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Bernard Lipsey

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Bernard Lipsey was born in October of 1945; he was born in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, but he was raised in Lepanto, Arkansas; his parents opened a grocery store in 1948; during the fifties, eighty percent of their business came from braceros; all the stores in town began expanding so much that by the time the bracero program ended, they had already lost too much money; his parents’ store eventually closed in 1963.

Summary of Interview: Mr. Lipsey talks about his parents and what the small town of Lepanto, Arkansas was like while he was growing up; he came from an agricultural community that was predominately white and adhered to segregation practices; in 1948, his parents opened a grocery store; they had an agreement with people bringing braceros into town and would open the store at whatever time the men were transferred; each bracero received $5.00 to buy groceries; sometimes, they would get into small groups of five to make their money stretch further; Bernard’s parents even gave the men sandwiches and a drink to ensure they would keep returning; their supplies were delivered to the camp sites; oftentimes, they went into town on Saturdays, after getting paid; even so, interactions were kept separate, and they only socialized among themselves; in addition, they were only there for three months, and as a result no one knew them; Bernard speculates that some of the men surely disappeared for speaking to the wrong person or saying the wrong thing, and no one ever noticed; even so, during the fifties, eighty percent of their business came from braceros; they inevitably changed the entire economy of the town; store owners became more market conscious and adapted their products to their consumers; they began selling boots, jeans, radios and luggage; Bernard even mentions that part of the family store was converted into a small department store, and they even sold jewelry; all the stores in town began expanding so much that as mechanization took over and the braceros stopped going, they lost too much money; his parents’ store eventually closed in 1963.