There's a saying that states once you enter the rubber industry, you never leave. Now that may or may not be true—I've been covering the sector since 1988—but I know there's a similar corollary about being a journalist. It doesn't matter where you are, it seems like potential stories keep popping up.
For example, when I was on the road for business earlier this year, I caught a rerun of the Shark Tank television show on CNBC. I never watch the show back home, but while channel surfing, I came across an old episode featuring Jeff Stroope, founder of Hy-Conn L.L.C. He had developed an accessory that made it quicker to mount a hose to a faucet or fire truck.
Stroope seemed to come out great, with Mark Cuban offering $1.25 million, a 7.5 percent royalty and a three-year employment contract. I definitely felt let down when I looked this up later, only to discover that the show was from 2011, and Cuban backed out on Stroope, leaving the firefighter/inventor with nothing.
More recently, many rubber-industry references kept creeping into my world during vacation.
My wife and I drove from Akron to Cape Cod for a week of much-needed relaxation. The route we followed took us right through Naugatuck, Conn., the long-ago company town that once housed the headquarters of United States Rubber Co., later Uniroyal. It's been more than a decade since Uniroyal shut down the last of its manufacturing there.
Naugatuck also was where Charles Goodyear, who discovered vulcanization, was raised. Just driving through the area gives just a bit of a feel of what the town may have been like when it was one of the key regions in the world of rubber.
Then when I opened the Sunday edition of the Cape Cod Times, I found a large color photo of Goodyear's new Wingfoot One airship. The blimp was in town to help Sullivan Tire celebrate an anniversary, and the newspaper's photographer was quite happy to be invited along for a ride. It did make me feel good that those outside of Akron also get excited whenever the blimp is in town.
Another TV rerun—this time of American Pickers on the History Channel—featured Corky Coker of Coker Tires. In an episode that first aired four years ago, the show's host bought two neon Ford dealership signs he knew Coker would want, and sold them to him on the show after a short negotiation.
And finally, on the beach near the condo we stayed at in Hyannis, Mass., there was a Goodyear tire that looked as if it had been used on an antique vehicle. I took photos but still couldn't make out the size or product line to see what type of car it might have fit.
Too bad Corky Coker wasn't there. I'm sure he would have known.
Meyer is executive editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.