Highland News Leader

HIASAA Hall of Fame nominee: Julius J. Spindler, Business

Julius Joseph “Jule” Spindler was born in Highland in 1891.

He attended Highland schools and graduated from Highland High School in 1909. He then entered Washington University in St. Louis but withdrew at the conclusion of his freshman year.

His father felt that it was time for him to learn something about the business that the family owned and operated.

In 1883 Jule’s father, John Spindler, Jr., founded a business he named the Highland Embroidery Works. The ultimate product was to be embroidered dress making materials to be marketed in retail stores in mid-America.

In 1910, at the age of 19, Jule Spindler entered the business world. He would spend the following years learning as much as he could about every aspect of the operation. He managed the factory for 23 years.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he became interested in the banking business, particularly the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Highland. During that time period, he made substantial investments in the bank stock.

By 1932, with the Embroidery Works no longer demanding his time, Spindler was invited to come on board as president of Farmers and Merchants Bank. He would serve in that capacity for the next 20 years.

Times were tough in those days. The stock market crash had come, taking fortunes and jobs with it, and the Depression had arrived in full force. Spindler was determined that on his watch the clients and customers of his bank would not fall victim to the malaise that was sweeping the country.

On March 6, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an order declaring a “bank holiday,” closing banks all around the country in order to stop depositors from withdrawing their savings. On behalf of the Farmers and Merchants Bank, Spindler refused to comply. Over the decades following, the bank prospered.

There were a few farm foreclosures, and Spindler often declared that those events were the saddest and most difficult of his business career.

Spindler remained with the bank for 33 years. He also served as national president for the Financial Advertising Association of America, making speeches about small-town banking from coast to coast, always plugging Highland.

He also liked to write and wrote several epistles in serial form for the Highland News Leader, documenting the journey of the Swiss settlers who founded Highland.

His final business interest had its advent in the late 1940s, when he was exposed to and became greatly interested in the books of Dale Carnegie and the educational course which Mr. Carnegie had devised to teach the elements of those books to members of the public. Spindler took that course and decided he wanted to be a member of the Carnegie team. He then took and completed the instructor’s course, which qualified him to present seminars at which others could try to become instructors themselves. He would teach the Carnegie course itself and present instructors seminars, as well throughout central and downstate Illinois for many years and was nationally known as a Carnegie instructor.

Throughout his life, there were many public service roles in Highland which Spindler willingly fulfilled, including being a lifelong member of the Highland Chapter of Rotary International, serving as an unpaid director of the Highland Milling Co., being a Scottish Rite and York Rite Mason and chairman of the Building Committee for the Highland Congregational Church. Spindler was twice president of the Highland Chamber of Commerce and the local Toastmasters Club.

In 1946, Spindler and his wife, Emily, gifted 12 acres of their property to the city of Highland with the understanding that the city would hold the land as a park for the benefit of all of its citizens. The property was to be held until funds were available to develop it. In the mid-1970s, Highland saw the creation of Spindler Park and all its attractions. Substantial donations were made by the immediate members of Spindler’s family to see that their original plan was carried out.

But Spindler and his wife would not live to see their dream reach fruition. He died on May 25, 1975 in Highland.