TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-8:30 Mary was born on May 11, 1921, on a ranch in Boise, ID. Her parents were Manuel Aberasturi, born in 1878, and Maria Asuncion Basabe, born in 1876, both from Arteaga, Spain. They married in Euskadi in 1901, had 2 children, and Manuel left for America when the eldest was 6. Mary’s siblings include John, Telesfora, Raymond (born in 1910), Alisa, Juanita, and Petra (she had 8 siblings in all). Manuel came to the US by himself to make money, and had bands of sheep of his own after herding for a while; he was joined by his wife after a few years. Since her father died when she was 5 from a hole in his heart, Mary doesn’t know much about him. Her mother died of a heart attack when Mary was 14, and she was raised by her siblings. She talks about her father a bit: he was at one time partners with a Uranga and a Bastida. Mary’s father was gone a lot while she was growing up, and her mother did the housework and tended to the garden. After her father’s death, Mary’s mother was made a partner, and Ray went to work with the sheep at age 17 to support the family. He never kept any money for himself until he was 24. Mary’s sisters also went to work so that their mother wouldn’t have to. Money was tight during the Depression, but Mary’s mother gave transients work to do around the house. Mary recalls the chores she did around the house; she moved to town when she was 7, but still had to bring in coal, clean the house, and so forth. Raymond came home whenever he could get away; the family was renting out the old ranch, but when they were old enough, the sisters signed it over to Ray, feeling that he had earned it.
8:30-23:00 Mary describes her childhood. She lived near the Acordagoitias and the Barrinagas on Ash Street. Most of her school friends at Park Elementary were non-Basques, but she did have several close Basque friends, including neighbor Evelyn Eiguren. She spoke Basque at home with her mother, but English with her siblings. Her mother could speak pretty good English, but wrote all her notes in Basque. She died when she was not quite 58. Several of Mary’s older siblings spoke only Basque, and had problems adjusting to classes, but Mary did not. She remembers being called ‘black Basque’ and ‘Basco’ by a few kids at school, but prejudice was not a big problem for her. She was part of the last freshman class to enter Boise High, right before North Junior High was built. Mary describes her unusual family situation, being raised by her siblings. Once her brother got married, her new sister-in-law was a great cook. All of Mary’s siblings married Basques, but she did not. She met her husband at a Sheepherders ball, which used to be held at the Riverside dance hall (now the Mardi Gras on 9th Street). She recalls that a man once offered to take her and a sister away to help out the cash-strapped family, but the siblings didn’t want to be split up. They had no legal hassles with social services. Mary used to go to all the Basque dances at the boarding houses, as well as the picnics put on by the 2 Basque women’s societies (her mother belonged to both). She got to go to the movies every Sunday (a nickel a show, then a dime; they were always double features), and acted out the show on the streets when she got home for friends who couldn’t go. She used to walk everywhere, including to church at St. John’s Cathedral. Mary describes the picnics, which she goes to even today. She used to walk down to Grove Street as a child to play with the Basque children there. The family didn’t have a car until her mother passed away, and even then she walked to Boise High every day (including back and forth for lunch).
23-30:00 Mary didn’t start going to dances until she was 18. She talks about the Boise High she knew, which at that time offered vocational courses. She specialized in bookkeeping, since she knew she would never be able to afford college. Her first job at an accountant’s began 2 days after her graduation, working for $30 a month. She only worked for this job for about 2 years, then moved on to the payroll department at Gowen Field. Mary’s Basque language skills suffered when she was away from her parents, but she was able to get by alright when she went to the Basque country in later years. She mentions some of the Basque students at Boise High, with whom she spoke English.
0-8:00 Mary doesn’t think it was necessarily easier to socialize with Basques when she was growing up. She remembers that she and her Basque friends went to the army club set up in Boise during the war; nobody wanted Saturday nights, so the Basque girls volunteered to go dance with the soldiers. Mary was about 21 at the time. She remembers that people always dated in pairs. Her husband wasn’t initially allowed into the Sheepherders Ball where Mary first met him, even though he was wearing the right outfit, until a Basque friend spoke up for him. Mary attended St. John’s Cathedral until St. Mary’s was built, so that’s where she was married and still attends. She always saw many Basques at church, and there were special rosaries in Euskera.
8-19:00 Mary worked at Gowen Field until she was married in 1944. She recalls her social life at that time, which had to be creative, since gas was rationed during the war. She lived with her sister and brother-in-law. Mary describes the Sheepherders Balls she went to since the age of 15. Along with the dancing, there was usually a sheep auction. Mary, in recent years, was instrumental in changing the venue of the dances to the Basque Center. John Archabal started the Sheepherders Ball to entertain his herders around Christmas, but the date was changed to accommodate soldiers who weren’t there for the original time. The required outfit was jeans for the men and cotton dresses for the women (to make the men with less money feel less uncomfortable. She mentions that once at a store she was told she didn’t need to show ID with her check because she was a trustworthy Basque. The dances were popular with non-Basques as well, and they were allowed to enter freely until it got too crowded and there were problems with alcohol, at which point people had to buy special tickets for the guests.
19-30:00 Mary met her husband Don Cantrell in 1943, they were engaged 2 months later, married in 1944, and then he went off to the navy. He was shot at by a kamikaze, but came home safely in the end, in January of 1946. Their first daughter was born at the end of the same year, closely followed by 5 more kids. Mary now has 17 grandchildren. While her husband was in the war for 2 years, she worked at Morrison Knudsen and another construction company, doing bookkeeping, but left for San Francisco every time her husband’s ship came in (a total of 3). Mary didn’t work while her children were growing up, but was with the Idaho Statesman for a bit before her eldest was born. Her children are Jeanine, Thomas, John, Judith, Patrick, and Mark. Don worked as a lineman for 32 years with Idaho Power until he retired at age 58. Mary didn’t try to push her children into participating in the Basque culture; two of her daughters did dancing (1 in the Oinkaris), and they all enjoy the Basque dinners. None of her children speak Basque, however, for it was difficult to teach it to them. Her 2 daughters married half-Basque men, but the other kids married non-Basques. Mary retired when she was 62. She visited the Basque country for the 1st time when she was 50, and has been back 7 times, as well as to just about every other county in Europe and every continent but Africa. In her spare time, she still enjoys dancing, and loves to attend football games (she used to travel to all the BSU games—including 1 in Hawaii).
0-12:00 Mary describes her 1st trip to the Basque country in 1971. She went with her sisters on one of the charter trips set up by the Basque Center. She even got to slip away a bit to see Rome. Her sister who was born in Spain had always lived there (the boy had come to the US at 14, but died in his early 20s; the aunt taking care of the 2 kids didn’t want to let the daughter go, since she had no children of her own), and they got to visit her. They had already met her when they paid for her to come visit a few years earlier, in 1953. Mary’s mother left the 2 kids with an aunt because she was afraid they would contract a disease on the ship, but the family kept up correspondence throughout their childhood, as well as sent money and clothes. Her sister visited the US a total of 3 times. While in the Basque country, Mary got to practice her Basque with relatives, but didn’t feel that she fit in well, due to political resentment by Basques against Americans. She never felt uncomfortable, however, until a Guardia Civil stuck a machine gun in her face. Mary today considers herself to be first an American, and then a Basque, and her children consider themselves Basque as well.
NAMES AND PLACES
Aberasturi, Alisa: Mary’s sister
Aberasturi, John: Mary’s brother
Aberasturi, Juanita: Mary’s sister
Aberasturi, Manuel: Mary’s father
Aberasturi, Petra: Mary’s sister
Aberasturi, Raymond: Mary’s brother
Aberasturi, Telesfora: Mary’s sister
Archabal, John: started Sheepherders’ Ball
Basabe, Maria Asuncion: Mary’s mother
Cantrell, Don: Mary’s husband
Cantrell, Jeanine: Mary’s daughter
Cantrell, John: Mary’s son
Cantrell, Judith: Mary’s daughter
Cantrell, Mark: Mary’s son
Cantrell, Patrick: Mary’s son
Cantrell: Thomas: Mary’s son
Eiguren, Evelyn: Childhood friend of Mary’s
Oinkaris: Boise Basque dancers
Arteaga, Spain: Mary’s parents’ birthplace
Basque Center (Boise)
Boise High School
Boise State University
Boise, ID: Mary’s birthplace
Idaho Power Company
Morrison Knudsen Company
North Junior High School
Park Elementary School
Riverside Dance Hall
St. John’s Cathedral
St. Mary’s Church