TAPE MINUTE SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-6:00 Gloria and Alicia are cousins. Gloria’s father is Andres Guerricabeitia, from Gernika, who came to the US in the late 1920s or early 1930s to work with sheep. Her mother was Pilar Bilbao, a full Basque born in the US. Alicia’s mother was Asuncion “Suzy” Bilbao (Pilar’s sister), who was born in Shoshone. Pilar and Asuncion’s mother was a Berriochoa from Elorio, and their father Simon was an orphan from Bilbao (from where he took his last name). Alicia’s father was José Ventura Lete, who came to the US in about 1918, at the age of 18, to work with sheep. He never went back to the Basque country. The cousins’ fathers were partners in the sheep business after they married the two Bilbao sisters. Gloria speculates that her father came to find better economic opportunities, and Alicia reveals that her father already had relatives in the US that facilitated his move (like his brother Simon). Neither of the cousins’ fathers talked much about their lives in the Basque Country or their immigrations. Gloria thinks her paternal grandfather had come to work in the US briefly.
6-12:00 Andres and José became partners after they married. Pilar and Asuncion had another sister named Mildred. The cousins describe their fathers’ route with the sheep. The Bilbao sisters worked at the Berriochoa boarding house in Shoshone for their aunt, and probably met their husbands at one of the frequent dances there. Gloria and Alicia describe boarding house life. There were “upstairs girls” who entertained the herders, and dancing and cards downstairs. There were at least four boarding houses in Shoshone. The cousins describe their seasonal schedules.
12-17:30 Gloria and Alicia grew up almost like sisters. They shared the same bedrooms in the winter, and ate all their meals together. Alicia’s family went to the Wood River Valley during the summers, and Gloria’s stayed in Shoshone. Gloria recalls that her father raised hay and grain for the sheep to feed on during the winter. In later years, José and Andres separated their business interests a little to simplify inheritance issues, but they still cooperated. Alicia remembers her mother writing to her father all the time, and Gloria’s mother wrote to her husband’s family in the Basque Country. Alicia recalls that her mother and Gloria’s mother had problems with prejudice as young women, and so Americanized their names and refused to learn Spanish or Basque as a defense mechanism. As a result, neither the Bilbao sisters nor their children learned Basque fluently. Alicia also remembers that the girls weren’t allowed to spend much time outside with the herders, instead staying indoors to help their mothers with the chores, and so didn’t practice Basque that way either.
17:30-22:30 Gloria’s siblings are Cristina and Isabel. Alicia’s siblings are Simon, Anita, Mitchell and Judy. Alicia recalls that while the hired men played cards, the girls did the dishes. Spending so much time around them led some people to say that the girls smelled like so cigars, so they would wrap their freshly washed hair in turbans to prevent it from absorbing this smell! The two families had two bands of sheep. Gloria was born 11 November 1938, and Alicia was born 3 November 1934. Alicia took her first trip to the Basque country to see a relative (Bishop Berriochoa) who was beheaded in Vietnam be canonized. She and Gloria will go to Spain this year; it will be Gloria’s first trip.
22:30-28:00 Alicia and Gloria both went to school in Shoshone. Alicia graduated from high school in 1952. Gloria graduated in 1958. There were many other Basque families in town at the time, which the cousins list. At school, the girls already spoke English fluently. They didn’t really feel different from the non-Basque children, but they were a few cultural differences. Alicia recalls that the Basque kids always coveted the non-Basques’ store-bought bread sandwiches, whereas the non-Basques wanted to trade for the fresh homemade bread the Basque would bring to school! Both Alicia and Gloria were homecoming queens, and in Alicia’s year, all the court members were Basque! It seems the Basques were very well respected members of the community. There were German and Japanese community members in Shoshone, and despite some problems during World War II, everyone got along together well.
28-30:00 Gloria describes the big meals the Basque families would prepare for the dinners and parties they had. In Bellevue, Alicia’s family had no electricity, so they had to chill milk in cans in the river.
0-7:00 Alicia recalls meeting Domingo Ansotegui, who played the accordion at her wedding. They discuss some more of their Basque friends and acquaintances. The girls rarely had their non-Basque friends over at their house, mostly because there wasn’t room. Gloria remembers that her father talked more about his sheepherder days than his years in the Basque countries. Alicia only remembered her father saying that he hated toads because some friends of his had thrown one on him once in the Basque Country. They did used to talk about the differences in food.
7-12:30 When Alicia graduated from high school, her options were limited to domestic life, stewardess (she quips that she was lacking the right body type), secretarial work (she hated typing), and nursing. So she became a nurse, and she still runs dialysis machines today. She went to St. Alphonsus School of Nursing in Boise. After Gloria graduated, she went to business college. The cousins were encouraged by their families to finish high school, but college was their own decision. Gloria studied typing and shorthand in Salt Lake City, then went to Boise to work in the driver’s license bureau. She met her husband Philip, who was in the Air Force at the time. They met at a movie in Boise, and were married in 1962 in Shoshone. During this time (the Bay of Pigs crisis), few men were allowed to leave the base, but Philip was given special dispensation so he could attend Catholic marriage classes before the wedding! Once she was married, Gloria stopped working outside the home to raise her family. Alicia had been dating her future husband Dale when she graduated from high school, and the couple was married a few months later, in 1955. She and Dale adopted two sons a few years later. Neither Alicia nor Gloria recalls any pressure from their families to marry other Basques, and despite a few initial language problems, their husbands fit right in. Today, both Dale and Philip “think they’re Basques”, and help out at all the Gooding cultural events.
12:30-17:00 Gloria traveled with her husband to different countries and states (England, Japan, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, California and Virginia), so it was easier for her not to work. She was very homesick at first, but it got easier. Alicia moved all over the state. The cousins’ children were never extremely interested in the Basque language, but they enjoy many aspects of the culture. For Gloria’s kids, this disconnect may have stemmed from the family’s many moves away from pockets of Basque culture.
17-22:00 Both Alicia and Gloria are members of then Gooding Basque Association, and have served on the board. They are excited about the proposed Basque Center in Gooding, and hope this will help keep the culture alive and focused. The cousins aren’t sure what the Basque community will look like in the future, but they take hope in the current involvement of younger generations of Basques on the boards of the various clubs. Gloria and Alicia hope their grandchildren will carry on the culture better than their own children did. Alicia mentions that her children’s godfathers are both bar owners in the Basque Country, and she is excited to go see them.
22-25:00 Gloria hopes that she can reconnect with her family on her first trip to the Basque Country this year. Alicia has not kept in constant communication with her relatives over there, but is looking forward to seeing them as well. Neither of the women remembers their parents corresponding much with relatives in the Basque Country when they were growing up, but several members of the families made trips back there. The Basque cultural attachment isn’t as strong for Gloria and Alicia’s children as it is for them, but they hope this might change. They have seen the Shoshone-Gooding Basque community evolve over the years: Basques are more respected now, the culture is popular, and so on. Alicia recalls having a Basque dance group in Shoshone when she was in high school, and lists a few of her friends who did this with her. She also remembers that when her father first came to the US, he was a government trapper. Gloria and Alicia consider themselves very Basque, even after growing up in the US. They express a desire to learn some Basque over the next few years. They will stay with Steve Mendive in the Basque Country.
NAMES AND PLACES
Ansotegui, Domingo: accordion player
Berriochoa (Bishop): relative who was beheaded in Vietnam and later canonized
Berriochoa family: operated a Shoshone boarding house
Bilbao, Asuncion: Alicia’s mother
Bilbao, Mildred: the cousins’ maternal aunt
Bilbao, Pilar: Gloria’s mother
Bilbao, Simon: the cousins’ maternal grandfather
Eden, Dale: Alicia’s husband
Gooding Basque Association
Guerricabeitia, Andres: Gloria’s father
Guerricabeitia, Anita: Gloria’s sister
Guerricabeitia, Judy: Gloria’s sister
Guerricabeitia, Mitchell: Gloria’s brother
Guerricabeitia, Simon: Gloria’s brother
Lete, Cristina: Alicia’s sister
Lete, Domingo: Alicia’s paternal uncle
Lete, Isabel: Alicia’s sister
Lete, José Ventura: Alicia’s father
Lete, Simon: Alicia’s paternal uncle
Mendive, Steve: the cousins’ friend
Vaught, Philip: Gloria’s husband
Basque Center (Gooding)
Salt Lake City, UT
St. Alphonsus School of Nursing (Boise)
Wood River Valley (ID)
Bay of Pigs
World War II