TAPEMINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
Tape 1, side 1
*Note: Interview questions were directed to each narrator, Petra and Juanita “Jay”, in turn. This index serves as a summary of information for both women. Petra, Juanita, and Mary are sisters.
0-7:45 Their parents were Manuel Aberasturi and María Asunción Basabe, both from Arteaga, Bizkaia. Manuel came to the United States first, then sent for his wife, who arrived in Boise by train. María Asunción had a good experience on the train, which lifted her spirits and gave her a good first impression of the United States. (Mary Cantrell adds to the story, saying that their mother had a good head for numbers). Juanita adds that their father was also very intelligent, for even though he was illiterate, he came to the US and eventually owned a sheep company. He eventually learned to sign his name. Juanita explains that when her father worked as herder, the herders were paid in sheep, not in money. It was a common practice. His sheep company did not have a name; it is better described as a partnership. It did not take him long to have enough sheep for a band, and Juanita describes his brand (circle-bar-bar) and what it looked like.
7:45-11:30 The sisters talk about when their father immigrated to the US, deciding that it must have been around 1907. They list their siblings, including themselves: Juan, Teles, Ramón, Elisa, Juanita, Petra, and Mary. Juan and Teles were born in Spain in 1902 and 1905. Their mother brought Juan to the US with her, but Teles was left behind because they felt she was too young for the difficult voyage by ship. Teles stayed in the Basque country and ended up settling there, but has visited her siblings in the United States. Juan was about 14 years old when he came to help his father at the sheep ranch. He died at the age of 23 from a botched thyroid surgery. Petra remembers her parents buying the sheep ranch, but having to live in a tent at the ranch until the house was built. While one of their herders was cleaning his gun, the gun went off and their mother was shot in the leg. She recovered, but had a nasty scar from the incident.
11:30-16:30 Juanita was in the 1st grade when the family moved to the sheep ranch (around 1921). The ranch had 3 rivers going through it, making it an ideal location. She remembers living in the tents and sleeping in bedrolls while the house was being built. The house and ranch buildings are no longer standing. The Highline Canal, Mason Creek, and the Ridenbaugh Canal, which ended at the ranch, were the sources of water. Juanita jokes that even with all that water, none of her sisters learned to swim. The ranch was in the Highline district, where Highline Canal started. Their mother cooked for the family, the workers, and the shearers in the spring. Her hands were always full. The sisters grew up on the ranch; Juanita was 13 when they left. She went to Saint Teresa’s Academy in Boise, starting as a freshman in high school. Their father’s death in August of 1926 prompted the move to Boise.
16:30-19:15 Backing up, the sisters explain that they moved to the sheep ranch in 1921, but moved to Boise around 1926-28, shortly after their father died. Mary was 7 years old when they moved. Juanita explains that their uncle, Ramon Bastida, joined their mother and became a partner in the sheep outfit after their father passed away. They moved the sheep close to Lake Hazel, but it did not take long for them to sell the outfit.
19:15-23:45 Petra describes life on the sheep ranch. Mary shares a memory of ruining a dress her mother had just bought for her. Juanita says that they loved the lambs and learned to enjoy Rocky Mountain Oysters. She describes how best to prepare them. Mary says that they are best when they are fried. The sisters discuss how best to enjoy the delicacy before switching back to describing the ranch. Juanita and Petra talk about their commissary wagon, drawn by horses, and Mary adds that their father was very kind to the horses.
23:45-30:00 While living on the ranch, they went to school in Highline. Classes were taught in a two-room schoolhouse. Juanita explains how she skipped a grade, as did Petra (see below), allowing them to graduate from high school early. It was difficult for Juanita to find a job since she graduated at 16 in the middle of the Depression. Mary did not skip a grade, so she graduated late (at 19). She explains why. When Juanita started working, she made $75 a month, handing all of it but $1.00 over to her mother to help the family. The $.50 she kept every two weeks went to pay for her lunch. Back on the ranch, Juanita taught Petra how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply fractions so that she could skip a grade in grade school. The sisters describe their house in Boise, which was in a rough neighborhood by the Boise River. Juanita remembers the New Year procession from boarding house to boarding house. Basques would dance at the boarding houses and do the jota on the street as they walked from one place to another during the celebration. Boise city authorities put an end to dancing in the streets after a few years, for they thought that it was too dangerous.
Tape 1, side 2
0-2:00 John Archabal started the Sheepherders Dances in Boise in December. Boys had to wear jeans, girls wore housedresses. Mary says it was difficult to find cotton dresses in the middle of December.
2:00-7:30 Their mother spoke Basque in the home, as did Juanita to her children, but Juanita’s daughter wanted her to speak English in front of her friends. Juanita and Petra spoke Basque with their husbands, but Mary did not marry a Basque man, so she says her ability to speak the language slipped away after she left home. The family also went to the Basque picnics in Boise. (Juanita remembers playing softball on the ranches, and the sisters chat about tennis). Juanita explains how it was that she and Elisa went to high school at St. Teresa’s Academy, but Petra and Mary went to Boise High School. Petra wanted to go to public school to learn some homemaking and secretarial skills, knowing that she would not be able to go to college to prepare for the workforce. Petra learned how to can tomatoes and peaches in high school, and was excited to show her mother what she had learned. Petra and Mary had the choice to go to St. Teresa’s but decided on Boise High School instead.
7:30-10:00 Petra does not remember any instances of prejudice or discrimination for being Basque, but Juanita and Mary remember being called “black basco”. They had no trouble adjusting to speaking English when they started school in Highland.
10:00-12:45 Juanita has vivid memories of dancing at the boarding houses during high school. Petra was very shy in high school. She did not go to many dances, preferring to keep to herself and study. The three sisters were very active in the Basque community. Petra and Juanita graduated at the age of 16, and Mary graduated at 19.
12:45-16:00 After she graduated in 1932, Juanita had difficulty finding work. She looked for a job for about 8 months before she found one as a secretary. Petra graduated in 1935, but found work easily. Dick Cornell, a friend of the family, offered her a secretarial position at a bank right after she graduated. He knew the position the family was in, and saw that they needed help. Petra worked at the bank for 7 ½ years, and married her husband, John Asumendi, in the meantime. After she married, John went into the service, and Petra started working for Morrison Knudsen. She eventually became executive secretary for Mr. Morrison.
16:00-24:30 Backing up, Petra explains how she met her husband at the bank where both worked. They dated for about 3 ½ years before they married. Petra put off marrying until she and Juanita finished putting Mary through school. They supported her after their mother died. Mary and Petra are grateful to Juanita for making a home for them even after they married and their husbands went off to war. Petra details her husband’s 2-year military service. During his service, from 8 February 1944 to 8 February 1946, Petra lived with Juanita. Petra explains how she started working for MK, and how she became Mr. Morrison’s executive secretary. She worked for him until 1983, when she retired. She mentions some of the projects MK was working on while she was with them.
24:30-30:00 Juanita talks about her work history. Her first job was during the Depression for Homeowners’ Loan Corporation. The corporation helped homeowners make their mortgage payments during the Depression. Next, she worked for the Public Works Administration, a federal agency that constructed public buildings at a lower cost to the public (they were subsidized by the federal government). For the last 20 or so years, she worked for doctors in the Boise area as a secretary. She mentions the first and last doctors: Dr. Robert Smith and Dr. Sorensen. She raised her children, Micaela, Daniel, and Mona, while she was working for doctors. Micaela was born in 1942, Daniel in 1945, and Mona in 1955. Juanita retired in 1981, at the age of 66. She learned a great deal about medicine from the doctors she worked for. Juanita, Petra, and Mary all enjoyed their jobs.
Tape 2, side 1
0-9:45 While they were growing up, their parents told them what the Basque country was like and taught them the language. With her children, Juanita tried to teach Basque to her children until they asked her to speak English with them. Even so, she enrolled her children in Basque dancing, taught by Juanita “Jay” Hormaechea, and took them to events held at the Basque Center. Juanita and Petra joined the Basque Center because they wanted to be a part of it; they were proud of their heritage and wanted to participate in the Basque community. They enjoy Basque Center events because they get a chance to see people they would not otherwise see. All three sisters notice a special bond between Basque people. They can feel a difference when they walk into a room full of Basque people, even if they do not know the people’s names. Petra’s husband was very involved in the Center, and served as president for a term. Juanita’s husband played cards there every day after he retired. Juanita and Petra speak Basque with anyone who comes from the Basque country, and enjoy the opportunity to do so. Petra sees it as good practice.
9:45-12:00 Petra and Juanita talk about the different types of Basque food they prepare.
12:00-23:45 Before visiting the Basque country for the first time, Petra and Juanita did not realize it would be so beautiful. They were able to see where their parents came from, and mention the poverty their parents faced as children. Their father went away to be a cabin boy at the age of 6. Petra visited for the first time in 1960, and Mary in 1971. Juanita does not remember the exact year of her first visit. They decided to visit because their sister, Teles, lived in Spain. Petra and Juanita write to her frequently, and have brought her to the United States 4 times. Teles enjoyed the United States, but commented on how dry the climate was. Petra and Juanita discuss the difference in climate between Idaho and the Basque country. On their visits to Guernica, they noticed cultural differences between the people in the United States and the Basque country. They took every opportunity to speak Basque. Petra has visited 12 times (11 times with John). Juanita has visited 4 times, and Mary 7. As they went back to visit, they noticed changes in the country and the people. They describe a few of the changes.
23:45-27:45 They did not notice any differences between Basques in the old country and those in the United States. They cannot see themselves living in the Basque country, even though they are comfortable when they visit.
27:45-30:00 Juanita’s children have not shown very much interest in learning the Basque language or participating in Basque events. Petra and Juanita mention some of the Basque pastries they enjoy. Juanita does not give it much thought, but she thinks of herself as an American, but one that is proud of her heritage. Mary is more strongly American, but is also proud of being Basque. Petra also identifies more strongly with being American, but talks about her license plate, which reads “Happiness is being Basque.” She talks about what this means to her. The sisters talk about an interesting phenomenon: their children’s friends looked at the Basque culture and wanted to be part of it. Many of them said that wished they were Basque as well.
Tape 2, side 2
0-1:00 They finish their discussion of the phenomenon.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aberasturi, Elisa – another sister.
Aberasturi, Juan – their oldest brother.
Aberasturi, Manuel – their father.
Aberasturi, Ramón – another brother.
Aberasturi, Teles – their sister. Lives in the Basque country.
Archabal, John – started the Sheepherders Dances in Boise.
Asumendi, John – Petra’s husband.
Basabe, María Asunción – their mothers.
Bastida, Ramón – an uncle who stepped in to help their mother with the sheep ranch after their father passed
Cornell, Dick – offered Petra a job at a bank in Boise.
Daniel – Juanita’s second child.
Hormaechea, Juanita “Jay” – taught Basque dancing in Boise.
Micaela – Juanita’s first child.
Mona – Juanita’s youngest child.
Smith, Robert – one of the doctors Juanita worked for.
Sorensen – the last doctor Juanita worked for.
Arteaga, Bizkaia – their parents’ birthplace.
Basque Center, Boise, Idaho – all three sisters are members.
Boise High School, Boise, Idaho – Petra and Mary went to high school here.
Boise River – when they moved to Boise, they lived in a neighborhood by the River.
Boise, Idaho – birthplace and current residence of Petra, Juanita, and Mary.
Guernica – all three sisters have visited this city.
Highline Canal – one of the sources of water on the family’s sheep ranch.
Highline District, Idaho – location of the family’s sheep ranch.
Homeowners’ Loan Corporation – Juanita’s first employer.
Lake Hazel – After their father died, their mother and Mr. Bastida moved the sheep to Lake Hazel.
Mason Creek – one of the sources of water on the family’s sheep ranch.
Morrison Knudsen, Boise, Idaho (MK) – Petra’s lifelong employer.
Public Works Administration – Juanita’s second employer.
Ridenbaugh Canal – one of the sources of water on the family’s sheep ranch.
Saint Teresa’s Academy, Boise, Idaho – Juanita went to high school here.
Basque clubs and organizations
The Basque country
The Great Depression
World War II