Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town tells the story of growing up in the rubber community of Firestone Park in Akron, Ohio—the former Rubber Capital of the World. The book begins with the rededication of the bronze Harvey Firestone statue on August 3, 2000, at the Centennial celebration for the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. The statue—perched high on a hill at the entrance to Firestone Park, the residential community Harvey built for his workers in 1915—was sacred to the author, Joyce Coyne Dyer, and her father, Tom Coyne, during the fifties, a time when the Coynes worshipped the company and thought themselves members of the Firestone family.
Tom Coyne, a thirty-seven-year man with the company, dreamed of being manager of Firestone’s reclaim plant, but the script the company wrote for him turned out to be very different. It included demotions, a firing, illnesses from chemicals and despair, and the razing of the plant where he spent his life. After her father died and she found a large manila folder that documented his history with the company, the author realized how much she didn’t know about Tom Coyne. She sets out to find her father, and begins to understand how his hard history with the company led to despair and illness, but also to the strength he found later in his life to stare down trouble and never be fooled again—even by Death.
Preoccupied with plant safety and the annual safety slogan contest, Tom Coyne came to learn that safety is something invisible, on the inside. He had thought that moving to Firestone Park would keep his family safe—the Park’s curvy streets, his little Tudor house, the Firestone name on everything (the school, the streets, the Clubhouse, the bank, his tires, his stove and radio). But Tom Coyne was safe only when he realized that the town that Harvey built was no more real—and certainly no more safe—than flimsy scenery flown in for a movie about a perfect kingdom.
Joyce Coyne Dyer, who grew up in Firestone Park and whose family has worked for Firestone nearly from the day of its founding in 1900, discovers her own Firestone legacy as she thinks about her father. She tries not to turn away from the truth of his life—or of her own. She looks at her father—and the years they both grew up in Rubber Town—with humor and irony, with love and regret.