Not everything undertaken by the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association has met with success. Like most organizations, the NTDRA occasionally has blundered and lived to regret its actions. One such misstep resulted in the creation of a second national association for tire dealers in the U.S.-the American Retreaders Association with its World Tire Conference held each year in Louisville, Ky.
That miscalculation not only divided the loyalties of dealers, torn between the two rival associations, but also left the NTDRA's annual convention having to compete with the Louisville conference for exhibit revenues-a necessary source of operating revenue for both associations.
Ironically, the NTDRA's difficulties began with the barring of one man from its 1957 convention in Cincinnati-George R. Edwards, a Manchester, N.H., retreading consultant and editor of the then-newly-launched Retreaders Journal magazine.
Under orders from then executive vice president, the late W.W. ``Bill'' Marsh, NTDRA convention officials refused to honor Mr. Edwards' press credentials, thereby preventing him from entering the U.S. retreading industry's most important convention. This infuriated not only Mr. Edwards but also Radcliff, Ky., retreader E.L. ``Red'' Davis, who along with his wife, Martha, had accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Edwards to the convention.
Mr. Davis, a prominent Kentucky businessman and principal retreading supplier to the U.S. Army's Fort Knox Armored Center, was president of the Central States Retreaders' Association, a regional group with about 50 members, and a friend of the Edwards.
Weeks earlier, the two men had quarreled with NTDRA officials over who deserved credit for talking the U.S. Army out of a plan to have all its military retreading done in-house rather than contracting such work out to civilian shops.
The NTDRA had claimed credit-unfairly, in the opinion of Messrs. Davis and Edwards. The pair had had top-level meetings with Army brass and believed they-not the NTDRA-were responsible for the Army's favorable decision.
Mr. Edwards, angry at the NTDRA for claiming credit, published his own account of what had taken place in the Retreaders Journal-obviously to the displeasure of Mr. Marsh and other association officials who proclaimed him persona non grata at the Cincin-nati convention.
Young Philip Friedlander, who at the time was editor of the NTDRA's Dealer News magazine and responsible for the association's public relations, was given the task of telling Mr. Edwards he was unwelcome.
Mr. Friedlander, now the association's executive vice president and able to laugh about the experience, recalls taking considerable verbal heat from the two couples. Nor were Mr. Marsh or any of NTDRA's top elected officials to be found during the time the confrontation was taking place.
The two couples angrily departed the show and returned together in Mr. Davis' car to Louisville. ``Red was furious and worried about my future as a consultant to the industry,'' recalls Mr. Edwards, who today limits his consulting practice to product liability cases and lives in Louisville.
``But when we drove past the new Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center, which had just been built a year earlier under former Governor Happy Chandler, Red brightened.
``Pointing at the new buildings, Red turned and said, `Hell, George, we'll start our own convention! Everybody needs a little competition . . . .And it's time retreading had its own show.' ''
So, in January of 1958, a small gathering was held at Louisville's Brown Hotel at which the Central States Retreaders' Association agreed to sponsor the event which was to be known as the Louisville Retreaders Conference.
Edwards' Retreading Consultant Services was given a contract to run the conference and its owner, George Edwards, named conference director-a post he held for 13 years before stepping down to devote full time to other business pursuits.
The first Louisville Retreaders Conference was held May 25-27, 1958, with just 27 trade show exhibitors and only 375 persons in attendance.
However the event, now called the ARA World Tire Conference & Exhibition, grew considerably in subsequent years and came to rival the NTDRA's own annual convention in size and attendance.
Meanwhile, industry suppliers, who 37 years ago grumbled at having to exhibit at two annual trade shows, are still complaining about it today. And many have pressed the two rival associations to combine their respective shows or hold them on alternate years.
Under such pressure, officials of the two groups have had private meetings to discuss matters of ``mutual interest.'' No decision has been made regarding the combining of their annual dealer gatherings.
The Central States Retreading Association changed its name to the American Retreaders Association at its April 1964 conference. This was done in order to recruit some 2,000 members nationwide and fund the ARA's legal battle on behalf of three California retreaders sued for alleged patent violations involving spray cement.
The three were among 1,000 retreaders, including Goodyear and Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., sued by California inventor Ralph R. Reading, who demanded royalties on the spraying of cement during the retreading operation. A trial was held in 1968 during which Firestone and Goodyear agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money to Mr. Reading, who dropped the remaining suits and assigned the patent rights to all the defendants.