this,” and she held the ponytail aloft and then she reached for the massive black clippers. A loud pop followed by a low buzzing sound filled the room. Corporal Wayne said, “Hold still, welcome to the Army,” and with that she plunged the head of the clippers into Juanita’s nape slowly working them up to the ponytail. Then she moved the clippers slowly pushing them from her forehead to the crown, then across from ear to ear and finally she lifted the ponytail, leaving an uneven buzzcut. Juanita’s eyes had been clenched shut the whole 10 minutes under the clippers, she brushed away the short fallen hair that clung to her tear-streamed face and opened her eyes. When she saw her face in the mirror she started screaming and sobbing.
“No, No, No.”
“Hold still. I’ll be done soon if you hold still.” Then she held her head forward and started to clip the last black hair, her brown scalp was becoming visible as the last hair tumbled down her breasts to the floor. Corporal Wayne was smiling as she clipped her hair to a shadow. Then she said, “Regulations state that you will have your head shaved weekly for the first 3 months, after that you are allowed to have bi-weekly haircuts to a military buzz if you have no demerits. Do you understand?” Then she turned on the electric razor, rubbed her scalp with alcohol and slowly shaved her scalp bald. Juanita had ceased resisting and her pleas had subsided into almost silent sobs. After a few minutes Juanita’s scalp was shining bald. “There, that’s it. Mr. Rawlson will take your things.”
I came into the room and there was Juanita holding a shopping bag in one hand and staring at the mirror and her ponytail on the desk, tears streaming down her cheeks. She handed me the bag and put her bald head on my shoulder and cried. I said, “They shaved me in the Army and my hair grew back longer and stronger. Don’t worry, it will grow back.”
I took the bag, as Corporal Wayne picked the phone and said, “Pickup Albano send down the next girl.” The phone rang back. “Guilbert is coming down,” she repeated.
“Guilbert number 001513,” said the guard at the door. Maria was wearing an orange jump suit and white sneakers, her hair was hanging loose to her waist. Maria had not cut her hair since she came into the Youth Authority. I knew that this was going to be a real scene, she was so proud of her hair. Maria sat at the desk nervously.
“I’m your training instructor, Corporal Wayne. You have to sign these forms and we can get underway. Sign wherever you see an X.” Maria signed all the forms and handed them back. Once the forms were all signed, Corporal Wayne came over to me and said, “She looks like a problem, do I need to call a guard?”
I said, “No, I help you if you need, you tell me what to do.” I stayed out of sight and waited to see what would happen.
Corporal Wayne looked at Maria and took a rubber band out of the drawer and said, “Get into the chair it’s time for your haircut.”
Maria’ face contorted and she yelled, “You can go to Hell, nobody is going to cut my hair,” and she started to bolt out the door. She flung the door open and discovered that the guard who brought her to processing was still standing there. The guard was a big black woman who grabbed the slight young girl and lifted her into the air, kicking and flailing like a banshee. The guard slammed her into the chair and strapped her in, then she buckled her arms to the armrests. Maria continued to flail and scream.
Corporal Wayne recited, “Regulations state that you will have your head shaved weekly for the first 3 months, after that you are allow to have bi-weekly haircuts to a military buzz if you have no demerits. Do you understand?” Then with no further discussion she said to the guard, “Hold her still. I’m not going to save this ponytail, I’ll put it together later,” and she turned on her clippers.
The guard held Maria’s head to her chest and the clippers slowly moved up through her thick hair from her nape to her crown and on to her forehead. The guard lifted a 2′ lock and put it on the counter. There was a path, like a 2 inch part, down the middle of her head. Maria was still screaming now she was speaking French and pleading all to no avail. The clippers cut swath after swath, each lock was laid on the counter. Finally, after pass after pass, Maria’s hair was reduced to a shadow, her resistance was reduced to mumbling in French, “Non, non, mon dieu, non.”
Corporal Wayne said, “That wasn’t so bad,” and she turned on the razor and began to remove the stubble left by the clippers. Within 5 minutes Maria was shaven bald, her crowning glory was on the counter behind the chair. “O.K., you’re done, you’ll get used to it, give your things to Mr. Rawlson and say good-bye.” Maria hysterically grabbed a long lock of her hair and handed it to me with her shopping bag, before being led out by the guard.
Corporal Wayne said, “One to go, then you’re finished.” She picked up the phone and said, “Send down the last one, I’m ready.” A minute later the guard arrived with Julie. She stood there wearing a red jump suit that was two sizes too big for her tiny body. Her almond eyes were as big as saucers – she was scared to death. The guard said, “Ng 001514.” Corporal Wayne handed her the forms and told her to sign where she saw the X’s. Then Corporal Wayne said, “Alright, Ng, get into the chair,” and she pulled back the curtain.
“Regulations state that you will have your head shaved weekly for the first 3 months, after that you are allow to have bi-weekly haircuts to a military buzz if you have no demerits. Do you understand?”
To my surprise, Julie quietly replied “Yes,” as though she had already resigned herself to the ordeal.
“You aren’t going to be a problem are you?” said Corporal Wayne as she twisted Julie’s hair into a ponytail atop her small skull. Julie lowered her head slowly as the room filled with the buzz of the clippers. Tears ran down her cheeks but she did not resist. The clippers worked their way up from her neck to the crown then behind her ears then from the forehead to the crown. The ponytail was slowly severed and her whole head of black hair was lifted and laid on the counter leaving only a short uneven stubble on the scalp. Then with a few passes of the clippers, that too was reduced to only a black shadow. Then Corporal Wayne said, “O.K. we’re almost done,” as she rubbed to alcohol on to her scalp and prepared to shave her bald. She started shaving slowly as Julie opened her eyes, Julie’s eyes were swollen with tears as she reached up to touch her scalp. Corporal Wayne said as she admired her handiwork, “You won’t have to worry about that for a while,” and she pointed to the hair on the counter. “Now you can see your friends, we let you have some time together on the first day to get used to the camp, oh and your new haircut. Give Mr Rawlson your things.”
I came into the processing room and as Julie rushed towards me she started crying. I hugged her tiny body and gave her a kiss on her freshly shaven head and said good-bye as she handed me her shopping bag and the guard took her out of the room.
Corporal Wayne said, “The haircut is the basis of our discipline here, that’s what’s it all about. You’ll remember you were in the Army, no place for vanity.” I was really turned on by the experience, in fact I resolved not to tell any of the girls who would be going to boot camp what to expect.