Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gum-Dipped, a Firestone Family

Gum-Dipped, published by University of Akron and written by Joyce Dyer, was a brave book.             The overriding themes were how Firestone , back in the day before Bridgestone, brainwashed people into complete and utter servitude and allegiance to the company.  Where the author lived was a product of the company, built by the company, and she didn’t realize how infectious it was until she started doing research for a book about her father and noticed that the shape of the streets in Firestone Park formed the “F” in Firestone.

Dyer's mother was the daughter of a fierce drunk and one of seven children, and Dyer observes that she tied an apron around her waist when she was ten, and “Maybe she never removed that apron again, as I think about it now.” But her father knew her mother wasn’t a mistake:  “Every day that he looked across our little breakfast table into my mother’s face, I could feel the thing that joined them, as real as the safety bar you pull down on the seat of a carnival ride.” And then Dyer jumps ahead and warns us that there will be betrayals much more extraordinary than a man’s roving eyes.

Harvey Firestone was the family’s hero. Father and daughter sit next to and on his statue. Harbel Manor looked like their house, their house was a much, much smaller version, made from a Sears Roebuck kit, one of the designs approved by Harvey for houses in Firestone Park. Harvey wanted his way of life reflected all around him, that’s how big his ego was. “The light that ushered in my dreams didn’t come from stars but from Firestone.” Firestone eventually closed factories and was bought by Bridgestone. It no longer had the power over its employees that it was had. The company was no longer villified.

Of course her father’s work in the Xylos reclaim factory killed him, all those chemicals gathering in his lungs. I was struck by the scene in which he asked his grandson to clean his genitals, telling him he’d have to do that one day. “My father was showing me what it would take to care for Annabelle Coyne, once he left me alone with her.”  Her father had been taking care of his wife who had Alzheimers.

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