Plenty of folks love the idea of erecting a big statue of a rubber worker in a prominent spot in downtown Akron.
And the best concept I’ve heard so far is this:
The city is planning to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Main and Mill streets in the heart of downtown. As one reader noted, “Like countless locations in Europe, a statue placed on a raised pedestal in the center of this heavily traveled intersection would provide unmatched visibility and a monument for future generations.”
The Akron Engineering Department says the inside diameter of the roundabout — the center island — will be 47 feet. Sounds big enough to me. And, more importantly, it sounds big enough to architect Craig Thompson, whose office is less than a block away.
Thompson has offered his services to Miriam Ray, the woman who read a comment in one of my columns by another reader who bemoaned the city’s lack of “a tangible image of Akron’s rubber heritage.”
That reader, Joel Neilsen of Broadview Heights, was speaking not of a tribute to the industry titans but to the common worker, the tens of thousands of blue-collar folks who made the rubber industry roll.
He suggested a statue modeled after the cover photo of Wheels of Fortune, the best book ever written about Akron’s rubber history.
Ray loved the idea and swung into action, eventually paying a sculptor $5,000 to put together an 18-inch bronze prototype to be used for fundraising. She approved the clay model about three weeks ago and is expecting to get the bronze version in about three more.
Ray also wants to incorporate memorial bricks that would be sold to people with rubber roots.
Thompson, the architect, tells me he has suggested that the bricks not be placed inside the roundabout, as Ray initially envisioned, but used to create the sidewalks that will circle the outside of the streets.
He foresees a design element inside the circle that would radiate out across the roundabout and continue into the sidewalks, so that, from above, the roundabout would resemble a tire.
As he notes, far fewer people would make the effort to walk across the street to the inside of the roundabout to read the bricks than would look down at the sidewalk.
Thompson says some landscaping and water features around the statue would double as a barrier against inept drivers.
Ray has not started her fundraising effort yet, and not only because the prototype isn’t finished. She still hasn’t decided whether she wants to try to raise the estimated $75,000 to $100,000 required solely through the sale of bricks or in conjunction with cash donations.
The city hasn’t signed off on anything yet.
If you have thoughts about the project and want to get involved, Ray can be contacted at email@example.com.
Interesting side note: Reader Elias Vujovich took issue with my initial description of the Wheels of Fortune photo as a man “constructing a large tire.”
“Back in 1959 and most of 1960,” he wrote, “I was a truck-tire builder at Seiberling Rubber company in Barberton. Based on the type of equipment I used and the different style of equipment used by the passenger-tire builders, this statue is more representative of a truck tire being wrapped up in paper tape for shipping.
“So it is a finished product.”
TREAT ’EM RIGHT
This comes from former Beacon Journal copy editor Chuck Montague, who joined the newspaper back when the legendary John S. Knight was running the show.
“Long ago, when the afternoon BJ wrote a three-paragraph obit on everyone who had bought a paid death notice or called to tell us someone had died, one of the first things every new reporter learned was that when the deceased was a rubber worker or retired rubber worker, you wrote him a great obit.
“?‘These are the men who built this town,’? John S. Knight and Ben Maidenburg used to say, ‘and we are going to give them a proper send-off.’?”
Before we get too carried away with how wonderful the rubber years were, we should probably remind ourselves that it wasn’t all that glorious for many of the folks involved.
That message is evident in a series of three theatrical productions running at the Balch Street Theater.
Presented by the New World Performance Lab, The Devil’s Milk Trilogy began in late March and runs through late May. The second installment, Goosetown, is underway now, and the final part, Industrial Valley, opens May 11.
For more info, go to nwplab.com.
Each presentation is followed by an audience discussion about the city and the rubber industry.
Here’s hoping some of that talk will include support for a rubber roundabout.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.