Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Eli Shaheen, March 13, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Father's immigration

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Partial Transcript: My father came to this country as a 13-year-old-boy in, uh, like 1890--18--1905 or so. He settled, with his brother, in Kentucky. And, uh, my Uncle George, his brother, I guess he worked him to death.

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about his father's immigration to Kentucky. He describes his father's traits and values. He talks about his uncles peddling, not knowing his grandparents, and his extended family.

Keywords: Cousins; Family; Fathers; Grandparents; Immigrants; Lebanon; Shaheen's Department Store

Subjects: Emigration and Immigration--United States.; Immigrants--Kentucky--Louisville; Lebanese Americans

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:08:10 - Store and family

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Partial Transcript: So did he work there and make enough money to open a new store?

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about his father borrowing money to open a store, and the location of the store. He describes the living arrangements of the family. He describes his father's personality. Shaheen talks about his siblings. He talks about the merchandise and success of the store.

Keywords: Brothers; Family; Fathers; Generosity; Merchandise; Shaheen's Department Store; Stores

Subjects: Department stores--Kentucky--Louisville--History.; Families--Kentucky.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Lebanese Americans; Stores, Retail--Kentucky--Louisville.

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:12:59 - Growing up Lebanese in Louisville

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Partial Transcript: What about growing up in your house? Did you speak Arabic? Or did your parents speak Arabic?

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen describes his regret of his family speaking English instead of Arabic. He discusses his mother's cooking, hospitality, and personality. He talks about the family's reputation in Louisville. He describes his parents' desire for him to marry a Lebanese woman.

Keywords: Arabic language; Assimilation; Dating; English language; Families; Foods; Home; Language; Marriage; Mothers

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

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:20:10 - Growth of Shaheen's Department Store / working in the store as a child

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Partial Transcript: So do you remember, over time, your family gradually doing better, financially?

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about his family's home, and his decision to open another store on the other side of town. He discusses the growth of the family business. He talks about pursuing the best merchandise. He describes his earliest memories of working in his father's store, alongside his mother.

Keywords: Buyer; Houses; Merchandise; Mothers; Shaheen's Department Store; Sisters; Stores; Wood floors

Subjects: Department stores--Kentucky--Louisville--History.; Families--Kentucky.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Lebanese Americans; Stores, Retail--Kentucky--Louisville.

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:26:22 - Customers / theft / continuity of the store

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Partial Transcript: So who were the majority of your customers?

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about the store's customers. He talks about his father's efforts to keep prices low. He describes an incident where someone tried to rob his father's store, and his father safeguarding his store during a flood. He talks about receiving advice during the Navy to join the family business. He talks about the store's ability to withstand economic changes.

Keywords: 1937 flood; Blue collar store; Customers; Prices; Sam Walt; Shaheen's Department Store; Value; Walmart

Subjects: Consumers.; Department stores--Kentucky--Louisville--History.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Lebanese Americans; Stores, Retail--Kentucky--Louisville.

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:33:10 - Sheheen's Department Store merchandise / children / Lebanese community

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Partial Transcript: So how do you think you've managed to stay there, stay here in the face of Walmart?

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about the store's niche selling uniforms. He describes the store's sales and marketing techniques. He talks about his children and their involvement in the family business. He talks about the church he attends and Lebanese community gatherings.

Keywords: Carhartt; Church; Grandsons; Inventory; Lebanese community; Lebanese food; Merchandise; Religion; Schoolwear; Sons; Suits; Uniforms; Wife; Workwear

Subjects: Department stores--Kentucky--Louisville--History.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Lebanese Americans; Stores, Retail--Kentucky--Louisville.

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667
00:41:54 - Extended family

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Partial Transcript: There were three Shaheen families here.

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about his extended family and talks more about his family's immigration to America. He talks about visiting a cousin in California and other cousins he has throughout the country.

Keywords: Aunts; California; Cousins; Family; Genealogy; Immigrants; Kentucky; Lebanese families; Lebanon, Kentucky

Subjects: Emigration and Immigration--United States.; Lebanese American women; Lebanese Americans; Lebanese Americans--History.

00:50:05 - Grandchildren / Lebanese identity

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Partial Transcript: Did your sons marry Lebanese?

Segment Synopsis: Shaheen talks about the Lebanese influence of his grandchildren and Lebanese restaurants in Louisville. He discusses his friends. He talks about his Lebanese identity, and talks more about his family. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Cooking; Family; Food; Friends; Grandmothers; Heritage; Identity; Israel; Lebanese restaurants; Lebanon; Personal history; Wife

Subjects: Families--Kentucky.; Group identity.; Lebanese Americans

GPS: Louisville, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.25, -85.766667