Nearly two dozen former employees of the General Tire Co. visited the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) last week as part of “General Tire Fridays at the BRIC,” a series of tours offered by Baylor and the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
The BRIC inhabits a building that was used as a manufacturing facility for General Tire from the 1940s until the mid-1980s. The building and surrounding land were donated to Baylor in 2008 by the Clifton Robinson family and H. Bland Cromwell. After extensive renovations, the former General Tire plant is now the cornerstone of the planned Central Texas Technology and Research Park.
Bobby Cryns, the BRIC’s facilities manager, led former General Tire employees and their family and friends through the BRIC, discussing the building’s renovation and the attributes of the structure that make it so well-suited to scientific research. Along the way, he pointed out General Tire artifacts that have been incorporated into the BRIC’s design.
While former employees said the sleek, newly remodeled research facility bears little resemblance to the factory where they worked, remaining features like heavy concrete support columns and high-capacity freight elevators brought back memories of people and events from years gone by.
Wayne Davidson, a tire builder and security officer at General Tire from 1966 to 1975, recalled a time when an elevator malfunctioned during an overnight shift, leaving a worker trapped with no way to summon help.
“There wasn’t a phone for him to call anyone, but he had a pistol with him,” said Davidson. “So he pried the door open enough to get his hand out and fire off some rounds to let us know he was stuck.”
Jack Pedigo, who worked as head of maintenance for the entire facility until the plant closed in 1985, smiled as he recalled his time at General Tire.
“It was a great job,” he said. “I’d go back to work tomorrow.”
Cryns said hearing personal stories from those who worked at General Tire decades ago gives him a stronger sense of the history of the building and its place in the community, both then and now.
“More than anything, these tours are about letting the folks who worked here tell us their stories about what made this place meaningful to them,” said Cryns. “It makes me really proud to honor that history with the work we do at the BRIC.”