Cumberland Times-News


July 8, 2007

Life after Kelly

It’s been 20 years since the last tire rolled down the Cumberland Road

CUMBERLAND — On a spring day in 2094, if anybody thinks to do it, people who are not yet born will disassemble a time capsule kept at what is now the Allegany County Office Complex alongside a thoroughfare appropriately named Kelly Road.

By then, the capsule will be 100 years old. That day far in the future will also be the 200th anniversary of the founding of what became The Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., an enterprise that once pumped out 11,000 automobile tires a day at this very site. It was a corporation that fed and clothed thousands of local families. “The Kelly,” as people called it, was a large slice in the pie chart of Cumberland life.

For 82 years, through two wars, through the Great Depression and through thick ply and thin, the smell of rubber was the smell of money.

During the early 1980s, the Goodyear subsidiary generated a payroll of $54 million. Not only did that mean that production workers lived reasonably well, but it meant that Greene Street liquor stores sold more six packs when shifts ended. It meant that nearby Squilaci’s had a line of customers waiting to use the billiards table or to order a sandwich. After all, 7 a.m. is happy hour to someone who started working at 11 p.m. the previous day. It meant that this well-paying smokestack industry remained in Allegany County.

Twenty years ago, on May 21, that all came to an end and 1,010 workers had to go on with their lives.

Rollin’ down the Cumberland Road

there’s some sights you ought to see;

So lean right back in the rumble seat

and take the trip with me...

A catchy advertising jingle used by the company was a recording called “Rollin’ Down the Cumberland Road.” Local radio stations, in the 1980s, often played the full version. It was a snap-your-fingers, move-your-head-from-side-to-side kind of song that not only made you want to mobilize your feet, but mentioned brand name and was a source of geographic pride.

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