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Wacky World of Rubber: A rubber industry love story

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Photo by Bruce Meyer, Rubber & Plastics News Our wedding day photo sits on a table in our home, along with photos from our parents' wedding days.

For this week's Wacky World post, I'm going to tell you the tale of a rubber industry love story. It's one I know a lot about because, well, it's my love story.

I met my wife Megan 25 years ago yesterday—on Jan. 16, 1993—and it wouldn't have happened without the rubber and tire industry.

At the time she worked in the inside sales department for General Tire—Continental owned the company by this time, but the company still went by the General name. By being one of the top producers in the department, she earned the right to go to the tire maker's annual dealer's meeting.

That year General held the meeting at the Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., a resort first built and opened in 1988 by none other than Charles Keating. But Keating's ownership of the resort was short-lived, as it was seized when he was indicted in 1989 for his role in the savings and loan crisis.

If any number of things didn't go a particular way, we never would have met.

I was a reporter in the early part of my career with Rubber & Plastics News, and I was assigned to cover the meeting for our publication. It was one of those assignments you didn't mind too much, getting to flee Ohio's winter for a few day's in Arizona. That included covering the main business session of the meeting and interviewing a number of the company executives, and writing stories based on those. It also brought with it the chance to play a couple of rounds of golf, something we don't often get to do in Ohio in January.

Back in those days, the tire companies really went all out to show their dealers a good time, with ongoing parties and events that also were geared toward getting the dealers to spend heavily on the company's tire lines (complete with the opportunity to earn a wide range of gifts).

The first couple of days were pretty non-eventful. That is, until the final night's gala. For this event, General planned a multi-course dinner. Bison was on the menu; I'm not sure why I remember that, other than it's a dish I haven't opted to try since. And Paul Anka was brought in as the star entertainer of the night.

I was one of the last people to come into the banquet hall at the hotel. I didn't know a lot of people there, but I was able to find the table where Dave Zielasko and his wife Gwen were seated. Dave at the time was editor of Tire Business, a sister publication of RPN, and he currently is publisher of both RPN and TB. Much to my luck, they had one seat left at the table.

Megan had brought her sister Beth with her to the dealer meeting. During dinner I actually sat next to Beth and some of Megan's other colleagues at General. After dinner was completed and Paul Anka had done his gig, I excused myself to get a cocktail at one of the bars out in the hallway.

I was out there awhile and was ready to call it a night, but went back in to tell Dave and Gwen goodnight. But they had left by this time, and Megan was the only one at the table. We started talking and found we had some things in common. Both our fathers were deceased, but had long careers in the rubber industry.

My dad (also Bruce) actually had worked in outside sales for General Tire in the 1960s in Ohio and California. He later moved onto Long Mile Rubber Co. and then was the first manager for the Goodyear retread plant that still operates in Brunswick, Ohio.

Here we are 25 wonderful years later.

Megan's father, Robert Baughman, had a long history as a rubber chemist and later as a technical salesman in the industry. His stops included Goodyear, C.P. Hall, Firestone, International Latex, B.F. Goodrich Co. and finally Polysar. This may sound strange, but it was nice to meet someone who actually knew what Rubber & Plastics News was, as her dad had been a subscriber and reader. Most people I met in my early years thought I either worked at the Akron Beacon Journal or Goodyear.

For most of the night, Megan assumed I lived in another state. She was surprised to learn that I lived in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, a mere 4½ miles from her home in Akron. And here we were, meeting all the way out in Arizona. The fact is, had we not met this night, our paths likely never would have crossed.

So we exchanged business cards and made plans to talk the following week. We started with a date and things went well. We were engaged that September and married a year later.

You can call it fate or guidance from a higher power (I don't believe in coincidences). Megan always has believed her father guided her my way. The fact is, if any number of things didn't go a particular way, we never would have met.

But they did, and here we are 25 wonderful years later. Our rubber industry fairy tale definitely had a happy ending.