MAY 16. 1955
DINERS crowded the Recreation Center for the banquet honoring employees with a total of
2,000 years' service. At the speakers table were, left to right, J. V. Darwin, David Q. Holton, state
Director of Purchases; Frank W. Davis, James W. Maples, Firestone Director of Manufacturing for
rubber products plants; Nelson Kessell, Mayor Leon Schnieder, Raymond C. Firestone, Ben E.
Douglas, Harold Mercer, J. E. Trainer, F. B. Galligan, William A. Karl, T. B. Ipock, Jr., E. J.
Mechem and E. F. Sweeney, Manager of the Bennettsville, S. C., plant.
OFFICIALS of the Firestone Company and state and local of
ficials were guests at an informal luncheon preceding a tour of
the plant Thursday. Among the guests were, left to right: James
W. Maples, Ben E. Douglas, J. E. Trainer, Raymond C. Firestone,
Harold Mercer, Joe Bryan, President of Jefferson Standard Broad
casting Company, Charlotte, and William A. Karl.
Firestone’s Twenty Years In Gastonia
Raymond C. Firestone^ Executive Vice-President
SOME of you might be a little surprised to know
that, to me, it’s like coming back home to be here
this evening. Even though I am a Northerner by birth—
maybe I shouldn’t say I’m a Yankee—but even so, I
still think 1 have a good claim to be classified as a South
erner by association as far as business training goes, be
cause most of my business career has been devoted to
company work below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Not long after I got out of school, I worked in our
stores in Florida, and some years later, I was District
Manager in Richmond, Virginia. In fact, our older
daughter was born in Richmond and grew up in the
South. She says that qualifies her as a true Southerner,
but if it doesn’t, I might add that she’s back in Virginia
now, attending college.
After my hitch of service in Richmond, I helped to
build the Firestone plant in Memphis and spent the
next fourteen years there. Our younger daughter was
born in Memphis and grew up there, until we moved to
Akron a few years ago. So, she proudly lays claim to be
ing a Southerner too.
In fact. I’m very glad to be back here this evening for
two reasons— first, the celebration of our first twenty
years in Gastonia is a very happy occasion; and secondly,
it’s always good to get back to scenes of pleasant experi
ences and friendships. So, this 20th Anniversary celebra
tion is really a big and happy evening for me and I
would like to add, it’s a big occasion for Firestone as a
company, too, because our organization is very proud
of our Gastonia operation. We have had good produc
tion here and we’ve had fine relations with you people.
One of Many
I'm not unmindful, of course, of the fact our plant here
is one of our many factories and I realize that our Com
pany is generally thought of, and referred to, as a large
industrial corporation with plants all over the world.
That's true. In terms of employees, volume production,
world trade and manufacturing facilities, we are big.
In addition to our fifteen plants in the United States
and Canada, you will probably be interested in knowing
that we have plants in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela,
New Zealand and South Africa.
All of these factories, together with our plantations
in Liberia, naturally lead to our being referred to as
an industrial empire. We are not an empire. In fact,
we’re just an organization of people—all working to
gether to serve the needs of a growing world population
and a progressive civilization. Actually, that’s the only
sound basis for the existence of any company.
Firestone was started by one man, a young carriage
salesman just a few years off the farm and at the time
an unknown in the field of big industry and big business.
I am quite sure that he and the ten or twelve men work
ing with him in a dingy old foundry plant on Sweitzer
Avenue in Akron, Ohio, did not consider themselves
“big business” by any stretch of the imagination. It was
just another little group of individuals pooling their
efforts to build better products, and sell them when
and where they could. That has always been the pattern
of American enterprise. In fact, the basic pattern of de
mocracy can be described simply as people working to
gether to improve both their individual and collective
welfares in proportion to the work they do and the
service they render others.
The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company today is still
just an organization of individuals pooling their efforts—
but, of course, there are more of us now, and that's the
big difference between Firestone today and Firestone
of the early days—more people, more plants, more ma
chines, engaged in building more and better products
to sell to more people—quality products and better
Ideal — Belter Products
I doubt very much that Dad, when he started our
Company, could visualize it as it is today, but he knew
even then, what we, who have followed him, have learn
ed through his teaching and from our own experiences
—namely, that by keeping the ideal of better products
always before us, and by backing those better products
with service equally good, we can be assured of grow
ing success. Factories and people undergo the changes
of time and conditions, but sound ideals and principles
are constant. You people of the South have seen great
changes in recent years. Those are changes brought
about by conditions. You’re no longer the agricultural
South—you’re the agricultural and industrial South.
I don’t know whether some of you know about the
“Ship By Truck” movement that Dad started back in
1918. During World War I when trucks were just be
ginning to come into their own as military vehicles, he
realized that they could render a much needed service
by linking together cities, towns and farm with short-
haul transportation, and he felt that the day was not
far away when truckers could operate successfully on
long cross-country hauls. Accordingly, he worked with
the truck owners and offered a service through our
district offices to help them line up loads and exchange
loads at terminal points. At the same time, he ran ad
vertisements in national publications and local news
papers urging companies to ship by truck whenever
practical. This was the first step ever taken to help
truckers set up an organized basis of operation. He
especially emphasized the “Ship By Truck” movement
throughout the South for two main reasons. First, he
realized the fact that railway transportaion was inade
quate in some of the southern states. Secondly, he fore
saw great possibilities for industrial expansion in the
South. Of course, he backed his appraisal of the South
by building the plant here in Gastonia and the one in
Gastonia Met War Challenge
The South has demonstrated its importance indus
trially and economically in many ways, for as we look
back to World War II, it was just as fortunate that
America did produce her own cotton as it was unfortu
nate that she did not produce her own rubber in large
quantities. We can shrug it off now and say we squeezed
through with a short supply of rubber, but it was deadly
serious then. How much more serious it would have been
had our supply of cotton been as desperately short as
was our supply of rubber, we never will know. But
again, I should mention right now that you people in
our Gastonia plant met the challenge of war-time pro
duction with great credit. You filled in the vacant places
at the machines when your sons and your daughters left
to take up their patriotic duties in the armed services.
Whether it be a time of war or peace, the Gastonia
plant and the people of Gastonia occupy a key position
in our industrial operation. When we say that we are in
the rubber business, we are falling a way short of
telling the complete story. It would be more factual to
say that we are in the fabric and rubber business. For
example, approximately seventy per cent of the cost of
a cord truck tire is in the cord body. As you knoW/
rubber is only a part of the tire. It's true that tires are
only a part of our business, although they are by far the
While tires are a major part of our business, we are
also in the steel business, the plastic business, and we
manufacture many different products for the national
In connection with your plant here, I think you might
be interested in knowing something about its importance
in the highly competitive business of building and selling
tires. I am speaking specifically of our new gum-dipping
and safety-tensioning equipment.
To again point out the growing importance of your
•work here, let us once again go back several years—iJ^
fact, it was thirty-five years ago that we introduced
gum-dipping—a process through which cotton cords for
tires were coated and impregnated with liquid rubber-
This insulated the individual cord, reduced friction and
heat and increased the adhesion between cord plies. AS
you probably all know, for more than a quarter of ^
century, we gave car, truck gnd bus, and tractor owners
the extra protection of a better built tire and a higher
quality product through gum-dipping. All this time, nO
other company thought it of any value.
Then, rayon and nylon came along. But, these cord
materials when built into a tire, stretched and the tireS
grew to a point where tread cracking and tire failure
presented a very serious problem to all tire builders-^
all, that is, but Firestone. We had thirty years’ experi'
ence in gum-dipping by then and we were ready to treat
the rayon and nylon cords with the dipping and tension'
ing process that licked tire growth. Today, all tire manU'
facturers have had to adopt a dipping program becaus®
you cannot build a rayon or nylon tire that will
together while you build it without gum-dipping. Eve>^
if you get it built, it won’t hold together on the road.
Our gum-dipping, safety-tensioning equipment he^®
in our Gastonia plant is not only the finest—but, the only
equipment of its kind in the world. And most
portant of all, behind it are thirty-five years of exp®^^"
We have been very proud of our plant here the
twenty years, and equally proud of you and your fdmili®^
who have been a part of Firestone all this time.
have made a wonderful record and I congratulate
I think all of you know that our policy in the past 1^^
been to improve and progress, and we are looking
ward to many more years —^
associations with you.
of progress and pleasa