AKRON (Aug. 27, 2013) — I suppose you could say it was fated.
No, I'm not referring to Lindsay Lohan's endless cycle of rehab and relapse or recent reports suggesting that the National Security Agency's claims of adherence to strict ethical guidelines are about as valid as Lohan's claims of sobriety — both ought to be taken with many grains of salt. (Interestingly, I hear this is also how Miss Lohan prefers her margaritas.)
I'm talking about my entry into the tire industry. I joined Tire Business as a reporter in 2007, not out of an inherent love for tires, but quite simply because I needed a job. I was fresh out of college with a shiny, new journalism degree, and being picky wasn't an option. I knew then that my own family had its roots in rubber, but at the time I wasn't aware of (or overly concerned with) the details.
But recently my attitude has changed. With each passing year, my appreciation of this industry grows. More so than many others, the tire industry is a family affair. For many of the people who are part of it, selling tires isn't just a job — it's a lifestyle. Quite a few of them were born into the business and continue to sell tires in one form or another from generation to generation. If someone in the industry doesn't know you, chances are they know your dad.
It's only natural that such a tight-knit group of people would have a strong appreciation for, and a desire to preserve, their history—their family's history, their company history and the history of the industry as a whole. And in covering this industry for the last six years, I became motivated to learn more about my own family background.
While I am the first journalist in my family, I was far from the first to have a career involving tires. My family has a rich history in tires — more specifically, my mother's family, and even more specifically, tires made in Akron, the former rubber capital of the world.
My great grandfather -- my grandmother's father -- Clement Aked, immigrated to the U.S. during the Great Depression and worked at a gas station for several years before finding a long-term career with Goodyear Aerospace Corp. He retired from his position as a supervisor in 1971.
My grandfather and Akron native Robert Farrance spent many years — as did his father before him — working in manufacturing for the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron. His father, Charles Farrance, who was born in 1906 on a farm in Grafton, W. Va., became the first of his family to move to Akron in search of a career in the tire industry in the early 1920s.
For more than 40 years, he cured tires at Firestone's Plant No. 2, before retiring in the late 1960s. Meanwhile, his brothers went on to have successful careers working for another Akron company, General Tire & Rubber Co. (As a side note, my grandfather on my father's side also worked for General Tire for a brief time.)
In September 1951, my grandfather began working at Firestone's synthetic rubber plant in Akron, where the company produced synthetic rubber for use in tires along with a variety of other products, including chewing gum. Soon after starting with the tire maker he was drafted into the military, serving for two-years before being hired back by Firestone.
In 1979, newly named Firestone CEO John Nevin made the decision to close several of the floundering company's manufacturing plants as part of a strategy to salvage the business. My grandfather was one of the thousands of workers who lost their jobs in the process.
A few years later, he joined Spagnuolo & Associates L.L.C., a civil engineering and land surveying firm based in Fairlawn, Ohio. One of his earlier surveying jobs with the company was the site for what would become Akron's Cedarwood Valley Office Park, home of the Tire Business office.
My grandfather, quite literally, helped pave the way for me to be sitting where I am today. Destiny? Maybe, maybe not. But if you ask me, it's still pretty cool.