Recently, several employees of Bremer Bank in Redwood Falls went time traveling.
Mary Fischer and Jan Madson were looking through old bank records, seeing what they could find that might help the bank celebrate its 75th anniversary in Redwood Falls next month.
Then they stumbled across an old ad that ran in the Redwood Gazette in 1939, when the bank — then named the State Bank of Redwood Falls — was only two years old.
“We Rosily Anticipate the Next 75 Years” read the advertisement.
“Seventy-five years! But it’s been 75 years!” Fischer said she exclaimed.
The ad went on to read:
“When we recount the miracles of science and invention during the last half century, and recognize our present state of scientific knowledge and development, we can reasonably expect achievements during the next 75 years far over-shadowing those of the last 20 centuries.
“It is reasonable to expect that man’s normal expectancy shall have been increased from the three-score-and-ten to a century.
“Perhaps, with a longer life to live we shall be doing all our work in a few hours per day, and spending our leisure in all the other pursuits that eternally pull at the mind and spirit of men.
“Perhaps we shall have healed the world of hunger, disease, and suffering.”
Written when the United States was just beginning to emerge from the Great Depression, it was a very optimistic prediction.
The 1939 ad goes on to mention how the bank, only two years old, has been built “to cope with modern changing conditions and new developments in banking.”
New developments, indeed.
“When I started at Redwood Falls in 1974, everything was done internally, on-site,” said former bank president Royce Heffelfinger, who retired in 2006.
“Everything was done by hand then, and every bank had its own bookkeeping department.”
Heffelfinger knew life had changed permanently when a big computer was installed, connecting the Redwood Falls branch to the Minneapolis head office.
“A service man half my age in St. Paul told me to name one of my checks,” said Heffelfinger. “I plugged the check number into his computer, and three seconds later he had my check up on his screen in St. Paul.”
Bremer Bank’s first ATM was installed in the lobby in 1976.
“ATMs were still new technology, and we needed to keep someone on call 24-hours a day in case someone’s bills or receipts got stuck at 2 a.m.,” Heffelfinger said.
In some ways, Heffelfinger misses the old days.
“Today, you can go online, and the only thing you can’t do is get cash,”?he said, “but you don’t have the personal contact. For many of the old-timers like me, we miss that.”
Page 2 of 2 - Currently the Bremer Bank in Redwood Falls has eight full-time employees and two part-timers.
“We need fewer people now because of automation, and the Minneapolis office,” said Madson.
Interestingly, the ad lists the bank’s services as insurance, saving accounts, safe deposit boxes, and checking accounts. Loans aren’t mentioned anywhere.
“I’m sure most banks were very conservative in the 1930s,” he said.
In 1939 the State Bank of Redwood Falls was already owned by the Otto Bremer Foundation. It was located on E. 2nd St., where the Wilson’s store was.
(If you know where to look, you can still see the original bank vault in the second hand store located on the spot now.)
“We’ve always been a Bremer Bank, but at that point all the banks went by their own names,” said Fischer.
For awhile, it was called “First American Bank of the Southwest” before settling on the common name “Bremer Bank.”
The bank moved from E. 2nd St. to its current location in 1967.
Bremer Bank is unique in that it is possibly the only banking firm in the United States owned by a foundation and its employees.
Profits generated by the Bremer banks across America go to the Otto Bremer Foundation, which then turns around and donates funds to nonprofits in the communities in which it has banks.
Bremer Bank will be hosting a 75th anniversary picnic on Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 5-7 p.m. Food and beverages will be provided
In addition, From Aug. 6-10, the bank will be serving cookies and lemonade in the lobby.