Friday, June 22, 2007

How the Rubber Industry's Agonizing Death
Spiral Tore at the Soul of One Akron Family

From the haunting, poetic memoir Gum-Dipped -- A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town, by Joyce Dyer, director of writing at Hiram college, and mother of Akron Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer:

'To me, Harvey Firestone was better than a lion or a soldier or even Lincoln himself. He was a king up there on the top of his hill, in the midst of meadow and forest with birds singing everywhere. It was Harvey who reigned where I was moving, who built our Tudor house, who cut our curved streets and bought fancy little streetlights that glowed into our bedroom windows, who loved my father and therefore must love me. Harvey was mine.'

Years later:

'Tom Coyne [her dad] refused to mention the name of his company for 15 years after the wrecking ball took his building down. We both read the Akron Beacon Journal every day, and knew a little bit about what was going on at Firestone, but we didn't talk about it the way we had before--each blip on the company screen a heartbeat in our own chests. Sometimes I'd see him shaking his head when he'd see a story about yet another Firestone factory being razed in Akron. His white hair would shoot in long strands toward his nose. What had happened to us, and to Xylos, would be repeated many times before the Firestone story was over. Plant 2 closed in 1978. A wrecking crew battled its steel and concrete for two years before the building finally fell, a winter sacrifice. I could tell the news about other closings upset my dad, because the burps started up for a few days each time it happened. He probably was thinking of all the men who would lose their jobs. Of the workers who would fill out unemployment forms, file for divorce, leave town, take out loans to go to barber school. A few really would commit suicide.'


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