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April 23, 2014

Sixty-six shears and counting

Port Henry barber going strong as he nears age 94

PORT HENRY — Next to the Port Henry Village Office is an old house with an old-fashioned red, white and blue revolving barber pole still twirling round.

Inside, a chipper man named Kenneth Hyatt has been cutting hair five days a week, forever.

He’ll be working at the Port Henry Barber Shop on Wednesday, April 30 — his 94th birthday. He’s never heard of the word retirement.

WAR YEARS

Kenneth was born in 1920 on the border of Port Henry and Mineville.

He and his three brothers fought in World War II, and one died at the Battle of the Bulge. Another recently died three days before his 98th birthday. The other brother is alive and healthy at the age of 95. Both were chiropractors and used to make good money.

After three years in the Army, Kenneth spent three months in school in the Bowery in New York City training to get a license to be a barber. After receiving his permit, he worked three years in Ticonderoga and then two in Crown Point.

BUSY TIMES

After 1948, when the war was over, five barbers opened shops in Port Henry. When the mines were cranking, Kenneth barely found time to eat, he was so busy.

Nowadays, he said, “No one under the age of 40 uses a barber. Most get their hair cut by women.” Even Kenneth.

In his heyday, Kenneth would cut hair for the Civilian Conservation Corps and almost all the summer camps in the Adirondacks — Camp Normandy in Westport, when it was a boys camp; a Schroon Lake camp; and a camp near Newcomb, where he undoubtedly set a record for the most haircuts in one day with 144 campers. He worked from dawn until 10 that night. Kenneth said he was “wasted” afterward.

Years ago, Gov. Al Smith, taking pity on the busy barbers, made it illegal for barbers to work on Sunday so they would get some time off. Kenneth said no barbers worked on Monday, as well, but of course some customers snuck in.

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