Winona Business College
Winona Business College
Almost all we know today of Winona Business College comes from news items and advertisements in the Winona Daily News and the Polish language Wiarus. The 1910 ad is from the Northwest Trade Journal.
In 1905 Brandrup and Nettleton Business College opened a branch in Winona. In 1910 that school purchased the rival Toland School of Business and changed the school name to Winona School of Business. However, it should be noted that R. V. Lambert, later associated with the Toland school, operated a business college in Winona as early as 1879. Initially Winona Business College, operating with a small faculty, offered a basic curriculum consisting of typing, shorthand, office practice, bookkeeping, penmanship, business law, commercial arithmetic, business English, spelling, letter writing, and spelling. Later the school was able to add a normal course to train business teachers, civil service training, and courses in banking, auditing, and sales.
W.B.C. required an eighth–grader education for admission. Like many business schools, it utilized a 50-week calendar and also offered night classes. Also like many of the better business schools, it guaranteed employment for qualified graduates.
In addition to the sports teams, W.B.C. sponsored a small school orchestra, which sometimes played at school dances. Since the college had a close relationship with both the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., two school clubs—the Business College Club (for men) and the Busi-Coeds Club were organized through their cooperation.
School sponsored banquets, parties, and dances were frequent. Each school year began with a “Get Acquainted” party. Halloween saw a masquerade party and dance; Christmas was celebrated with a Yule Program of music and readings. The major social even was the annual alumni banquet and ball, featuring a Grand March. Home basketball games were often followed by dancing parties.
Regular school assemblies featured spelling contests between departments. Speakers from the education, political, business and religious communities provided lectures on topics of concern for students entering the business world.
From a high of 200 students in 1915, enrollment dropped to 100 in 1947. In 1965 at the death of long-time president Paul H. Rieks, Winona Business College was “no longer in existence.”
(Left) Student-elected leaders of the 1922 "Grand March" were Miss Mamie Hrubetz and Arnold Meyer. Image from the Daily News.
Brick and Mortar
Brandrup and Nettleton Business College opened in the Choate Building in Winona, occupying the fourth floor. The Daily News notes that the most up-to-date business equipment has been installed in the 1881 building, including “wickets representing the various businesses.” After the merger with Toland, the school occupied more rooms on the east side of the floor.
In 1915 W. B. C. moved to the Latsch Block at the southeast corner of Second and Lafayette streets, occupying the second and third floors. This was a three-story brick structure measuring 48 x 90 feet. This building was home to the school until 1955 when it moved to the Hirsch Building at 69Third Street, where it occupied the second floor, over the J.C. Penny store.
The Choate Building still stands. It was placed on the National Register in 1906. The Latsch Building was demolished in May of 1955 to make way for a Merchant National Bank parking lot. Since 2018 The Edge Church has occupied the site of the former J.C. Penny Store.
Choate Building in 2017. Image by McGhiever
School colors: Purple and Gold
Under “Baseball News” in 1908, the Daily News reported, “The Brandrup and Nettleton business college will also have a team. . . . The team will be attired in uniforms when they make their appearance on the diamond.”
In 1912 the Daily News shows an image of a W.B.C. football team. That team played at least two games, losing to the LaCrosse Normals (now Wisconsin-LaCrosse) 7-0 and defeating a team from St. Charles 25-12.
W.B.C. had a basketball team as early as 1911. After World War I basketball became the school’s signature sport with both men’s and women’s teams. The men played high school and independent teams in the Winona city league. Main college rivals were two Wisconsin schools—Gale College at Galesville and Buffalo County Training School at Alma. Not having a gymnasium, W.B.C. played home games at both the Y.M.C.A. and the Catholic Recreation Center.