In Search Of...A Cut Above the Rest
A La Crosse barber is an inspiration on so many levels
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- It's early morning on La Crosse's north side, the time of day things really start hopping for 83-year-old Ken Garves. "Ken's Barber Shop."
Ken has been been in the barber business for longer than most of us have been alive.
"Since 1946. I've been cutting Harold's hair for...we won't tell them how long will we Harold?"
At 20 minutes per haircut, Ken's revolving chair will house 25 different customers or more on any given day. "Most of them go 'same as usual.'" "Same as before? Yep you know the routine."
A lot has changed over the years, but a lot hasn't. Yes, gone are the days of the 65 cent haircuts (that was the price when Ken first started). And, of course, there's the changing styles. "A lot of flat tops. These younger kids are wearing it very long. Brett here, he likes it short."
But while things around him change, Ken remains the constant. Like sitting down with an old friend. "Used to have a beautician. You don't have the comradery like you do a barber."
"If you can't have fun getting your haircut, there's no sense in getting a haircut. So you pick the biggest clown around to get your haircut from. You didn't have to add that little part!"
"You get to know them and the conversations are whatever they want to talk about or whatever I like to talk about."
But there's more to Ken Garves than meets the eye. Because this barber is a lover of all things outdoors. Hunting, fishing, golfing, but especially, skiing.
In fact, when Mount La Crosse opened up 53 years ago, it was Ken and three others that started the Ski Patrol - a group of volunteers, all well trained skiers - ready to help in any situation. "When take care of someone that's injured. Today we're doing a lot of flagging for the bumps that the haven't had a chance to groom yet."
He tackles the hills with ease, in fact watching him it's easy to forget he's 83 years old! "We put in a lot of miles in a day."
"I've got 20 some years yet to patrol to catch up with him. He's an inspiration to keep going and be active. He still shoots on a trap team. He'll take trips and ski 5 days in a row all day and he's the one mixing the drink at night!"
"We have a lot of fun. It's not really work. What do you enjoy more, cutting hair or skiing? Well there's money in cutting hair!"
But what strikes you most about Ken is not how active he is, it's how he lights up the room just by being in it. "Everybody still looks to Ken for guidance and leadership. It's his attitude. It's always great."
"He's an inspiration on more that just the skiing. He's one of these gentleman that every day is a good day. "
But the sad truth is, every day is not a good day for Ken Garves. In fact, in recent years, he's had a lot of really bad days.
It turns out, just behind the smiles and the personality. Behind this 83 year old so full of life - is a life full of tragedy.
Watch News 8 at 6 next Thursday for the conclusion of our in search of spotlight on Ken Garves.
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