TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-10:00 Delphine’s parents were Maria Pagoaga, from Motriko, and John Domingo Aldecoa, from Ea, Spain. Her father came to Idaho when he was 16, and worked for the Mellen brothers. Her parents were married when her dad was 30 and her mother was 22, and didn’t know each other before coming to America. Delphine’s mother worked in the Letamendi boarding house before meeting Domingo, and he at that time was a partner with John Archabal, who had married Domingo’s sister. Later, Domingo and Delphine’s brother Basil started their own sheep company, J.D. Aldecoa and Son. Delphine’s siblings are: Maurina Bowles, Basil, Manuel (a pilot who was shot down during the war), and Benedicta Wilson. She talks about her brother Manuel, and also about her fiancé, who was also killed during the war. Bene and Delphine worked for air traffic control during the war, but were laid off when the men returned. At that time, women who went to college were expected to be nurses or secretaries. Delphine was born in Boise.
10-20:00 Delphine graduated from the University of Idaho, and found out then that the government was recruiting women for air traffic control. She went through all 12 grades at St. Theresa’s Academy. She was at the U of I when Pearl Harbor was bombed. She talks about her pre-college school days: there were 9 boys and 35 girls in her graduating class. Besides her relatives, there were not too many Basques in her neighborhood growing up. Delphine talks about her Basque friends at home and at school. She went to prom with the only Basque boy at school, Tom Lejardi. She loved to swim, and took dance classes. Delphine also enjoyed watching basketball. She recalls learning Basque dancing with Ruby Ysursa at the Valencia, taking lessons from the girl’s father. Delphine also played tennis and took piano lessons, although dancing was her true passion. She talks about basketball games she played in. It was important for her parents that she get a good education; she talks about her decision to go to school. Delphine was only 16 and still wearing braces when she began college. She began as a home economics major at the University of Idaho, but couldn’t compete with the other girls, and so switched to English and got a teaching degree.
20-27:00 Delphine describes her college days. She went home on the train for Christmases, and describes the trip. Girls were not allowed to have a car on campus. She graduated from high school in 1939, and from college in 1943. Right after she graduated, Delphine returned to Boise, and recalls being recruited for the air traffic control. She had to train for 3 months, then pass an I.Q. test and physical exam. Delphine learned about the position at an afternoon dance (set up by Boise women so the soldiers could meet women) at the airfield in Boise; she danced with the head of school. She was only 20, and so had to wait a year before her training, but worked in the base school office with the man who had told her about the job until she was old enough. Delphine talked her sister into applying for the same job.
27-30:00 Growing up, it was important for Delphine’s parents that the kids speak Basque at home, but as the youngest child, it was difficult for her. There was no Basque Center at the time, but her parents belonged to the Basque fraternities and women’s clubs in town. They also went to dances and festivals. Delphine did not notice any prejudice at school. She jumps forward to late 1943, when she became an air traffic controller. She and Bene trained in Seattle, but were stationed together in Great Falls, Montana.
0-10:00 Delphine recalls being stationed in Great Falls. She and her sister were stationed in the center until Delphine bid for the tower job and got it. She recalls her struggle against sexism: women were not allowed to use the microphone until the midnight shift; they had to wear dresses, stockings, and heels; and women were expected to clean the room. After the war, when the other women had been sent home, Delphine became the 2nd woman in the US to run an air tower, with special dispensation from the FAA. She was located in Boise at this time. She describes more problems with sexism, but took matters into her own hands, won the respect of most, and started wearing slacks. At one point, some pilots tried to shake her up by tricking her on to a stunt-filled flight, but she handled it with gusto. She mentions some of the planes she’s been in. Delphine details her job responsibilities. She loved the job, and was constantly learning to keep up with better and better planes. She describes a typical day in the control tower.
10-20:00 Delphine describes a few adventures she had in the control tower: at one point, a man ran out of gas and decided to "take a chance with a girl." He ended up landing fine. Delphine became a supervisor, but wanted more. She applied to be a chief, and had the qualifications, so she got the job. It was in Hillsboro, OR, however, and she didn’t like the weather, so she quit after 4 years, in 1975. The position of chief is the highest position one can attain in a control tower. Delphine kept being promised a transfer, but the government kept putting it off, so she decided to work part time as a travel agent. It was hard for her to deal with the aggravation of airline employees on strike and disgruntled customers, so she quit.
20-30:00 Delphine remembers giving speeches and public appearances for being the 1st woman air traffic control chief. She talks some more about her days in the tower, including a stint in 1972 in which she had control of a tower while she officiated a race, where another pilot ran out of gas. She only worked as a travel agent for about a year, after which she retired for good (1976). Delphine had gone to a TWA school to train for the travel agency.
0-10:00 Delphine talks about the clothes she had to wear during her years as a control tower operator. She was told not to wear sweaters, since it would be distracting to the men. She says that if she never experienced problems for being a Basque, she did for being a female. Many older male inspectors expected the women workers to go out with them. After the men she worked with got to know her and the other women, though, they were fine. Delphine was surprised to see that in Boise, she was expected to be professional and was given a lot of responsibility right away. She doesn’t recall working with any other Basques. At that time, air traffic controllers were allowed to take short "familiarization" trips. She went on one to Washington, DC, to see Senator McClure. He was so gushy about her being a successful minority that he didn’t listen to her sponsorship of a bill regarding the aviation industry.
10-20:00 Delphine talks about her role as a pioneer for women in the field of aviation. She had to be careful not to alienate herself from the rest of the employees; she says it’s a rather lonely job. She mentions some of the awards she has received. Delphine has relatives in the Basque country, and went there for the 1st time in 1950. Her family had always kept in touch with relatives in Euskadi. She had no idea what to expect her first trip over, but loved it very much. She describes the trip. She could understand a lot of Basque, but could not really carry out a conversation. Delphine went on trips every year, but not always to Euskadi; the last time she was there was about 7 years ago. She talks about some of the differences she saw in the Basque country.
20-30:00 Delphine has never been married. She considers herself to be primarily American, then Basque, because she has spent so much time away from the culture. Delphine helps out with special events at the Basque Center and festivals. She had no children to get her involved. She belongs to the Basque Museum, but not of the Basque Center, and she is interested in her heritage. Delphine recalls helping Adelia Simplot. She has been involved with Junior League and other women’s groups. In her spare time, Delphine likes to play golf, tennis, and volunteer at the front desk of St. Alphonsus. She is also an active member of her church community. Delphine is currently trying to help construct an aviation museum in Boise, and has served on the board of a group that works to that end.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aldecoa, Basil: Delphine’s brother
Aldecoa, John Domingo: Delphine’s father
Aldecoa, Manuel: Delphine’s brother
Archabal, John: Idaho sheep rancher
Basabe, Ruby Ysursa: danced with Delphine
Bowles, Maurina: Delphine’s sister
Lejardi, Tom: went to prom with Delphine
McClure: US senator from Idaho
Mellen brothers: Idaho sheep ranchers
Pagoaga, Maria: Delphine’s mother
Simplot, Adelia: founder of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center
Wilson, Benedicta: Delphine’s sister
Basque Center (Boise)
Basque Museum (Boise)
Boise, ID: Delphine’s birthplace
Great Falls, MT
J.D. Aldecoa and Son: Delphine’s father’s sheep company
Pearl Harbor, HA
St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (Boise)
St. Theresa’s Academy (Boise)
University of Idaho
Valencia: Boise Basque boarding house
Clubs and organizations
World War II