Sooner has become later Sad news out of Akron: the former Rubber City headquarters of the old General Tire & Rubber Co. is falling to the wrecking ball, after being home for more than 60 years to one of the city's home-grown tire companies.
Abandoned by Continental General Tire Inc. three years ago when it moved to Charlotte, N.C., the building has since remained vacant—a hulking reminder of a bygone era when Akron was the center of the tire-making universe. The decision to destruct came after no buyer could be found. Akron is buying the property for an industrial park.
In a nostalgic story that tugged a little on the ole' heart strings, the Akron Beacon Journal's business writer, John Russell, interviewed more than 40 former General employees who reminisced about their fond memories and careers in the huge red-brick building on General Street.
Franklin Palmer, 75, recalled the day he was asked by his boss to step into his office for a minute. ``It turns out he didn't want to talk business with me,'' Mr. Palmer told the Beacon Journal. ``He wanted to show me some new fishing tackle he had gotten as a birthday gift.''
As the loyal employee admired the gear, the office door opened and in walked the big boss, William O'Neil, the company's founder. Mr. Palmer remembers ``W.O.'' saying: ``Oh, I see some important business is going on in here. I'll come back later.''
``That was the kind of company it was,'' Mr. Palmer said. ``Very friendly. W.O. was just a heck of a swell guy to work for.''
Former secretary Floriana Berdyck Hall, 71, had a different kind of memory of the old place. Back in 1946—an era before ``political correctness'' became a national mantra—General Tire held beauty contests. Secretaries and office girls were rounded up, asked to put on bathing suits and high heels and parade around for their co-workers, Ms. Hall said.
While some female workers were pressured to enter, others needed little encouragement to do it, she noted, adding it was ``not a big deal. But I really didn't want to do it.''
Could you see that kind of thing going on in this day of sexual harassment lawsuits? Hardly.
Hello I must be going—That line from Groucho Marx's theme song kind of sums up the situation for some Penske Auto Centers Inc. outlets. The March 15 issue of Tire Business Staff Reported the chain closed 133 stores in 69 markets.
Quoted in the story was Penske's vice president of advertising, marketing and communications, Bill McStay, who in essence said that, for some of the company's stores, it was time to McGo.
One hump or two—Now that RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp., the world's No. 2 cigarette maker, is selling its international tobacco business and spinning off its domestic tobacco unit, shall we shed tears for old Joe Camel, who was forced to retire in ignominy?
Maybe he can redeem his image by hawking Oreos and Ritz crackers. But he'll need a face lift.
If they ain't broke...—A van we spotted from a Cleveland-area charitable organization doing benefit work for children had ``We Fix Kids'' emblazoned on its side. We've got a couple who haven't been busted yet, but it's nice to know there's somewhere else we can send them to get repaired—besides a work farm.
Space savers—Use of run-flat tires may eventually provide some additional vehicle trunk space. But the Akron Beacon Journal addressed another quest to get rid of those nasty ``spare tires.'' Though most men don't like to talk about it, a recent study by the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons showed that, from 1992 to 1997, liposuction tripled among men and face lifts nearly doubled.
All that fat could be classified as a hazardous waist for some guys.
But can he spell potato?—In one of the early gaffes in Campaign 2000 already under way for the U.S. presidency, second-banana Al Gore (remember him? the current vice president?) claimed in a speech that he created the Internet. Didn't Dan Quayle do that?
More cool stuff about people and animals—From a Cleveland Plain Dealer feature story: Sixty-eight percent of parents polled said that for a million bucks, they'd name their firstborn "Stupid." Goldfish have a memory of three seconds (and they say some tires are "smart"?) And a cockroach can live nine days without its head. (Isn't it easier to simply step on them?)
Who's afraid of the big, bad bug
All this fear mongering about the ``Millennium Bug'' or ``Y2K'' problem has a lot of people downright terrified about their computer systems. Remember when a hard drive meant making it from Akron to Florida in less than 24 hours?
'Tis past the season for the following little ditty, compliments of the Los Angeles Times, but you may want to keep it in mind when next December rolls around. Sing it to the melody of ``Santa Claus is coming to town''—``You better print files, your hard drive could die, you better download, I'm tellin' you why, Y2K is coming to town.''
We've also been provided with a novel solution for this ``Y to K'' situation from computer guru Chris Slaybaugh, son of TB's executive editor, Chuck Slaybaugh.
Chris has converted his computer systems' calendars to be Year 2000 compliant, with the following new months: Januark; Februark; Mak; and Julk.
World's youngest tire buster?
How does that song go? She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan,.... Yes, she's a woman: w-o-m-a-n.
The ``supermom'' pictured in a mailing from SmarTire USA Inc.—well, from the looks of it, she can do even better than that whole bacon routine. SmarTire makes tire pressure monitors that can be used with or without run-flat tire systems.
The promotional piece is soliciting ``certified'' SmarTire direct dealers. In a nutshell, a consumer buys directly from SmarTire its SmarTire Wireless Pressure Monitor System, which comes with an $80 coupon for free installation. The dealer then receives 80 bucks for each installation.
The company's flyer blares, ``Statistics that just cannot be ignored,'' then quotes the American Automobile Association, warning: ``Flat tires are the leading cause of vehicles becoming disabled on the road.''
But back to that photo (above). There's our heroine, shown alongside her jacked-up car by a roadside. She's got a toddler tucked under arm and is steadying a presumably flat tire (or maybe it's the spare) with her other hand.
The question is, will she attempt to change that tire with or without infant, or order her boy (who looks about six years old) to do the dirty deed? Could be a junior tire buster in the making—if only he can figure out which way the wheel goes on. And where did those pesky lugnuts go?