Seven Decades Cutting and Shaving the Town

By Carl F. Hanneman
State Journal Correspondent

If years of experience mean anything — and they have — A.L. “Abe” Holgate merits his reputation as one of the state’s best barbers, for he has been lathering and cutting Mauston for 66 years.

Abe moved to Mauston from Marengo, Ill., with his parents when he was four months old, in March 1867. His father William was a barber, but barbering didn’t enter the little shaver’s mind until he was 12, when his father became seriously ill and the lad promised to learn the trade and look after his mother. When his father recovered, the lad kept his promise, and at the age of 12, back in 1878, he started the long hours of standing beside a barber chair.AbeHolgate

Now Abe is 78, but you’ll find him on the job in his shop across from the Juneau County Courthouse, even during the long Saturday hours.

The steps have decreased since the days of the old-time rack, which used to hold the treasured array of individual shaving mu.gs, bright with inscriptions and names.

Holgate is in excellent health, never missing a day at the shop and still enjoying a good schottische with the proper music. Musically inclined himself, he plays a wicked guitar. His favorite hobbies are hunting and fishing, and although many fine catches of large and small game fish are still caught in the Lemonweir River at Mauston, he claims that previous to construction of the dam it was nothing for an individual to catch a wagonload of bluegills before the game limit was established.

Mr. and Mrs. Holgate observed their golden wedding anniversary in 1936. Among his five grandchildren is First Lt. William Holgate, who as a pilot on a B-24 was shot down over Romania, later released from prison camp and now is home on leave.

(Published in the October 29, 1944 editions of The Wisconsin State Journal)

Postscript: Abe L. Holgate died on October 9, 1951 in Mauston. He was 84. In addition to his barber duties, Abe served for a time as chief of the volunteer Mauston Fire Department. His son, Roy E. Holgate, also worked as a barber in Mauston. Roy, who was at one time Mauston city clerk, died of pneumonia on February 7, 1937. He was 47 years old. Abe’s father, William Holgate, is buried next to his son and grandson at the Mauston cemetery. The family accounts for more than 80 years of barbering across three generations.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

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