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Former tire plant employees reunite

NATCHEZ — For slightly less than 31 years, Reggie Simmons worked at Armstrong Tire Company in Natchez, making some pretty good friends along the way.

Simmons was able to reunite with his former friends and co-workers Saturday morning when he attended the seventh annual Armstrong Tire Company employee reunion.

The tire company’s plant was first opened in Natchez in 1939. It lived through three incarnations — Armstrong Tire Company, Fidelity Tire Company and Titan Tire Company — before it eventually closed in 2001.

Simmons worked at the plant from 1955 to 1986 and said he was glad to be able to reunite with many of his old work buddies.

“It’s always an enjoyment when I’m able to come to the reunion and talk with some of the people I worked with every day that moved away,” he said.

While the crowd waited for lunch to begin, one former employee said he was just glad he was able to attend.

“I wouldn’t miss this for nothing in the world,” 22-year plant employee Willie Thornton said.

Thornton was released from the hospital on Friday and said he was nervous he wasn’t going to be out in time for the reunion.

“I told them that even if they had to bring me in on a gurney, I was going to be here,”

Thornton worked the graveyard shift from 1965 to 1986 and said he made some good friends during those years.

“That is why I love coming to these reunions,” he said. “Just being able to see some of the people I use to work with every day.”

Former Armstrong employee Ernest Wood spent 34 years working at the plant and said his co-workers were like his second family.

“It was just everyone working together. We had a lot of good times,” he said. “There is nothing like sitting back and just talking about the old times.”

Simmons said the reunion always brings back more than just memories of his work friends.

“(Armstrong) made my living, they raised my kids and bought my property,” he said. “It’s good to think about something that was such a big part of your life.”

Simmons said the crowd at this year’s reunion was a little slimmer than it has been in the past.

“We have lost a lot of good men over the years,” he said. “This is kind of a way to honor them and all that they did.”

Wood said he has attended every reunion there has been, and that he hopes he is able to chat with his old buddies next year.

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