The GumDippers was originally established in 1980 by a group of retired Firestone employees in the old Jacksonville, FL District.  As District boundaries expanded and changed the group grew to include retired employees from the Tampa and Miami Districts.  Over the years we have become a national organization.  BFS employees, both currently working and retired, have joined our ranks and a reunion has been held every year for the last 35 years. Our reunion is a three-day event held in early October with most participants staying at least two nights.  The attendance continues to grow each year.  We had over 190 people from 21 states attend our 2015 reunion. 

 

This year we will celebrate our 36th Annual Reunion and we expect more members to join us in 2016 which will be held Oct. 6 - Oct. 9 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort on Clearwater Beach..  Many attendees arrive several days in advance or stay after to take advantage of the special "GumDippers" hotel rate.  For our 2015 reunion our guest speaker at our Friday welcome meeting was Philip Dobbs, Director of Marketing, Bridgestone Americas.

 

 

The hub of activity of the reunion is the Hospitality Suite.  It is open most hours during the reunion including Thursday for the early arrivals.  One can enjoy a snack/beverage while participating in the ongoing “old stories” that come alive as memories are awakened.  This is the “hang out” when other planned activities are not on your schedule.  It’s a chance to be brought up to date with old friends.  We have an Opening Ceremony on Friday afternoon, a barbecue on Friday night, a Luncheon trip or tour Saturday afternoon, and a banquet on Saturday evening.  The rest of the time is spent golfing, sunbathing, shopping, touring, etc.

 

 

This year we are planning a Saturday trip to the Henry Plant Museum located on the campus of the University of Tampa.  The Tampa Bay Hotel was built by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant in 1888. The construction cost over 3 million dollars.[5] It was considered the premier hotel of the eight that Mr. Plant built to anchor his rail line. The hotel itself covers 6 acres (24,000 m2) and is a quarter-mile long. It was equipped with the first elevator ever installed in Florida. The elevator is still working today, making it one of the oldest continually operational elevators in the nation. The 511 rooms and suites were the first in Florida to have electric lights and telephones. Most rooms also included private bathrooms, complete with a full-size tub. It is now a National Historic Landmark, and home to The University of Tampa and the Henry B. Plant Museum. During the 1880s, Henry Bradley Plant was building an empire of railroads, steamships and hotels. He wanted that empire to have a palace and that palace was the Tampa Bay Hotel – now referred to as Florida’s “first Magic Kingdom.”  The museum transports you through educational exhibits and events to the late Victorian period, the beginning of Florida’s tourist industry, and the early years of the City of Tampa. Learn the significance of the hotel during the early stages of the Spanish American War and how Tampa was thrust into the world arena in the summer of 1898.

The reunion is not the only reason to become a Gum Dipper.  What most of our 950+ members really join for are our quarterly newsletters that fill them in on the old friends and co-workers.  We also send out our roster listing all the members, their addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses.  We do all this for the very small membership fee of $20.00/year.

Won’t you please join us?