John Gehring was just one year old when he came to America with his homesteading parents. After he was raised and educated near McClusky with his 9 brothers and sisters, he attended barber college in Minneapolis. He returned to North Dakota and settled in Mandan, where he started barbering around 1927. He also started a family, marrying his wife Della the same year. Their small family stayed in Mandan until 1937 when they moved to Fargo. Gehring served as a barber there for three years. In 1941, while World War II was strong and US boys were being drafted to fight, he moved his family to Tacoma, Washington, where he barbered at Camp Lewis for the thousands of soldiers who trained there.
The Gehrings returned to Mandan in 1944, where he took up ownership in his own shop, the Gehring Barber Shop at the Mandan Hotel on East Main, where he and his wife also lived. However, in 1958, his health declined. After a few years, he was flat on his back, unable to perform his usual tasks. Eventually, in 1959, Gehring went through surgery and came to rely on a wheelchair, which made access to his basement shop difficult. But barbering was in his blood … it was his livelihood. He began to talk about getting a special chair made so he could resume barbering. After discussing this with some of his friends, they came up with an even better idea—and his friends helped him plan, construct, and cover the costs of an elevator attached to the building.
On this date in 1959, John Gehring was able to try out his new gift. A picture in the Mandan Pioneer showed it in action—a large, open-air carrier that could carry him between the street and his basement shop and living quarters. “It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said … and as the paper reported, it was “all because of the thoughtfulness of friends who made possible the seemingly impossible and brought daylight and sunshine back into his life.”
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
The Mandan Daily Pioneer, June 9, 1959. P12
The Mandan Daily Pioneer, Saturday, July 11, 1959, p2
The Mandan Daily Pioneer, Friday, July 10, 1959, p1