By Donna Thornton/News Editor
You can hear the pride in Winston Anderson’s voice when he talks about his career at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (from January 1965 to April 2001).
The company, celebrating its 85th year this year, had just celebrated its 35th anniversary when he went to work there.
“They gave everybody these caps with 35 on them, and everybody was wearing those caps,” he said, when he started working. “I built tires most of that time.
“I built every kind of tire they made at Gadsden. My favorite was the transfer truck tires we built on the LCT machine,” Anderson said. “I worked 14 years straight on it.”
Anderson is the president of SOAR, Goodyear’s retiree group.
He and hundreds of former Goodyear employees gathered last week to catch up with old friends and coworkers, and to celebrate not only the role they played in the life of the company, but the role the company has played in the community.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs in Gadsden,” plant Director Gordon Linkous told the retirees at the April 24 celebration at Convention Hall. “Most of you have lived through those.
Now Gadsden’s experiencing a lot of ups,” he said.
The plant will be the sole producer of a new tire for the Ford F150 truck. New machines for production of the tire will go in later this year, Linkous said.
“Most of these things couldn’t have happened without your labor, your talent and your dedication to Goodyear over the years,” Linkous said.
“When you see what’s happened in manufacturing, you know that (staying in business for) 85 years is a big deal,” Local 12 President David Hayes said. For 71 of those years, Hayes said, the union has been part of the Gadsden plant.
“The reputation of the Gadsden plant is, if it can’t be done anywhere else, give it to Gadsden,” Hayes said.
The hard work and reputation of the employees brought the radial tire plant to Gadsden in 1976, he said.
Over the years, Local 12 and the employees it represents have worked with the company and made changes that have kept the company viable.
“You made sure Gadsden had a future,” Hayes said.
Presenting a resolution from the House of Representatives honoring the plant’s 85 years, House Minority Leader Craig Ford called Goodyear’s employees “the best in the country.”
He recalled action by state lawmakers to approve incentives for plant expansion and the faith in the plant that made it possible.
“Those negotiations couldn’t have been done without the reputation of Goodyear employees,” Ford said.
As for the employees, they had good words about good years spent at Goodyear.
Albert Davis worked there from 1978 to 2001.
“I enjoyed it,” Davis said. “It was a lot better job than the one I left.”
Jimmy Perkins worked at Goodyear from 1965 ‘til he retired in 2006 as a quality control technician
“I was very lucky,” Perkins said. “I worked my way through college building tires, then I got a job in quality control.
“I made a good living,” he said.
Florence Glass worked at Goodyear from 1979 to 2004. She was transferred to Union City, Tenn. and worked there for 19 years. She had to retire in 2004 because she got hurt.
“I cried,” Glass recalled.
As has been the case for 85 years, getting hired at Goodyear was a dream job for many.
“I thought I’d died and went to heaven,” Glass said.