'Tiger' leaves Alcoa, Inc., after 66 years on the job

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By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

A day before he retired from Alcoa, Inc., Clyde "Tiger" Tidwell recalled what happened the day before he applied to work at the aluminum company 66 years ago. He spent it at the Springbrook Pool and ended up with the worst sunburn of his life.

It was in May of 1941, and he had just recently decided to stop coal mining at Beach Grove in Lake City after a rock fell in the mine shaft and the edge of the rock hit him. His dad advised him to find another line of work. "My father said, ‘I’ll never ask you to go back in a mine,’" Tidwell remembered.

He and a friend went to Knoxville and applied with the Tennessee Valley Authority to help build the Watts Bar dam at Spring City. Then they decided the following Monday, they were going to apply at Alcoa, Inc. They arrived at the plant the next
day and learned that the company only took applications on Tuesdays.

"We spent the day at Springbrook Pool, and I got the worst sunburn I ever had," he said with a laugh. "Even the soles of my feet were burned."

On Wednesday, May 16, Tidwell retired from Alcoa, Inc. The 87-year-old recently shared some memories of his time with the company and co-workers shared their thoughts on a man they said they love and respect.

Tidwell started out running a jackhammer and then moved on to holding a rod for surveyors. In October of 1941, he trained as an overhead crane operator. From there, he advanced down to the floor as mill mechanic.

Tidwell said he enjoyed his time with the company. "It’s not been a vacation, but it’s been enjoyable," he said.

Tidwell said a couple of things that have changed throughout the years are the company’s continued emphasis on safety to prevent accidents. Another is the advent of computers. "You have to stay in school to learn anything," he said. "It changes so quickly."

Tidwell credited proper diet and exercise with his long life. Tidwell is married to Floy Tidwell, and they have a son, Clyde Eugene Tidwell, and a daughter, the former Judy Lynn Tidwell. They have a granddaughter and two grandsons.

Tidwell said he still encourages young people to consider a career with the aluminum company.

"I encourage anyone," he said. "If they’re willing to work, they can get ahead. It’s a great future for anyone who wants to work and go forward and advance."

Tidwell said if he had it to do over again, though, he might try for a salary position. Saying he was an hourly worker with 66 years at the company, he said, with a laugh, "I’d strive to be in management."

Tidwell said he always tries to stay busy, even when he’s not at work. "When I slow down, I go to sleep," he said.

Tidwell said he’ll miss working. "I hate to leave, but Father Time says go," he said.

Alcoa employee Louise Moore walked with Tidwell to meet the media. Moore has known Tidwell and worked with him for 20 years. "He’s always been a very respectable and admirable person," she said.

Doug Myers said he has known for more than 30 years. "He’s an exceptional man. He’s a top-notch guy and an old
veteran," Myers said. "He was in the Battle of the Bulge."

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