TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
Tape 1, side 1
0-10:00 Simon was born in Ispaster on 29 October 1934. After the Civil War, his father was taken prisoner (for more information, see Julian Achabal’s interview summary). Simon went to live with his aunts at their farm while father served his sentence in Santoña and Cádiz. He remembers the great welcome his father received when he came home. Simon was about 5 years old. His father was imprisoned for political reasons. Townspeople had informed the authorities of his father’s political involvement. Several people were arrested in Ispaster, a town of 800-900 people. Police would come from larger towns to make arrests, having been tipped off by informants. Simon remembers being afraid of the police, never knowing when they would come to make an arrest. At school, the students had to line up, raise their hands, and sing patriotic songs for Spain and its dictator, Francisco Franco. They drilled like this for about a half-hour before lunch. Boys and girls were taught in two separate school buildings. Classes were taught in Spanish, a language Simon did not know before he started school. Speaking Basque was prohibited at school, and Simon describes a few of the punishments. Students, in an attempt to irritate each other, would turn other students in to the teacher for speaking Basque. He remembers a ring that students passed around to those they heard speaking Basque. Whoever ended up with the ring would have to miss the next recess.
10:00-15:00 Simon’s family grew corn, wheat, beets, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, fruit, and other produce to meet their needs. The family never went hungry. His mother would take goods to the market in Lekeitio to make a little money for the family. Luxuries were scarce, but the family was happy with what they had. His mother worked very hard, often harder than the men did. His father, Simon (see minute 13), was a blacksmith and worked on the farm. In good weather, the family worked on the farm. In bad weather, they worked in the blacksmith shop. His father repaired farm equipment, and the children worked for him. The shop was right next to the house, and was the only one in town. Farmers would often come to socialize at the shop. The fire made it a nice, warm place to be in the rain.
15:00-19:15 After school, Simon and his siblings were expected to go directly home to do their chores. If they had a chance, they would sneak away to play handball, soccer, or other sports. They played on the streets and made up their own rules. Simon enjoyed his childhood very much. He fished in the ocean every now and then as well. He names several of his friends, all of whom lived nearby. They had a propensity for mischief, and wound up in trouble quite a bit, but Simon prefers to leave out the details. His parents had to discipline their children.
19:15-20:45 Simon says that even though his teacher was pro-Franco and had a tendency to be mean, he was a good teacher. Simon’s parents helped the teacher to discipline their children by adding to their penalty if they came home crying about one of his punishments. The teacher was married to a lady from Ispaster, but he was not Basque. His surname was Pardo, and he was from Madrid.
20:45-27:15 Simon and his brothers did odd jobs for neighbors, who paid them for their help. The Achabals did likewise, asking neighbors for help with work when they needed it. When his father was in prison, the authorities took most of the family’s valuables, leaving them with very little. What little money their sons could bring in from odd jobs helped sustain the family. After Simon’s father returned from prison, the police tried to arrest him again, but eventually left him alone. People were arrested for even minor offenses, because pro-Franco neighbors would take any opportunity to report people to the police. Simon speculates that jealousy was at the root of this behavior. His father was a popular man, active in the local farm cooperate and a town councilor at the time he was arrested. A few people did not like him, and Simon thinks that these people were jealous of him. They wanted to bring him down.
27:15-30:00 After he finished school, Simon spent 4 more years at home before deciding to come to the United States. He came in 1952 at the age of 18. During those 4 years, he worked for his family. He decided to come because of two things: first, the economic situation in the Basque country was poor; and second, he had political reasons. His father had come to the US in 1914 and stayed for about 8 years. Two uncles from his father’s side and two from his mother’s side had also come to the US to work with the sheep. His father and his father’s brothers worked in Winnemucca. Two of his father’s brothers died in Winnemucca, leaving only his father and another brother, Andrés Achabal. Simon’s father returned to Ispaster, but Andrés stayed and worked for Hammett Livestock Company. Simon wrote to his uncle Andrés, who paid for the initial cost of the trip. Hammett Livestock Co. sponsored the trip.
Tape 1, side 2
0-6:15 Simon talks about a few of the places his uncle Andrés worked in the US. One of them was Spanish Ranch in Elko County, Nevada. Backing up, Simon explains the economic motivation for Basques to come to the US. When he returned in 1960, he did not see much progress in either the economic or political situation, so he decided to go back to the US and make his life there. He became a US citizen the same year, right before he returned to the Basque country. Simon wanted to have an American passport before he left to avoid serving in the Spanish Army. He talks about the oppression that he and other Basques felt under Franco’s regime. His family was watched closely by the police, a condition that he learned to live with. Simon gives an instance where a Spanish police officer ordered him and his friends to speak Spanish.
6:15-8:30 When Simon first arrived in the Boise airport in November 1952, he was amazed to see how dry and brown the countryside was. When he got into the city itself, he was relieved to see some trees. He stayed at the Letamendi boarding house for a few days at the same time as his cousin, Pete Barinaga, who had come to Boise in 1948. Pete helped Simon buy the equipment he would need to work at the sheep ranch.
8:30-16:30 Backing up, it took only a few months for Simon to get the papers he needed to come to the United States. He describes how the Wool Growers Association negotiated with the Spanish government for Basques to come work in the US. Simon came before the era of 3-year contracts. He describes his journey from Bilbao to Irun to Paris by train, then to New York to Chicago to Boise by propeller plane. He did not speak any English when he arrived, and remembers the tag he wore on his shirt to inform immigration and airline personnel of his destination. He traveled with 7 or 8 other Basques, each of whom was given about $10 for expenses on the trip. Simon still had the money when he arrived in Boise. Pete Barinaga and Alejandro Echeita came to pick him up at the airport. The two of them were also staying at the Letamendi boarding house. Simon felt comfortable in the boarding house because everyone spoke Basque. He stayed there for about a week until his uncle came to drive him to the Hammett sheep ranch.
16:30-19:30 Simon names some of the other relatives he had in Boise at the time. His mother’s brothers, Deogracias and Juan Achabal, were in Homedale and Gooding, Idaho, working with sheep. When these uncles retired, they returned to the Basque country and lived well on their savings. Simon tells the story of how they returned.
19:30-30:00 The ranch in Hammett was about 80 miles from Boise. He and his uncle arrived at night, so Simon could not see what the ranch was like. He heard coyotes howling the first night he was there, but he had no idea what they were. The cooks at the ranch, a husband and wife team, were Basques, and cooked very well. All the workers were Basque, except for the summers when the ranch would hire non-Basques to help with the extra workload. Simon never herded sheep, but brought water out to the sheep grazing in the desert. He loaded water into a truck and brought it out to about 8,000 sheep, which were divided into 5 bands. He describes how the bands were divided, and how the herders moved the sheep to new areas every day. Simon piped the water into the truck from creek. He explains the routine for bringing full troughs to the sheep and returning to the creek with the empty troughs. He worked in Hammett for 8 years. Simon worked year-round with his uncle at the ranch for the first 4 years (until 1956), until his uncle decided to make a trip back to the Basque country. Simon took his uncle’s place that year, and from that point on, from 1956 to 1960, he spent a little over 2 months in Boise every year (December-March).
Tape 2, side 1
0-4:30 Simon spent winters in Boise for fun and to learn English. Since he spoke mostly Basque on the ranch, he wanted to work on his English. From the time he arrived in the United States, it took him about 5 years to fully adjust to life in his new environment. He says that the overwhelming majority of people were happy to help him if he made an effort to speak English. He loved to read newspapers, and started reading the Idaho Statesman, picking out the words he understood. His ability to speak Spanish helped him learn English, since there are more words in common between those two languages than either have with Basque. About the time he went back to the Basque country in 1960, he was able to read English fairly easily.
4:30-7:45 During his winter months in Boise (1956-60), he stayed with Julian and Lydia Lachiondo and their two children, David and Juliana. He became a member of the family, and after he came back from his visit to the Basque country, he lived with them year-round for 7 years. He learned a great deal of English by living in Boise and being around people who spoke the language. Simon names some of the Basque friends he met in Boise. These friends conversed in English. He worked hard to learn English, but is proud of his Basque accent, which identifies him as someone from the old country.
7:45-17:45 Simon talks about his first trip back to the Basque country. He went with several friends. He toured Washington DC, the east coast, and Montreal, Canada before getting on a ship to La Havre, France. They toured Europe and arrived in Pamplona on July 7 for the running of the bulls. They rented a car and drove to the Basque country, visiting relatives in various towns. He mentions the places they visited in Europe. Simon did not notice much progress in Spain or the Basque country from the time he had come to the US. He tells of an instance where he and his companions were singing and dancing in a tavern, but were told to leave by police. He says that the police must have thought they were having too much fun. This angered Simon.
17:45-22:15 He explains how he met his wife, Mari Antonia “Toni” Murelaga (see minute 24) at the Basque Center while he was working for Hammett Livestock Co. Backing up to his trip (above), he explains how the idea to start the Oinkari Basque Dancers came out of the trip. His wife was one of the people on the trip. They started dating a year or two later, but did not marry until 1967.
22:15-27:15 Simon became a member of the Basque Center around 1955-56. He decided to join because he wanted to be part of what he saw as an enjoyable social group and an important cultural center. The social gathering was the most attractive aspect. He enjoyed playing cards there. Simon was on the board of directors for two terms: one in 1963 and again in 1973. Each term lasted 3 years, and he was elected president in 1978. He joined the board to help with the work that needed to be done. His wife has also been a member since the 1950s. Simon explains some of the changes he helped bring about in Basque Center membership policies when he served on the board.
27:15-30:00 Meetings to found the Basque Center started in 1948, construction started in 1950. Simon’s children were also involved in the Basque Center, mostly in the dancing programs. He did not need to encourage them; they wanted to be involved on their own. His children are proud of being Basque. Simon started to teach them Basque, but they wanted to speak English when they started school because they were self-conscious and did not want for their friends to hear their father speak Basque to them.
Tape 2, side 2
0-1:30 Simon talks about a visit from a Spanish ambassador to Idaho, but Simon did not invite him to come to the Basque Center.
1:30-5:00 In 1960, he started working for Harris Brothers Sawmill in Barber, Idaho. When the mill was sold to Boise Cascade a year later, he was laid off. He found work at a slaughterhouse called Swift & Company, staying until April of 1967, when the company closed the slaughterhouse. They offered their employees work in other branches in other states, but Simon decided to stay in Boise. He was offered a job as a delivery man for Gem Meat Packing Co. in May of 1968, and worked there until his retirement.
5:00-10:00 Simon and his wife rented an apartment for 6 months after they were married, then bought a house, where they lived until 1985. They built a new home and moved in. Simon tells a bit of his wife’s employment history. Simon explains how he became one of the owners of Gem Meat Packing Co. He describes a meat packing union strike. As a result of the strike, Simon bought a large share of stock in the company in 1972 (see minute 12) and became one of the four owners.
10:00-12:45 Simon has three children: Lisa, Julie, and Teresa. He gives their birthdays and married names. They all live in Boise.
12:45-17:45 Simon retired on 1 January 2001, selling his shares to the two men who now own the business. He mentions some of the things he likes to do with his newfound time. Among other interests, he spends time at the Basque Center, where he plays cards and volunteers to help with some of their activities. He also spends a good deal of time with his grandson. His wife also remains active in Basque Center activities. They enjoy the picnics and dinners at the Center, and have traveled to Elko, Nevada and other cities for Basque functions. He enjoys traveling, and has traveled to the Basque country several times.
17:45-26:45 He calls his friends and family in the Basque country, and stays with them when he visits. Most of them live in Ispaster and Lekeitio. He mentions several of his nephews and describes what they do for a living. He enjoys reminiscing with old childhood friends. He has noticed major changes in the Basque country since he left. Living conditions have improved. If conditions had been this good back in the 1950s, he probably would have stayed there. He has also noticed changes in the people, even though he recognizes that he himself has changed as well. The young people are more outgoing and progressive, but the changes are not all good. In his opinion, many young people have lost some respect for the older generation. Regardless of the changes, Simon is still very comfortable when he goes back to visit. He tells about a trip he made in 1995 with his brother, Julian. He noticed some friction between people in Spain and people in France.
26:45-30:00 Simon gives his impression of the political situation in the Basque country. He sees the politics as divisive, and notices that many Basques do not want to compromise. He speculates that if Francisco Franco had died in 1960, certain factions would not have risen to power. He talks about ETA. Simon thinks that the Basque country can accomplish something concrete if it can present its ideas to the Spanish government as a united group, but the division is counterproductive.
Tape 3, side 1
0-7:30 Simon will never forget the Basque country, but he appreciates the fact that the United States has afforded him the opportunity to make a better life for himself. He is proud of being both Basque and American. He is equally comfortable in both countries. He has no plans to move back to the Basque country, for his family is in the United States. He has made a life for himself here, and says that readjusting to life in the Basque country would be too difficult. He mentions some minor aspects of life in the Basque country are not for him. His lifestyle is more suited to America, where he finds more room to breathe. The farmhouse he grew up in is still in the family, owned by one of his nephews.
NAMES AND PLACES
Achabal, Andrés – one of Simon’s uncles.
Deogracias – one of Simon’s mother’s brothers. Lived in Homedale, Idaho.
Echeita, Alejandro – came with Pete Barinaga to pick Simon up at the airport in Boise.
ETA – Euzkadi ta Askatasuna. Translation: “Basque country and freedom.”
Franco, Francisco – Spanish dictator.
Juan – one of Simon’s mother’s brothers. Lived in Gooding, Idaho.
Lachiondo family – Simon is very close to this family after having lived with them in the 1950s and 1960s.
Barinaga, Pete – one of Simon’s cousins, came to pick him up at the Boise airport.
Murelaga, Mari Antonia “Toni” – Simon’s wife.
Oinkari Basque Dancers, Boise, Idaho – Simon was one of the founders.
Pardo – Simon’s teacher in Ispaster.
The Idaho Statesman – newspaper.
Wool Growers Association – worked with the Spanish government to bring Basques to the United States.
Basque Center, Boise, Idaho – Simon discusses its founding and significance.
Bilbao – one of Simon’s stops on his way to Boise, Idaho.
Cádiz – one of the prisons in which Simon’s father was incarcerated.
Chicago, Illinois – one of Simon’s stops on his way to Boise, Idaho.
Elko, Nevada – Simon has traveled to Elko for Basque social and cultural functions.
Gem Meat Packing Company – Simon became one of the owners and recently retired from this company.
Hammett Livestock Company, Hammett, Idaho – Simon worked for this sheep company for 8 years.
Harris Brothers Sawmill, Barber, Idaho – one of Simon’s employers.
Irun – one of Simon’s stops on his way to Boise, Idaho.
Ispaster – Simon’s birthplace.
Lekeitio – some of Simon’s relatives live in Lekeitio.
Letamendi boarding house, Boise, Idaho – Simon stayed here when he first arrived in the United States.
Madrid, Spain – Simon’s teacher in Ispaster was from Madrid.
New York, New York – one of Simon’s stops on his way to Boise, Idaho.
Paris, France – one of Simon’s stops on his way to Boise, Idaho.
Santoña – one of the prisons in which Simon’s father was incarcerated.
Spanish Ranch, Elko County, Nevada – Andrés Achabal worked on this ranch for an unknown amount of
Swift & Company, Boise, Idaho – one of Simon’s employers.
Winnemucca, Nevada – two of Simon’s uncles are buried here.
Basque clubs and organizations
Preservation of culture