TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-7:00 Felix’ father was Miguel Bilbao, from Fruniz. He never came to the US, instead working on the baserri Lekerika all his life. When he married, he moved into his wife’s baserri in Arrieta and raised his family there. Felix’ mother worked on the farm all her life as well. It was a small baserri, but since all the work had to be done by hand, there was always plenty of work. There were usually as many as 6 cows, and Felix cut the grass to feed them and milked them in addition to his other farm chores. The family sold eggs and beef at the Mungia and Algorta markets (Miguel took care of the calf sales, and his wife did the eggs, wheat and vegetables).
7-11:00 Felix was born 6 November, 1924. His siblings are: Justa, Juli, Roberto, Eustakio, Francisca, Pedro and Rafael. He was the second eldest, and his mother had all these kids before the age of 32. As soon as the kids were 12 years old, they were sent off to work to relieve the family’s financial burden. Felix was 8 when he began school, and studied off and on for only 2 years, since there were always so many chores to do. He took night classes for a bit when he was 15, because he was very interested in learning. Classes were always in Spanish, and it took Felix a little while to learn this language.
11-18:00 Felix recalls the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent food rationing. The family had very little money, and got by with the barest essentials. He describes this rationing experience: cities collected wheat rations, and the government came to collect it. Felix himself sometimes had to take his family’s share of wheat down to the grange for government collection. At one point, Miguel was jailed in Bilbao for a few months because he was part of the Arrieta city council, but never talked about this horrible experience. Felix was 12 years old at the time, and describes the experience he witnessed: 2 soldiers with rifles came to take him away, and Miguel didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to his wife and family. Fortunately, he returned in good health, which was better than many people had.
18-25:00 Felix recalls being sent away to work for family in Mungia when he was about 12. Even though this was only 6 kilometers away, he only got to come home for Christmas. This was quite common in the Basque country, though. On the farm, Felix did general farm work, and his parents received the wages. After a year, he came home for a bit, then went to work at another farm in Fruniz. Even though this place was closer, he had to live there, and not at home. At the age of 15, Felix went to yet another house, this time in Busturia, and once again for a year. He worked at his home and for some of his neighbors for 4 years, before being drafted into the army at age 20.
25-30:00 During his service, Felix was stationed in Irun, and had a miserable experience. There was never enough to eat, and discipline was harsh and frequent. He learned most of his Spanish here. Felix laughs when asked if he was paid—the salary was enough to buy half a sandwich a day! He discusses the experience. Fortunately, life in the Basque country wasn’t all work; even though Felix never had time to engage in many sports, the occasional dances in Fruniz were a lot of fun for everyone. Everyone went to church every day. Felix finished with the army when he was 22.
0-12:00 Felix decided to come to America when he was about 24s. He had been working at a sawmill in Fruniz, in addition to some other small jobs when a few uncles working in Idaho gave him the idea to leave home. Felix had been hoping to go to the US to earn money for quite some time. An uncle working for Simplot helped him get the papers in order, and Felix left as soon as possible, even though he spoke no English. He arrived in Boise in June 1951, via Bilbao, Madrid, New York, Carson City and Salt Lake City. He had to wait in several cities, since there was apparently not enough room for all the Basques flying over at that time.
12-21:00 Felix arrived in Boise late at night, and no one was there to pick him up. He managed to find a taxi, and came to the Hotel Boise, the walked around until he finally made it to the Basque-owned Valencia. The Aldecoa sheep outfit was notified of his arrival, and he was on his way to Caldwell the next day. Over the next 12 years, Felix worked as a camp tender. He met his future wife Luisa when he became her brother’s camp tender, but she went to work at the Spanish Embassy in Washington, DC, and Felix went back to the Basque country in 1959 to visit. The couple began dating when Luisa came to Euskadi to visit family for a month. Luisa told Felix that if he would wait 2 years for her, she would marry him. They were wed in May 1961, at St. John’s Cathedral in Boise.
21-30:00 Once Felix and Luisa were wed, they stayed on at the Aldecoa ranch, where their 2 sons, Miguel and John, were born. After a few years, the moved to Melba to work for the Nicholson outfit, where Luisa worked as a cook, and Felix worked on the ranch, for almost 30 years. There were not many Basque clubs in their part of Idaho, but the Bilbao family enjoyed going to Basque picnics and social outings, and the children can still speak some Basque today. Miguel and John became thoroughly integrated in American life, choosing football and basketball over Basque dancing. Through the years, Felix and Luisa have kept in close contact with their family in the Basque country (by telephone as soon as their relatives got one!). Both have taken a few trips back to the Basque country, and still feel very much at home there. Miguel and John liked the Basque country, but were anxious to return to America. Both Felix and his wife are American citizens; he became one in 1960. He considers himself to be both Basque and American, and is proud of both. Luisa quips she first fell in love with the washers and driers here. The couple’s Basque roots have helped them to succeed in their new country, along with a combination of opportunity and hard work.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aldecoa family: Felix’ first employers in the US
Bilbao, Eustakio: Felix’ brother
Bilbao, Francisco: Felix’ brother
Bilbao, John: Felix’ son
Bilbao, Juli: Felix’ sister
Bilbao, Justa: Felix’ sister
Bilbao, Luisa: Felix’ wife
Bilbao, Miguel: Felix’ father
Bilbao, Miguel: Felix’ son
Bilbao, Pedro: Felix’ brother
Bilbao, Rafael: Felix’ brother
Bilbao, Roberto: Felix’ brother
Franco, Francisco: Spanish dictator
Nicholson family: Felix 2nd employers in Americas
Carson City, NV
Hotel Boise (Boise)
Lekerika: Felix’ family baserri
New York, NY
Salt Lake City, UT
St. John’s Cathedral (Boise)
Valencia Hotel (Boise)
Spanish Civil War