AACHM Oral History: Johnny Barfield
Sun, 09/28/2014 - 12:54pm
When: May 6, 2014
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Johnny W. Barfield was born February 8, 1927, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As a child he sold soap house to house and, after tenth grade, joined the U.S. Army where he served in France and Germany. After leaving the Army in 1947, Mr. Barfield became a wall washer for the University of Michigan, where hard work, entrepreneurship, and innovation helped him build the largest cleaning business in Ann Arbor. Mr. Barfield is widely recognized for his philanthropic work and support of the African American and business communities.
- [00:00:37.04] INTERVIEWER: First of all, please say and spell your name.
- [00:00:40.53] JOHNNY BARFIELD: My name is Johnny W. Barfield. That's J-O-H-N-N-Y, the capital W, B-A-R-F-I-E-L-D.
- [00:00:56.37] INTERVIEWER: What is your date of birth, including the year?
- [00:00:59.41] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I was born February 8, 1927.
- [00:01:04.81] INTERVIEWER: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:11.00] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Can I comment?
- [00:01:11.85] INTERVIEWER: Certainly, yes.
- [00:01:12.69] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. I don't know quite how to answer that, Joyce. What does that question mean?
- [00:01:19.48] INTERVIEWER: Do you see yourself as black, African American?
- [00:01:23.60] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Oh.
- [00:01:24.52] INTERVIEWER: Latino?
- [00:01:25.61] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Oh, OK. That's easy. Well, I'm African American.
- [00:01:31.24] INTERVIEWER: OK What is your religion, if any?
- [00:01:34.65] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Uh, my religion is Protestant.
- [00:01:37.90] INTERVIEWER: All right. I expected you to say AME, because I see you at AME Church. What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:01:48.87] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I have very little formal education. I left school after the 10th grade.
- [00:01:55.58] INTERVIEWER: All right. Did you do any other kind of training beyond that point?
- [00:02:02.29] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No. Immediately after leaving school, the next year at age 17 I joined the military and took my training in Louisiana and afterwards was shipped to Le Havre, France, and from there to Munich, Germany, and then came back to this country.
- [00:02:22.27] INTERVIEWER: OK. So in France and Germany did you do anything special in the military? Or what exactly?
- [00:02:30.95] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I went to the Army and I was put into the Quartermaster Corps. And I served there for the better part of seven months. And after that I was transferred to the military police. And that was in Munich, Germany. And I finished my tenure in the services there and left Bremerhaven in 1947, coming back to the United States.
- [00:02:54.26] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow. It sounds like quite a great experience. What is your marital status?
- [00:03:01.69] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, my wife and I have been married for 66 years. And Betty was my girlfriend five years before, so I would say that she's been my girl and my best friend and my wife for 71 years.
- [00:03:16.49] INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful. How many children do you have?
- [00:03:20.84] JOHNNY BARFIELD: We have six children, three boys and three girls.
- [00:03:24.75] INTERVIEWER: All right. And what are their names?
- [00:03:27.30] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes, our eldest is John Eric. Our next one's Angela. The next child is Aaron Lloyd. The next is Bonnie Barfield, then Lisa Marie Barfield, and our last child, David Barfield.
- [00:03:47.32] INTERVIEWER: All right. How many siblings do you have?
- [00:03:51.58] JOHNNY BARFIELD: One sister, Gladys.
- [00:03:53.59] INTERVIEWER: OK. And so what was your primary occupation? You mentioned the service. Then beyond the service what was your--?
- [00:04:03.25] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Oh, I left the Army in 1947. And that summer I was hired as a wall washer for the University of Michigan. And we washed walls that summer in Angel Hall. And at the end of the wall-washing season the university offered me a job as a custodian. And I worked there for the next six years in the chemistry building. That was from 1949 until 1954.
- [00:04:30.78] INTERVIEWER: All right. OK.
- [00:04:33.86] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I left at that time to start my own business.
- [00:04:36.45] INTERVIEWER: Right. I'm looking forward to hearing a lot more about that as we get further down with the questions. And so right away they ask, at what age did you retire? Or have you retired?
- [00:04:48.83] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I'm 87 years old and I retired this year. So I retired at age 87.
- [00:04:56.17] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow. OK. All right, now we're going to move into memories of childhood and youth. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:05:09.69] JOHNNY BARFIELD: My family moved-- my grandparents moved from Meridian, Mississippi to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where my father and 13 other children were born. My grandmother and my grandfather were married when my grandmother was 13 years of age. And she had 13 children. They lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. And for a living they sharecropped.
- [00:05:42.79] INTERVIEWER: All right. So what sort of work did your parents do? I think you sort of mentioned that.
- [00:05:50.55] JOHNNY BARFIELD: My father was probably one of the hardest working men I've ever known in my life. After he and my mother were married we moved to the colored section-- what was called the colored section of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. My father worked in the lowlands around Tuscaloosa, cutting down hardwood trees and shaping them into railroad ties, which he sold to the railroad companies for $0.50 apiece. In order to do that he had to work in swamps that were full of malaria, cane, mosquitoes, and all kinds of poisonous reptiles and other dangers like quicksand and so forth-- falling trees.
- [00:06:35.63] After a while my father left there and moved to Margaret, Alabama, where he became a coal miner.
- [00:06:42.41] INTERVIEWER: OK, so when you say you moved from one area to the colored section, where were you at prior to moving to what you refer to as the colored section of town?
- [00:06:51.89] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, my earliest knowledge is we lived in an area of Tuscaloosa called Colton Quarters. And this is where most of the black people lived. And around the fringes of that area were poor white folks. So this was sort of the area of Tuscaloosa where the poor whites and the blacks shared an area. And that area was called Colton Quarters.
- [00:07:18.09] INTERVIEWER: OK. And you also mentioned the work that your father did in working in the swamps. So was it because that was the work that he-- he took whatever work he could find? Or that's what was available?
- [00:07:30.48] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah, that was the work that was available. The other work was working in the cotton fields and doing sharecropping work. And my father did that for as long as he lived with his mother and father. But when my father and mother were married they moved to another part of Colton Quarters, and that's where we lived. And then my father, my earliest knowledge of him was working in the lowlands around Tuscaloosa, cutting down trees, and then later moving to a mining area about 30 miles from Birmingham, Alabama called Margaret, Alabama, where my father worked in the coal mine there.
- [00:08:11.32] INTERVIEWER: OK. And so what is some of your earliest memories? You sort of talked about that a little bit, but anything in particular that stands out?
- [00:08:21.33] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, what I remember living with my grandparents, it was a wonderful place. I can still remember the sound of the rain beating down on the corrugated tin roofs. I can remember sleeping in mattresses that were filled with the straw. I can remember the wonderful breakfasts that we had, which would be maybe fried chicken and biscuits and syrup and freshly churned butter, and walking with them during lunchtime to take food to the people that worked in the fields, and watching them unharness the horses and pull them into the shade and sit down in the cool area and eat their dinner. That was something that I treasured.
- [00:09:12.59] And I also enjoyed watching them come home from the fields. Because I would run out to meet them and I would be set up on a mule, and I'd get to ride the mule to the stable. It was a wonderful life, I thought.
- [00:09:26.48] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. You know, when you mention the chicken and the biscuits and that, to wake up to that aroma, but also it reminds me of a dinner rather than a breakfast.
- [00:09:36.06] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, my folks were very hardworking people. And breakfasts were like dinners. It was not unusual for us to have rice, fried potatoes, fried chicken. And these were chickens that had been freshly killed. They were not chickens that had been brought from the store. My grandfather would make hominy and all kinds of wonderful things like that. And we'd always have just the most wonderful breakfasts. And then food would be taken to the workers in the field. And after that they would come home and wash up. And then we would have a dinner that was another feast. It was a wonderful life, I thought.
- [00:10:17.94] INTERVIEWER: Yeah, it sounds like it. Another feast-- breakfast and then a bigger dinner. OK. Were there any special days, events, or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:10:32.24] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No, not too many. I remember going to church. It was a big thing in our community, going to church. And I think the time that I enjoyed most of all was Christmastime, when the ladies of the house would bake maybe 10 or 12 cakes and all kinds of pies, and they would be put in what we used to call the sideboard. And everybody coming by were invited in to eat.
- [00:10:58.10] Those were the days that I remember, churning butter in the middle of the kitchen floor while my mother and grandmother told me how to do it, going out to the spring house and watching them bring in watermelons that were ice cold, eating them on the front porch. Those days we would sit in the living room with a big fire in the window when we couldn't work outside, and sweet potatoes would be roasted under the ashes. And we'd sit there and talk. Those are memories that I've always treasured and will never forget.
- [00:11:29.36] INTERVIEWER: Sound very special. Tell me a little bit about-- you said the cakes would be put on the sideboard. What exactly is a sideboard?
- [00:11:36.05] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, the sideboard was a cupboard. It was sometimes a cupboard that was two-sided that'd sit into the corner of the kitchen. At least that's what ours was. And there would be chocolate cakes and caramel cakes and coconut cakes with freshly grated coconut and all kinds of pies and other desserts that would be put in there. And by the way, my mother, I used to watch her. It was an opportunity to lick the batter out of the pan.
- [00:12:10.65] And my mother was old-fashioned. She taught me to do everything my sister did. I had to learn to clean and make up the bed. And I even had to patch my overalls. And once I said to my mother, Mother, why do I have to do all of this? I'm not a girl. And she would say laughingly, but how does Mother know that you're going to get a good wife?
- [00:12:35.58] INTERVIEWER: And you did.
- [00:12:36.28] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And I did. But I learned to do everything. And I remember her teaching me how to make frosting, chocolate frosting. I had to cook it to a certain temperature. I had to take it off of the stove at the right time. And there was always a glass of water. And I would take a spoonful of the chocolate, the caramel dressing, and let one drop fall into the cold water. And if it formed right it was good. Otherwise it would be hard and when you cut the cake it would crumble.
- [00:13:08.02] But I had to learn all of that. And I had to learn to bake pies and to cook cakes and to cook and clean. And I was raised to, as most kids in my generation, to do everything that a girl could do.
- [00:13:24.76] INTERVIEWER: Wow. That could be passed on these days, couldn't it?
- [00:13:28.25] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It could, but I don't think it is. I don't think it is.
- [00:13:32.32] INTERVIEWER: And so you also mentioned people would come by. Is this neighbors would come by and could just stop by and eat?
- [00:13:38.20] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Neighbors and strangers and relatives or friends and everybody would come by. And it was sort of a tradition, going to people's houses and tasting a piece of their cake. It was just a wonderful time to visit and to share. It was a Southern practice that, in my family, what's left of it, just still goes on.
- [00:14:00.57] INTERVIEWER: That's great. It makes you think of that, what they talk about, progressive party, where you go to one house and have something, then go to another house and have something, then go someplace else and have something to eat.
- [00:14:10.68] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It was just like that.
- [00:14:11.95] INTERVIEWER: OK, great. So you just mentioned that you celebrated Christmas. Was there any other holidays that your family-- that you remember in terms of celebrating?
- [00:14:22.25] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well Easter was a big time. That was a big time. There were plays, Christmas plays and Easter plays and that. But those are the two main holidays that we celebrated. But in our house, every day was a holiday. At the end of the work day when people would come home from the fields and wash up, have a nice meal, we'd sit out on the porch and eat. Or we'd sit before the fireplace in the winter and talk. Visiting.
- [00:14:55.56] Sometimes the neighbors would come by. And the conversation could be anything from, I bought this horse last week and it's the best mule I've ever had, or it's the sorriest mule I ever had. It was just a time to catch up. And it was old-fashioned living. And I'm afraid that's gone today.
- [00:15:17.73] INTERVIEWER: But it sounds like the idea of connecting with your family and neighbors is something that is really valuable.
- [00:15:25.63] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It was. All we had was our family and our church. That was the biggest part of my family's life.
- [00:15:32.68] INTERVIEWER: And so at that time you were Protestant, at that time also?
- [00:15:36.11] JOHNNY BARFIELD: We've been Protestants all of our lives.
- [00:15:38.04] INTERVIEWER: All of your lives? All right. OK. Has your family created any of its own traditions or celebrations?
- [00:15:48.76] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No. We carried on the celebrations that we were accustomed to when I was a boy. My own family, we have birthdays and get-togethers. And when we travel we try to invite as many of our children to visit us when we're out of the country or we're out of the States or state of Michigan or someplace else. Other than that and just getting together as often as we can, that's the biggest part of our life today.
- [00:16:19.17] INTERVIEWER: All right. So when say when you travel, does that mean that you're at a location and you invite them to come join you at that location when you're traveling?
- [00:16:27.86] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes one of my favorite-- Betty and my favorite haunts was Mexico, a little village called Punta de Mita, north of Puerto Vallarta. And I would have my birthday there every year. And I'd invite all of the children to join us in Mexico. And we would rent a restaurant. And we had gone to this village a long time, so I knew lots of friends. We had a church there. And typically there would be 40 people. We'd rent a restaurant and there'd be 40 villagers and our family there. And we'd celebrate my birthday. And this went on for a lot of years. So that was a very special time.
- [00:17:08.31] INTERVIEWER: I would imagine everybody looked forward to that, didn't they?
- [00:17:10.60] JOHNNY BARFIELD: They did. We're getting ready to take a train trip around the United States. It's going to be two weeks, beginning in Ann Arbor and going to Chicago and up through the Rocky Mountains and all the state parks. And we've invited two of our daughters to go along with us. Things like that-- most of what Betty and I do now is family related.
- [00:17:31.46] INTERVIEWER: OK. And that's a good thing to do to be connected with family and doing those--
- [00:17:36.12] JOHNNY BARFIELD: You know, someone told me a long time ago, and I've never forgotten it, that the most important thing in a person's life is their family, their faith, their health, and their friends. And they said if you remember this you will have a balanced life. And if you do not, there might be regrets. So I've always tried to do that. I've always put my family and my faith and my friends and my health first. And I've found it to be a pretty good prescription.
- [00:18:03.58] INTERVIEWER: OK, good. We'll have to take that away with us. So let me see here. Did you play any sports or join any other activities outside of school?
- [00:18:16.01] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No, I was never athletic. I used to put on a football uniform to impress Betty, but I was never athletic. I do enjoy swimming and things like that. And I do enjoy golfing. And I'm a fair golfer. I can shoot 93 or 94. But I was never the kind of athlete that I wanted to be. But I always enjoyed watching my friends excel.
- [00:18:44.94] INTERVIEWER: So you said you put on the football uniform to impress Betty. Was she impressed?
- [00:18:50.62] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I think she was more amused than impressed. But it must've worked. She married me.
- [00:18:59.71] INTERVIEWER: I heard a little bit about swimming. So talk to me a little more about that.
- [00:19:03.75] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I enjoy swimming. It's a wonderful exercise, particularly as you get older. And about eight years ago I built a swimming pool inside of my house. It's really nice. It's not in the house, it's out of the house. But it appears to be in the house. And I had it designed that way because I didn't want the smell of chlorine permeating the house. And it's a nice, friendly pool. I keep the water at a nice temperature and I swim as often as I can. I've just found it to be a very healthy exercise.
- [00:19:38.55] INTERVIEWER: OK. I heard you actually took it up later in life. You didn't do it from a kid.
- [00:19:43.19] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I did. I didn't learn to swim until I was 60 years old. And I would go to Eastern and swim. And I could swim two lengths and I would be breathing heavily. And I just couldn't learn to swim. So one day I had swam two lengths and I stopped at the edge of the pool. And I just thought, why is it that I can't swim? I want to swim, and I can't swim. And it was almost like-- I've always said, why don't you breathe in the water the way you breathe all the time? And I did. And I swam six lengths. And I came home and I said, Betty, you won't believe this, I swam six lengths today. And before the summer was over, I was swimming close to a mile. But it was all in my breathing. And since I made that discovery, I swim as much as I can. And I've swam in a lot of the oceans in this country. And I just enjoy swimming.
- [00:20:37.28] INTERVIEWER: So did you sort of teach yourself?
- [00:20:39.44] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I really did. I taught myself to swim. And I found that the most important part, at least for me, in swimming was breathing. Once you can breathe comfortably in the water you can swim forever, it seems.
- [00:20:50.15] INTERVIEWER: So I'll have to try that. So I know that this has been some time ago, but you mentioned rollerblading or roller--?
- [00:20:57.97] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Oh yeah. My good friend Keith Peters and his wife Betty was down at Gallup Park. And I saw them approaching me, and I was approaching them on my rollerblades. And I know they were going to look around and be shocked to see this old man on rollerblades. So I rollerblade past them. And I got about 30 feet beyond them, and I turned around, and both of them had turned around. They had their hands on their hips, looking. [LAUGHS] So I skated back. And they said, Johnny, is that you? And I say, yeah! Just because I'm 100 years old, that doesn't mean I can't rollerblade. We still laugh about that. But I find that to be very enjoyable.
- [00:21:37.10] INTERVIEWER: All right. Do you still rollerblade?
- [00:21:38.88] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Not as much as I used to. But I do. While I was not an athlete, I had many hobbies. One of my favorite hobbies, I was a fox hunter for seven years. And I've ridden in Ireland. And I had a wonderful horse that Betty bought for me. His name was Beaufort. And I hunted seven years with the Waterloo Hunt Club. It was probably one of the most exciting parts of my life, riding to the hounds and negotiating fences and bushes and ditches. And it was wonderful. And what I liked most about hunting fox in this country, or at least in our club, is there was never an intention to harm the fox. We just chased until the fox got tired of it and he went to den and that was it.
- [00:22:21.19] INTERVIEWER: And that was it. OK.
- [00:22:22.12] JOHNNY BARFIELD: But it was wonderful. And I wanted to be as good as I possibly could be, because I really did enjoy fox hunting. So I went to Ireland and I trained at Glaslough Castle. And it was a wonderful experience. And after leaving there I was never afraid of any jump that my horse came to. I would take it, and I wouldn't worry about falling off. It was a wonderful seven years.
- [00:22:49.66] INTERVIEWER: I was going to ask you about, in terms of the training, so you just-- did you always ride a horse growing up? Or did you just, once again, pick that up later in later years?
- [00:22:59.62] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Danielle and George Cooper invited me and Betty out to the Waterloo Hunt Club. And from the first time I saw those beautiful horses and I saw the riders, I said, I'm going to get into this. And I joined the club. And I was trained by a horse called Crackerjack. He was 28 years old. And this horse was so wise and so smart. And I leased this horse, and he taught me how to ride.
- [00:23:26.17] INTERVIEWER: He taught you.
- [00:23:26.89] JOHNNY BARFIELD: He taught me how to ride. When we came to the jump I just knew he was going to make it, and I had confidence in him. And sometimes I would ride alone and I'd be hours in the woods. And sometimes I'd get lost I'd just lay the reins on Crackerjack's neck, and he would take me back to the clubhouse. It was a wonderful time.
- [00:23:46.69] And then when Betty gave me this magnificent horse that was a cross between a French workhorse and a thoroughbred, he was just absolutely beautiful to ride. Some of the most enjoyable days of my life was aboard my horse. It was a wonderful experience.
- [00:24:03.33] INTERVIEWER: So you are athletic.
- [00:24:04.90] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, if you call that being athletic, I guess I was.
- [00:24:09.33] INTERVIEWER: All right. Did your family have any special sayings or expressions during this time period?
- [00:24:20.55] JOHNNY BARFIELD: My parents had lots of principles that they taught my sister and I. And they're principles that I remember to this day, and they're principles that have sustained me all through my life and principles that have helped me more than anything else to be successful as a business person. Some of those principles were, "Johnny, a good name is better to be had than it is to be rich." "Johnny, a good name is something that takes a long time to gain, but you can lose it in a minute with some careless action or some foolish statement." "Johnny, pick your friends wisely because you're going to be judged by the company you keep."
- [00:25:00.35] Another one was, "Try never to become obligated to anyone. That usually leads to trouble." "Be on your best behavior at all times, because whether you know it or not someone's always going to be looking at you." And I know that's true. Because once my office was near the adult theater in Ypsilanti, and it was interesting looking out the second floor window at people. And I found that people, when they realize they're being observed, they act one way. But when they don't think anyone is observing them, they throw caution to the winds.
- [00:25:38.30] One of my most interesting observations was watching old men go into the adult theater. And I always felt like saying, I see you! Or watching people scratch when they were walking down the street, or blowing their nose. People act differently when they don't realize that others are watching them. So I try to be on my best-- one thing my folks said, if you want job security you've got to surprise the people that you work for. You've got to do more for them than they think you're capable of doing. Those and many other principles they taught me I found to be very useful as I built my businesses. They're undying principles and they've helped me a great deal. And I've taught the same thing, tried to teach the same things, to our children as well.
- [00:26:28.74] INTERVIEWER: Wonderful principles. OK. When thinking back on your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at that time? And how did they personally affect you and your family?
- [00:26:47.12] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, when we moved to Pennsylvania from Alabama we found a different kind of prejudice, the same prejudice but not as pronounced. And we moved from Pennsylvania when I was 15 to Michigan. We found the same things here. We just lived with those conditions. We were embarrassed by them many times, but we accepted them and went on. But I have vivid memories of some of the unfairnesses that were practiced in this country when I was a child here.
- [00:27:25.00] INTERVIEWER: Anything in particular you want to share?
- [00:27:28.41] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I was-- there were names that I were called. I remember once, I worked for George [? Erry. ?] And most people in Ann Arbor know George. George was a wonderful man to work for. And George had a foreman named Dick Harner. Dick was his foreman. And one day I was cleaning windows and washing clothes and doing that kind of work. And one day one of the other workers for some reason got angry and called me a very bad name. And I just went on.
- [00:28:10.14] But anyway, word got to George and his foreman. And they call me into the office, and they say, Johnny, what's bothering you? And I said, oh, nothing. He said, no, come on, tell us what's bothering you. Well, they had heard anyway. And he called me inside. He said, John, you're going to run into prejudices everywhere. He said, but one of things you have to learn is you're going to have to take some of it with a grain of salt. He say, it's ignorance that cause people to say those kind of things. And I hope you're not going to be offended to the point of not wanting to work here. And I said, no I don't.
- [00:28:43.48] But I ran into a lot of things, a lot of unfairnesses when I started my business. But I had to overcome those things. And I learned to do that. Betty and I used to call that groveling gracefully. But anyway, we were able to overcome that. And we were able to be successful.
- [00:29:02.08] Someone once said, what helps you most, friends who take obstacles out of your way or enemies that put them there? And their conclusion was it's the enemies that put them there. Because it forces you to find a way to overcome them. And in doing so, you become wiser. And I think that happened to me.
- [00:29:20.27] INTERVIEWER: All right. OK. You sort of alluded to this, but they talk here about going to school. And how did you get to school? Who were the teachers? And were there restaurants or eating places for blacks where you lived?
- [00:29:48.40] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Are you talking about in Michigan?
- [00:29:51.46] INTERVIEWER: Let's say yes, Michigan.
- [00:29:53.32] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And the question again is--?
- [00:29:56.24] INTERVIEWER: They kind of lump several things together, so let me go over it again. In terms of schooling, how did you get to school? And the other question was, who were the teachers? And were there restaurants or eating places for blacks where you lived?
- [00:30:14.94] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I lived on Jefferson Street in Ypsilanti, which was about a mile from Ypsilanti High School. And when school was over and at lunchtime we walked to Jefferson Street, had lunch, and walked back to school. I don't know yet how we did that, but we did it.
- [00:30:32.19] INTERVIEWER: You were young.
- [00:30:32.62] JOHNNY BARFIELD: We were young. And to make money there was a Greek family. His name was Gus. I think his last name was Bakas. And Mr. Bakas used to hire us to shine shoes. He used to block hats and we'd shine shoes in this place to earn extra money.
- [00:30:54.47] As far as prejudice was concerned, there were restaurants where we weren't welcome into. I remember my wife telling me about a restaurant they went to once. And after the people got-- they were eating, they dropped the dishes on the floor and broke the dishes as a means of letting them know that they weren't welcome there. We had a lot of that.
- [00:31:19.88] I don't know whether all of the segregation was imposed on us by others, or whether we imposed some of that by ourselves. For example, when we used to go to movies we'd go up in the balcony because we felt that's where we had to sit. Certain restaurants in Ypsilanti we didn't go to, because we felt we were not welcome. But I think if we had gone in there, I don't think anyone would have said, you can't eat here, or you're not welcome here.
- [00:31:47.20] We just felt that, after a lifetime of being treated that way, we just felt that we weren't welcome. And sometimes I think we excluded ourselves. I know that was my case.
- [00:31:58.20] INTERVIEWER: OK. But now you've been to restaurants all over the world, huh? [LAUGHS]
- [00:32:04.44] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Now people call me to eat in their restaurants.
- [00:32:08.01] INTERVIEWER: That's right. So on that question, I mentioned we might take like a couple minute breaks. So we'll break for a couple minutes right here so you can get a couple drinks of water. Then we'll continue on.
- [00:32:19.12] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. Sounds good.
- [00:32:20.02] INTERVIEWER: OK. So I don't know where Matt is--
- [00:32:21.85] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I think some of my answers are garbled, but you'll clean those up, right?
- [00:32:26.64] INTERVIEWER: No, you're doing good.
- [00:32:27.52] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. Good.
- [00:32:28.40] INTERVIEWER: So I'll give you a chance to just take a couple drinks of water, and then we'll go on. You're doing great.
- [00:32:37.60] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. Good.
- [00:32:39.27] INTERVIEWER: Especially considering you never saw the questions until today, or heard them.
- [00:32:43.92] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, they're not difficult questions, though. They're easy questions.
- [00:32:47.84] INTERVIEWER: So just let me know when you're ready to continue.
- [00:32:50.53] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. One of the things, Joyce, that we've done is we've practiced philanthropy in our company for years. And we've done some very interesting, credible things. I don't know whether you want to include some of that or not.
- [00:33:09.60] INTERVIEWER: Right. I think there'll be opportunity here for you to talk about that in terms of your work that you've done, and also any things that you're most proud of or you want to add, that kind of thing.
- [00:33:21.67] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. Well, I'm ready whenever you are.
- [00:33:23.85] INTERVIEWER: OK. And if it doesn't present an opportunity, I'll come back to it.
- [00:33:27.59] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK.
- [00:33:28.01] INTERVIEWER: OK? So you ready?
- [00:33:29.68] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah, ready.
- [00:33:30.40] INTERVIEWER: OK, we're going to talk about adulthood, marriage, and family life.
- [00:33:34.48] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK.
- [00:33:38.35] INTERVIEWER: So we talked about when you went to 10th grade in high school, and after that we did talk about a little bit where you lived. But want to talk about that a little bit more. So after that point you were at one location, then your family moved to another location. So sometimes you'll see some of this is repeated. But you can just go ahead and share.
- [00:33:57.88] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Sure.
- [00:33:58.25] INTERVIEWER: OK. So after your high school years, where did you live?
- [00:34:04.62] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, right after my high school years, the next year I went to the Army, where I served from 1945 to 1947. But before going there, some of the other places we lived in in Ypsilanti, we lived first on Jefferson Street, where we rented rooms at our house from a lady. And later on we were able to find a home of our own on Hawkins Street, where S.L. Roberson's church is located today. And then from there we went to the projects. The Parkridge projects were being built around that time. And we lived in the projects. And that's where I lived until I went to the service.
- [00:34:45.06] INTERVIEWER: OK. Now, in terms of Parkridge projects, where's that located in Ypsilanti? Is that over by Harriet Street area?
- [00:34:53.97] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah. The Parkridge Community Center's on the corner of Harriet Street and Armstrong Drive. It was built 70 years ago by the City of Ypsilanti for the people living on the south side of Ypsilanti. You remember during this time there was a lot of prejudice. And so that was a place of our own. And the community center is where the black kids in the community would go to play chess and basketball and have social activities.
- [00:35:22.72] And Betty and I used to spend a lot of our time there. And our wedding reception 66 years ago was there. So I have lots of fond memories of Parkridge Community Center.
- [00:35:35.72] INTERVIEWER: So that's really dear to your heart, huh?
- [00:35:37.57] Very dear to my heart.
- [00:35:38.49] INTERVIEWER: Yeah, OK. OK, now we're going to talk a little bit about married and family life. So tell me a little bit about your marriage and family life and about your spouse. Tell me what it was like when you were dating and what your engagement and wedding was like.
- [00:35:58.81] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK. I think anyone that you talk to that knew my wife when she was a young lady would say she was probably one of the most beautiful women they ever had seen. I certainly felt that way. As the saying goes, she knocked my socks off. And I met her when she was 12, and I thought, my god, I've never seen anyone so beautiful in my life. And that was one of the reasons I used to put on my football uniform, to try to impress her.
- [00:36:33.63] But anyway, so Betty was my girlfriend. And we went together for five years. And there was a blip or two during that time, but we were together. And then when Betty was 17, she had one more year of high school and we got married. And we got married, and that was in 1949, Betty?
- [00:36:56.49] BETTY BARFIELD: Right.
- [00:36:56.93] JOHNNY BARFIELD: In 1949. And it's been a wonderful relationship. We bought our businesses together, and I just couldn't imagine the success that we've had if she had not been there by my side. I tell everyone she was my Northern Star. But we worked together. And then our family began to come. I left the University of Michigan because I wasn't earning enough money to support my family. I'd worked there six years, and at the end of that time I was making $1.75 an hour. So I knew that was not going to allow me to give my children the opportunities that we wanted them to have. So I left and started my own business. And that was in 1954.
- [00:37:41.01] And my first contract was providing contract cleaning services for the Ypsilanti Savings Bank in Ypsilanti, Michigan. And today we have 3,000 employees and we manage 35,000 employees for other corporations. And the company has done extremely well over that period of time.
- [00:38:02.53] INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful. And I wanted to go back for a minute and say, when you were talking about your marriage and your wife, I always see the two of you together, and I just admire-- I see you interacting, and I think that's really wonderful.
- [00:38:14.66] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Oh, thank you. Thank you. I look at young people today that have these beautiful, expensive weddings, and Betty and I'll often laugh, because we got married in her mother's living room, which was about 12 by 12. And the minister that married us was Reverend Garther Roberson. He was a very well-known minister at that time. And when you see pictures of the wedding, the room was so crowded you can hardly see us. And we had lunch in Betty's backyard under the clothesline.
- [00:38:48.22] And then we went to a black hotel in Detroit called The Gotham Hotel. And we had a one-day honeymoon there. And we went down to eat, and I had never gone to a restaurant in my life, so I was ashamed to eat. And Betty kept saying, aren't you hungry? And I'd say, I'm not hungry. I was starving, but I was ashamed to eat. I'd never been out like that.
- [00:39:07.41] INTERVIEWER: Been out in a restaurant before.
- [00:39:08.63] JOHNNY BARFIELD: But don't invite me to dinner today.
- [00:39:13.16] INTERVIEWER: You're not bashful at all about eating!
- [00:39:14.99] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No, I'm not bashful at all. And I really thank God for having a companion like Betty. It's--
- [00:39:24.39] INTERVIEWER: It's a blessing.
- [00:39:25.84] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Peter-- oh, what was Peter's last name, Betty? Peter-- in Ypsilanti. Everybody know-- why does his name escape me now? Peter--
- [00:39:35.20] BETTY BARFIELD: Fletcher.
- [00:39:35.51] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Fletcher. Peter Fletcher and Betty graduated from high school. And Peter would always say to me, Johnny, you rascal. You stole the prettiest girl in Ypsilanti. And he said that. And I went to see Peter just a few days before he died. He was at the Gilbert House. And I walked in the room, and I knew what he was going to say, Johnny, you rascal, you stole the prettiest girl--
- [00:39:58.29] INTERVIEWER: Did he say that?
- [00:39:59.06] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah he did, he did. He always said that, every time we would meet. But it's a blessing to find the right person and to appreciate each other and to work together and plan. And that's what we've done. There's been almost no harsh words ever between us.
- [00:40:20.42] INTERVIEWER: That's truly something.
- [00:40:21.73] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It's really been a good relationship. And I truly treasure my wife. Whenever I'm awarded something, I always make it a point to say that 51% of the credit goes to my wife. And I mean that. It's been a great relationship, and still is.
- [00:40:45.27] INTERVIEWER: 71 years of it, huh?
- [00:40:46.75] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah.
- [00:40:47.34] INTERVIEWER: Wow. That's certainly to be celebrated.
- [00:40:53.23] JOHNNY BARFIELD: You know, Joyce, there's a little story that goes with that.
- [00:40:55.88] INTERVIEWER: OK, go ahead.
- [00:40:58.67] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I always thought Betty's mother didn't care for me. And--
- [00:41:04.05] BETTY BARFIELD: She didn't?
- [00:41:04.72] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No.
- [00:41:05.01] [LAUGHTER]
- [00:41:07.20] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I think I can say she didn't like me. So I was determined to win her over. And I'd take Betty's books home. And I'd go over to eat and sit on the porch. And I'd say, hi, Mrs. Wallace, how are you? And she'd say, I'm fine. But I had a car when I worked at the university. And I used to offer that, I used to drive Betty's mother to her job at St. Joe Hospital. And I said, if I'm real nice to Mrs. Wallace she's going to like me. So I would take her. And then the more I rode her, the less she liked me.
- [00:41:40.41] So one day Betty and I decided that I would ask her mother if we could get married. And I was really scared. But so I picked Mrs. Wallace up, and we were riding. And we got to Arborland, going to St. Joe Hospital. And I finally got up my nerve, and I said, Mrs. Wallace? And she said, what? I said, could I please ask you a question. She said, what? I said, could I please marry your daughter? And she said, God no.
- [00:42:09.10] So I pull off on the side of the road, right in front of Arborland, and she said, why are you stopping? I said, so you can get out of my car and walk the rest of the way to work. And she looked at me with a kind of angry-- and all the sudden a big smile came across her face. And she said I could marry Betty. And for the next 40 years I would always tell that story when my mother was there. I said, I want to tell you why-- I don't know why-- I'd say, Ma, why didn't you like me? "Johnny, I liked you." I said, no you didn't. I said, the only reason you let me marry your daughter is you didn't want to walk to work.
- [00:42:42.72] But she was delightful. And I'd bought her her first swimming suit. And she said, oh god, Johnny, I couldn't wear that in public. And I would say, Ma, with legs like that you could wear a bikini. Get out of here. We had a lot of fun.
- [00:42:56.16] I had a boat on St. Clair, I had a 36-foot boat. And one day Betty and I decided to have fun with Ma. I said, Ma, you're gonna drive the boat. "Oh god, Johnny, I couldn't do that." I said, Mom, sit here. This is the throttle. And when you want to go forward fast, you push it down. When you slow up, you pull it back. "Do you think I can?" I said yes. So she's sit there. And Betty and I sit in the backseat, and we watch. And she was going, and pretty soon she pushed the boat [INAUDIBLE]. Pretty soon she was going [INAUDIBLE] and her hair was flying back. We had a good time.
- [00:43:27.86] Now, let me tell you the end of story. My mother-in-law the sweetest woman, one of the sweetest people I ever known. We really loved each other. And I always kidded about that. But one day, not long before she died, she was looking at me. Betty and I were there. And I said, Mom, why are you looking at me like that? She said, because nobody has ever had a better son-in-law. Isn't that a nice story?
- [00:43:51.72] INTERVIEWER: Oh, very special. It really is.
- [00:43:53.56] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And so that was the story. But we did a lot of things together. I taught her how to drive my golf cart. And we had her sitting on a turtle once. And we just did all sorts of things.
- [00:44:02.98] INTERVIEWER: I bet she really appreciate that.
- [00:44:04.28] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah, and I appreciated her. She was my mother indeed, and I was indeed her son.
- [00:44:09.41] INTERVIEWER: Oh, that's great. But you got to marry her when you stopped that car, huh?
- [00:44:13.07] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah!
- [00:44:13.51] [LAUGHTER]
- [00:44:14.84] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Of course I wasn't gonna-- she wasn't gonna walk.
- [00:44:17.47] INTERVIEWER: I know.
- [00:44:17.69] JOHNNY BARFIELD: But we had to have a discussion.
- [00:44:23.35] INTERVIEWER: OK, very good. Now we're going to move into work. And you can talk about some of the things that wanted to talk about, in terms of some of the things. So what was your main field of employment? And you sort of talked about, but you can elaborate, how did you first get started with this tradition, skill, or job? And what got you interested?
- [00:44:43.76] JOHNNY BARFIELD: When I was eight years old-- nine years old, I was delivering newspapers in Washington, Pennsylvania, where we lived at the time. And there was a man on the street, Hallam Avenue, that made his living selling soap. He would take soap out of a big barrel and put it in a little crackerjack box. And he would seal it and he'd sold it to the housewives as a cleaning soap. And my father was a coal miner that came from the coal mines, black with dust, spitting up blood, sitting at a tub in the kitchen floor, taking a bath, coming to the table too tired sometimes to finish eating his meal.
- [00:45:24.08] And that's what my life was like. My mother would have a tin tub in the middle of the kitchen floor, and hot water would be put in. And Dad would sit in and take a bath. It was a hard life. They used to say that if the cave-ins and the methane gas don't kill coal miners, they can always look forward to the black lung disease. It was a very, very bad life. And I used to feel very sorry for my father, because he worked so hard.
- [00:45:47.15] And what I was delivering papers I met a man named Robert Lutton. And Mr. Lutton was white. He had his own little shop where he packaged soap and he sold them for $0.15 a box. And I was fascinated by this man who came to work every day in a white shirt and a tie and worked in his own little shop. He didn't have to come home dirty or work in the coal mines where he could have gotten killed or gassed. And one day I said, Mr. Lutton, can I help you? And he would say, Johnny, do you think you could do this? And I'd said yes.
- [00:46:18.08] Well, it wasn't long before I was helping him package the soap. I'd stop and talk with him every day on my paper route. And I'd help him package the soap. And I'd sweep the store and put the stuff up. And after a while he hired me to work for him after school. And he'd sit down and watch me and talk to me. And I used to load this up and do all of that. So one day I said to him, Mr. Lutton, can I sell this too? And he would always say, now Johnny, do you think you could sell this soap? And I'd say, yes sir.
- [00:46:49.98] So I'd fill up my paper bags with little boxes of crackerjack-looking boxes. And I'd go to the wealthiest section of Washington, Pennsylvania. And I'd knock on the door. And I'd say, my name is Johnny Barfield, and I sell [? cleanaline ?] soap. Would you please buy some from me? And they saw this little poor boy there, and they would say sometimes, well listen, sonny, how many boxes do you have? And I would say, I got 13 left. "Why don't I take all of those? I could probably put those up on my shelf." And they would take them all. And of course that was just, they felt sorry for me.
- [00:47:24.18] And Mr. Lutton gave me a $0.05 commission for every box I sold. So I was able to quit my paper route when I was 10 years old and work for Mr. Lutton. I didn't realize it at the time, but this kind old man really liked me, and he was teaching me how to become an entrepreneur.
- [00:47:40.03] INTERVIEWER: I was just getting ready to say that.
- [00:47:41.29] JOHNNY BARFIELD: So when my friends were selling newspapers and other things, I was working for Mr. Lutton. I was learning to meet the public. I was learning how to package the product. I was learning how to run a business. And now I was making a $0.05 commission for every box I sold. And that was what started me to think about being a businessman.
- [00:48:02.72] And I said at nine years of age, sometimes, when I get to be a grown man, I'm not going to work in the coal mines like my father and other people that I know. I'm going to be like Mr. Lutton. I'm going to work at my own business, and I'm going to wear a shirt and tie to my office. And by the grace of God I was able to do that. But it all started when I was nine years old, and I was so inspired by this man.
- [00:48:26.89] I later gave a speech at Olivet College, and they asked if it could be published. And I said, of course. And a lady by the name of [? Broutner ?] out of Pittsburgh, who happened to be Burt Lutton's niece read the speech. And she wrote me a letter and said, Mr. Barfield, I read the speech. She said, I think the reason Uncle Burt loved you so much is because he never had a son of his own.
- [00:48:51.26] INTERVIEWER: Wow.
- [00:48:52.04] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And it was because of Burt Lutton more than anyone else that encouraged and inspired me to become a businessman. And I wish Mr. Lutton was alive today. Because I'd like to go back to him and say, Mr. Lutton, it was because of you that I did this. I have 3,000 employees now. I manage 35,000 employees for some of the biggest corporations in the world. We have an office in Brussels, Belgium, and in London, England. And this is all because of you. And I'd like to say thank you.
- [00:49:22.39] INTERVIEWER: Well at least you could talk to his niece. Was it his niece that you spoke to?
- [00:49:25.75] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes.
- [00:49:26.03] INTERVIEWER: So you could share that with her.
- [00:49:27.22] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And I never speak or say anything without recognizing him. Because he was my inspiration. And I am what I am today largely because of that man.
- [00:49:37.51] INTERVIEWER: So you just summed up a little bit about your business. But tell us a little bit how that started. I know you said you were at the university and you decided that wasn't going to work to take care of your family. So walk us through that a little bit.
- [00:49:49.53] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I was a janitor at the chemistry building from 1949 to 1954. And after six years of working there I was making $1.75 an hour, or $70 a week. And I used to supplement my income by working for some of the professors and other executives in the building. And going to their houses, I saw how well they lived, beautiful homes, beautiful cars, expensive clothes in their closet. Their houses were on beautiful lawns. And I began to ask myself, why is it that some people have so much and other people have nothing?
- [00:50:27.30] Well at that time Betty and I lived in a house that we had bought from an Ann Arbor contractor by the name of William Nemke, up on Brooks Street. And Mr. Nemke had bought this house on a tax sale for $500. And I begged him for six months to sell me that house. And Mr. Nemke would say, no son, I bought it as an investment.
- [00:50:46.67] And one day I said to him, Mr. Nemke, this isn't fair. You've got everything. You've got a beautiful home. You're wealthy and all. I have nothing. And all I'm asking you for is to sell me that house. I'll give you more than you paid for it. And he said, OK. And he sold me the house. And he wouldn't take any more than he paid for it, $500.
- [00:51:06.04] But every time I'd see Mr. Nemke after there'd be a glimmer in his eye. And he would shake his head at me and say, you little bugger, you wouldn't let me say no, would you? And Betty and I lived in that house for seven years. And then we've lived in grander homes since, but I've never lived in a house that I enjoyed more than the house we paid $500 for.
- [00:51:26.15] And so then, later as we prospered, I built another house. And I've built several houses since that time. But I left the university and I started cleaning houses on the west side of town. Before that, houses were poorly cleaned by union labor who didn't want to do that kind of work. They were more skilled and they didn't want to wash windows or clean toilets. But I was willing to do that, because I saw an opportunity there.
- [00:51:55.57] And after a while I was cleaning more houses than I could possibly clean. And in time we built one of the largest new construction-- cleaning, house-cleaning businesses, I think I can say in the entire state of Michigan. And then one day a banker called me and said, young man, I hear you do good work. And that was [? Mikeson ?] Cooley at the Ypsilanti Savings Bank. And that was my contract.
- [00:52:21.04] And from that contract we begin to grow. And 13 years after we started the business we were asked by four national and international corporations to sell the business to them. I had written a book called the Barfield Method of Building Maintenance. I had come up with time standards, which at that time were not--
- [00:52:41.66] INTERVIEWER: In existence.
- [00:52:42.87] JOHNNY BARFIELD: --not that many out there. I became a member of the National Association-- a founding member of the National Association of Building Service Contractors. And then these people wanted to buy the company. So we sold the company 14 years after we started it, to IT & T. And I was able to retire at the age of 39 years, provided I was not wasteful-- we were not wasteful or foolish. And so that was the beginning and the end of the first business.
- [00:53:12.77] And then in 1975 General Motors asked me to provide them with six technical people. And we hired those kids to clean up some engineering drawings. And we hired those kids from Washtenaw Community College in 1975. And I spoke to Dr. David Ponitz, who started that school, and I said, David, when you came to our rotary club in the '60s telling us we needed a community college, I was in that audience. And I said, as a result of your vision this is what we've been able to do. And I recited the success that the company has had. And I said, none of this would've happened if you had not seen this school. I said, what we saw as an apple orchard, you saw as a community college. And by the way, it's one of the finest community colleges in this country.
- [00:53:59.37] INTERVIEWER: It is.
- [00:53:59.67] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And it's all because of your vision. So that's really the story.
- [00:54:03.81] And then today that company has grown to where we're managing $2.5 billion of client funds and 35,000 of their employees. And I just got word yesterday from my son David that there was a national survey ran among all of the companies in this country that provide the management of temporary services, and Bartech was number one on the list.
- [00:54:31.61] INTERVIEWER: Well congratulations!
- [00:54:32.28] JOHNNY BARFIELD: So it's been a nice progression, and especially exciting because David, our youngest son, who now runs the company, is just doing a yeoman's job. So it makes us very pleased.
- [00:54:47.55] INTERVIEWER: Oh, you should be.
- [00:54:48.33] JOHNNY BARFIELD: You know, when we started our business, one of the incentives that we had to succeed and be successful was we were one the first African American companies in this country. We started our first business in 1949. And we started the business that I sold in 1954. So the minority business development movement didn't get started really in full force until 1975. And six years before that we had started and sold our first corporation. So we really were pioneers in the African American business development movement.
- [00:55:27.90] INTERVIEWER: You were in the forefront.
- [00:55:29.34] JOHNNY BARFIELD: We were in the forefront. And it's hard to think that we were pioneers, but we were. And one of the most enjoyable things that I do today is running into people that we worked for 60 years ago, and to still be remembered fondly and to remember them fondly.
- [00:55:47.93] I was coming down Huron Parkway and I saw a lady sitting on her porch. And I recognize her, so I pulled my car up into her driveway, and I got out and I walked toward her. And I said, I know you don't remember who I am, but I wanted to say hello. And she says, I certainly do remember you. You're John Barfield. You used to work for me. I said, yeah, the last time I worked for you was 41 years ago when I cleaned your windows. And your daughter was coming from New York with her friend, and you wanted to impress her. And so I cleaned your windows for that. And she said, Mr. Barfield, you remember that? And I said, I certainly do.
- [00:56:21.34] And that's one of the pleasures. I saw Dr. Gloria Kerry at rotary the other day. I knew Gloria and Bill when they were young and Karen was a baby. All of those memories, but to remember all of those people and to be remembered by them fondly and to remember them fondly is a blessing and one of the great joys of my life.
- [00:56:41.49] INTERVIEWER: It makes me think about going back to the principles your parents taught you, about the idea of be aware that people are watching you and the impressions that you make. So that should speak to that. It really does.
- [00:56:53.20] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It really does. And those principles were valuable. A good name-- it's better to have a good name than it is to be rich. And I found that to be true so many times. What I treasure most is to be able to say to people that I talk to, I don't know anyone that has any reason to say anything disparaging about our company and the way we have purported our sales over the last 60 years as a business. I'm very proud of that.
- [00:57:23.02] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. And that's a lot to be able to say that.
- [00:57:25.56] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah, it is.
- [00:57:26.35] INTERVIEWER: Yeah, it is.
- [00:57:26.78] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It is.
- [00:57:27.31] INTERVIEWER: So let me ask you this. So your very first company, what was the name? Did I miss that? Was it called the--
- [00:57:33.27] JOHNNY BARFIELD: It was J&B Cleaning Company, J for Johnny and B for Betty.
- [00:57:37.14] INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK. I thought, did I get that, did I miss-- OK, J&B, that's good.
- [00:57:41.29] JOHNNY BARFIELD: J&B Cleaning Company.
- [00:57:43.45] INTERVIEWER: So you also talked about being able to give back. And you wanted to share some of that. You want to talk about that a little bit?
- [00:57:50.91] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes. Another principle that my folks taught me was the value of sharing. They taught me that you're going to see that the more you do for others, the better you're going to feel about yourself. And I've really done that. I think what I like most about me is that I do have a sharing spirit. I love people. I'm hugging people all the time.
- [00:58:10.06] INTERVIEWER: It's true. [LAUGHS]
- [00:58:11.99] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And telling them-- I want people to know that I love them, because I do. It's very, very genuine. Once my son David said, Dad, you can't hug people. You can get in trouble. And I said, David, I think people know the difference between a good hug and a bad hug. And I just do good hugs.
- [00:58:29.24] But I like for people to know that I appreciate them. That's so important. When we travel in European countries, men hug each other. And in this country we're stiff and we sort of stand back. But I like to touch people, to let people know that I care. And I also like to share. I always said, the motto in our company now-- if you go there you see it on the wall-- we want to be known for the quality of our services, being honest and fair to our customers and employees and being good and caring corporate citizens. And being a good corporate citizen means sharing your blessings with others. We've built wells in Haiti, Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia. When they had the earthquake in Zambia, with Cross International we built enough wells to provide water for 18,000 people a day. We provided them with latrines and dishrags. And we gave them training on sanitary habits.
- [00:59:45.94] When they had the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, along with Cross International we gave them 12 hurricane-proof homes for families that lost their homes. In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico we provided medical and dental service for the people who were living off of the dumps in that area there. In Malawi, Africa we underwrote an irrigation system for a prison to allow the prisoners to raise crops and livestock, half of which they consume and the other half that they sow so they can have a more comfortable life.
- [01:00:23.96] We've tried to share our blessings. Right now we are working hard to provide to keep the Parkridge Community Center from closing. My wife and I just gave them $100,000, which is administered through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, to pay expenses to keep that place open. And I have accepted the responsibility of finding the funds, along with other volunteers, to keep the center from closing. And that happened because the City of Ypsilanti notified us that after 70 years they could no longer afford to provide all of the funds. And since that time, because of a man named Tom Frye, we have been working to keep the center open. And for the last eight years we've been able to do that.
- [01:01:09.46] INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful.
- [01:01:10.01] JOHNNY BARFIELD: So I'm really proud of that. A lot of people have said, sometimes I've heard it said of African Americans and I'm sure it's been said of others, that when people get to be pretty well off they forget what they came from. I never want anyone to say that Johnny and Betty Barfield forgot where they came from. We came from the south side of Ypsilanti. We came from the Parkridge Community Center. And we're concerned that that center is open. Because if it were closed, it would be devastating to the community. And the people there would have no place to go for recreation and social activities. So that's another project.
- [01:01:49.59] Every opportunity that we find to be of service to others, we try to do that. Because I really think that the success and the blessings that we have enjoyed is partly related to the fact that we share.
- [01:02:08.85] INTERVIEWER: Give back.
- [01:02:09.74] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And that we give back. So I'm very proud of our record of doing that.
- [01:02:14.34] INTERVIEWER: And you should be. And as you were talking about Parkridge, I'd remembered you saying earlier that that's where you had your wedding reception-- was this where you had your wedding reception?
- [01:02:20.89] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes.
- [01:02:21.43] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [01:02:22.00] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes. And so we want that place to remain to serve others. And so we support it in any way that we can.
- [01:02:30.24] INTERVIEWER: OK. Great. This has been wonderful. All right, so how did your life change when you and/or your spouse retired and all the children left home? It sounds like you've been busy right along, but the question is here, so I'm going to ask it.
- [01:02:47.09] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, our oldest son is 63 years old and our youngest is 47. So they've been leaving home [INAUDIBLE].
- [01:02:57.55] INTERVIEWER: For a while!
- [01:02:58.80] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And when the last one left home we were kind of used to them leaving. So that was nothing new to us. I remember when our oldest son, John Eric, was the last year of high school, he was accepted by a group called the Spurrlows. It was a Christian group that traveled around the country singing in churches and talking about safety. And it was sponsored by the Chrysler Corporation. And Betty almost had a heart attack when he left. She just cried and cried and cried.
- [01:03:28.71] INTERVIEWER: That was your youngest?
- [01:03:30.06] JOHNNY BARFIELD: He was the oldest. When he left-- but I noticed that she cried a little less with--
- [01:03:36.29] INTERVIEWER: Each one after that.
- [01:03:37.92] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And when the last one left she hardly cried at all.
- [01:03:42.28] INTERVIEWER: I'll have to ask Betty about that in a few minutes.
- [01:03:46.39] JOHNNY BARFIELD: But we kind of got used to them leaving home.
- [01:03:49.43] INTERVIEWER: All right. OK, very good. OK, so I think we're going to move from work and retirement-- let's talk a little bit more about retirement. You said you just retired, though, officially. So talk to me about that a little bit.
- [01:04:04.16] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well first of all, I hear people talk, and they can't wait to become 65 so they can retire. Well I retired at 39, or 41-- when I was 41 years old, because I sold this company. And I said to Betty, I'm going to fish, I'm going to hunt, I'm going to swim, I'm going to golf. I'm going to do everything I wanted to do. And I did for about seven or eight weeks.
- [01:04:27.45] INTERVIEWER: I was going to say six months. But you didn't get to six months!
- [01:04:30.33] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No, seven or eight weeks. And I used to look out my window at people going to work when snow was a foot deep. And I was envious of them. And that's when I started Bartech, because of the opportunity General Motors gave me. But I came to the conclusion that retirement is not-- I'm afraid it's not going to be as exciting to a lot of people as they expect it to be. Because when you've been busy all of your life you really have to do something. And I noticed that I began to lose my entrepreneurial aspirations and skills. And it's a blessing, and I didn't ever want to lose that. So I was very, very glad to go back to work.
- [01:05:13.65] Retirement to me is doing what you want to do rather than what you have to do. And I always want to be busy, so--
- [01:05:21.47] INTERVIEWER: Doing something.
- [01:05:22.42] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Doing something. So I never want to hear the word "retirement." But I did quit going to the office this year, at 87.
- [01:05:28.84] INTERVIEWER: This is Bartech?
- [01:05:29.81] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Mm-hmm. And two years before I used to go one day a week. I've decided now to kind of step back. David is running the company and he's doing a magnificent job. And the company has grown so much that I don't know most of the people there. And I feel more like a stranger than anything else. And so I was--
- [01:05:49.78] INTERVIEWER: I'm sure they know who you are, though.
- [01:05:51.09] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah, they know who I am and all. But there comes a time when I've laid the foundation, Betty and I. And we gave them a good grounding. And it's time for us to step back and enjoy what we've been able to do. And that's where I am in life right now.
- [01:06:12.93] INTERVIEWER: Oh, that's great. This has been wonderful. So let me move into part five, which is the final part. And this is historical and social events. So talk to me a little bit how it has been-- and you've talked about this somewhat, how it has been for you to live in this community.
- [01:06:30.97] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I've lived here since I was 15 years old. And I've always enjoyed it. I think the community is growing very fast, and I'm not as comfortable with that as I like. I liked it maybe a little better in the old days, when you could drive from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor down Huron Parkway-- not Huron Parkway, but Huron River Drive, and smell apples all the way from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor, because there were lots of apple orchards and so on. And I always enjoyed that.
- [01:07:04.89] But now Ann Arbor is growing so fast and is such a prosperous city that I find myself sort of staying more out of downtown than downtown. But I think it's wonderful that so many people appreciate Ann Arbor and all the culture that's here. And they're coming here to make the place an even better place, and that's remarkable.
- [01:07:28.37] INTERVIEWER: Well, you always hear about a good place to live for those people that want the cultural and different activities, so you always hear about this area in the news.
- [01:07:37.25] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Oh yeah. Ann Arbor is a beautiful place.
- [01:07:40.91] INTERVIEWER: Right. And so when thinking back on your entire life, what important social, historical events had the greatest impact?
- [01:07:51.91] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I mentioned early the United Negro College Fund and how for 12 years I worked to raise money to help those such schools-- those schools get no federal or state support, no governmental support. And they're all private schools. So I enjoyed the 12 years that I worked with Dr. Lou [? Megson ?] and Ambassador Ronald Weiser in raising funds to help those schools. Because if they were not private contributions they wouldn't exist. And they had 37 magnificent schools.
- [01:08:29.06] Also for 17 years I worked as a volunteer for Spaulding For Children. That's an organization that's very, very dear to my heart. Bob Daniels and I worked very closely together for all of those 17 years. And Bob worked years before I came on. But I went up there one day. I was asked to make a contribution. And I always like to see what I invest in. So I went up to Chelsea. And I learned the story of Spaulding, Warren Spaulding and his love for people and how he and his cousin had prayed to God to give them some direction on how to leave their savings. And they were directed to start an organization called Spaulding For Children, for children with special needs.
- [01:09:16.13] So I was invited to make a contribution. So I went up to investigate. And I was so impressed with what I found that I agreed to serve as a member of the board of directors. And in the first meeting that I attended I learned that Spaulding supported itself by writing hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of letters every year to friends and others, asking them to make contributions to help these children. And by the way, most of the children that come to Spaulding have been abused, have been in several foster homes. And most children are special needs.
- [01:09:52.41] And I was so touched by their mission and how beautiful the Christian spirit was that I agreed to belong. And as I said, the first thing I learned that they supported themselves by getting contributions from letters that they wrote. And in my first meeting I suggested that this was not a good way to ensure that they could continue to service that mission. And they asked me what did I recommend, and I said the development of an endowment fund. It didn't go over too much. No one objected to that, but no one believed that it could be successful. Well, one of the conditions that I imposed if they didn't consider that and try to raise funds another way, I would not serve.
- [01:10:33.77] Well anyway, the decision was they would try that if I would be the development chairman. And so I accepted that. And when I joined Spaulding, we had, I believe, $625,000 in the endowment. And when I left, six years after that, we had $4.2 million.
- [01:10:54.45] INTERVIEWER: Oh my goodness.
- [01:10:55.06] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And so I really felt really good. I work with the president. The first president was Judy McKenzie. She was a marvelous president, marvelous. And then when Judy retired, Addie Williams assumed that position. And she was marvelous as well. So I had the opportunity to work for all of the time that I was there for these two wonderful officials. And they were very supportive of what I proposed. We increased the number of children that we helped each year significantly. And we built an endowment of $4.2 million. So I was very, very pleased with that. And that's one of the things that I like to point to.
- [01:11:36.35] It's just that we don't have much time to do good. I've concluded that we all have an effective working life of about 40 years. And we can't afford to waste any of that time.
- [01:11:53.60] Let me tell you one quick story. When I worked for the University of Michigan, I worked for them for six years and then I left. 40 years later-- 35 years later the Ann Arbor News called and said, we'd like to write a story about your company and your relationship with the University of Michigan.
- [01:12:12.82] INTERVIEWER: This is 35 years later?
- [01:12:14.41] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah, 35 years later. Almost 40 years later. It was 40 years later. And they said, we'd like-- would you let us write a story? And I said, I'd be delighted. And they said, well, we'd like to take a picture of you standing beside your janitor closet at the chemistry building. So I met the photographer there, and they took pictures of me. And when they were finished with the pictures, I decided to walk through the building and see if there was anyone there that I knew that had been there the 40 years since I'd left. And I saw the name on the doors of several professors that were young professors when I met them. And they were still there. But no one was in their office.
- [01:12:54.77] And I went into the old building, and I saw an old man sitting at a desk. His hair was over his head. He had shaggy eyebrows. And his desk was full of paper. And I knocked on the door, and he said, yes, yes. What is it? What can I do for you, young man? And I said, uh, Dr. Bartell? And he said, yes, yes, I'm Dr. Bartell. I said, you don't remember me, but I remember the first day you came to work here. And he said, you remember the first time? What is your name? And I told him. I said, my name is John Barfield and your father was my friend. Because his father was a professor there.
- [01:13:32.36] And one day, 40 years before, I was emptying the wastebasket in the elder Dr. Bartell's office. And Dr. Bartell said-- there was this young man, handsome enough to be a movie star, tall, straight, beautiful young man. And he said, Johnny, this is my son. And he introduced me to his son. And he said, he's coming to work here as a junior professor. And I shook his hand and told him I was glad to meet him and emptied the wastebasket and left. And now I'm talking to this man--
- [01:14:03.22] INTERVIEWER: With the hair all over the head.
- [01:14:04.27] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And this is this man! And I said, and I knew your father, Dr. Bartell. And he said, you knew my dad? And I said, yeah, your father was very kind to me. And I said, and I worked for him-- I knew him, I used to work in his office. And he sit back in his chair and said, Mr. Barfield, that was 40 years ago, and I'm going to retire this year. So I'd met young Dr. Bartell the day he came to work for the university--
- [01:14:32.18] INTERVIEWER: And then his last day.
- [01:14:33.15] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And I met him the last day that he was going to be working there. And I marveled at how fast time had gone. His 40 years-- he had spent his 40 years, and I'd spent my 40 years, and now he was retiring. And now my 40 years is over, and I'm retired. And so I look back over that time, and you have to ask yourself, how did I manage that? Did I waste my time? Did I do as much as I could have done? Could I have done much better? And I think that what we have to do at the end of our working life is to look back and see if we did well.
- [01:15:12.76] And I said to someone the other day, when I see God I'm going to say, Lord, I hope you let me in. Because I did the best that I could with the tools you gave me to work with. So that's how I feel. I feel that I didn't have a lot of formal education, and I regret that I didn't. Because when I hear my children and others talk about their college life, I'm a little jealous. But I took my mop and my bucket and my broom, and I did the best I could with the tools I had to work with.
- [01:15:48.09] INTERVIEWER: I think you did a wonderful job. I truly do.
- [01:15:50.77] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Thank you very much.
- [01:15:51.96] INTERVIEWER: You can get education in different settings.
- [01:15:54.43] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yeah. I've learned to realize that education is exposure. And you're exposed-- I've been exposed to some very bright people. And I've learned from those people. When I cleaned these beautiful homes, I learned that if I applied myself, I could also have a beautiful home.
- [01:16:13.44] INTERVIEWER: That you could have one also!
- [01:16:14.71] JOHNNY BARFIELD: And so I learned. And God honored our efforts, and by the grace of God we're where we are today.
- [01:16:22.60] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. This is great. You've probably already touched on this, but I'm going to ask it anyway. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [01:16:38.20] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I'm most proud of my family. I'm most proud of the roads we opened for other people, particularly black people. I'm proud that we've been able to accomplish as much as we have. And I guess I'm most proud that we had a sharing spirit, that we realized that we were stewards. Really, we're stewards. And what we're given is not just for us or our own. It's to be shared with others. And I really am proud that we have done that. We've tried to bless others as we have been blessed. And I'm very proud that we've been able to do that.
- [01:17:25.94] INTERVIEWER: And keeping with the principles that your parents taught to you.
- [01:17:28.88] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Yes.
- [01:17:31.20] INTERVIEWER: What would you say has changed the most from the time you were a young person till now?
- [01:17:38.84] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I think there's more tolerance. I think that there are more opportunities for us as a people in this country. I think that if you're willing to work hard and make the right sacrifices, you can move farther ahead today than you could when I was coming up. When I was coming up, there was a joke that everyone that you met-- usually when you went in a building was a black receptionist. And there was a joke, people were put out in front to make an impression. But if you get past that desk you probably saw very few other people. I've found that today, at least in my case, if you're willing to work and be imaginative, you can make significant progress. That was not always the case when I was a child. So I think things have gotten a lot better.
- [01:18:50.64] INTERVIEWER: What advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:18:54.80] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I would advise them to find out really what they're worth. Not what someone else say they're worth, but what they are worth themselves, what they feel like they're worth themselves. Let me tell you two really quick stories. When I was a boy of about eight years old living in Pennsylvania, maybe nine years old, I was playing with my friends in a field on the Washington & Jefferson campus. And my cousin found $10. It was just laying on the ground. And my father as a coal miner made maybe $18 or $20. So $10 was a fortune.
- [01:19:31.73] And we were all eight, nine years old. And we decided we would keep this a secret, because if our parents found out we had this much money they would take it from us and we wouldn't get anything. So we decided we would divide the money up. The question was, who was going to divide it? We were all the same size little boys. So my cousin who found the money said that he would get his brother, whose was twice our age. And he went and got his brother.
- [01:19:58.26] And his brother took us all to the store, and he got change, nickels and quarter and pennies and dimes. And he brought us all back. And he set us in a circle, and he began to dole out the money. But I noticed as he doled the money out, his pile got bigger and bigger. And we weren't treated fairly. And when we get through, and he would always lecture, now I'm going to give him more because he found it. Is that OK? And the kids would say, yeah.
- [01:20:24.80] And I kept looking at that, and finally I just got angry. And I got up and I left. And he said, where you going? I said, I don't want it. He said, what are you-- what's wrong? I said, I don't want it. "Come back, we'll give you more." I said no. I went home and told my uncle that we had found $10. And he made me go back and tell them to bring every penny to him. And they went back and they brought all the money. And he kept it all. And we didn't get anything.
- [01:20:49.26] The moral of that was if I couldn't have what was fair, I didn't want anyone to give me what they wanted to give me. And that was the attitude I've had through life. I was very unpopular the rest of the year with my friends. But I didn't feel that I had been treated fairly. And even at that age, I was not willing to just take what somebody would give me. I wanted what was my fair share. And that's been my attitude through life.
- [01:21:15.58] I think the problem with most young people today, especially underprivileged kids, is they don't know what they're worth. An example of that is the Rotary Club asked me some years ago to speak to the young prisoners at Maxey College. And I went out and I spoke to these kids. Now, we were in a classroom of about 400 square feet. And the kids were not interested in listening to me. And it was a waste of my time and a waste of their time.
- [01:21:42.81] So finally I said, I've got find a way to get their attention. So I asked them, I said, how many of you would like to start your own business? And they sort of sat up in their chair and said, oh man, how can we start our own business? We don't know how to start our own business. How can we do this? And I said, let me show you how easy it is to start your own business. So they sat up in their chair. I finally got their attention.
- [01:22:03.27] And I said to them, how long would it take you to shampoo the carpet in this room? And they all said five, 10, 15. But we came to the conclusion that it would take 15 minutes to shampoo the carpet. And I went to the blackboard and I said, let me show you how much you're worth. If it takes you 15 minutes to shampoo this carpet and the prison asks you to shampoo the carpet, I said, you got 400 square feet, right? "Yeah." And they were sitting in their chair. Now I had their attention. I said, if you had your own business and you shampooed this room, you would get $0.15 a square foot. I said, you know how much money you would make? And they said, what? I said, you'd make $60.
- [01:22:41.99] They were on the edge of their chairs. Because these were kids that had never earned or expected to earn more than the minimum wage. And here they were being told that they could make $60 for shampooing this carpet, if you had your own business. And then they were interested. I said, but that isn't all. If you can do this carpet in 15 minutes, you could do four of these rooms in an hour, right? "Yeah!" I said, well how much of that-- and one of them [INAUDIBLE]-- $240. See, that's how much you're worth if you would change your mind and if you would apply yourself and if you had your own business.
- [01:23:20.11] So if you tell these kids that they could make $240 if they had their own business and knew what they were doing, and they were never used to making more than $10 an hour, that was a revelation. And for the rest of that hour they sit back and they gave me all of their attention. They were interested. No one had ever told them what they were worth or what they could have. They never thought of anything but being employed by others at the lowest wage possible. But somebody had to show them with some imagination and initiative you can do better. You're worth more than that. You're not worth $10 an hour. You're worth $240 an hour. And we had a beautiful meeting.
- [01:24:05.39] Later, one of the boys from Maxey sent me a book of poems that he had wrote. And he dedicated the poems to me. But I think that one of the things that we need to teach our children is how much they're worth, and how to achieve their goals and have higher aspirations and ambitions. And I think success comes with that.
- [01:24:26.32] INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm. That's wonderful. OK, so we're going to move into our last couple questions.
- [01:24:32.54] JOHNNY BARFIELD: OK.
- [01:24:34.46] INTERVIEWER: What are your thoughts or reflections about having our first African American president?
- [01:24:40.90] JOHNNY BARFIELD: I'm so proud of President Obama. I think that he was the perfect man of our race for that position. I know he's disparaged by a lot of people, but he has accomplished some monumental feats in his term in offices. I'm very, very proud of him. And I think he has represented us better than anyone could have, as well as anyone could have. I think, in my opinion, he will go down as a great president.
- [01:25:11.18] INTERVIEWER: Did you think that in your lifetime you would see this happen?
- [01:25:14.61] JOHNNY BARFIELD: No. I never did. Because in my lifetime, I couldn't vote. In my lifetime I couldn't sleep in the same barracks in the Army that white soldiers slept in too. I was called names that were very embarrassing to me. And I was treated in other ways that made me think that I was less than I was. And to see in my lifetime a black man named president, and to see how this man has handled his staff and his responsibilities in that office makes me extremely proud.
- [01:26:00.15] INTERVIEWER: Very good. So I'm going to give you an opportunity to-- any closing thoughts or special things that you want to share at this point-- scriptures, sayings-- to sort of wrap it up?
- [01:26:13.82] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Well, I guess all I'd like to say would be that I have a dream and a hope that it will become a better world. Before coming to the meeting today I heard that upwards of 200 girls had been kidnapped to be sold as sex slaves. I don't understand that kind of inhumanity. I would wish that we had a world where people had equal opportunity to be all that they can be, a world that had less poverty and privation for people.
- [01:26:59.83] I would hope that the prisons were not filled with people of color, sometimes for things that they shouldn't be there for. And I would just hope that the people in this country especially realize what a great country we live in. I've traveled all over the world. And when I go to places like Romania and Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Transylvania, parts of Africa, Nigeria-- not Nigeria, but Kenya and Tanzania and other parts of the world where people are deprived of privilege and have no hope for anything, I think that if we could realize how fortunate we are and how blessed we are and had a more sharing spirit toward less fortunate people, it would be a better world. And it would be my hope that someday we will think differently about less fortunate countries and do more to help them. And this is what I would hope and dream and pray for.
- [01:28:11.72] INTERVIEWER: I want to thank you for doing the interview, on behalf of the African American Cultural and Historical Museum. It's really been my pleasure to be able to interview you today. So thank you.
- [01:28:21.68] JOHNNY BARFIELD: Thank you, Joyce. I've enjoyed it too much. And I'd like to thank the committee-- commend the committee for the African American Museum and Society for what they're doing to make people more aware of the contributions that our people have made to this country and this community. Thank you.
- [01:28:40.25] INTERVIEWER: Thank you.
May 6, 2014
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Waterloo Hunt Club
Ypsilanti High School
United States Army
Parkridge Community Center
Ypsilanti Savings Bank
University of Michigan - Chemistry Building
Black American Businesses
J & B Cleaning Co.
Barfield Cleaning Co.
Barfield Manufacturing Co.
National Association of Building Service Contractors
International Telegraph and Telephone
General Motors Corp.
Washtenaw Community College
Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation
United Negro College Fund
Spaulding for Children
W. J. Maxey Boys' Training School
Race & Ethnicity
AACHM Living Oral History
John W. Barfield
Betty Williams Barfield
S. L. Roberson
Peter B. Fletcher