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Clip, serve and deliver sums up retiree's career

MAIDEN ROCK--Barbering, bartending and bags of mail are all in Mike Julian's work experience.

Julian retired this spring from the third of those jobs, being a Maiden Rock mail carrier, but he's not quite ready yet for the easy chair. After he fulfills a bunch of family obligations this month and next, he plans to return in August to Bob's Barber Shop in Red Wing, where he once cut hair--at least temporarily and perhaps on a part-time, long-range basis.

"I've been cutting my family's and friends' hair at home all along," he said Friday, unconcerned about his scissor skills getting rusty.

Julian's postal gig was his longest, however, at nearly 23 years to the day, he said. The veteran Route 2 mailman served with four postmasters: Lorraine Olson, George Garlick, Mike Carpenter and Sharon Halverson. He delivered to 317 boxholders on the approximately 120-mile route stretching from the top of the Plum City hill along Hwy. 10 on the east to 490th Street off CTH D on the west and up to CTH CC near Nugget Lake County Park on the north.

The member of the "Million Mile Club," awarded by the National Safety Council via the postal service, said he was in only one accident while on the route. A truck driver pulled out in front of him at a road's blind spot and caused the collision, leaving him with a scraped arm and a car with extensive front end damage. Most recently, he drove a four-wheel-drive Blazer, better suited to carry the ever-increasing loads of mail.

Other than the one crash, the carrier remembered few notable incidents while on duty. He said there were some serious snowstorms, perhaps an average of one or two annually over the years. Among the most significant was a dumping this past winter, when the carriers never ventured out and the day's mail never arrived until mid-morning. In fact, he was the only employee able to reach the post office.

He enjoyed watching new houses being built and various changes on the route. Mostly, his memories are of the great people, he said.

"They were always willing to help," he said, "if you had car problems, they'd give you a lift."

Julian was still operating Maiden Rock's Lakeside Bar in 1983 when he was approached about the local substitute carrier's position, he said. He took postal exams in Durand and Menomonie, grateful test takers were allowed to keep their best scores with each succeeding exam. He subbed on both Maiden Rock routes until the fall of 1987, when he was made a regular carrier on Route 2.

Bar ownership represented the second phase of his work life. He'd taken over the Lakeside in the spring of 1975, a seven-day-a-week proposition, open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Before selling the establishment 10 years later, he also tried being a restaurateur, owning a café on the site of the present Gypsy Grill for a couple of years in the late '70s.

"The flood in '75 wiped it out and it sat empty for a year or two first," he said about the stand's history.

Julian's barber stint spanned 10 years, starting during the 1960s, he said. He attended barber school in St. Paul for six months, passing state boards and getting a Minnesota license before joining the Red Wing shop's staff.

Previously, he built cabinets for Riviera Kitchens in Red Wing for a couple years, he said. From 1985 to 1995, he was the local fire chief, helping organize a department which then numbered around 25 members. They held fundraisers to support the effort. The outfit used a village building down by Ole's Bar, operating with four trucks on which tanks were built.

"The mortuary in town burned...that was our biggest fire," he said, recalling a 1979 train wreck that also required a major response, not only from the firefighters but other area agencies. "There were eight engines burning."

The Maiden Rock native said he grew up in the house where he presently lives and was gone between 1964 and '85 from the place--his parents'. He attended the first eight grades of school at the nearby former schoolhouse, then went to Pepin High School for one year and Ellsworth High School for the remaining three. A band member who played trombone, his favorite classes in school were geography and history.

Julian has three daughters: Heather Gilliland of Ellsworth, Stephanie Julian of Maiden Rock and Rachel Jones of Las Vegas. He also has five grandchildren: two in Hager City, two in Plum City and one who lives with him. His family was to join him for a retirement party this past weekend.