Recollections of a rubber worker

Despite seminal works like The Devil’s Milk: A Social History of Rubber by Australian academic John Tully and Wheels of Fortune: The Story of Rubber in Akron by former Beacon Journal writers Steve Love and David Giffels, Akron native Tom Jones maintains that there are no written accounts of the rubber workers themselves, those who migrated north during the during Akron’s boom in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Jones means to change that with On a Burning Deck: The Road to Akron – An Oral History of the Great Migration. Using more than 50 hours of recorded reminiscences of his grandparents, Haskell and Florence Jones, the author illustrates Haskell’s life in rural Kentucky and in Akron as one of many thousands of “hillbillies” on the tire shop floors.

About two-thirds of the book is taken up with Haskell’s memories of southwestern Kentucky, where his family had no pump for water but collected rainwater for everyday use, and many families had not even an outhouse but used their barns or chicken coops as toilet facilities.

Education was spotty at best, and many children contracted diseases from a common drinking cup. Jones describes the painstaking and labor-intensive work of tobacco growing using ornery mules, and the violence and corruption of the political system, including the notorious lynching of a man convicted of housebreaking.

The last third of the book tells of the migration to Akron, where dozens of rubber companies employed more than 75,000 laborers, tripling the city’s population between 1910 and 1920. Working conditions were filthy and hazardous, causing tremendous turnover (in addition to those who returned south out of homesickness).

Haskell talks about his roommates in houses on Miller and Ira avenues, where he was lucky to board because of the housing shortage. There was no shortage of entertainment, both legal and not, and ways to spend money (Haskell recalls buying a silk shirt from sales clerk Clark Gable).

Recollections of the Spanish Flu epidemic, World War I and Haskell and Florence’s marriage conclude Volume 1.

On a Burning Deck: The Road to Akron (277 pages, softcover) costs $18.95 from Ingram. The second volume, On a Burning Deck: Return to Akron, is in process. Tom Jones lives in New Braunfels, Texas, and also is the author of Waldo Maccabees: In the Footsteps of Christ.

Events

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights) — J.C. Anderson signs The Truth in Black and White, about his experiences as the only white man living among black residents of subsidized housing, 1 p.m. Sunday; Ferrett Steinmetz signs Uploaded, in which heaven is online and maintained by the living, 7 p.m. Thursday.

Case Western Reserve University (Tinkham Veale University Center, 1900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland) — Peter Ho Davies, 2017 Anisfield-Wolf winner for fiction for The Fortunes, talks to novelist (Everybody’s Son) and former Beacon Journal writer Thrity Umrigar and Anisfield-Wolf Scholar Lisa Nielson, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Registration recommended; visit http://humanities.case.edu/events.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Green branch, 4046 Massillon Road) — Robert J. Roman discusses Ohio State Football: The Forgotten Dawn, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Brunswick Performing Arts Center (3581 Center Road) — Jay Asher, author of bestselling young adult novels Thirteen Reasons Why and The Future of Us, appears from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday. www.mcdl.info/authors.

Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center (1855 Ansel Road, Cleveland) — The William N. Skirball Writers Center Stage Series launches with Colson Whitehead, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Underground Railroad, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Individual tickets are $30; visit http://case.edu/maltzcenter/wcs/. The next two events, appearances by Patti Smith and Margaret Atwood, are sold out.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Northwest Akron branch, 1720 Shatto Ave.) — Robert J. Roman discusses Ohio State Football: The Forgotten Dawn, 6 p.m. Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma branch, 6996 Powers Blvd.) — Jody Jean Dreyer, former Walt Disney Co. corporate staffer, and Stacy Windahl discuss Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After, moderated by WFHM radio host Sara Carnes, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Register at 440-885-5362.

Cleveland State University (Waetjen Auditorium, 2121 Euclid Ave., Cleveland) — Margot Lee Shetterly, winner of the 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Award for nonfiction for Hidden Figures, discusses her research and the book’s success, 10 a.m. Friday. Free, but registration required; visit https://cbw2017margotleeshetterly.eventbrite.com.

City Club of Cleveland (850 Euclid Ave.) — Isabelle Allende, 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award winner, addresses the Friday Forum and answers questions. Tickets for nonmembers are $35; call 216-621-0082.

Barnes & Noble (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake) — Jason Smith signs The Bucket Plan: Protecting and Growing Your Assets for a Worry-Free Retirement, 7 p.m. Thursday; Jody Jean Dreyer and Stacy Windahl sign Beyond the Castle, 1 p.m. Saturday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch, 1876 S. Green Road) — Continuing the “Beyond the Book Jacket” Author Series, Karan Mahajan discusses The Association of Small Bombs, 2017 Anisfield-Wolf winner for fiction and 2016 finalist for the National Book Award, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday. Mahajan will be interviewed by Professional Book Nerds podcasters Adam Sockel and Jill Grunenwald. Advance notice to meet author Claire McMillan, CCPL’s new Writer in Residence, 2 to 3 p.m. Sept. 10; the author of Gilded Age and The Necklace will be joined by previous Writer in Residence Dave Lucas. Register at 216-382-4880.

Massillon Public Library (208 Lincoln Way E.) — Wanda Brunstetter, author of Amish romances, appears with her daughter Jean and granddaughter Richelle, co-authors of The Beloved Christmas Quilt, 4 to 6 p.m. Friday. Register at 330-832-9831.

Barnes & Noble (4015 Medina Road, Bath Township) — Husband-and-wife actors and interior designers Corbin Bernsen (director of the Akron-filmed 25 Hill) and Amanda Pays discuss and sign Open House: Reinventing Space for Simple Living, 3 p.m. Friday.

Cleveland Public Library (325 Superior Ave. NE) — Robert J. Roman discusses Ohio State Football: The Forgotten Dawn, noon Saturday.

Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Sara Coast of North Olmsted signs her debut mystery What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You, about international intrigue in Maine, and Hudson resident Ruth Kim signs her memoir One Penny on Top of Another: A Korean Immigrant’s Journey from Poverty to Wealth, both from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

— Barbara McIntyre

Special to the Beacon Journal

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.