Today's tire manufacturing industry is nothing like it was a century ago, when it was in its infancy. Back then health and safety weren't a consideration and violence was common.
But while there are numbers documenting the number of citizens from states such as West Virginia and Kentucky who migrated north to work in Akron as it became the Rubber Capital of the World, there was no real personal accounts of what went on inside those sprawling tire and rubber plants.
That is no longer the case, as author Tom Jones has published "On a Burning Deck: The Road to Akron," an oral history based on dozens of hours of interviews, much of those with his grandfather Haskell Jones.
Haskell moved to Akron in 1917 and worked in many of the town's tire shops. He seems like quite the character, and the tales he tells aren't necessarily for the faint of heart. But they do give a picture of what it was like to work in the tire industry's version of the "Wild West."
Here are a few of the gems from Haskell Jones:
Finding a job was easy. He arrived in Akron on a Saturday and got a job at Miller Rubber on Monday. Pay was about 55 cents an hour, much better than the 50 cents a day he made back in Kentucky.
Besides Miller Rubber and Goodyear, Haskell worked at Firestone on at least seven separate occasions. One time he was a supervisor there making $110 a month. But workers under him made $10 to $12 a day on piece work. So he walked out, went to another person in the Labor Department who hired him back to work in the tread room. He got fired from that job, only to have the same person hire him again the next day for yet another position.
Violence was the norm. Haskell tells of a fight he had with a much bigger worker who pinned him against a post that had bolt in it. Haskell hit him several times to no avail. "I stuck my thumb in his eyes and I lifted his eyeball out of his socket. … They had to take him to the hospital and put his eye back in." And no, Haskell didn't get fired, but his supervisor taught him a lesson to "let me know there was a lot of people I couldn't lick."
The modern tire factory has indeed come a long way. You can order the book through Amazon or at www.onaburningdeck.com. The work is the first of a two-volume story, with Return to Akron expected later this year, as Haskell Jones eventually becomes a policeman and councilman in nearby Tallmadge, Ohio.