Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Joe Issac, Alberta Issac, March 7, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Joe Issac's family and education

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Partial Transcript: She would get these overdrafts all the time. And Daddy would get on her, said, "Look, this is embarrassing."

Segment Synopsis: Joe discusses his family, including his parents and siblings. He goes on to talk about the careers of his two brothers, and his sisters working at his brother's mortgage company. Joe discusses how he has always felt lucky to live in Lexington, and how the people in Lexington are great people because of how they were raised. Joe discusses his educational background.

Keywords: Brother; Dad; Dry cleaner; Education; Extended families; Isaac Real Estate; Lexington, Kentucky; Mortgage company; Mothers; Nephew; Rice University; Sisters; Support; UK; University of Kentucky; VPI; Virginia Polytechinic Institute; Wife

Subjects: Families--Kentucky.; Lebanese Americans

GPS: Lexington, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.031912, -84.495327
00:05:00 - Alberta Issac's support of her husband's businesses / Joe Issac's teaching

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Partial Transcript: And no matter what I've ever been in, no matter what now, the Burger Shake, the steakhouse, real estate, or in dry cleaning business, my wife has been there doing everything with us.

Segment Synopsis: Joe Issac praises his wife, Alberta, for all the support she has given him throughout the years. Joe Issac talks about their first date. Joe talks about technological advances in relation to his business, and his career teaching computer classes.

Keywords: Boyfriends; Classes; Computers; Cumberland, Kentucky; Dances; Dates; Husbands; Marriage; Starry Night Club; Teachers; Technology; Wives

Subjects: Families--Kentucky.; Lebanese American women; Lebanese Americans; Teaching.; Wives.

00:10:04 - Lack of discrimination / Joe Issac's childhood

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Partial Transcript: Can I take you back again? I'm so stuck on--because my thing's about minorities and their place. What--you talked about not discriminating.

Segment Synopsis: The Issacs talk about the lack of discrimination and prejudices in Cumberland, Kentucky. Joe Issac talks about attending segregated schools and how people reacted to domestic violence. He talks about his mother cooking Lebanese food, his chores as a child, and having to use an outhouse. He describes his aunt’s boardinghouse, and the houses he lived in during his youth.

Keywords: African American discrimination; Allowance; Apartments; Boardinghouses; Cumberland, Kentucky; Discrimination; Domestic abuse; Family; Fathers; Homosexuality; Houses; Lebanese; Lebanese discrimination; Mothers; Moving; Race discrimination; Segregation

Subjects: Cooking, Lebanese.; Cumberland (Ky.); Discrimination--Kentucky.; Lebanese Americans; Segregation.

GPS: Cumberland, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 36.976944, -82.9875
00:17:59 - Joe Issac's parents

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Partial Transcript: When did they die?

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about his parents' death and the occurrence of cancer in his family. He talks about his parents' religion and his decision to join the Baptist church. He talks about his son’s baptism, and his involvement with church activities. He talks about movies his father would show in the theater he owned. He talks about his father’s efforts to support soldiers during WWII.

Keywords: Age; Auctions; Baptists; Bible Class; Cancer; Catholics; Censorship; Church; Colonoscopy; Death; Fathers; Food drives; Health; Illness; Mothers; Movies; Parents; Patriotic; Rations; Religion; Sons; Theaters; WWII; War bond sales; World War Two

Subjects: Cumberland (Ky.); Immigrants--Kentucky.; Lebanese Americans; Motion picture theaters--Kentucky; Parents.; Religion.

00:26:42 - Annual Lebanese family dinner

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Partial Transcript: Let me just ask one question, and I'll let you all. Do you--what relationship do you all have to--because I'm also going to talk to Arabs who are newer immigrants.

Segment Synopsis: Joe Issac talks about not having any relationships with more recent immigrants. He discusses the annual dinner his family has in which each of the "elders" of the family bring a Lebanese dish to share with everyone. He also discusses how the younger generation doesn't care for the Lebanese food, so "American" food is also brought for them. Joe talks about maintaining an email relationship with all 40+ of his nieces and nephews across the country. He is the main source of information and whenever something important happens in the family, the family member will email him then he will send it to everyone else.

Keywords: Communicating; Email; Family; Family dinner; Fathers; Immigrants; Lebanese; Lebanese food; Lexington, Kentucky; Mothers; Muslims; Nephews; News; Nieces; Photos

Subjects: Cooking, Lebanese.; Immigrants--Kentucky.; Lebanese Americans

00:45:37 - Tracing Lebanese roots

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Partial Transcript: You can't go back to Lebanon?

Segment Synopsis: Joe and his wife talk about how little they know about their parent's immigration to the United States from Lebanon in 1905/1906. His grandfather established his business in the U.S. then returned to Lebanon to bring over Joe's grandmother, mother, and uncle.

Keywords: Ancestry; Ellis Island; Family history; Genealogy; Immigration; Lebanon; Matoaka; Matoaka, West Virginia

Subjects: Families--Kentucky.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Lebanese Americans

GPS:

Map Coordinates: 37.4197807, -81.2414169
00:53:52 - Joe Issac's father's chain of theaters in eastern Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: He opened a dry goods store. I'm getting ahead of myself. He opened a theater in Norton, Virginia, before he went up to meet my mother. And him and this other guy--my daddy was a showman. He knew how to advertise, he'd get newspaper space and everything.

Segment Synopsis: Joe discusses the establishment of the chain of 10 or 11 theaters that his father started in Cumberland, Kentucky and how well the family profited from it. Joe discusses the segregation of the theaters his father owned and talks about how his father spread the theater business throughout Kentucky and into Virginia. He also discusses how he connected with the Shine Theaters during WWII so in case he was called to service, they would be able to look after the theater. Joe talks about how he decided to branch out of the theater business with the rise of television in the 1940's.

Keywords: Appalachia, Virginia; Black theater; Business; Competition; Cumberland theater; Cumberland, Kentucky; Family; Fathers; Finances; Harlan, Kentucky; Kentucky theaters; Money; National Guard; Pikeville, Kentucky; Segregation; Shine Theaters; Television rising; Theater admission declining; White theater; Whitesburg, Kentucky; World War Two

Subjects: Families--Kentucky.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Lebanese Americans; Motion picture theaters--Kentucky; Motion picture theaters--Management

01:05:24 - Establishing the Burger Shake, steakhouse, and dry cleaning business

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Partial Transcript: Anyway, he asked me, if you want to open a restaurant, if you'd like a partner, I'd like to be it.

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about the difficulty finding a place to build his restaurant in Lexington. Joe talks about how he never considered segregation when opening the Burger Shake and that everyone was treated the same way. He describes expanding his business with a steakhouse and dry cleaning business. The steakhouse did well but the dry cleaner ended up closing two years into it, allowing the steakhouse to expand to both sides of the building.

Keywords: Burger Shake; Business property; Dan Long Rental; Dry cleaners; Entrepreneurs; Hamburger restaurants; Leestown Road; Lexington, Kentucky; New Circle Road; Restaurant segregation; Steakhouse

Subjects: Lebanese Americans; Restaurateurs--Kentucky--Lexington.; Segregation.

01:12:27 - Lebanese identity

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Partial Transcript: So, were you raised with a Lebane--your mother wasn't Lebanese?

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about his lack of Lebanese culture and identity. He says he was raised as an American, not really emphasizing his Lebanese culture. Joe talks about his mother's cooking, stating she very rarely cooked Lebanese food, but when she did she overcooked it. He talks about how they couldn't buy chicken ready to cook, his job was to kill the chicken to eat.

Keywords: American food; Chicken; Fathers; Identity; Lack of culture; Lebanese culture; Lebanese food; Lebanese language; Lentils and rice dish; Mothers; Parents

Subjects: Cooking, Lebanese.; Families--Kentucky.; Lebanese Americans

01:17:18 - More on family theater business

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Partial Transcript: We really loved the theater business, it was really good and entertaining. And people, people came there to relax and enjoy themselves.

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about the theater in more detail, discussing how they made money because people didn't know what else to spend their money on. He talks about how his father intimidated customers because of his strict rules.

Keywords: Entertainment; Family businesses; Fathers; Rationing; Theaters; WWII; World War Two

Subjects: Immigrants--Kentucky; Lebanese Americans; Motion picture theaters--Kentucky; Motion picture theaters--Management

01:21:40 - Family in Lebanon / more on Joe Issac's father

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Partial Transcript: Were there tales of the old country? Of Lebanon?

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about his grandparents in Lebanon. He describes his grandmother working in a silk factory. His grandfather was a businessman. Joe talks about how well his father was dressed at all times. He describes an incident when his father tried to set him up with a Lebanese woman, he found out that Joe had secretly been married. He talks about his siblings’ marriages, and how the grandchildren do not look Lebanese.

Keywords: Crusades; Family; Fathers; Grandparents; Lebanese business; Lebanon; Mothers; Syria; Turqs

Subjects: Families--Kentucky.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Lebanese Americans; Lebanese Americans--History.

01:33:53 - Military service

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Partial Transcript: And this old thing, they'd say, jump up, you know, see how you can jump. And you'd jump up, high as you can.

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about how strict the Navy was, how disciplined they were with everything from eating food to cleaning their rooms. He shares memories of his service, and describes friends he met in the Navy. Joe further discusses that he never felt ostracized because of his heritage.The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Assembly; Cleaning; Dining; Discipline; Discrimination; Diversity; Exercise; Family; Food; Friends; Matchsticks; Military; Mothers; Navy; Racism; Rules; Shots; WWII; World War Two

Subjects: Discrimination.; Lebanese Americans; United States. Navy.