FROM LAST ONE TO DIE:
More than a dozen years ago, before marriage, before the birth of my son, etc., I found myself in some trouble, warrants, etc. And was sentenced to Camp Wayside, out by Magic Mountain, for approximately 1/3 of the year.
During this time I took a job as a barber, I cut everyone’s hair through high school and enrolled in Barber College right after graduation. Years later I got into graphic design and reserved haircuts for friends and family only. My job as a Wayside barber paid me in the neighborhood of 25¢ a day. Once I had been cutting hair for a few weeks, quite a few of the “white” sheriffs started waking me up in the middle of the night to “request” haircuts. This was the best deal in the place, they would give me extra food, sometimes do favors – watch someone who was giving me a hard time, etc.
Wayside would always have three barbers, Black, Hispanic, and White. Each race would, usually, stay with barbers of their own kind, unless you did something to annoy your “car.” Then, as in my case, the Whites would go to the Hispanic barber. The three barbers bunked in the same section together, and worked together, and were, basically, stuck together 24/7. Even if you hated races, different than your own, it was hard not to get to be friends with the other barbers. The problem with this was the inmates were divided into four distinct camps: The Blacks, The Woods (Whites), The Paisans (Mexicans straight from Mexico), The Southsiders (Mexicans gangsters). If you talk too much to anyone from any of these other camps, someone would want to beat you down.
I made it through two race riots, first one was Mexicans versus the Whites, no one died, but plenty were wounded, I came out of it without a scratch. The second riot was Blacks against Whites; I came out OK, punched in the back of the head, but stayed up. After these riots the Head of The Woods didn’t want me to talk to the other barbers, Hispanic or as they referred to the Blacks – Toads. They wanted to remain racist without saying the dreaded “n-word.” Well, unbeknownst to everyone I was tutoring the head of the “black car.” Bull, as he was known, didn’t know how to read (he was the other barber) and he felt I could help him without me telling people. Also, when internal race issues came up with the Blacks he would ask my opinion, but I would swear not to let this come out, it would cause further riots and get him beat down.
So, when more and more pressure was being put on me by the Whites, Bull talked to the heads of the “white-cars,” and said that I was Italian and I had the full backing of the Blacks at Wayside, so if there was a problem with me the Blacks would riot on every White at Wayside, but me.
After that, I was left alone, but warned as I left Wayside to “never come back.”
I never went back.