Juanita "Jay" (Uberuaga) Hormaechea

Interviewer: Mark Bieter
Interview Date: 07/06/1993
Interview Summary

No summary at this time, please refer to the detailed index below.

Interview Index

Side 1


0-8:00              Jay talks about all the sympathy cards she has received; many are

from out-of-state.  She reminisces about growing up on Grove Street.  She remembers the boarding houses and homes that dominated the area: Uberuaga, Belaustegui, Anduiza, Yribar, (Unamuno), Bicandi.  Many of these families had children Jay’s age, with whom she used to play in the streets.  She recalls that curfew began at 9pm, and when a truant officer once told the children to go back home, they pointed to their families, which were all sitting outside, talking and watching their kids.  Jay never did much playing as she got older, since she had to work; her first real job came when she was 13, working as a maid for three months at the Anduiza boarding house.  She recalls sneaking into the main room with all the men to sit in front of the stove when it was cold outside.  She mentions the Delamar and the Arregui boarding houses.  Many places sold bootleg liquor during Prohibition—25 cents a jigger—and one woman even hid her booze behind her nursing baby!  Jay used to live at 614 Grove Street, in front of where the Basque museum is now located.


8-14:00            The children formed tight groups; Jay’s brother used to steal liquor from the

bootleggers and sell it back to them!  Jay speaks about the quality of life for children back in those days, much of which was due to good parenting by hardworking mothers.  There was a lot of petty jealousy between different boarding houses.  Jay worked for the Ysursa’s Modern Hotel for a while, and also recalls going to Sunday dances at places like Jayo’s.  She wasn’t allowed to go to these activities, which were mostly for men, but she sneaked in and drank, danced, and played cards.  She talks about many of the long-isolated sheepherders blowing all their money in area brothels and on “chipies”, or loose girls.  A small percentage contracted gonorrhea and had to say in town for three months to get cured.  Basques owned many of the bars in the area.


14-18:30          Even when most of the sheepherders were out in the hills, Jay remembers that

there were always people staying in the boarding houses during their vacations and so forth.  There was a sizeable Chinese community near Grove Street; a Chinese laundry and doctor were located right next to the Modern.  The Chinese and the Basques got along very well together.  There wasn’t a problem between Basques and non-Basques as far as stores were concerned, because Basques always paid in cash up front and were very creditworthy.  For those who didn’t speak much English, stores hired translators (Jay worked as one for a few places) to make their businesses accessible to such good clients.  Non-Basques often ate at the boarding houses and Basque bars; the Delamar hosted annual banquets for area bankers.


18:30-30:00     People rarely stayed at the same bar or restaurant all night long, but rather hopped

from place to place to socialize with each other.  Private homes often opened their doors to friends and acquaintances during the evenings.  There was often music beckoning from doorways of various establishments, from tambourines, phonographs, accordions, and pianos—especially on Sundays.  (Anecdote:  When Jay was working at the Valencia, a group of very well-dressed, handsome young men form New York City came by, and how they contrasted with the jeans and silk shirts (most of the sheepherders wore them, since they weren’t very expensive at the time).  One of them proposed to Jay, and even though she liked him, she thought she was too young.  It didn’t take them long to adopt the dress style of the locals.  It turns out they were all Basque!)  Jay was well-treated by the sheepherders and the other men when she danced and went out; Basque men as a whole were very gentlemanly.  The older women who ran the boarding houses were very protective of their young boarders; the sheepherders were uneducated and often dazzled by their freedom here in the US, but the motherly women made sure they calmed down.  Early on, there were some men who amassed enormous debts gambling.  Jay herself was fond of gambling for money with the men, playing Muz.  She remembers that most of the smaller boarding houses went out of business after a few years, leaving only the larger ones.  She mentions the cheap food prices—one reason why the boarding houses were profitable.


Side 2


0-11:00            Jay says that quite a few young women came to Boise to work as maids in the

boarding houses here.  The work was hard, and many of them got married right away.  She say that many young women were corrupted by cocky men; most of the Basque men were well-behaved, but a few were very sexist.  Life wasn’t unpleasant back then; the work was hard, but the social life was relaxed and fun.  Women had to do all the dirty housework year-round, whereas the sheepherders were seasonal workers.  Jay remembers having to scrub splintery wooden floors.  All the laundry had to be done by hand, except for the sheets, which were sent out to cleaners, and the boarders’ clothes, which they themselves cleaned and ironed.  Many of the boarders forgot their suitcases in their rooms when they went back to the hills, since they had had to buy new clothes that fit them.  Some of the larger boarding houses had signs out front advertising their service, but the smaller ones on Grove Street were only advertised by word of mouth.


11-17:30          Jay remembers that the boarders who had just arrived from Euskadi were a little

scared, since they had left their gorgeous green farmland behind to live alone for 6 months at a time in the dry hills of Idaho.  When many of them came back for the winter, they went wild.  Jay recalls the dances that entertained the Basques; most of the boarding houses had their own dance floors.  She remembers dancing the jota and several other traditional ones, as well as waltzes.  They danced until 12 or 1am.  Every New Year’s Eve at midnight, all the Basque boarding houses would empty on Main Street for a huge party with dancing, and would end the evening by making a serpentine dancing chain and promenading through bars and hotel lobbies.  Many of the non-Basque neighbors made a habit of watching them annually.


17:30-              Jay remembers that in the early half of this century, Grove Street was lined with

huge trees and was quite beautiful.  There was also a lovely open ditch that ran through the area.  (Jay points out the ditch’s location on a map).  She discusses several of the sights around the Basque community, and also about the delicious food the Basques would prepare and serve.  Basque women had to undertake all the shopping, and so soon became very proficient in English.  They were not easily intimidated back then.  Jay thinks that women were the mainstay of the time.  She remembers the Spanish Flu, which struck when she was a young girl, and how it took the lives of many Basques.  Many of the ones that survived only did so because they drank a lot of whiskey.






Ysursa: family that ran a boarding house

Jayo: family that ran a boarding house

Uberuaga: family that ran a boarding house
Belaustegui: family that ran a boarding house

Anduiza: family that ran a boarding house

Yribar: family that ran a boarding house

Bicandi: family that ran a boarding house

(Unamuno): family that ran a boarding house

Arregui: family that ran a boarding house






Boise, ID

Grove Street: hub of the Boise Basque community

Basque Museum (ID)

Delamar: Boise boarding house

Valencia: Boise boarding house

Modern: Boise boarding house

New York City






Boarding houses