TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-3:00 John’s parents were Zoilo and Dolores Echeverria. His mother’s maiden name was Echevarria. Both parents were from Lekeitio. His father immigrated to the United States in 1907 to herd sheep for Noble sheep company near Bruneau, Idaho. In 1914, he sent for his wife, whom he had married shortly before 1907, and their son. Both of John’s parents crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a French ship, landing in New York. John’s mother and brother went to Valentin Aguirre’s boarding house in the city before coming to Idaho. John and his siblings are Leon, Zoila, Benito, himself, Ike, and Dolores. Of his family only John, Ike, and his sisters are alive.
3:00-7:00 When John’s mother arrived, the family moved into Pedro Anchustegui’s boarding house in Mountain Home. After some time, they opened a livery barn in Bruneau. In those days, it took three days for sheep owners to drive their wagons from their ranches (30 miles outside of Bruneau) to Mountain Home for supplies. John describes the journey from the ranches to Bruneau, then from Bruneau to Mountain Home. In Mountain Home they bought groceries and supplies at the Montgomery Blunk grocery store. Each sheep company had a small warehouse alongside the railroad tracks, where they stored the wool they had sheared that spring. Companies from the eastern United States would buy the wool, load it onto boxcars, and ship it back east. If they were short of workers, the companies recruited high school students to push handcarts full of wool from the warehouses to the train. Sheep owners paid for their year’s worth of groceries with the money they made from selling the wool.
7:00-8:15 In June, sheep companies would work hard to finish lambing and get to “first market,” when sheep were just starting to be sold and prices were high. The price of sheep went down after first market. John describes the stockyard that used to exist near the railroad tracks. Sheep were loaded onto boxcars for transport to Boston, Chicago, Omaha, and other destinations.
8:15-12:00 John was born at home in Bruneau, Idaho in 1921. The house was right next to the livery barn. It is still standing, but has been moved to another part of Bruneau and remodeled. John’s family spoke only Basque at home. He failed the first year of school in Mountain Home because he did not speak English. It took him a while to learn the language. He remembers other Basque children in at the school: Domingo and Richard Aguirre, Luisa Uriona, the Gandiagas, the Monasterios, the Sillonis family, and the Bideganetas. To make it easier for their children to go to school, John’s family moved to Mountain Home. They lived in a house behind today’s Highlander Motel. From there, they moved to a larger house in another part of town, then on to one on East Jackson Street.
12:00-13:45 John talks about the sheep owners’ warehouses in more detail. They stored their saddles, bridles, harnesses, and some groceries. When Bill Smith bought Wood Creek Sheep Company (year unknown), he built a new house in town for his foremen. He dug a new basement to store groceries but dug it too deep, causing it to fill with water when the ditch filled with water. Laughing about it now, John says you have to “catch as catch can” and deal with what life gives you.
13:45-15:45 John’s family moved to Mountain Home in 1926. He remembers a few things about Bruneau. His father worked in the livery barn. By the time they moved to Mountain Home, he was herding sheep. While his older siblings were in school, people in town would often see John walking by himself down a dusty street, “talking Basque and kicking rocks.” There was not much else to do.
15:45-18:00 He graduated from high school in 1940. Basques and non-Basques got along well. There were a few Chinese families in Mountain Home. They owned a restaurant and laundries. There were not many Mexican families. In the old days, there was only one Mexican sheepherder in the area: Juan Marquéz. He was a good worker, but was held in Mexico when he tried to return to the United States from a visit. The authorities would not let him leave the country. All the sheep owners wanted to hire him.
18:00-21:30 John remembers the Basque dances held at boarding houses. Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve were special occasions celebrated with big dances. Each boarding house hosted one of the dances every year. John liked to go to the Bengoechea Hotel and the dances, but chores at home kept him pretty busy. His mother ran the family’s little dairy, milked the cows and sold the milk. She did it alone, preferring not to have any help. John helped herd the cows. He enjoyed the fresh milk except in early summer, when the cows ate wild onions, making the milk taste awful.
21:30-22:30 John’s parents did not socialize very much with other Basques in town. His father was out with the sheep, and his mother was busy at home. John’s father herded for several different sheep outfits, but mostly for Wood Creek. John was also very busy at home, leaving little if any time for school sports or entertainment.
22:30-28:00 In March of 1942, John went to work for Montgomery Blunk’s grocery store. He stayed until August, when he was drafted into the US Army. He served as an MP [Military Police] in the Port of Seattle. He weighed 112 pounds, but made up for his size by packing a rifle or a shotgun. John also served in Alaska. He mentions some of his other posts, which include Everett, Washington. During in service, he only saw two other people from Mountain Home. He tells a couple of short stories from that period. John was discharged in March of 1946.
28:00-30:00 After his service, John returned to his family’s house in Mountain Home. The house stood where John’s current home is today – he gives some of the history of the house.
0-5:30 There were no Basque clubs in Mountain Home when John was growing up. He discusses the founding of the Basque club, which is the precursor to today’s Euskal Lagunak. Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Catholic church in Mountain Home, needed a new organ, so the Basque community set up a fundraiser to raise money. The Aguirre family donated a sheep for the auction. The fundraiser was a success, spurring interest for more dances and events for the Basque community. For years dances were held at the Sugar Shack. Later the church built the Good Counsel Hall, which hosted Basque dances to raise funds for the church as well. After that and until the present day, the dances moved to the Elks Lodge. Organizers sold raffle tickets, food, and a cover charge to raise money. He remembers this year’s sheepherders’ dance.
5:30-7:45 John has been an active member of the Mountain Home Basque community for as long as he can remember. He remembers going to Basque club meetings at the fire station in Mountain Home for lack of a formal venue. For John, Euskal Lagunak, the Basque association in Mountain Home, serves to bring the community together.
7:45-9:00 He remembers the renovation of the handball court, or fronton, in Mountain Home. Claudio Bermensolo, a contractor in town and current president of Euskal Lagunak, helped by providing new concrete for the floor. John praises the participants for their hard work. He gives his reasons for wanting to be part of the organization, saying that dance organizers looked to him for help with managing tickets at the door.
9:00-10:00 John retired from the mercantile in 1986. He describes his career. Now that he is retired, he finds time to do as he pleases.
10:00-12:45 John’s sister, Dolores, has made a trip to the Basque country, but John has not. She really enjoyed the trip. As the economic situation in the Basque country has improved over the years, John has seen that the incentive for Basques to immigrate to the United States has been reduced. Many Peruvians have come to herd sheep in place of Basques. The sheep industry has also withered, leaving only John Anchustegui and Wilson (Hammett Livestock) as the major sheep owners in the area. John talks about some of the changes he has seen in the Basque community. He says that most Basques are in professions other than sheep herding.
12:45-16:30 Very few people in the Basque community in Mountain Home speak Basque anymore. John surprises people with his ability to speak the language. He thinks of himself as both American and Basque. He is a life member of the American Legion in Mountain Home and the Eagles Lodge in Boise. John has been a member of both organizations for about 55 years. He joined right after he returned from the Second World War. (Aside: he talks about a shuttle that runs between Boise and Mountain Home. The shuttle used to be rather inconvenient, but has improved recently).
NAMES AND PLACES
Aguirre, Domingo – John remembers him from his childhood.
Aguirre, Richard – John remembers him from his childhood.
Aguirre, Valentin – boarding house owner in New York, helped John’s mother on her way to Idaho.
Anchustegui, John – one of the few sheep owners left in the Mountain Home area.
Anchustegui, Pedro “Pete” – boarding house owner in Mountain Home.
Bermensolo, Claudio – helped with the restoration of the fronton in Mountain Home.
Bideganeta family – John remembers this family from his childhood.
Echevarria, Dolores – mother. (Note difference in surname spelling).
Echeverria, Benito – brother.
Echeverria, Dolores – sister.
Echeverria, Ike – brother.
Echeverria, Leon – brother.
Echeverria, Zoila – sister.
Echeverria, Zoilo – father.
Gandiaga family – John remembers this family from his childhood.
Marquéz, Juan – well respected sheepherder from Mexico.
Monasterio family – John remembers this family from his childhood.
Sillonis family – John remembers this family from his childhood.
Smith, Bill – owner of Wood Creek Sheep Company.
Uriona, Luisa – John remembers her from his childhood.
Wilson – one of the few sheep owners left in the Mountain Home area.
Alaska – one of John’s posts during the Second World War.
American Legion, Mountain Home, Idaho – John is a lifetime member.
Bengoechea Hotel, Mountain Home, Idaho – John liked to spend time at the Hotel.
Boston, Massachusetts – one of the destinations for wool and sheep from Idaho.
Bruneau, Idaho – John’s birthplace.
Chicago, Illinois – one of the destinations for wool and sheep from Idaho.
Eagles Lodge, Boise, Idaho – John is a lifetime member.
Elks Lodge, Mountain Home, Idaho – Basque dances are held here.
Euskal Lagunak, Mountain Home, Idaho – Mountain Home’s Basque association.
Everett, Washington – one of John’s posts during the Second World War.
Good Counsel Hall, Mountain Home, Idaho – the church built this hall as a venue for events.
Highlander Motel, Mountain Home, Idaho – one of John’s childhood homes was close to the motel.
Lekeitio, Bizkaia – parents’ hometown.
Montgomery Blunk grocery store, Mountain Home, Idaho – supplied many sheep companies with groceries.
Mountain Home, Idaho – current residence.
New York, New York – John’s parents landed here after their transatlantic voyages.
Noble Sheep Company, Bruneau, Idaho – John’s father herded sheep for this company.
Omaha, Nebraska – one of the destinations for wool and sheep from Idaho.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mountain Home, Idaho – Catholic church in Mountain Home.
Port of Seattle – one of John’s posts during the Second World War.
Sugar Shack, Mountain Home, Idaho – many Basque dances were held here.
Basque clubs and organizations
Non-Boise Basque communities
Other immigrant groups
World War II