TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
Tape 1, side 1
0-3:00 Jim was born in Boise, Idaho in 1936. His parents were Antonia and Julio. His father was from Laida, his mother from Boise. Jim’s grandfather (on his father’s side) had come to the United States as a bachelor, but returned to the Basque country to marry. He convinced his 5 brothers to come back to the United States once they were married, which they agreed to do. Jim’s father, who was born in the Basque country, was only an infant when they all moved to Boise. Jim did some research and found a Boise city directory from 1899. In the directory, he learned that all of his grandfather’s brothers and their wives had moved to Boise in a two-year span (approximately), leaving only a sister in the Basque country.
3:00-7:30 Jim’s mother’s parents came to Boise in the early 1900s. They owned a boarding house on Grove Street, then moved to one on 11th and State Street. Jim is familiar with the latter. His mother’s father passed away in 1941. Jim has a memory of seeing his grandfather on his deathbed in the second boarding house. It is his first memory. He did not know his grandfather very well, but he did know his grandmother. He describes the layout of the second boarding house, and remembers seeing Basque sheepherders there. The sheepherders were generous. They often gave money to the children who visited the boarding houses. Jim’s mother was one of 11 children, one of which inherited the boarding house. Today, Nelson’s School Supply and Idaho Sporting Goods stands where the house used to be. Most likely, Jim’s mother was born and raised in that boarding house, but it is difficult to be sure.
7:30-9:45 Jim’s parents probably met at one of the Basque functions in Boise. His father was a banker, and Jim explains how he became one. Jim’s grandfather probably helped him get a job at a bank. At that time, his father’s family was living in Dry Creek, Idaho (Editor’s note: for more information about the Echevarria family in Boise and Dry Creek, see Victoria Echevarria Barrutia’s interview summary). Jim’s father drove from his parents’ farm in Dry Creek to work in Boise in an old Model A Ford. Jim’s father worked for Idaho First National Bank for 46 years, becoming vice president of the bank.
9:45-12:15 Jim’s brothers’ names were Ramón and Robert. His parents spoke Basque at home, so when Ramón started school, he could not speak English. To help their children adjust to school, his parents decided to speak English. As a result, Jim and Robert did not learn much Basque. Backing up, Jim describes how his father went to school in Dry Creek, then went to Boise High School for a while, then to business school in Boise. He is not sure how much formal education his mother had.
12:15-16:30 Jim talks about the neighborhood he grew up in. There were many Basques there, which lent a friendly, close-knit environment to the community. He describes his first day of school, when his mother took him to school and instructed the nuns to do a good job. They did. The nuns were Sisters of the Holy Cross, an order from Notre Dame, Indiana. Jim considers himself fortunate for being able to learn from them for 12 years at St. Joseph’s School and later at St. Teresa’s Academy. St. Teresa’s was an all-girls school up through the 8th grade, and St. Joseph’s was all-boys. Boys and girls met at St. Teresa’s for high school. Even though his older brother, Ramón, had trouble in school because of the language barrier in the beginning, he caught on quickly, and skipped one or two grades. He later became a priest, and served for 20 years.
16:30-21:45 Jim never learned Basque. He remembers stories from his school days, and scuffling with Al Barinaga. They are friends now, but they used to fight nearly every week in school. He describes some of the games he and his schoolmates would play. The nuns at St. Joseph’s would sometimes play football with the students. Jim sang in the school choir and an Irish singing group at St. John’s Cathedral and several boarding houses. He explains the way classes were set up at St. Joseph’s. He remembers the Basque picnics in Boise, which were held at farms before the Basque Center was built. Jim and his wife still feel very comfortable in the Basque community.
21:45-27:45 Jim had many Basque friends at school, but most of his friends in his neighborhood were not Basque. Mass at St. John’s was full of Basques. Approximately 32 Basques were in Jim’s graduating class. He gives the location of St. Teresa’s Academy, which was torn down when Bishop Kelly High School was built. His father sent Jim and his brothers to St. Joseph’s and St. Teresa’s because he wanted his children to be educated in a Catholic environment. Jim lists some of the subjects he studied in school. He was a very good student, and mathematics came especially easy to him. In high school, there was a dress code, but the standards for girls and boys were different.
27:45-30:00 He describes a typical week in high school. The nuns gave a great deal of homework, making it necessary for students to spend time in the library. There was a dance every Friday night in the gymnasium. Student clubs and sports were popular. He remembers playing basketball and football among other sports. He enjoyed the dances, which were a nice way to end the week. The nuns were very understanding of student needs, so they did not impose many restrictions during dances or social events. Jim used to sing at dances as well. He remembers going to drive-ins with friends. Jim enjoyed high school immensely, and was sad to leave when he graduated.
Tape 1, side 2
0-5:45 Before the Basque Center was built, the annual picnic was the only event where a great number of Basques gathered. After the Center was built and the Oinkari Basque Dancers started dancing, there were more venues for Basques to gather. Jim’s involvement in the Basque community in Boise centered on family events and picnics. The Echevarria “clan” had a reunion in 1944, and another in 1976, prompted by Jim’s father’s death. Jim’s children met their cousins in 1976. Jim talks about his parents’ involvement in the Basque community. There were few formal Basque gatherings in his parents’ time. Funerals were another venue for Basques to meet and socialize.
5:45-7:30 Jim graduated from St. Teresa’s in 1954. In high school, he had several jobs. He worked at St. Alphonsus Hospital for a summer ($.75 an hour – see minute 9), mowed lawns, and picked fruit with his brother. After he graduated, he went to work for Idaho First National Bank for 5 ½ years, where he managed operations at the Capitol Street office. He was transferred to the office in Nampa, but since the commute was so long, he decided to look for another job closer to his home in Boise. He found a position as a credit manager at St. Alphonsus Hospital.
7:30-10:30 Before he started working for Idaho First, Jim served in the US Navy. Backing up, he describes working for St. Alphonsus Hospital for a summer in high school. When he graduated, he went to work at the bank as a messenger and enrolled at Boise Junior College. After a year there, he and a friend joined the Navy and served for 4 years. When he came back from the Navy, he found that Boise Junior College had become Boise State College.
10:30-18:00 Jim joined the Navy in 1955. He took an entrance exam, passed, and was sent to boot camp, where someone convinced him to work with electronics. He was sent to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay and studied electronics. From there, he was sent to the Philippines, where he served for 2 years. While in Manila, he met Basque people who had emigrated from the Basque country. He had dinner with one of the families, the Arreguis, and found that their customs were strikingly similar to his. He also met an Hormaechea. He found these people because one of his friends, who married a Lebanese woman in the Philippines, met several Basques at his wedding. The Basque people he met communicated in Basque, Spanish, and English. Jim spoke a little Spanish, which helped him talk to them. On the inside, the Arregui house looked just like any Basque house. He noticed that pictures were displayed in the same way, and the hospitality was the same. When he was reassigned to a new microwave radio station in another part of the Philippines, he lost touch with them. The wildlife in the Philippines was strange and exotic to Jim, and he remembers that this period was the only time he was issued an M-1 rifle. Rebel guerrilla groups made it necessary to carry heavier weapons. Jim enjoyed his duty in the Philippines, describing Manila as a very cosmopolitan city.
18:00-25:30 After his tour of duty in the Philippines, Jim returned to Boise for a month on leave. Afterward, he served on a naval ship in the Pacific. He was able to see many different South Pacific and Asian ports during this time. Jim’s responsibility was to monitor the electronic equipment on the ship. He and 5 other sailors had this responsibility. He describes a Catholic Mass he attended in Hong Kong on Easter Sunday. The church was packed. He attended Christmas Mass in Manila. (Anecdote: Jim describes a trip he took down to Mexico City with his brother and father after coming home from the Navy in 1959. They toured many small towns. In Mexico City, they contacted Joe Uberuaga, who worked at the American Embassy. Joe suggested several sites to see. As luck would have it, they arrived in time for the city’s Basque Festival. The Basque Center in the city was a popular place. At the Center, he met two Basques who were among the wealthiest men in the Central and South America. The festival was very similar to those in Boise.)
25:30-28:30 Drawing on his experiences in the Philippines and Mexico, Jim says that Basque communities are similar throughout the world. He feels a unity and closeness with other Basques regardless of where Basque communities are located. He describes it as an “instant connection” that occurs even if they do not all speak Basque, and gives an example of one of his experiences.
28:30-30:00 Jim went to work at Idaho First National Bank on 1 January 1960. His future wife, Yvonne Urriolabeitia, was also working there. He tells the story about how they started dating. They married on November 1960 in Pocatello, Idaho (see minute 30). Their families knew each other from various functions in the Basque community. Jim’s brother, Ramón, performed the ceremony at St. Joseph’s Church and helped with the wedding preparations. He names the best man and the maid of honor. Jim and Yvonne went to San Francisco for their honeymoon.
Tape 2, side 1
0-6:15 Jim, Yvonne, their best man and maid of honor are close friends. He emphasizes the closeness he feels with other Basques, although he cannot explain it. He describes his honeymoon, which was cut at bit short. They returned home and rented an apartment. Jim continued working at the bank, but Yvonne had quit before the marriage to focus on raising a family. She went back to work when the children were old enough to go to school. The bank was redistributing its workforce among various branches, so Jim found a position with St. Alphonsus Hospital. He stayed there for 27 years, starting as credit manager (for 5 years), then to the department of patient relations (for 1 year), then to the department of pastoral care. One of the nuns at the hospital suggested that Jim enter the department, which he did. Jim worked with nuns and priests at the hospital, and talked to others nationwide about the department. He worked with other hospitals to develop their own pastoral care departments. He details his work. Jim worked in the department for 5 ½ years before changing positions to one in which he helped set up a benefit program for the staff at the hospital. A few years later, he was put in charge of the benefit program and the wage/salary program. He held this position for several years before health considerations prompted him to retire.
6:15-12:15 Jim describes the idea behind developing a department of pastoral care, and explains what the department did. A few years after its founding, the department started charting and tracking patient visits, which helped the department learn about the patients and their needs. In addition, it helped the department train new pastoral care workers. Jim talks a bit more about the philosophy behind pastoral care, mentioning the idea of holistic medicine. Nuns and priests at the hospital would visit every patient at the hospital, regardless of their religious background. In this way, nuns and priests were able to develop comfortable relationships with their patients. Most of what Jim, nuns, and priests did was listening to patients.
12:15-16:15 Jim retired in 1992. He was asked to do some consulting work, but decided against it, preferring to concentrate on volunteer work with the Idaho Food Bank and other organizations. He has focused on prayer and meditation in his retirement, which has led him to a peaceful state of mind. In another volunteer activity, Jim was involved in an intensive series of workshops on Christianity for 3 years. He served as treasurer and helped to organize events. Jim is also a participant in the first parish council at St. Mary’s Church, and the Knights of Columbus.
16:15-20:15 Jim has 4 children: Christy (b. 1961), Mark (b. 1963), Nick (b. 1965), and Reme (b. 1968). He and his wife always kept their house open to friends and family, making every effort to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. Jim mentions a chance encounter with a friend, a priest in Idaho Falls, to illustrate the point. Jim and Yvonne’s greatest joy is to cultivate friendships and enjoy their relationships with friends and family.
20:15-24:45 Jim’s mother’s family, the Arego family, was very musically talented. They played for friends and at various gatherings. He mentions some of his uncles and their musical talents. He even went with one of them, uncle Frank, to the prison to hear jam sessions with the inmates. His uncle liked to play his trumpet with them. Jim would listen to his uncle play, and get a tour of the facility from other inmates. Afterward, he and his uncle would have dinner with the warden. One of the prisoners did all the painting in the prison chapel. Another uncle, John, received a silver star from service in Korea, even though he was a civilian. He mentions other uncles and aunts.
24:45-26:30 Jim’s father’s family owned farms in Dry Creek and Boise. Among them, an uncle owned a dairy on State Street in Boise, his grandfather owned a farm on Gary Lane and Hill road, and a sheep/cattle ranch, Big Springs, close to Grandview, Idaho.
26:30-30:00 In the Philippines, Jim sang while a friend accompanied him on the saxophone. He talks about how he learned to sing by buying music books and listening to the great singers of the time. He was even offered a job as a lounge singer in Manila. Jim’s younger brother played the guitar, and his older brother could “play anything.” (Anecdote: Jim tells a story about going to a hospital convention in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he drove through a golf course and over a bridge before he realized where he was.)
Tape 2, side 2
0-6:45 (He finishes the story.) Jim’s friends loved to spend time with the Echevarria family because they always had fun with them. He developed close friendships with his coworkers at St. Alphonsus. Jim says he has been very fortunate to be associated with many people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and has been able to get along well with them. He half-jokingly attributes his charisma and ability to befriend others to his Basque upbringing. There are elements of the Basque character that enable Basques to approach most situations without fear or apprehension. He gives several examples of this ability.
6:45-7:45 Jim describes what his family was like when he was growing up. Children did not talk at the dinner table, where his grandfather sat at the head of the table. His grandfather had to remind Jim of his position, scolding him for making his cousins laugh during dinner.
7:45-14:00 Jim’s children were heavily involved in the Basque community while they were growing up. They danced with the Oinkari Basque Dancers. None of his children married Basques, so it has been more difficult for them to be involved in the Basque community as they once had. Christy and her husband, Tim, are exceptions, and Nick’s son is learning some Basque dances. Jim and Yvonne took their children to the Basque picnics in Boise, where they were exposed to dancing and weightlifting. He talks about the Sheepherders Ball, and how the atmosphere at the Ball has changed over the years.
14:00-17:15 He discusses his hopes for the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, and the role he thinks it should play. He sees the Basque Center as a good place to gather for social functions. He is not sure what the role of the Basque Center will be for younger generations, mentioning the strong possibility that the Basque culture will dilute a great deal in the future. The Oinkari Basque Dancers behave differently today that they did in the past. He predicts that the Basque Center will cease to be a gathering place once the older generations have passed away.
17:15-24:00 Jim has not visited the Basque country, and has not done much traveling since he was discharged from the Navy. Jim does not feel a pull to visit the Basque country, but he thinks that his wife does. She has relatives living there. When asked to identify himself, Jim says that at an early age, his parents and grandparents told him to think of himself as American first, then Basque. They wanted their children to adapt and succeed in the United States. Jim identifies strongly with the Basque culture, because he feels a strong connection with the Basque community in Boise. He adds that since his health problems, retirement, and growing emphasis on spirituality, he sees himself as part of a human race that is not divided by ethnicity or culture. Today, he sees humanity as a whole more than he did in his youth.
24:00-30:00 In his spare time, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, mainly children and grandchildren. He also enjoys his daily walks, conversations with people, interaction with the hospital and volunteer groups. He can no longer read, but used to be a voracious reader. Jim does not evaluate his life as being either good or bad, preferring to say that it is just “life.” He inherited this perspective from his parents, who did not complain about life, but rather lived and saw their fortunes and misfortunes simply as part of living. Jim’s favorite pastime is talking to people.
NAMES AND PLACES
Arego, Antonia – Jim’s mother.
Arregui – Jim met an Arregui family in Manila.
Barinaga, Al – one of Jim’s childhood friends.
Echevarria, Christina Marie – Jim’s oldest daughter.
Echevarria, James Nicholas – Jim’s younger son.
Echevarria, Julio – Jim’s father.
Echevarria, Mark Anthony – Jim’s oldest son.
Echevarria, Ramón – Jim’s older brother.
Echevarria, Reme Ann – Jim’s younger daughter.
Echevarria, Robert – Jim’s younger brother.
Echevarria, Yvonne Urriolabeitia – Jim’s wife.
Hormaechea – Jim met an Hormaechea in Manila.
Idaho Food Bank
Knights of Columbus
Mitchell, Tim – Jim’s son-in-law.
Oinkari Basque Dancers
Sisters of the Holy Cross – based in Notre Dame, Indiana, this order of nuns taught at St. Teresa’s Academy.
Uberuaga, Joe – Jim met with him at the American Embassy in Mexico City (see anecdote).
Basque Center, Boise, Idaho
Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Boise, Idaho
Big Springs Ranch, Grandview, Idaho – Jim’s family owned a sheep and cattle ranch here.
Bishop Kelly High School, Boise, Idaho – replaced St. Teresa’s Academy.
Boise High School, Boise, Idaho – Jim’s father attended school here.
Boise Junior College, Boise, Idaho – now Boise State University. Jim studied here.
Boise, Idaho – Jim’s birthplace. Also his mother’s. Several street names are mentioned.
Dry Creek, Idaho – the Echevarria extended family owned farms in Dry Creek.
Hong Kong, China – Jim went to an Easter Mass here.
Idaho First National Bank, Boise, Idaho – Jim and his father worked for this bank.
Laida, Bizkaia – Jim’s father’s birthplace.
Manila, Philippines – Jim was stationed here for two years while serving in the Navy.
Mexico City, Mexico – see anecdote.
Nampa – Idaho First National Bank opened a branch in Nampa.
Nelson’s School Supply and Idaho Sporting Goods, Boise, Idaho – stand where his family’s boarding house used to be.
San Francisco, California – Jim went to Navy boot camp at Treasure Island.
St. Alphonsus Hospital, Boise, Idaho – Jim worked here for many years.
St. John’s Cathedral, Boise, Idaho – most of the Basque people Jim knew attended mass at St. John’s.
St. Joseph’s Church, Pocatello, Idaho – Jim and Yvonne married here.
St. Joseph’s School, Boise, Idaho – Jim attended school here until he went to high school.
St. Mary’s Church, Boise, Idaho – Jim was involved in the first parish council.
St. Teresa’s Academy, Boise, Idaho – Jim’s high school.
Sun Valley, Idaho – see anecdote.
Basque clubs and organizations
Non-Boise Basque communities