TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-5:30 Felix’ parents were Domingo Acha (from Laukiniz) and Antonia Longaray (from Gatika). The house Felix was born (Urralde for the priest, then Errementarreñe or “blacksmith”) in was originally purchased from a priest by his great great grandfather Ramon Longaray (not related to Felix’ mother). Both parents’ houses are still in the family. Felix’ parents were essentially neighbors, since the two towns were only 2 kilometers away, and they married in 1940. His siblings are: Jesus, José Ramon and Francisco Javier; Felix is the second son. José Ramon is the only brother who came to America besides Felix.
5:30-13:00 Felix’ parents worked on the farm their whole life, raising corn, wheat, vegetables, 4 cows, a pig, chickens, and so on. The family did not sell much, but twice a week Antonia took beans and vegetables to the market in Las Arenas, 25 miles away, riding a donkey part of the way and the train for the rest. To help around the farm, Felix milked cows, pulling weeds, and much more. With only four boys in the family, there was always plenty of work to do. In addition, Domingo was always sick, since he contracted tuberculosis while a prisoner during the Spanish Civil War, right before he got married. He was forced to fight for both sides, and still wound up in jail in Santoña for 2 years! In his fragile condition, he limited himself to doing the cooking at home. Speaking often about the prison, Domingo said that it was unhealthy and there was never enough food. Antonia had to work extra hard to compensate for her husband.
13-18:00 Felix began school when he was 7. The building was close to home, girls and boys were separated into different rooms, and the 30-40 students in each class were of all grades. Despite the odds, Felix feels he learned quite a bit. The teacher was Basque, but never spoke the language, forcing the students too learn in Spanish. Catechism was the only “official” function where townspeople could speak Basque. Since some of Felix’ relatives spoke Spanish, he learned a bit before school started, but he loved to speak in his native tongue. Teachers punished students for speaking in Euskera by whipping them with willow rods and making them stay after class.
18-25:00 Felix explains why everyone slaughtered their pig at the same time: it was set for the local festival. He finished school when he was 14, then went to work as a machinist in a steel construction factory (for ships) in Urduliz six miles away. He had to take 2 hours of night classes after work, where le learned a lot of math. Felix stayed in this factory for 3 years, giving most of his wages to his mother. When he had free time, Felix liked to play sports with neighboring boys and girls. His parents wanted him to be a priest, and when he was 12, sent him to a seminary near Bilbao, but he ran away home (it took him 2 days) because he didn’t want to do it. The priest decision lasted only a few months! His father was so angry, that he ran next door to his aunt for a few days.
25-30:00 As Felix got older, he went dancing often in neighboring towns, biking to each with his friends (the chains on the bikes were always falling off). At the age of 17, he quit his factory job and found another one making ovens, in Mungia. Even though he kept a little more of his wages, Felix still gave the bulk to his mother. He lived at home throughout the 3 years he worked for this company. When he was 20, Felix was drafted into the army (1 week after his little brother’s notice), and served only 8 months in Burgos once he turned 21. He was one of the engineers.
0-10:00 Felix only had one friend in the army, Juan Aguirre, although there were 5 other Bizkaians. They spoke in Basque only when nobody else was around. Meals were awful, chores were repellent, and Felix was glad to get out. Fortunately, he didn’t notice much prejudice from the non-Basques military men, except for a little jealousy toward the prosperous Basque region. Felix’ parents sent him money for food, and he returned to them for a year before realizing a dream and joining the merchant marines. He’ll never forget his first trip, loading petroleum in Egypt and returning to England. In later trips, he saw Kuwait, the south of Africa, Libya, Sicily, Italy, Venezuela. He signed a yearlong contract, and got one month of vacation.
10-16:00 At one point during his tenure with the merchant marines, Felix got to fly to Canada to catch a boat headed to Curacao, and had a lot of fun. His job was to watch all the gauges to make sure that there were no fire or explosions. These American ships could carry about 100,000 tons of oil, flew the Liberian flag (for tax purposes), and hired Spanish crews. During his year back and forth between Canada and Venezuela, Felix and some friends were always getting sick, so they jumped ship and stayed near Montreal in 1968 for 22 months. They started washing dishes in a hotel, then in a nickel mine, but were soon caught by immigration authorities and forced to return to Spain.
16-23:00 Felix didn’t learn much English with his 3 friends (Justo Justenbaldia, José Piñedo, and another Spaniard), mostly because they didn’t go out much due to the freezing temperatures and lack of money. Back in Euskadi, he decided to go to the United States, after hearing good things from returning sheepherders, and despite the fact that he knew no one there. Felix’ priority was to get out of the Basque country—Franco’s oppression was just one reason. He arrived in America in June of 1970, traveling through Bilbao, Madrid, New York, Salt Lake City (where he spent the night at the Landa boarding house) and Twin Falls. Ambrosio Aspiatu, his foreman, picked him up at the airport, and took him to Castleford to work for Idaho State Congressman Noh’s sheep operation. He was obligated by a contract to work there for three years, but didn’t like shepherding, so he quit after a year and went to Fresno for a month with his recently arrived brother.
23-30:00 Felix describes how he hated shepherding: after seeing the world, being in the middle of nowhere made him cry. In California, he did not work, but soon ran out of money, so he got a job with Patxi and Enrique Corta in Nevada to fulfill the rest of his shepherding contract. He did this for a year, but was so bored he even thought about going to Vietnam! Felix went to Gooding, and had to work with sheep yet again (this time on the ranch), but met his wife Ruth Maxine Marwquete at the Lincoln Inn, and married her a few months later, in 1974.
0-5:30 Felix and his wife drove to Elko for the wedding, but ripped up his citizenship application and waited a year in order to prove to his wife he loved her and had not married her for the wrong reasons. He “liked that woman then and likes her” just as much now. Of German descent, Ruth took to Felix’ cooking quite quickly, and even learned a few words in Basque. The couple converses in English, but Ruth is very involved in the Gooding Basque community. After the wedding, Felix worked for Independent Meat Packers in Twin Falls until its closure, then for Tupperware in Gooding until Spears bought it, and he has now worked 13 years for the subsidiary PVC company in Jerome.
5:30-9:30 Felix is a member of the Gooding Basque Association, and loves to cook for picnics and gatherings with Ruth. He’s noticed a few changes with this group, including better organization (Andy Lejardi was instrumental in this). Felix served as vice-president for a few years in the 1980s, and fought hard for a Gooding Basque Center so that groups would have a home and future generations would stay tied to the culture
9:30-17:00 Felix and Ruth have 4 boys: Don and Chris (adopted from his wife’s previous marriage), Felix and John. All four have been involved in the Basque culture, helping out with picnics and festivals, as well as the Association. He hopes there will soon be a dancing group in Gooding. Felix likes to travel to the Basque events in neighboring towns and states. He calls his brothers in the Basque country just about every week, and has made 5 trips to Euskadi since his immigration. His son John, who is stationed in Germany with the Air Force, likes to drive there as well. Felix’ first trip back was in 1980, and he has enjoyed seeing the positive developments in his homeland since Franco’s death. His mother can now donate one of her houses for Basque Nationalist Party meetings! Felix plans to return to Euskadi as often as he can, but would only consider retiring in his house there (given to him from one of his mother’s four) for a few months out of the year.
17-18:30 Felix hopes the Basque government can work towards independence, but does not support the terrorist tactics he sees today. After all these years in both countries, Felix identifies himself as a Basque American—he is proud to be both.
NAMES AND PLACES
Acha, Chris: Felix’ adopted son
Acha, Domingo: Felix’ father
Acha, Don: Felix’ adopted son
Acha, Felix: Felix’ son
Acha, Francisco Javier: Felix’ brother
Acha, Jesus: Felix’ brother
Acha, John: Felix’ son
Acha, José Ramon: Felix’ brother
Acha, Ruth Maxine Marwquete: Felix’ wife
Aguirre, Juan: Felix’ friend in the army
Aspiatu, Ambrosio: Felix’ friend
Basque Nationalist Party
Corta, Enrique: Felix’ friend
Corta, Patxi: Felix’ friend
Franco, Francisco: Spanish dictators
Gooding Basque Association
Justenbaldia, Justo: Felix’ friend
Landa family: ran Salt Lake City boarding house
Lejardi, Andres: Felix’ friend
Longaray, Antonia: Felix’ mother
Longaray, Ramon: Felix’ great great grandfather
Noh, Congressman: Felix’ employer
Piñedo, José: Felix’ friend
Basque Center (Gooding)
Errementarreñe: Felix’ baserri
Independent Meat Packers (Twin Falls)
Las Arenas, Bizkaia
Lincoln Inn (Gooding)
New York, NY
Salt Lake City, UT
Tupperware Corporation (Jerome)
Twin Falls, ID
Spanish Civil War