TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-8:00 [NOTE: Simon is barely audible throughout his part of the interview; an ‘*’ denotes an audible snippet]. Simon’s father was Justo Corta, from some unknown region in the Basque Country, and his mother was Maria Ocamica, from Ispaster. Bizkaia. They never talked about their experiences in the Basque Country, or their immigrations. Both came to the US around the turn of the century, and were among the first Basques in the West. Justo and Maria started a ranch in Soldier Creek, where they grew hay and raised sheep and cattle. It was known as the Corta ranch, and the brand was a JZ*. There were about 2400 head of sheep and many cattle. Justo was an excellent horseman*, and was very happy with the “cowboy” lifestyle. Justo bought the ranch from Charles Deacon, after a very brief stint as a cook for a sheepherder. The Corta family had the ranch until Fred Eiguren bought it in 1951.
8-14:00 Simon recalls going to school in Jordan Valley, which was about 25 miles away from Soldier Creek. The whole family moved into a house there during the winters. His siblings are Joe, Evelyn, Mike, Louie, Ed, Emilia, Jim, Carmen, Ben and Eugenia; Simon is the seventh oldest. The family spoke Basque at home, and had to learn most of their English at school. Justo spoke English pretty well; he had learned before he became a citizen in 1901*. His parents encouraged them to go to school, but most kids only went through 8th grade, then went to work for one of the local sheep companies. Simon recalls some of the area sheep owners, including Simon Erquiaga, Johnny Little, and others. There were three shearing stations nearby, and most of the sheep coming through Jordan Valley and Soldier Creek started out in Nampa. Maria fed the herders who passed by very well*. The family had to come to Jordan Valley once a season to do their grocery shopping*, and stored all the food on their ranch.
14-18:30 Simon recalls having shearers come out to the ranch to shear the sheep, and truckers bought the wool in May and took them away. He describes the big bags*, which were rolled into the trucks up a ramp. Simon spoke little English when he started school, and was afraid to go. It didn’t take him long to adjust to the new language, though. He felt comfortable by the 2nd grade, but really enjoyed being let out during the summer. When he was 16, Simon started working with sheep. He was a camptender for one summer, then upgraded to herder for his family’s sheep.
18:30-28:30 Simon describes working on the ranch with all the other Basque men; his mother cooked for all of them and they ate at a huge table*. Simon felt in his element with this crowd. He started smoking with the men around this time*. He lists some of the supplies a herder required, which included a rifle. Simon herded sheep for about ten years before he went to the war, but unlike the other herders, Simon only got room and board! In 1941, he was drafted—the first Basque from Jordan Valley*. He served in Europe (including Italy), and even went to Casablanca and Tunisia. His brother Jim was the only other Basque he knew about in the service at the same time. It was difficult for Simon to be away from home for 4.5 years. Someone close to him died in the front lines in Italy. He was happy to go home, where he met his wife.
28:30-30:00 Elbeda’s father was Sebastian “Frank” Larrocea and her mother was Florentina Urresti. Sebastian was from Ibarrangelua, Bizkaia, and Florentina was from Oleta. Sebastian came to the US as a stowaway/cook on a ship, and headed straight to Boise. Florentina arrived a year later, and the couple was soon married; they had known each other in Spain.
0-4:00 Florentina had come to the US to work as a cook for her brother, who was a prominent sheep owner in the area. She probably met Sebastian at the Letamendi boarding house. They were wed on 20 September 1908, in Silver City, ID. Sebastian was a freight driver for the Delamar mines in Silver City at the time.
4-10:00 Elbeda’s siblings are Jim, Boni, Julio, Inez, Bida, and Begonia and Fidel; she is the second youngest. Sebastian bought a ranch in Arock in 1914, but had run freight for the mines and a stone quarry before that. At this time, only the 3 eldest children had been born. Fidel still owns the ranch today. They raised sheep and cattle, and hired extra help only during haying and lambing season. While her husband managed the ranch work, Florentina did most of the cooking. Elbeda helped her mother with the household chores, but the older girls worked with their brothers in the fields.
10-17:00 The family spoke a lot of Basque at home, but only the two eldest boys did not speak English by the time they started school. There was a young Basque teacher in town named Alice Ascuenaga. The old school is now a church. Elbeda went through 8 grades there. Life in Arock was good. The neighbors were mostly Basque, and they frequently socialized together. Elbeda and Simon compare Arock and Jordan Valley, saying that they were similar in the percentage of Basque families who were there, and in the number of boarding houses (she lists their owners, including the Eloriagas). Almost everything Elbeda’s family needed was in Arock, and people rarely went to Boise. The big social events back then were dances, which were frequent, as well as handball tournaments. Simon and Elbeda both loved going to these. All the boarding houses took turns hosting dances and parties back then. Bootlegging was quite common, and people took care of each other to make sure the police didn’t catch on!
17-23:30 Simon and Elbeda met at a Jordan Valley dance right after he got out of the service. They were married in 1946 in Winnemucca, Nevada, and opened a gas station called the Basque Station for which Elbeda kept the books. After they grew tired of this, they moved to Blue Mountain, where Dan was born in 1949. Simon did work for the Highway Department. The family moved to Jordan Valley in 1950, and both of them bought shares in and worked at the Conoco station in town. When Elbeda retired, Dan ran the station and his wife kept the books. Simon ran the station for thirty years until his heart attack, when Dan took over.
23:30-30:00 Dan never really took much of an interest in the Basque culture. He grew up speaking English, and had many American friends in school. His Basque friends never spoke Euskera. A lot of changes separated Simon and Elbeda’s childhoods from Dan’s. Many Basques moved out, Americans moved in, and schools changed. Through the years, Jordan Valley saw a few Irish, German and Scottish families as well, and everyone got along quite well. There are no Basque clubs or organizations in Jordan Valley, but the Corta family drove to Nampa often. There were no Basque picnics nearby, but there were dances several times a month, and rodeos as well. Neither Simon nor Elbeda ever felt a strong desire to visit the Basque Country, and so have not taken any trips there.
0-3:30 Elbeda remembers some of her former neighbors in Jordan Valley. Both Simon and Elbeda today consider themselves as Basque*. They have a lot of American friends, but they feel a strong attachment to their heritage.
NAMES AND PLACES
Ascuenaga, Alice: teacher in Arock
Corta, Ben: Simon’s brother
Corta, Carmen: Simon’s sister
Corta, Ed: Simon’s brother
Corta, Emilia: Simon’s sister
Corta, Evelyn: Simon’s sister
Corta, Jim: Simon’s brother
Corta, Joe: Simon’s brother
Corta, Justo: Simon’s father
Corta, Louie: Simon’s brother
Corta, Mike: Simon’s brother
Corta, Eugenia: Simon’s sister
Deacon, Charles: sold Justo the Corta Ranch
Eiguren, Fred: bought the Corta Ranch
Eloriaga family: operated an Arock boarding house
Erquiaga, Simon: Oregon sheep owner
Letamendi family: operated a Boise boarding house
Little, Johnny: Oregon sheep owner
Ocamica, Maria: Simon’s mother
Larrocea, Bea: Elbeda’s sister
Larrocea, Begonia: Elbeda’s sister
Larrocea, Boni: Elbeda’s brother
Larrocea, Fidel: Elbeda’s brother
Urresti, Florentina: Elbeda’s mother
Larrocea, Inez: Elbeda’s sister
Larrocea, Jim: Elbeda’s brother
Larrocea, Julio: Elbeda’s brother
Larrocea, Sebastian “Frank”: Elbeda’s father
Basque Station (OR)
Blue Mountain, OR
Delamar Mines (Silver City, ID)
Jordan Valley, OR
Silver City, ID
Soldier Creek, OR
World War II