may 13, 1S55
Twenty Years of Constant Progress
T am very glad to be with you tonight and to be able
to join in the 20th Anniversary celebration of Fire
stone Textiles, here in Gastonia.
At such times as this, an important anniversary, it is
Usually a good thing to look back in order that we may
look ahead intelligently and with some certainty to
what lies in the future.
I think it is safe to say that our operation here has
completed twenty years of constant progress. It has been
progress not only in terms of increased production,
quality and service, but on many other fronts as well.
And tonight I would like to review these with you.
As you know. The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company
Was a worldwide organization, known and respected in
every quarter of the globe, when we began our operation
here in Gastonia in 1935. The Company, at that point,
Was thirty-five years old, and it occupied a well-earned
position of leadership in the tire industry.
In 1935, even though the country was pulling itself out
of the depths of the depression, the management of
r’irestone was planning to expand. One move in that
direction was the purchase of the Gastonia mill. The
Company did this for the purpose of obtaining cotton
lire cord and other fabrics for the exclusive use of its
own tire manufacturing plants.
Since that time, however, the changing needs of the
tire industry have imposed changes on our production
here. But these same needs have likewise caused us
not only to change our production but to improve and
increase it constantly.
It is an interesting sidelight on the character of the
Firestone Company that when the change from cotton
to synthetic cord had to be made, the Company selected
what you might say was the hard way to meet this
Quite a bit of cotton production was not needed. The
Company therefore had to make a choice between shut
ting down the cotton facilities or developing new markets
m competition with other textile plants for what these
^Scilities could produce.
There were many factors involved in the Company’s
•decision to develop new markets. And, I would like to
point out, one of the basic considerations was the fact
that if the facilities had been shut down, hundreds of
Employees, yes, about 1,000, would have been thrown
out of work.
During the period when the change was taking place,
^he Company spent a substantial sum of money to
niodernize machinery for the production of cotton yarns
^nd fabrics in order to maintain cotton production. And
m doing so the jobs of many were saved.
In the more recent past, that is since the end of World
II, we have gone forward with a program of im-
Provement and expansion. The installation of new equip-
*^ent during that period has made us the most com
plete, the most modern textile operation anywhere in
_Our new electronic Safety-Tensioning and Gum-Dip-
^^ng unit makes us the only cord treating factory in the
^ith all these improvements, made during the last
Wenty years, we have here in Gastonia today, one of
finest plants in America.
. far, I have confined myself to the advances and
Improvements in the physical characteristics of our plant.
°w, let us look at other things.
This community and its good people have made pos-
our success here in Gastonia. Let none of us have
doubt about that. Without the friendliness and co-
l^^^^^tion of the community as a whole, from the very
ginning of our enterprise, we could have gotten no
Without that most valuable ingredient in any business
^jl ®^Prise—the loyalty of its employees—Firestone Tex-
*^ight just as well never have opened its doors. Our
nored guests tonight are a symbol of that. And on the
oject of loyalty I will have something more to say
tQ ® sre grateful for the part the community of Gas-
has played in the advancement of Firestone Tex-
But in our gratitude we should not overlook the
^ that our Company has played in the advancement
^he community itself and of the people in it.
f- is not to beat our own drum too loudly. It is,
sho *^®rely to look as both sides of the coin. One side
sh Gastonia helping Firestone. And the other side
firestone helping Gastonia. That is the way it
be. That, as a matter of fact, is the only way a
*^^*iity and a business enterprise can operate with
Semblance of success.
Wa fortunately, for everyone concerned, that is the
things have gone here in Gastonia.
J. E. Trainer, Executive Vice-President
But, to take a look at the details in the picture which
show how Firestone in Gastonia has been of benefit to
Today we are giving employment to about twice as
many people as we were twenty years ago, and during
the twenty-year period since we started our operations
here we have given continual employment to our people.
The average work week has been about 43 hours for the
entire period of time—twenty years. Our payroll, to
gether with extra benefits, supplies and the cost of
utilities, puts into the community more than $3,000,000
a year. That is a sizable economic shot in the arm! And
it helps to make possible a thriving business community.
Business activity has greatly increased here during
the last twenty years. There have been improvements
straight across the board, in terms of living standards,
and in the social and cultural life of the city and its
I don’t have to tell you about the sale of our houses
to employees, so that now all 622 are owned by in
dividuals. It is a pleasure to ride through this village
and see how the homes have been improved and how
well kept they are.
The Company and its employees can be proud of the
fact that they have made substantial contributions to
the religious life of the city. I have often thought that
the character of a hamlet, a town, a city, even the char
acter of an entire country, could be revealed by the
number of churches in it, and by the support they re
ceived from their communicants.
In this case, Firestone employees and the Company
itself have played an important part. Contributions by
Firestone employees and assistance by the Company in
helping with building plans and furnishing land, have
made possible the construction of many churches here.
In order to discharge its responsibility as a corporate
citizen of Gastonia, Firestone has always given strong
support to the civic activities of the city. The Company,
as all of you know, is active in helping the United Fund,
the Red Cross Blood Program and the educational efforts
of schools. Assistance to youth activities, such as the Boy
Scouts, has only been part of our regular activity.
Good Place To Work
Now, I do not think I have to tell this group that
Firestone Textiles is a good place to work. The record
speaks for itself. Our treatment of our employees speaks
for itself. But let it be clearly understood that Fire
stone Textiles is part of the textile industry and don’t
allow anybody to tell you anything different. As part of
the textile industry Firestone Textiles has to compete
with other textile plants and must stand on its own feet,
just as our Steel Products Division must compete with
other steel fabricating plants and as our Plastics Divi
sion must compete with other plastics companies. The
same thing can be said of the other divisions of our
Company or any other company. But, just to make the
record complete, I would like to say that we pay excel
lent wages and that we have the best and safest working
conditions in the industry.
And while I am on the subject of safety, one of my pet
subjects, I want to compliment you on your fine safety
record. You can be justifiably proud of it. And I assure
you that I am.
Firestone has always felt that the welfare of its em
ployees was a vital concern of the Company's. The evi
dence of this concern is to be found in our group in
surance plan, in our pension plan, in the paid vacations
that are granted, and in numerous other benefits—all of
which were put into effect voluntarily by the Company.
And at this time we have already formulated plans to
further improve our pension and insurance program.
The latest indication of the Company’s concern for
the well-being of not only its employees, but the mem
bers of their families as well, is our Scholarship Pro
gram. Under this program sixty deserving and fortunate
young people will receive a college education which,
in some instances, they might not otherwise receive.
That is a wonderful thing. And the Company is extreme
ly happy that it is able to put a large group of young
sters through college. Our plans are to add fifteen to
twenty more scholarships each year so that we will have
between sixty and seventy students in college at all
What, you might ask, does all of this mean? What does
it add up to? What bearing does it have on us as indi
viduals? What does it mean in terms of our future?
Well, what I have said adds up to many things. We
have a fine plant. We have a fine organization. We are
operating according to the keystone of Firestone policy,
which is to provide the public with products of the high
est quality at the lowest possible prices, thereby con
tinuing the demand for our products, which means con
tinuing our jobs and adding more jobs.
The Gastonia plant is doing its part because of its
modern equipment and the fine operating climate that
exists in Gastonia. What do I mean by operating cli
mate? Perhaps I can best describe it by telling you that
in the past we have closed down textile mills because
the over-all operation resulted in a cost of finished
product exceeding the price at which this material could
be bought in the open market. This was the combina
tion of many things: The attitude of the community,
costs such as taxes, low productivity on the part of the
workers and other indirect costs.
Typical examples of plants we were forced to close
down were the plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts,
which we closed once in 1938 and finally in 1949. The
same thing happened in our textile plant in Roanoke,
Virginia, in 1954, and in our plant at Fort Worth, Texas,
It may be of interest to you to know that a few years
ago we decided to expand our textile facilities. We
bought land in Tennessee with the intention of building
a plant there. But, when the final decision to build, or
not to build, had to be made, we decided to expand our
facilities here in Gastonia and not to build in Tennessee.
And we based that decision on the fact that the busi
ness climate here in Gastonia was a healthy one.
After twenty years in Gastonia it is an accepted fact
that we are well thought of by the community. And we,
as a corporate enterprise, like the community and are
happy to be a part of it.
Important To Company
What I have said means that after twenty years we can
safely say that we, as a Company in Gastonia, have
most certainly arrived, that we are a well-established
organization, an integral and important part of the
Firestone Company. What I have said means that our
products, our policies and our practices are the best in
For the future we must keep them that way. And
that brings me to the subject of loyalty, loyalty as typi
fied in the service of our guests of honor tonight—those
who have been with the Company since 1935.
Loyalty is a basic virtue. It is not a matter of edu
cation. It has nothing to do with a person’s station in
Loyalty is rooted in a strong belief in the ideals for
which a person or an organization stands. It is found
only in men and women who possess great strength of
As a people, we Americans are by nature loyal, not
only to our jobs and our families but also to our country
and the ideals for which it stands. We have demonstrated
this fact many times. We have defended our country
against attacks of its enemies, some of us on the pro
duction line and others in the armed forces. In times of
peace we have been steadfast in defending our country
against subtle, but dangerous alien philosophies. Be
cause of our loyalty we have rejected the false reasoning
of foreign theorists who promise in some distant future
the standards of living we all enjoy today.
Loyalty to one’s country, to one’s family, to friends,
and to one’s job and the organization for which one
works, is a priceless virtue. It is a precious treasure to
those who receive it. It is a priceless gift from those
who give it.
Loyalty Valued Possession
We of the Firestone organization regard the loyalty of
our men and women as our most valued possession.
One of the regrettable things is that when companies
get large we lose the opportunity to know every em
ployee personally and meet employees' families too. But
Mr. Firestone and I did have the great pleasure of going
through the plant here during the morning and after
noon shifts to shake hands with many of the people and
to wish them well on this twentieth anniversary. What
is more, as we leave this meeting tonight we intend to
go back to the plant tonight to meet those on the night
And on behalf of the organization, I want to pay
tribute to you, who for twenty years have, because of
your loyalty and proficiency, made vital contributions to
the progress of Firestone Textiles. Your loyalty is an in
spiration to all of us. I congratulate you on your twenty
years of service.
As I have already said, we have a fine plant and fine
organization. We operate on the key Firestone principle,
that of providing the public with products of the highest
quality at the lowest possible prices and once again
protect our jobs by creating a demand for our products
by the buying public. Our products, policies and prac
tices are the best in the industry.
With these factors and the continuation of the loyalty
of our employees, I feel safe in saying that the next
twenty years will see even greater progress in Firestone
Textiles than we have made during the last twenty
years. We are part of a great expanding industry that is
continuing to grow. '
Our future is bright. Our future is secure.