Basque Oral History Project Index
Interview Tape Index
NAME: Irene Dolores Bicandi Anderson
DATE OF INTERVIEW: 08/06/2003
LOCATION: Boise, ID
INTERVIEWER: David Chertudi
INDEXED BY: Daniel Chertudi
TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-4:30 Irene’s father was Eugenio Bicandi, from Ibarruria, Bizkaia. He grew up on a baserri, and his family was “dirt poor.” He was born in 1882. Eugenio was not a talker, but the few things he said about his life in the Basque Country were unpleasant. He never got the chance to go to school. Irene remembers teaching her father how to write his name when she was 15—a labor of love for her. Despite this, he was very good at math. Like many sheepherders, Eugenio was intelligent, but not educated. He arrived in the US when he was 27, in 1909. He had a brother and sister in Idaho, and came straight to Boise. Irene can’t remember the name of the ship he arrived on. Eugenio worked in a stone quarry in Boise, then worked in Barber, then in Emmett.
4:30-11:30 Irene’s mother was Maria Dolores Aguirre. When she was 11, she left her Ondarroa home to work as a maid for a rich aunt. She had a 2nd grade education. Maria Dolores never really talked about her schooling much. She was born in 1892, and came to the US during World War I, in 1915. Maria Dolores’ sister sent her money to pay her passage to America. She married right away, even though they had not known each other. Maria Cruz Aguirre (Maria Dolores’ sister) was married to Irene’s father’s brother, Ciriaco Bicandi. Irene seems to remember that her mother married more out of obligation than out of love; she had left her true love in Spain (even though he later immigrated himself and married her cousin, Juana). Eugenio felt “safe” in Boise.
11:30-20:30 When Maria Dolores first came to the US, she worked for a boarding house for a bit, but after she was married, the couple went to Barber right away. Ultimately, Maria Dolores did much better with English than her husband. In Barber, Eugenio worked in a lumber mill; and this is where Irene was born. She recalls her parents being approached by a close friend name Cipriano, who offered to sell them a house for $4000. The couple accepted, and the Bicandi family moved to Emmett in January of 1925. Irene lists her siblings: Frances (the only one born in a hospital), Margaret, Lucio, Dorothy and Gene; Irene is the second youngest. Lucio drowned in the Emmett millpond when he was 11, on Easter Sunday. One year later, when Maria Dolores was 40, she gave birth to Gene. Even at Barber, Eugenio worked as a stonemason.
20:30-27:00 Irene discusses family life, including her mother’s cooking. There were Chinese farmers in town. In Emmett, Eugenio worked at the mill. She discusses her brother’s drowning, which followed an accident with the logs they were playing on. His dog tried to save him, but to no available. Irene remembers seeing her dead brother laid out on the bed at home, and the sadness that follows.
27-30:00 Irene recalls that her family and the rest of the Basques wherever they lived were quite clannish—but they had to be, since they spoke little English. Maria Dolores was not a person who liked to go out to visit; she never went out to funerals (Eugenio went to every Boise Basque’s funeral, even if he didn’t know the person) or to socialize, but hosted many friends at home. Life in Emmett was different. The Basques there were looked down on a little, since they spoke a different language and smelled like garlic.
0-6:00 Eugenio never used pesticides in his gardening; he always pulled the bugs and worms out with his hands. Irene’s family’s next-door neighbor in Boise was the Basabe family. Since he was a sheepherder for Andy Little, however, he was rarely at home. The Basques were such good herders and were so dependable that sheep owners liked to employ them; Irene’s brother-in-law paid for Basques to come to America to work for him. Irene started school when she was 5 (even though she shouldn’t have been able to until she was 6—she was a pesky child and her parents wanted her out of their hair!). The family spoke Basque at home, but Irene knew English when she started school because her older siblings had learned it in school (Dorothy had spoken no English when she started school!). Irene went to Emmett grade school, and there were no Basques in school with her.
6-12:00 When Irene was 13, the whole town of Barber moved to Emmett, and the Basque culture there hit its peak. She can’t remember being the brunt of any overt prejudice, but Irene and her friends were too happy to notice anyway. She did well in school to set a good example for the people in Emmett. She went to Barber Middle School, and lists some of the Basque kids who went to school with her by this time. Most Basques worked at the mill, and were very honest and hardworking. High school was full of Basques. Eugenio worked at the mill until his son drowned, but a lawyer named Sam Riggs convinced him to sue the company for leaving a hole in the fence so Lucio could get in. Eugenio won the case, but was fired. He stayed home and helped his wife with the boarding house.
12-17:00 In 1925, when the Bicandi family moved to Emmett, Maria Dolores kept a boarding house. There were only Basque boarders, and Irene describes the experience. There was always Mus and music going on. The place was known simply as “Bicandi’s”, and the 7 or so seasonal boarders were almost like extended family. The house wasn’t as slick as some of the Boise establishments, but served comfortably and pleasantly. Irene remembers the boarding house as a very pleasant time. She danced the jota with her friend Ruby Basabe, and even played the accordion.
17-23:00 Irene graduated from high school in 1941 as a valedictorian. She didn’t go to university for a variety of reasons: her father’s illness, resources, etc. Eugenio had bad asthma, but could beat anyone at cards. He even beat “Pinochle Joe” Anacabe! So Irene began working for a general store in town until 1944. Her boss tried to get Irene to join the service. At that time, boys kept dying and recruiters were canvassing the town. Since her boss was denied the ability to serve for being too old (37), he told her he would hire her back if she went. Irene was scared, since she had never left home, but when her cousin Connie Bicandi called to ask if Irene would join with her, she did.
23-30:00 The Navy was one of the best experiences in Irene’s life. She remembers an uppity girl in New York who didn’t know where Idaho was. She left her purse on the subway there—it had all her papers and money in it—but she was lucky enough to get it back intact when a nice person turned it in. Irene was stationed at Hunter College, which the Navy had taken over during the war. Irene trained in New York, marching a lot and getting schooled. Both Connie and Irene tested into the bookkeeping-training program in Georgia, where the government had taken over another college. After 6 months in New York and another 3 in Georgia, the girls requested to be stationed in San Francisco, and they were both lucky enough to be given positions there. Irene spent 3 years in this city. She describes witnessing the test flight of the P-51 Mustang—the world’s first jet.
0-5:30 Irene continues describing her experience with the P-51, which was very exciting. The Navy was so exciting for Irene because she met so many wonderful people. She reminisces about a few of these model Americans. She and her friends were called WAVES (women’s auxiliary something…). She is still in touch with her friends from this experience. Irene enjoyed this because she was young, and submits that her brother believed everybody should experience the service. Irene didn’t really miss the Basque community when she was away after a while (even though the first Christmas was rough). Her parents were so proud, as was her boss.
5:30-11:00 Irene believes her family was so proud of her because she was in the US military. When she left the Navy in 1946, she returned to Emmett and worked for the general store. She met Allen “Andy” Anderson at a dance, and the couple fell in love right away. The couple was married in Boise in 1947, and Andy built a house for them on his GI benefits. Irene had never used her benefits for school, because she felt obligated to help her financially strapped parents with her $30-a-month salary.
11-19:00 Irene worked for a lumberyard until her first daughter was born in 1953. A son, Eugene was born in 1955. Andy loved his wife’s family—especially the cooking—but was not an ambitious man, and so learned no Basque. Irene doesn’t know if there is another war on the horizon, but knows that with modern technology, the rules of the game have changed. Her children were quite involved in the Basque culture as they were growing up. The two danced with a little group in Emmett, taught by Juan Bilbao (born in South America). Irene’s father and his brother were both excellent dancers, despite their being short. Eugenio passed away in 1959. Irene’s children never learned Basque because Andy didn’t speak it. This is Irene’s one “regret” in life, and her kids wished they had learned as well. Irene repeats how much has enjoyed her life.
19-24:00 Irene thanks God for a list of things, in order: being born white (not because this is inherently better, but because this is an acute social advantage), being born American and being born Basque. Her attachment to the Basque culture has always brought her joy, and so she counts this among her blessings. She lists a few peculiarities of the culture: food, dance, etc. Irene’s non-Basque friends never got to experience these cultural joys, but she has many such friends. She recalls the first time one of Irene’s well-to-do school friends in Emmett came home with her: Irene was nervous at first, but got over her inferiority complex when the girl enjoyed herself.
24-27:00 Irene remembers how hot the little Emmett boarding house got during dances, and they had to open the doors. She often wondered what the people who stood in the street outside the house and stared in the windows thought! Irene and her family stayed involved with the Basque culture even when they were in Reno. She discusses how sad it is that most of the Basque men she knew as a child have passed away.
27-29:30 Irene attempts to characterize her identity. She believes she is Basque by blood, but is first and foremost an American. It is nice to be Basque, but this is just a heritage she is very proud.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aguirre, Maria Dolores: Irene’s mother
Aldecoa, Basilio: Irene’s brother-in-law
Anacabe, Joe: family friend
Anderson, Allen “Andy”: Irene’s ex-husband
Anderson, Eugene: Irene’s daughter
Anderson, Julie Irene: Irene’s daughter
Basabe family: lived in Emmett
Bicandi, Ciriaco: Irene’s paternal uncle
Bicandi, Connie: Irene’s cousin
Bicandi, Dorothy: Irene’s sister
Bicandi, Eugenio Rementeria: Irene’s father
Bicandi, Eugenio, “Gene”: Irene’s brother
Bicandi, Frances: Irene’s brother
Bicandi, Lucio: Irene’s brother
Bicandi, Margaret: Irene’s sister
Bicandi, Mari Cruz Aguirre: Irene’s maternal aunt
Bilbao, Julio: taught Basque dancing in Emmett
Little, Andy: sheep owner in Idaho
Riggs, Sam: Eugenio Bicandi’s lawyer
Ysursa, Ruby Basabe: Irene’s childhood friend
Emmett Elementary School
Emmett High School
Emmett Middle School
Hunter College (New York)
New York, NY
San Francisco, CA
World War I
World War II
BASQUE ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEW TAPE INDEX
NAME: Irene Anderson
DATE OF INTERVIEW:
LOCATION: Boise Area
TAPE NO: 2
INDEXED BY: Katie Battazzo and Nikki Bass
TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-3:30 Begins talking about her siblings. Francis, 79 (born 1916), Margaret “Midge” 77 Lucine would been 75, Dorothy was 73, and Irene 71. Lucine drowned Easter Sunday, 1931. Lucine was seven at the time. In, 1932 mom had Gene, she wasn’t expecting him. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. Gene was born almost a year later after Lucine’s death. Irene’s mom was very happy though. Irene realized how strong her parents were with the death of their only son, and a new baby boy a year later.
3:30-10:00 Mom’s sister, Tia Maria Cruz and Ciriaco, dad’s brother came over first. They met and married each other while in America. Maria Cruz came first. It was very courageous going to America because you would probably never see your family again. Brought Irene’s mom and dad over. Mom and dad married over here. Mom’s sister was very gutsy and brave. Mom was intimidating. Six brothers of Irene’s dad except Antonio (the youngest) came over to America. Mom had 6-8 siblings, two sisters and one brother came to America, and the rest are back in Basque country. Irene’s dad had boarding house in Emmett in 1924. Irene believes her parents were married here in Boise. Mom came from Ondorroa. Her dad was a fisherman. Talks about mom and her personality and her hardships. Talks about how when mom came over, she never went to church. Many ladies in town thought that she would go back to church after Lucine died, or when Gene was born. But she never did, she was against the church. Mother was very patriotic for America, but never became a citizen. Only went to the second grade. Dad never went to school. Irene taught her dad how to write and sign his name. Irene’s mom came over in 1915-1916 during WW1. Irene thinks they had a lot of guts getting in a boat to cross the ocean during a war. Dad was from Ibarruri. Went back in 1979, she visited dad’s youngest brother Antonio. Antonio still lived in the same house that dad and siblings were born in. Irene’s mom loved music, and her mom taught her accordion songs.
10:00-END She talks about picnics they had at what is now Plantation. They would be very excited. Irene’s mom would cook a lot of food for the occasion. When the kids were teenagers, her mom and dad didn’t go as much. They let the kids go by themselves. Her parents are ten years apart. He didn’t talk much about his family or his life in the Basque country. His family farmed. Her mom left her boyfriend to come to America. She left because her family was so poor. Irene talks again about how desperate they were to come to America. They were desperate because they had nothing to lose.
NAMES AND PLACES
Francis Bicandi- sister
Margaret “Midge” Bicandi- sister
Lucine Bicandi- brother that died
Dorothy Bicandi- sister
Gene Bicandi- brother
Tia Maria Cruz- Irene’s mom’s sister who married Ciriaco
Ciriaco Anderson- Irene’s dad’s brother who married Maria Cruz
Antonio Anderson- Irene’s dad’s brother who stayed behind in the Basque country
Ondarroa- where her mom came from
Ibarruri- where her dad came from
Plantation (present day)- used to have picnics there
New York- where they docked boat when they came over