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Robert M. Reider

DIRECTOR EMERITUS ROBERT M. REIDER, Class of 1947
by
Deak Roberts ’56


Forward:

The Greenbrier Miliary School Alumni Association (GMSAA) has had only two Director Emeritus in its history. One was the late, great Jack Dean ’46, who served with lauded distinction. The other is Robert M. “Bob” Reider ’47. Bob, of course, is still with us, coming faithfully to our reunions every year with his good wife, Rita, and still very much a part of our camaraderie scene and still functioning as a major infuser of the Greenbrier Spirit.

Bob could easily be called Mr. Greenbrier or Mr. Greenbrier Spirit, not because he is a recipient of the Mr. Greenbrier Award, which he is, but because he has done so much for the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Association (GMSAA) and he is still at it. He has devoted so much of his time, effort, and talent toward furthering the goals of the GMSAA that it was only fitting he be made Director Emeritus, and it is fitting we continue to honor him to this day. Granted, most of his efforts were back in earlier days, but that was when we really needed it. Regardless, Bob is still at it, still one of the pillars of strength we have in our organization, and now we have an opportunity to learn more about Bob from a story of his life as we review it, albeit briefly, in Passing In Review.


THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ROBERT M. REIDER, DIRECTOR EMERITUS
GREENBRIER MILITARY SCHOOL ALUMNI ASSOCIATION (GMSAA)

Bob Reider was born in Akron, Ohio, the Rubber Capital of the World. And from the time he was born in 1928, and for most of his early life, he could smell the stench of that rubber that permeated the entire town. Many used to say it was the “smell of money”, and in a way they were right. The “money smell” came from the compounding of the various rubber formulas in the big Banbury machines in the plant basements, and the product production in the giant multi-floored plants, including the vulcanization of the finished products. Akronites had to endure that stench on a daily basis until the early 1960s.

Bob Reider was born in Akron, Ohio, the Rubber Capital of the World. And from the time he was born in 1928, and for most of his early life, he could smell the stench of that rubber that permeated the entire town. Many used to say it was the “smell of money”, and in a way they were right. The “money smell” came from the compounding of the various rubber formulas in the big Banbury machines in the plant basements, and the product production in the giant multi-floored plants, including the vulcanization of the finished products. Akronites had to endure that stench on a daily basis until the early 1960s.

Bob Reider’s parents had never ventured very far from their northeast Ohio home except for when his Father went in the military service. Dad (Marvin E. Reider) came from McDonaldsville, a suburb of Canton, Ohio, and Mom [Gertrude M. (nee Meech) Reider] was from nearby Akron. Dad was a rubber worker at the B.F. Goodrich Company in Akron up until WWI when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was quite successful and made it up to the rank of Chief Petty Officer before his Honorable Discharge in 1919. Dad returned to Ohio and instead of returning to the rubber industry, he went into the retail automobile business with a Dodge Dealership. Unfortunately, for him, it was the end of the Roaring 20s, and the beginning of the Great Depression. He lost everything in 1929.

With the rapid increase of the use of automobiles, Bob’s city of Akron was bustling with tire manufacturers like The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, the largest of all rubber manufacturers with World Headquarters in Akron, and Firestone, General, B.F. Goodrich, and other smaller rubber companies. Tires were not the only products they made. They made large and small conveyor belts to carry everything from potato chips to iron and copper ore, gasoline pump hose, the big industrial hose to convey everything from watery effluents to rock slurries, and special products like automobile V-belts, rubber snowplow blades, asbestos filled car mats, and rubber ball mill liners.

In those days, whenever contract talks with the rubber workers union came around, it was standard practice for them to strike one of the big rubber companies in order to get what they wanted. Their demands were always for more and more, and when the United Rubber Workers Union struck The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in the early ‘60s, it was for the last time. The rubber manufacturers jointly decided they would pull all the manufacturing jobs out of Akron, and they did, leaving the Union with no jobs. That ended the production of rubber products in Akron and ended the “smell of money”. The rubber smell that had been there all those years was suddenly gone. The air was a lot cleaner, but the loss of jobs was devastating.

Bob’s Dad was no quitter though, and he was smart. He did not go back into the rubber industry, so after knocking around in various jobs in northern Ohio, he saw a need for a niche market for juvenile furniture, and in 1939, he started the Reider Manufacturing Company to manufacture and market children’s furniture. It was the beginning of WWII, and there would be a lot of babies coming after the War. It would be the Baby Boomer Generation and the need for juvenile furniture would be great.

Bob was just an eleven year old boy in the Akron Public Schools when his Parents started their juvenile furniture manufacturing business. Bob worked in the plant after school and Saturdays, and during summer breaks. The Reider Manufacturing Company was getting lots of orders. Mother ran the office and the plant while Dad was on he road selling product. Every now and then, Bob got to travel with his Dad to call on major department stores and their Buyers. He particularly remembers the time his Dad dropped him off in front of Macy’s in New York City. His job was to guard the samples until Dad parked the car. He was scared to death.

Eventually, the growing business got to be too hectic for both parents to work and properly supervise a teenage boy, so the decision was made to send Bob to a quality boarding school, and, after careful analysis, Greenbrier Military School (GMS) was chosen. In the Fall of 1943, Bob started his four year high school adventure at GMS. He was placed in the famous Company “D” where he soon learned to fear the Company First Sergeant, Vernon Thompson. He also developed a greater fear of Colonel Joe. Bob said he took a course known as Beat Walking 101, got rather good at it, and liked it so well he continued it for two years. One particular infraction he will never forget was the time he went out the window to go to town to get something to eat. Captain Snyder caught him sneaking back in and laid 100 demerits on him (Demerit equaled one-half hour on “The Beat”. Bob remained a Private those two years, but come the third year, he wised up and did no Beat time and got promoted to Corporal. He continued to perform well in the fourth year and was advanced to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant. Bob said his performance was proof positive that he was a slow learner.

Bob has many fond memories of GMS, and foremost among them is marching down Route 60 for the first time toward the Old Stone Presbyterian Church with the blocking off of the highways and streets, and how the town people all came out on the sidewalk and applauded. Bob also liked and remembers all his friends in Company “D”, Dress Parades on Sunday afternoons, Monday morning inspections, and the train from Ronceverte to Akron as it was his first time traveling alone. Bob was particularly fond of teachers Major Batholomew who taught Business, Major “Bull Sh•t Bob” Keene for Public Speaking, and Captain Norberg for Math. Bob graduated from GMS in 1947, and was awarded the Commercial Medal for excellence in Business Academics.

After Greenbrier, Bob went to Kent State University in the Fall of 1947, but left early in 1950 to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Times were hectic. The Korean War had just started and everything was chaotic. He was sent to Boot Camp, but almost immediately was shipped out, so he essentially had no Boot Camp. They sent him to Puerto Rico. He was in a barracks with a bunch of other new recruits and they had an Inspection. Nobody had told them what to do, so he reverted to his Greenbrier training and laid everything out just like he had at “The Brier” with shoes shined, brass polished, everything neat and orderly. The Inspecting Officer came in and said “You have had some military training somewhere, haven’t you?” Bob said, “Yes, Sir”. The Officer said, “Come with me.” He offered Bob a job in the Headquarters Office. Bob politely thanked him and advised he really wasn’t the office type and would be more effective as an MP (Military Police). Because of the favorable impression he made, he got the job as a Military Policeman and did 14 months of active duty in Puerto Rico. Then, the bad news came. His Father had just passed away and he was very much needed at home. Bob was honorably discharged early in 1953 in order to return to run the business.

It was not very long before Bob proved to be a very good businessman. From 1954 to 1983, Bob functioned as President and majority stockholder of Reider Manufacturing Company in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Bob made some changes and introduced new products. The furniture was somewhat of a miniature of parents furniture. They made a very nice juvenile chair with a hassock, a lovely little rocking chair that was upholstered, a line of toy chests, a little settee, and a cute little Bear Chair. It was wartime and materials were hard to come by, but Bob managed to find some poplar wood not being used in the War effort. Sales were made by Manufacturer’s Representatives to all major Department Stores, Military Exchanges, and through Catalog Sales. The business proved quite successful and Bob grew the company from 12 employees and Sales of $100,000.00 to 40 full-time employees and Sales of $2,000,000.00. This, of course, didn’t happen overnight. Bob said “If there is one thing I learned at Greenbrier, it was Perseverance.”. Bob sold the business in 1983 due to personal health problems and the fact that the younger family members were not interested in working the business.

After retiring, Bob was not one to sit in the old rocking chair. He got very active in the Shrine (Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine) which is today known as Shriners International. Bob served as Commander of the Tadmor Temple Legion of Honor, a Veterans group within the Shrine. For many years, he served as the Marching Captain and Color Guard Commander for Parades and Ceremonies. Bob said, “This proves it. You can take the boy out of the “The Brier”, but you cannot take “The Brier” out of the boy.”.

In 1984, Bob found out about the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Association (GMSAA) and proceeded to make that organization a very important part of his life. He served on the Board of Directors and was Co-Chairman, and then he served as Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee for about 10 years. The usual procedure was for the Committee to select three candidates for the Hall of Fame and submit them to the Board for decision. In 1997, the GMSAA honored Bob by bestowing on him the “Mr. Greenbrier Award”. Then, in 2008, Bob was named “Director Emeritus”. No one in the GMSAA has greater love, has given greater devotion, or given greater service to the GMSAA than Bob Reider. Bob has earned the Honors that have been bestowed on him, and he is the epitome of a purveyor of the “Greenbrier Spirit”.


Concluding Comment by the Author:

Bob genuinely loved the Greenbrier area and seriously considered moving there for the rest of his life.
The attraction of the area grew on Bob during his four years at GMS and subsequent visits. Today, Bob will tell you the GMSAA Reunion in October every year and coming back to the area is one of the highlights of his year. I think it may be the highest highlight of his year. He would not be alone.

When at “The Brier”, Bob was what I would call a ‘typical Cadet’ in the beginning. Did a lot of “Beat” time in the early days. Eventually wised up. He did not become an Officer or a high enlisted rank, which is a characteristic of a ‘typical Cadet’. He eventually rose through the ranks to Staff Sergeant. He never got into any really serious trouble, although that sneaking out the window to go to town came close. Bob grew every year at Greenbrier like most ‘typical Cadets’ and developed into a smarter student who eventually excelled to receive the Commercial Medal in Business Academics. Like nearly all ‘typical Cadets’, Bob learned the values and discipline GMS taught, and developed into a quality individual over his four years at “The Brier”, and it stayed with him and helped guide him the rest of his life.

Bob loves being back in Lewisburg especially in the Fall when that crisp nip is in the air, and the leaves are at their most beautifully colored best. He loves staying in the old General Lewis Hotel with its deep Southern ambiance and historical significance. Bob deeply enjoys being back on the old campus and strolling across the old Parade Field, even if it is now a playground for the students of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and when pausing for a moment somewhere out in the middle, you can envision the cars ringing the field and almost hear the faint shouted commands of the Companies entering the field on Parade. But, most of all, Bob loves being back with his old Classmates and GMS friends to relive those precious moments of yesteryears when the sound of the bugle pierced the air and you heard the cadence of hundreds of marching feet hitting the ground in unison. Bob relishes the camaraderie of all those infused with the “Greenbrier Spirit”, and speaks with great love and kindness of those fallen who can no longer be with us.

Although Bob was a typical Cadet at “The Brier”, he became an atypical Alumni. Bob brought back to the GMSAA his years of experience and his desire and dedication to making the GMSAA survive and thrive to become the organization of excellence the GMSAA is today. Bob has earned his designation as Director Emeritus. He wears it well and is the personification of the “Greenbrier Spirit”.

Bob currently enjoys retirement with his wife, Rita, in Stow, Ohio. They have two highly successful children, Susan and Robert, of whom they are very proud, and they enjoy their two lovely Grandchildren, Nicholas and Elizabeth, from daughter, Susan.

Deak Roberts '56

Comments

Very nice article about a true gentleman !