It was a different time when I was growing up in the fifties. Moms left home to work because of necessity in World War II, but the war was over and prosperity had begun to settle over small communities across this land, towns like Sylacauga. In the days of the “Leave It to Beaver” moms, little girls aspired to be either stay-at-home mommies, nurses, teachers, or secretaries. Secretary hopefuls then compared to little boys’ dreams today of being professional baseball or football players; very few of the secretary hopefuls ever became big time executive secretaries; many more became clerks in charge of the morning coffee. Pay was usually poor. Business colleges sprang up to make a difference in careers.
It was in 1949 that Mr. W. E. Reynolds and his wife, Ruby Lee Reynolds, opened Reynolds Business College in Sylacauga. The purpose of business colleges was to offer additional training in secretarial skills like typing, shorthand, and a relatively new innovation called speed writing so that higher paying jobs with more responsibilities could be secured. The Reynolds were a very dignified, gracious couple. Mrs. Reynolds was one of the strongest Christian women that I ever knew, and Mr. W.E. was known in First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, as Mr. Training Union according to the church history book. Mr. Reynolds had an accounting/bookkeeping business in several locations in Sylacauga before acquiring the house at 100 South Broadway for Reynolds Business College.
According to the Sylacauga Advance, January 5, 1961, they sold the business to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Evans after twelve years of operation. Mrs. Reynolds would remain on the teaching staff while Mr. W. E. would focus on a bookkeeping and accounting business. Charles and Aline Evans were already on the teaching staff and were also faithful members of First Baptist Church. The Evans were both graduates of Sylacauga High School and were well-known in the community. Charles had attended business college and enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served as a personnel specialist and military assistant. Aline Foshee Evans had attended Alabama College (now University of Montevallo). She had a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education. Charles went on to graduate from Auburn with a B.S. in Industrial Management. He worked for two years as a Quality Control Supervisor for Guliston Carpets in Albany, Georgia. Mrs. Evans took graduate level courses in education at Auburn and taught school in Talladega, Panama City, FL, and Albany, GA. Both sets of parents lived in Sylacauga, the Amos Evans and the J.L. Foshees; so I suspect Charles and Aline wanted to come home. Mr. C.S. Crowther, a noted leader in education in Sylacauga stayed on staff. Charles Evans would teach business skills to the men, and Aline would teach business skills and business etiquette in the charm school on the second floor of the residence once occupied by a family and now in 2021 a residence again. Clayton Williams even taught a mathematics class at night.
The school had day and night classes and was approved by the Veterans Administration. Veterans could receive scholarships to attend. In addition the Nancy Taylor secretarial courses were well known among businesses and business colleges. Amazon in 1964 offered a set of four books with this note: “The Nancy Taylor Course, a four volume set of books are self-help books that teach you how to be better in terms of manners, etiquette, and how to be a more charming person.” Mrs. Evans’ course covered how to walk, stand, and sit like a lady, as well as tips about the do’s and don’ts of dressing professionally.
Various marketing techniques and good teaching made the school very successful in its time. There were ads for the courses, testimonials from former students, questions prospective students might have and answers, and term and course information. In the March 22, 1962, Sylacauga Advance I found a picture of winners of the Typing Tournament held at the college. It indicated that such a contest included business students from high schools in Coosa County, Talladega County, Childersburg, and Sylacauga. Everyone likes a contest, and winners received Nancy Taylor Charm School scholarships, portable typewriters, transistor radios, and pen and pencil sets for first, second, and third prizes.
Although many of you may have never heard of Reynolds Business College, it was a good thing for Sylacauga in its time and included students like Clara Stewart, Charlotte Williamson Morris, Coleen King, Beulah Poole, and even James Long, who became a well-known Baptist minister. Charlotte related how she and other Fayetteville area students rode the bus to the school in the morning and home again in the evening. Julie Evans Raines and her husband Joe still have Charles Evans’ desk from the school in their home today, with a ring on top where Charles sat his coffee cup.
The Reynolds and the Evans are gone now, as is beloved Professor Charles Crowther, but the school provided professional development for students who aspired for good jobs. I hope some of you who read these words remember Reynolds Business College. Students who needed to go to work and for whom a four year college was not an option received good training at Reynolds Business College in those years, a simpler time, and not so long ago at that.