Fifty years is a lot of history, and while planning for the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the World Floor Covering Association, event organizers realized they didn’t have much on file that went back to the group’s early years. Dennis Blake, a past president of the WFCA (1993-1994), realized a lot of the group’s history was going to end up lost if the WFCA didn’t do something about it.
As head of the WFCA’s Historical Committee, Blake commissioned an office at WFCA’s headquarters in Anaheim for the association’s History Room. At press time, the History Room was still in its formative stages, with boxes of slides, photos, and yellowed newspaper clippings stacked in piles and waiting to be sorted. Blake said once he and the staff sort and catalog the material, he hopes the room will become a permanent repository of knowledge and information of WFCA’s long and storied history.
“My goal is to get everyone who has been involved with the WFCA’s past to send me their stuff for this room,” Blake said. “We have to coordinate with a lot of people. But we want these historical photos and articles, because we simply don’t have a lot of things before ’95. We want to preserve these things.”
One of the major contributors of historical information to the project is Paul Pumphrey, the only WFCA member who has also led both of the founding groups: the Western Floor Covering Association and the Retail Floorcovering Institute, later renamed the American Floorcovering Association.
His memories stretch back to the early days of the modern flooring industry, when carpet mills dominated the business landscape in the hundreds. In the ‘50s, one of the manufacturing giants in tufting, Gene Barwick, owned two private planes that he used to fly retailers and customers to his mill in Dalton, Ga.
“I remember Barwick, at one of the early WFCA conventions, saying he was a lot like us,” Pumphrey recalled. “I remember thinking, How is it possible a manufacturer of his size is anything like us? He told us that retailers often have a lot of capital tied up in remnants. Then he said that one of his planes was named Remnants, so he, too, had a lot of capital tied up in Remnants.”
It’s these types of stories, the more personal side of the business, that Pumphrey hopes the History Room will recapture. He is also donating old minutes and binders from meetings, along with letters and communications that stretch back 40 years, when he was elected to the board of the Western Floor Covering Association in 1967. He even has old convention and seminar pamphlets dating back to 1961, only a few years after the WFCA formed. “Whoever ends up going through these materials is going to have a lot of fun,” Pumphrey said. “It’s pretty much the [modern] history of floor covering.”
Blake also has fond memories of his time leading the WFCA. “I was one of the guys that met with the American Floorcovering Association president in secrecy in Las Vegas to put the group together,” he said. “I was there at the right time because I got to see so many things happen.”
He also remembered being excited when the WFCA chose Hawaii as a destination for one of its conventions. “I had never been there before, and couldn’t wait to go. However, a hurricane struck the area and in the end I had to go to Hawaii three times to make sure the hotel was okay.”
D. Christopher Davis, president and ceo of the WFCA, said he hopes the history room will not only be nostalgic for visitors, but show them how much the group has accomplished. He points to the creation of the Surfaces show as one of the most important accomplishments for the industry group.
“The WFCA also has a rich history of partnering with other associations to achieve common goals,” Davis added. “The mere fact the association has developed into a force to represent its members is an accomplishment in itself.”