AKRON—Akron is asking rubber workers and their families to share their voices to help preserve the industry's legacy.
In September, the city announced it would commemorate its heritage as the Rubber City by installing a 12-foot bronze statue of a rubber worker in a new roundabout at Main and Mill streets. The design of the work, by sculptor Alan Cottrill and to be installed later this year, was inspired by the image on the cover of the book "Wheels of Fortune" by David Giffels and Steve Love.
But the statue isn't the only thing that looks to preserve Akron's rich rubber industry history. As part of the project, an interactive kiosk, with audio and visual storytelling featuring former rubber workers, will be installed in the northeast corner of the intersection.
Akron Stories, a group led by artist and business owner Mac Love, is leading the storytelling project, which is being funded, along with the kiosk, by the sale of commemorative bricks. About 130 bricks already have been sold, according to a recent news release. They're available for purchase online.
The group already has collected dozens of stories for the oral history project but wants more, so it has scheduled recording sessions from March through May across Summit County.
"This is our opportunity to celebrate the people who made Akron the rubber capital of the world," Love said in the release. "We want to help visitors and residents learn about Akron's unique history, how it shapes our identity and how it is driving our future."
Collected stories will be archived with the Akron-Summit County Public Library and be available online, with excerpts featured as part of the interactive kiosk downtown, Akron Stories said.
Akron resident Miriam Ray is founder of the Akron Stories initiative, according to its website, and has worked toward making the storytelling project a reality since 2016.
"From the very beginning, I asked people for their stories and quickly realized they were as important as the rubber worker statue itself," Ray said in a statement. "We are three generations removed from these workers and it is so important that future generations get to know them."
Added Josy Jones, the project's director of storytelling, in a statement: "We are hearing from people who remember their family members coming home coated in black tire remnants. They remember the sounds and energy of Main Street and the brilliance and resilience of their working mothers. … Many (workers) were actively involved in the union, standing up for their rights and shaping a future for their children."
Organizers want to hear from as many rubber workers and their families as they can, and ask contributors to schedule an interview at AkronStories.com or by calling 330-238-8588, the release said.
People also can share their stories by attending any of the following community recording sessions:
- 6 p.m. March 9: Goodyear Branch Library, 60 Goodyear Blvd., Akron; 330-784-7522
- 12:30 p.m. March 11: Northwest Akron Branch Library, 1720 Shatto Ave., Akron; 330-836-1081
- 2 p.m. March 14: North Hill Branch Library, 183 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave., Akron; 330-535-9423
- 1 p.m. March 18: Nordonia Hills Branch Library, 9458 Olde Eight Road, Northfield; 330-467-8595
- 1 p.m. March 24: Richfield Branch Library, 3761 S. Grant St., Richfield; 330-659-4343
- 1 p.m. March 28: Green Branch Library, 4046 Massillon Road, Uniontown; 330-896-9074
- 1 p.m. March 31: Ellet Branch Library, 2470 E. Market St., Akron; 330-784-2019
- 1 p.m. April 4: Kenmore Branch Library, 969 Kenmore Blvd., Akron; 330-745-6126
- 1 p.m. April 22: Mogadore Branch Library, 144 S. Cleveland Ave., Mogadore; 330-628-9228
- 6:30 p.m. May 6: Akron-Summit County Library, Main Branch, 60 S. High St., Akron; 330-643-9000
- 6 p.m. May 7: Springfield-Lakemore Branch Library, 1500 Canton Road, Suite 360, Akron; 330-643-4770
- 1 p.m. May 12: Portage Lakes Branch Library, 4261 Manchester Road, Akron; 330-644-7050
- 6 p.m. May 18: Norton Branch Library, 3930 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Norton; 330-825-7800
- 6:30 p.m. May 21: Fairlawn-Bath Branch Library, 3101 Smith Road, Akron; 330-666-4888.