FARGO – In 1946, Harry Truman was president. Ted Williams was the American League’s MVP. And Goodwin Hoff was a college kid in need of a haircut.
A Fargo native attending Concordia at the time, Hoff heard that his friend’s father had a barbershop in the Graver building in downtown Fargo, and he figured why not go there for a trim.
That haircut turned into a ritual, one that’s been performed every three weeks or so in the same barbershop for the past 68 years. Hoff’s only lapse in patronage was the two years he served in the Korean War and received the buzz cut of an Army man.
“I didn’t have much choice as to how they did it, so I took what they gave me,” Hoff said dryly on Wednesday as he sat for yet another haircut at the Graver barbershop, filled with mounts of deer, moose, cougar and a pheasant in mid-flight.
“The pheasant doesn’t cover much territory,” the 87-year-old quipped.
Hoff can’t remember much about his early haircuts at the shop, but the year stands out because his friend’s father, barber Sid Punton, would often talk about his 1946 Chevy. Hoff suspects he may have been coming to the shop before 1946, but the Chevy with sleek lines is what marks the time for him.
“That was one of the first Chevys off the line, I think, to come this way,” he said.
These days, Hoff’s regular barber is Joel Brehmer, who cuts hair in the Graver barbershop with his younger brother, Ryan. The two took over the shop when their father, Don, retired in 2007 after clipping hair for 45 years.
Don Brehmer, who had been running a barbershop in the Hotel Donaldson building, moved into the Graver barbershop in 1984 and began giving haircuts to Hoff, who already had been frequenting the shop for decades.
“To put it in perspective,” Ryan Brehmer said, “our dad was 2 when (Hoff) started coming in here.”
Hoff doesn’t recall the exact price of a haircut back in 1946, but he guesses it wasn’t more than 50 or 75 cents. When he was in elementary school, his father would give him 25 cents for a haircut at a barbershop near the North Dakota State University gates on a site that’s now a parking lot.
That barber, it turns out, was Hilmer Brehmer, the grandfather of Joel and Ryan – a coincidence that Hoff learned of just weeks ago. “All three generations cut his hair,” Joel Brehmer said.
Hoff spent 30 years directing Fargo’s mosquito control operations. And he’s been married to the same woman for 63 years. But probably the only part of his life that’s been more of a constant than his 68 years as a Graver barbershop customer is his involvement at First Lutheran Church where he’s been a member since he was born. For the past six or seven years, he’s taken care of the church grounds.
“If I promise to be good, they let me mow the lawn,” he said with a smile.
Joel Brehmer said there’s no doubt that Hoff has been a regular at the barbershop longer than anyone else. “The name of the game for us is loyalty,” the 46-year-old barber said. “For somebody to be coming in here this many years, it’s fantastic.”
Over the years, Hoff’s blond hair has thinned and faded to white. But his hairstyle hasn’t changed nor have his instructions for the barber. “Just keep it out of my eyes and off my ears and make it look good to my wife,” he says.
Pleased with the service, Hoff keeps coming back. But he does have one gripe about the haircuts.
“They’re guaranteed,” he said, “but only for so long.”