First State Bank of Wyoming will mark occasion
A century of banking will be celebrated in Wyoming this June and it is a celebration rooted deep in family tradition.
Myron and Bea Zaruba, the leaders of First State Bank of Wyoming, can’t claim direct family lineage to the founders of the bank, but they have the next best thing. As a kid growing up in Wyoming, Bea (Giese) and her siblings were just like family to the early founders of the bank and key figures who worked there.
They will celebrate that family connection on three days in June. First State Bank of Wyoming was incorporated on May 14, 1914 and opened for business on June 11, 1914. Throughout its 100 years in Wyoming, the bank has operated within the same city block as other upstart banks have come and gone.
The 100th anniversary celebration will take place Wednesday, June 11 through Friday, June 14. The event will be in conjunction with the bank’s annual ice cream social, but will be greatly expanded with food, music and prizes.
Emmett R. McClintick grew up to the west of Wyoming in the Cedar area and had banking in his blood. McClintick’s older brother was a key figure in the Cedar State Bank and it is likely the young McClintick made his way east in search of a business opportunity of his own, the Zarubas believe.
He found it in Wyoming, a growing village on a railroad junction that was thriving with the Crex Carpet operation and a fertile agriculture base fueled by potato crops grown on area farms.
Prominent Wyoming businessman J.H. Sauer liked McClintick and challenged the newcomer to start a bank. If he would do so, the story goes, Sauer would construct a building to house the bank.
Sauer had the perfect site in mind. The land that had housed Paul’s Hotel, a restaurant and pool hall, had been vacant since fire destroyed the building in 1912, and he saw the corner lot as a business opportunity.
McClintick agreed, and with Sauer’s financial backing, chartered the bank in May of 1914 and opened the bank’s temporary location less than a month later.
“Mac had a desk and there was a safe,” Myron Zaruba said of the early days of the bank.
Sauer took the title of bank president and held the role until 1921 when Gust Carlson, a member of the original bank board of directors, became president. The original bank was located in a small office of a wood-structure building located approximately where Dr. Brenda Pfeiffer has her chiropractic office today.
Sauer kept his promise for a new building and in 1916 completed construction on what is today the Cornerstone Pub and Prime restaurant and bar. First State Bank operated in a small office located in the southwest corner of the building facing old Highway 61 and what was then Pennsylvania Avenue.
The office served as home for the bank until 1962 when decades of growth forced the bank to construct its facility one block east on the south side of what is now Viking Boulevard.
In the early years, McClintick was paired with a local man, A.A. “Tony” Richner, Jr., the adopted son of a Wyoming mercantile owner, as key figures in the bank. Richner remained with McClintick from the bank’s start to the bank failure era of the 1930s, when tough financial going forced Richner to find work outside the bank. Richner served as welfare director in Chisago County for many years.
The McClinticks (Emmett and Hildur) and the Richners (Tony and Helen) became extended family to the Gieses when they arrived in Wyoming in 1939, just 25 years into the bank’s existence.
Myles Giese was from the Mankato area, and after completing a business course needed just one interview with McClintick to be hired on the spot. He joined the bank in 1939 and worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming president. In all, Giese and his wife, Maddalyn, spent 65 years in the business. Myles Giese passed away in 2004 while still holding the title of president.
In reality, the Giese-Zaruba affiliation with the bank spans some 75 years.
“He was like family to me,” Bea Zaruba said of McClintick.
For the Giese kids, it was “uncle and aunt” for Mac and Hildur.
It was the same for the Richners, she said. “We spent a lot of time with them and there was never a holiday without them,” she said of Tony and Helen.
They had no children and the Giese kids filled that void, Zaruba said.
“They were like grandparents to us,” Mark Zaruba said, speaking on behalf of his brother, Tim.
That the bank has operated for a full century speaks to the business model and the quality of the people involved, the Zarubas said. The test of time has come with growth, both in Wyoming and in Stacy, where a branch office opened in 1978. The Wyoming facility has undergone a series of expansions on its existing site that were needed to meet growing demand.
Hometown service remains at the center of the bank’s operation. The Zarubas are proud of the bank’s ability to provide first-name service to its customers while offering all the electronic and high-tech banking services popular with the bank’s changing demographic base.
The Zarubas remain deeply proud of the efforts by those who came before them. In the early 1930s, following the financial collapse of 1929, more than 9,000 banks in the country failed during the Great Depression, including some in this area.
But First State Bank of Wyoming was not among them. The bank followed federal orders for the mandated four-day closure in 1933 to help cool the run on banks by depositors. The bank reopened at the end of the four days and never closed.
McClintick, who became the bank’s third president in 1950, remained calm at the helm during the 1930s, running an operation that retained the loyalty of its depositors. As banks struggled with government bonds that became worth less than face value, customers in Wyoming remained loyal and did not pull their funds.
“That broke a lot of banks,” Zaruba said.
The creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation came in 1934 to bring government protection to depositors.
McClintick finally retired on Dec. 31, 1960 after turning over the presidency to Giese earlier in the month. Myron Zaruba, who had married Bea Giese in 1960, joined the bank that same year.
He holds the role of president today with Bea Zaruba vice president. Mark Zaruba graduated from Augsburg College with a degree in business and finance and joined the bank in 1987. He took over from his father as chief executive officer after the elder Zaruba was named president a decade ago. Tim Zaruba is a key figure in the bank’s mortgage lending department.
The entire Zaruba family will be on hand to meet the public during the three-day celebration this spring.
The bank’s staff will greet customers with hotdogs and brats during a free lunch on Wednesday, June 11. Anniversary cake will be served all day.
On Thursday, the bank is inviting the public – families in particular – to a free concert by the Teddy Bear Band at 7 p.m.
The main event on Friday will be the annual ice cream social. Visitors can register for door prizes throughout the celebration. More details will be released prior to the anniversary celebration.