TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-12:00 [Flora begins by reading from a prepared statement]. Flora’s father Polonio arrived in Boise in March 1904; his half brother Bonifacio Egurrola had secured a job for him. At that time, there was a quota system for Basques, and he had to pay his passage to Ellis Island. He had quite a shock working for a Finish sheep owner in the desolate hills of Cascade. Once he had paid his brother back for his passage, he went to work in the Delamar Mines. Flora’s mother Maria Carmen worked as a nanny for a pharmacist in Gernika before she moved to the US. She ended up being the only woman on the stagecoach to Delamar (from the train station in Nampa), and was surprised by the countryside around her. She spoke no English, and often quipped that she would have returned to Gernika in a heartbeat if she hadn’t had to pay her passage back. She worked in a Delamar boardinghouse. By the time she had paid her passage back, she had met Flora’s father, and they were married in 1912. The couple moved to Bruneau, where there was a sizeable Native American population (they sheared the sheep). The tent in which Polonio and Maria Carmen lived was another cultural shock for Maria Carmen.
12-17:00 Flora explains her parents’ move to Mackay, around where many of the children in the family were born. There was a mining community called White Knob nearby, where the Basques had an ethnic enclave among many others. Flora recalls the influenza epidemic that almost killed her brother Paul. Her siblings are: Valeriano “Bolen”, Marcello, Martin, Jesus “Paul”, Mary and Gloria. After Polonio had worked 4 years in the mines, he had respiratory problems, and so had to return to shepherding. The family moved to Challis to work for the Bengoechea outfit.
17-26:00 Maria Carmen cooked for the men along with another Basque woman. Less than a year later, the ranch fell through, so the Urresti family moved to a ranch owned by a Challis dentist named Dr. Phelps. Polonio tended to their sheep, and this is where Flora was born. By 1921, her father was feeling better, so he left the sheepherding business, and returned to Mackay, where the family opened a boardinghouse. Justo and Isabel Yriondo had built the boardinghouse, but the Urrestis ran it until 1926, when they bought their own rooming house (which still stands). They had about 14 boarders at any one time, and all the Basque provinces were represented. The miners didn’t like sheepherding, and Flora’s mother—a very good cook, assisted by Simon Barrutia—never fixed lamb for supper. At the boardinghouse, the family imported many Basque items from a New York company. Flora describes the great food they served and ate. She often helped tie the chorizos, and Simon chased the children around with pig tails. Flora and her siblings all helped out at the boardinghouse, since the family hired no outside workers. The boys in the family did laundry and made beds as well as the girls, but were often teased by the boarders.
26-30:00 Flora recalls some more of the chores she performed. The family ate and did their homework in the kitchen, not with the boarders. Even though it was Prohibition, the Urrestis always managed to serve wine and whiskey to the boarders. Flora and her siblings were beloved by the miners, because the children translated for them when the miners ran their errands. Flora and her siblings always got presents from the miners at Christmas!
0-7:00 Flora describes some of the cultural events that went on in Mackay as she was growing up. As things like the circus went through town, many people came to eat at the house. When the Depression hit, the mine began laying off miners, and so the Urresti family lost many of their boarders. Fortunately, several miners working skeleton crews allowed the family to keep the boardinghouse open. When World War II broke out, the family moved to Hailey, where they stayed until 1946. They then moved back to Mackay. In 1965 Maria Carmen and Polonio moved to Rupert. After Maria Carmen's death in 1970, Polonio moved to Washington to live with his daughter Gloria. He died in 1979 in Washington. Flora's parents are buried in Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.
7-11:00 Flora shares some more of her childhood memories. She recalls an old Native American woman Maria Carmen helped by giving her homemade food and supplies. They didn’t speak the same language, but they communicated. In return for the food, the woman gave Flora’s mother beaded moccasins and other goods.
11-15:00 During the Depression, many family men came through looking for work, and even though Flora’s mother had none to give them, she never let them leave without a hot meal. Flora explains that growing up, she had the best of both worlds: the Basque culture surrounding her along with all the opportunities of the United States. She is immensely proud of her heritage; Basque immigrants to this area were tough, and so they succeeded. The family always spoke Basque at home. They celebrated according to the old customs, including giving gifts on Three Kings Day.
15-20:00 Mackay was really a very multicultural place, with many ethnicities represented. Families pretty much stayed within their own ethnic groups until the children were thrown together in school. At first, the Urresti children had problems speaking English, but the teachers were very sympathetic, and so Flora and her siblings learned quickly (Bolen had some trouble with one mean-spirited teacher). On the playground, the children had fun learning smatterings of each other’s languages. Flora learned quite a bit of Chinese from a friend of hers, and visited her at her home. To this day, Flora still speaks Basque when she really wants to express herself.
20-30:00 Flora relates that she and her sisters were always the errand runners. When she went to the store, she often didn’t know the words for supplies her mother sent her for, but Mrs. Morrison the clerk and Flora taught each other vocabulary (like “ladle”) in English and Basque, respectively. Something similar happened with the German butcher, who loved to hear her call home in Basque on the phone. The Chinese laundry owner gave Flora and her siblings treats quite often. Anglo-Saxon Protestants were in the minority in Mackay, and often looked down their noses at the Basques and other ethnic groups, which provoked many fistfights among Flora’s brothers. Polonio and Maria Carmen always told their children to get back by excelling at life and ignoring the ignorant. The boardinghouse was across the street from the public library. The dear next-door-neighbor, Mrs. E. A. Boone, was the librarian who instilled the love of reading into Flora and her siblings. All told, Flora had a beautiful childhood.
0-6:00 Flora explains why her parents immigrated. In Spain, times were tough, and primogeniture meant that Polonio and Maria Carmen had to move if they wanted success in their lives. The Urresti family had done very well for themselves until the Depression wiped out their savings. Flora has never been to the Basque Country, but growing up, she always felt that she had “one foot here and one foot over there,” since her parents told their kids many stories about Euskadi. Maria Carmen’s family were whalers.
6-15:00 When Flora graduated in 1938; her brother (a herder) paid for her education at the Boise Business University. While attending this university, Flora lived in a private American home and worked for her board and room. She met Jay Aldrich (Hormaechea) at her beauty shop, and entered a Basque sewing club through this connection. There was no Basque Center at this time, until Jay and some other Basques got together to build a place where they all could gather and have good, clean fun.
15-23:00 When she graduated from college in 1940, Flora went to work as a secretary for a few Boise businesses. She describes how she met her husband, whom she calls “Don Jaime.” The Urresti and Aspiazu families knew each other, and she explains how. Flora describes how her husband’s father moved from Gipuzkoa to some mines in Alaska, working at Seattle fish canneries in Seattle, before returning to Euskadi to marry James’ mother. James was born in Spain, and moved to Delamar in 1912. Flora met Jim in 1937, and the couple was married in 1953.
23-30:00 Flora has spent her life being around Basques. She remembers seeing the Landa boardinghouse in Salt Lake City when she lived in Utah. The Aspiazu family settled in Boise in July of 1972. The couple had no children, but remained involved in the many Basque activities in Boise, such as dinners, Easter celebrations and picnics. She commends the Basque Museum particularly for their efforts. Today, she feels her identity strikes a balance between her Basque heritage and her American values as well. She feels she could be very much at home in Euskadi if she ever got the chance to go. Flora says she is “Old Country.”
NAMES AND PLACES
Aspiazu, James: Flora’s husband
Bengoechea family: Challis sheep owners
Bengoechea, Maria Carmen: Flora’s mother
Hormaechea, Juanita “Jay”: Flora’s friend
Monasterio family: employed Flora’s mother in Gernika
Egurrola, Bonifacio: Flora’s father’s half brother
Urresti, Gloria: Flora’s sister
Urresti, Jesus “Paul”: Flora’s brother
Urresti, Marcello: Flora’s brother
Urresti, Martin: Flora’s brother
Urresti, Mary: Flora’s sister
Urresti, Polonio: Flora’s father
Urresti, Valeriano “Bolen”: Flora’s brother
Yriondo, Justo and Isabel: built Mackay boardinghouse
Boise Business University
Delamar Mines (ID)
Salt Lake City, UT
White Knob, ID