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 Community History Project


Oral History with Gerry Kelley

Gerry Kelley's family moved to Willcox, Arizona in 1952 to manage a farm when he was nine years old. The farm was a relatively small operation, stretching approximately 160 acres. His father hired 7 Bracero workers in 1954 to help with the cotton picking. As Gerry recalled, everyone in the family picked cotton to keep the farm going: "My mother picked cotton, I picked cotton, my sisters picked cotton—all for the whopping price of $ 3.00 per 100 pounds."

The farm proved to be a difficult venture. Gerry's father took a job with a local school district in 1958, and the family moved to town. Although Gerry's family hired Bracero workers just that one year, he has positive memories about their time on the farm. He remembers one time his father protected the men from a local hustler. Later, in retaliation, their cotton trailers were set on fire. The men helped Gerry's family put out the flames in the middle of the night. He says, "[A benefit of the program] was just the fact that we had some sort of camaraderie with these guys; we really did become a kind of family…we had a common effort and a common goal and we worked together to achieve that. I just remember it as a very positive experience."

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Click on the following links to access the oral history transcript and audio file of the oral history.

Gerry Kelley audio file
transcript Gerry Kelley.pdf


Gerry Kelley


Eldridge and Mittie Kelley


Sister Jeanne, Mother (Mittie), Gerry, and Dad (Eldridge)


Sister Jeanne, unknown cousin, sister Elderine, and Gerry


photos courtesy of the Kelley family