Barber Shop Stories: Roots of Our Fathers.

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I get my hair cut at a local unisex barber shop in town where my husband and son also get their hair cut. On this particular day, my husband had an appointment before me and watched a DVD of Venice, Italy, while locks of his hair fell to their death, cut down in the prime of life.

As I waited, I chatted with a gentlemen seated to my right on the bench we shared. The affable fellow, named Carl, was a veteran of the Korean war and harbinger of great anecdotes from his tour there.

I discovered this after making an innocuous remark about the frigid temperatures outside, which is usually followed with an, “I hate the cold, too,” or some other vacuous tripe.

This time my comment elicited the response, “Not as cold as Korea.”

This piqued my interest, of course, since I thought Korea was hot. I know. We Americans are so directionally dysfunctional. Duh! Korea has winter, too, which brings me back to my lame response of, “It’s cold in Korea?”

“Damn cold,” said Carl. “Back, during the Korean war, I used to drive a truck with a cargo of beer.” 

“Beer?” I gasped, while raising my eyebrows. That can’t be a good thing, I thought, giving alcoholic beverages to the troops. We’re not talking about dance troupes or Shakespearean troupes. We’re talking about machine gun slinging, grenade flinging, weapon-bearing troops, with swords stuck at the end of rifles. Hence the redundant echoing of the word, “Beer?”

To which Carl nodded and said, “Yes, beer,” then continued. “I used to drive truck loads of beer to the front line on a dangerous road that ran through enemy territory. On one such beer run, on a day the temperature fell well below zero, suddenly I heard the sound, pop, pop, pop. Christ. I thought. I’m under attack, taking in enemy fire from both sides of the road. So, I radioed the base for help. Minutes later, a U.S. plane swooped in and battered the perimeter of the roads with rounds of artillery.”

Unbeknown to Carl, another evil was brewing around him.

“They saved my ass,” said Carl. “Man, I was so relieved to make it out of there in one piece. As soon as I arrived to the front line, I opened the back of the truck to unload the cargo and saw hundreds of  bottles of beer (a hundred bottles of beer) burst open, glass scattered everywhere. It was so cold the bottles exploded while I was on the road.”

Get it! Carl wasn’t under attack. His cargo of beer burst open from the cold, likely costing American taxpayers thousands of dollars that day by radioing for help for protection from the bottle blasting bombardiers.

It seems that during the Korean war, Schlitz and Reingold regularly supplied beer to the troops, a fact I found quite disturbing and led to the question, “Carl, do you think that giving beer to the troops was such a good idea? I mean. Do you think it might have contributed to the early withdrawal of U.S. troops?”

Carl just hunched his shoulders and shook his head.

Come on. Really! Supplying beer to the troops. Whose bright idea was that, serving alcohol to 18 and 22 year old’s on the front line? The heavy breathers at Schlitz and Reingold probably thought it would be great publicity, or something.

Another interesting Carl story that you won’t find in the history books, involved candy, specifically, chocolate from the manufacturers of Hershey candy bars.

Hershey was another huge supplier of goods, or no goods, to the troops. Yep. They gave our boys in Korea, a major sugar rush, at the same time they underwent an adrenaline rush. The Corporate office shipped thousand of Hershey bars to Korea to give our troops in harms way chocolate bars containing trace amounts of caffeine and 24 grams of sugar, what many considered to be a nutritious snack at the time.

The corporate geniuses at Hershey’s were also unaware of their other contribution to the Korean war effort, beside a quick trigger finger. After the American troops were ordered to withdraw from Seoul and subsequently left the region, the Chinese moved in, confiscated 1000 Hershey candy bars (apparently no beer remained), and then handed them out to the Korean children.

Now, this may sound like an act of benevolence and a sweet end to a horrific story, however, on life’s road of ironic twists and cul-de-sacs, that was not the end to be. Instead of ingesting the tasty snack, the innocent children took the Hershey candy bars bestowed upon them and poured gasoline over those 1000 candy bars, using them as kindling, and then extinguished the remnants of the American occupation in Seoul, Korea in a blaze of fire.

You’ll never hear about that in an American History class. I can only shudder at the thousand other war tales left untold.

Have you heard any bizarre historical anecdotes or had any experiences of your own?

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16 Comments Barber Shop Stories: Roots of Our Fathers.

  1. Tracie

    That is fascinating. It reminds me of the years I worked at a nursing home in PA. So many of my patients were WW2 vets and they had wonderful stories to tell. I wish I had written them down at the time. I can only remember bits and pieces now.

  2. ReformingGeek

    I bet more boys would have joined up if they knew there was beer at the front line.


    My uncle tells the story about marching into a town in France where the girls greeted them without panties under their dresses. My uncle…er….took advantage of that.

  3. Lauren

    Tracie: That probably was an amazing experience. Well always bring a pen and pad with you or a scrap of paper for the next time. I bought a tape recorder for the car. So that I can record my ramblings and angry outbursts at drivers.

  4. Lauren

    RF: That is hilarious. Got to relieve the stress of battle somehow. The rendezvous must have occurred in the whore zone.

  5. Mr. Stupid

    Beer for soldiers? That's hard to believe. Candy Bars too. Its always amazing to hear such stories.
    Too bad, nobody from my family was a soldier…:)


    Excellent told story from your conversation from someone who I bet had many more to tell.

    I can understand beer being taken to the troops. What did they have to look forward to besides, staying awake for 36 hours at a time, in freezing cold temps, and wondering if there was a bullet with their name on it. A beer or a few I am sure helped them realize what they were missing back home and also why they were there. I am also sure many did not drink to excess, and if one or two did, I could hardly blame them. I also have to believe they had many a friend next to them to watch over just in case, it did happen.

    It does kinda disturb me that they set the candy on fire. But in many countries having some giant militarized nation come and take over their country, would be a hard pill to swallow. They probably knew damn well too, that some day we would pull out and let them fend for themselves, totally under manned and at the enemies mercy.

    These are the stories we don't hear about, or perhaps are not the stories we want to listen to.

  7. Ivy

    I agree with the beer and candy bars. A cold beer with dinner and some chocolate is a little piece of home.

    I was raised by a WWII vet and he told me similar stories. But in WWII, they also gave our cigarettes. He said it was those little indulgences that gave him and his men enough motivation to get through the next day.

    We underestimate how horrible war is. Those men and women deserve every indulgence we can give them. And I sure very few got drunk. There just isn't time for stuff like that in war.

    Great story! I hoped you thanked the man for his service. I had a feeling the pops were beer. Yep, it was inside job. 🙂

  8. Lauren

    Mr. S: Apparently, as Glenn pointed out and I didn't know, beer was a much-needed luxury for the service men. That's why I love to get comments, to be educated.

    Glenn: Thanks for your input on the stark lives of soldiers and how one or two beers isn't enough to impair their sense but just warm their souls. I just assume most people can't hold their liquor like me.

  9. Lauren

    Ivy: Thank you, too, for educating me on a soldier's needs. When he told me about supplying beer to the troops initially, it didn't sound like such a smart move, but I now see the light and stand corrected.

    I guess it was obvious that the pops were from the exploding beer bottles. Pretty humorous. Honestly, I don't remember if I thanked him for his service or not. I was so engrossed in listening to his stories. I usually thank a vet when I meet one. I think he was thrilled to have someone listen to his stories. He had another one about meeting Marilyn Monroe, which I may also post.

  10. Carl

    Hi Lauren, Its great that you found a great story teller with a fine name:) I love the old war stories when you can get them. The vets are getting old now but you know I wrote and article about a year ago about a decorated WWII vet who was stationed in the Pacific. It was one of my first posts on Carlsvilleproject. YOU might like it.
    How is the new job?I see you still have time and energy to write..Good! I would have missed reading you .
    take care..Carl

  11. Lauren

    Thanks, Carl. I'll definitely check out the post. I had a snow day on Wednesday and took the time to write. The people are nice. The job is fine although exhausting. I'll have to figure a way to squeeze in blogging.

  12. mommapolitico

    I know packs of cigarettes were handed out to the troops as well. I guess it's a reflection of the times. And, frankly, if anyone was to send me ot fight a way, they damn well better send a truckload of chocolate! 😉

  13. Lauren

    Mrs. B: Yes, you should feel superior with your new found knowledge. After all, History books. are well, history. : )

    Perry: I'd go anywhere for a box of Junior Mints, as long as the place wasn't too hot and melted the candy. I hate it when Junior Mints stick in clumps to the inside of the box and you have to dig them out with your fingernails.

  14. Bonehead

    What's sad to me is the loss of all those innocent bottles of beer. I think your new friend did the right thing in radioing in for the heavy artillery – hopefully they took out some nasty snowmen and angry "old man winter" types 😉

  15. Pingback: Lauren Salkin

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