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INTERVIEW CATALOG NUMBER: 2018.165.001
NAME: Helen Caricaburu Dyba
DATE OF INTERVIEW: July 18, 2018
LOCATION: Billings, Montana
INTERVIEWER: Patty Miller
VIDEOGRAPHER: Toni Berria
INDEXED BY: Lucas Fritz
DATE OF INDEX: July 6, 2022
MINUTE: SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
0-5:00 Helen’s father was named Peter Caricaburu and he was from Arnegui, France. He was 20 years old in 1905 when he came to the United States by ship, and then by train to Garrison, Montana, in order to work for the Aguirre family.
Helen’s mother was Mary Jane Ader and she came from Louhossoa, France. She did not leave her hometown until she immigrated to the United States when she was 24. She had two sisters and two brothers; her sisters stayed in the Basque Country and her brothers came to Montana where Mary Jane lived. Mary Jane was only able to go to school for under a year before other priorities started to come before school. In terms of work, she, mainly, worked for different families near her house.
Helen’s parents both ended up working on the Etchepare Ranch in Nashua, Montana. Mary Jane arrived in 1921 and the two were married in 1922. Soon after, they began having their children: John, Genevieve, Grace, Marion, Leonard, and then Helen.
5-10:00 Two weeks after Helen was born, her father passed away, leaving Mary Jane with seven children, all under the age of 14. With the insurance money she received from the death of her husband, Mary Jane was able to purchase the family farm. It was 170 acres of irrigated land that was four and a half hours west of Glasgow, Montana. It was basically surrounded by the Milk River. The family raised sugar beets and alfalfa hay. In the fall, farm owners would allow sheep to be brought in to eat the sugar beet tops to fatten them. His was extra income for Mary Jane. Although Mary Jane owned the farm, a man named Howard Porter was the individual who did the actual farming for 14 years.
When she was on the farm, Helen’s main job was herding cows, a job that she hated but saw the importance of. Her brother drove all the heavy equipment and helped with the hay. All of the children in the family would thin and hoe the sugar beets on the farm, so there was always plenty to do on the farm. As part of his arrangement with Mary Jane, Howard was the one who paid the children for working on the farm.
Education was very important to Mary Jane because of the fact that she had had so little. All of her children received their high school diplomas and all went on to successful careers. Mary Jane would always say that she would live the rest of her life off only bread and water if it meant she would be able to send her children to college and to provide them with the opportunity to live a good life. Even though she was a very sharp woman, she never quite felt like she measured up to those that had gone to college.
10-15:00 Mary Jane’s primary language throughout her life was Basque. She struggled with English but she was quite good with numbers because of her experience running the farm. She was always very proud of being a landowner and taking on the responsibility of running the farm. Helen states that there was not a lazy bone in her body.
Unlike many women who came to the United States from the Basque Country, Mary Jane learned to drive. The first car she had was a 1937 Chevy, so she would only purchase Chevy vehicles for the rest of her life.
The family farm was isolated from the nearby towns of the area. They would have to travel by dirt road to get to any destination they wanted which meant they had to battle muddy roads because of the close proximity of the roads to rivers. Helen would go to school by bus and would need to walk a mile to get to their bus stop. When the weather prohibited the kids from walking to their bus stop, the family would drive a tractor through the snow in order to make sure the kids got to school on time.
In 1923, Helen’s father became an American citizen. By the late 1940s, Mary Jane was able to receive her citizenship, as well. Two of her brothers served in the United States military, John in the Air Force and Leonard in the Navy.
Helen and all of her siblings were involved in various organizations growing up. When she was in high school, Helen was involved in the 4H program. Her sisters took part in groups related to home economics and sewing and used the experience they got on the farm. On the farm, the kids had animals that they looked after and took in as pets of sorts, Helen getting a fat steer and pigs.
15-20:00 In between her junior and senior years of high school, Helen worked at Dairy Queen. She had a great deal of fun working that job. She would get rides to and from work from her mother, something that she is glad happened because it allowed the two of them to spend time with one another.
Helen explains that she had an active social life growing up and was involved in many different activities. In fourth grade, she decided she wanted to learn the drums. She played throughout her youth and ended up getting a spot in the senior high band as a freshman and stayed on until she was a junior. She was also a cheerleader and homecoming queen. In her senior year of high school, Helen worked in her school’s office. One day, a man came to the school looking to hire a secretary, and Helen ended up getting the job. After graduating in 1955, she became a secretary with the Credit Bureau of Glasgow and, because of what she learned at that job, has never been late on a payment in her life.
There were many years of bad floods on Helen’s family farm. In 1952, the family experienced a significantly bad flood that caused the family to relocate to town. Mary Jane was tasked with cleaning up the damage with the help of a few neighbors. Every year, the family had to worry about the Milk River flooding, as it encircled the entire farm.
In 1953, Mary Jane decided to sell the farm but continued living on the farm for a year and a half. At that point, Helen got married and began living in a house in town, where Mary Jane moved to once she left the farm for good. After she left the farm, Mary Jane worked for 10 years at a packing plant, wrapping meat.
20-25:00 Helen met her husband, Tony Dyba, when she was working in downtown Glasgow and she saw him driving in his convertible. Within a year of meeting, the two were married. Tony was from Miles City, Montana, and took his skills in sales and love of cars and became a car salesman in town, eventually being transferred to Glasgow. They were married in Miles City because all of Tony’s family was living in town at the time. The couple, then, moved back to Glasgow and stayed until 1985. They began having their children, Paula, Tony Jr., and Bridget, once they got back to Glasgow. They, also, have two grandchildren, Evan and Gregory.
Growing up, Helen’s family had close contact with another Basque family in Glasgow, even though their farm was so isolated. Mary Jane was very close with the Tihistas, a Basque family in town.
Pete Mocho was a bachelor that lived in Glasgow when Helen was growing up. He would come by their house and entertain the family and give them chocolates. He taught Helen’s sister how to drive, as well. Providing the family could make the trip from the farm, they would attend mass every Sunday. A parochial school was opened in Glasgow but Helen stayed in public school.
25-30:00 When Helen was growing up, the whole family would attend confession on Saturday afternoons. Afterward, the priest would always offer chocolate statues to her and her siblings. Along with her two daughters and sister, Helen was able to go back to the Basque Country to see where both of her parents came from. She was not able to meet any of her relatives from the Basque Country on her trip. Mary Jane did not have an inclination to return to the Basque Country but really wanted to travel around the United States.
Mary Jane was very glad that she decided to come to this country and never looked back once she left for the United States.
30-35:00 Hard work, honesty, and gratefulness for what a person has are values that Helen received from her mother and feels she taught her own children. Also to be grateful for the country we live in – the United States. Mary Jane did not want people to feel sorry for her or in general, always tried to stay upbeat. She did not want pity from anyone over the fact that her husband had died. The family was well-liked in the area and made a good amount of friends despite being isolated on the farm.
Mary Jane was one of the biggest sources of help for Helen as a mother, especially when her daughter, Paula, was a newborn and was not sleeping. She would swaddle Paula and rock her back and forth slightly and she would instantly fall asleep. Helen says she never quite got the hang of rocking her children to sleep but her mother was a natural. Helen was very close to her mother and understood what her life had looked like, making sure that she knew how appreciated she was. When she passed away, Mary Jane left money for Helen, which she used for a year of college for each of her children.
NAMES. PLACES, AND THEMES
Caricaburu, Peter: Helen’s father
Caricaburu, Jeanne “Mary Jane” Ader: Helen’s mother
Caricaburu, John: Helen’s brother
Dyba, Bridget: Helen’s daughter
Dyba, Evan: Helen’s grandson
Dyba, Gregory: Helen’s grandson
Dyba, Helen Caricaburu:
Dyba, Paula: Helen’s daughter
Dyba, Tony: Helen’s husband
Dyba, Tony, Jr.: Helen’s son
Mocho, Pete: hometown personality of Helen’s childhood
Porter, Howard: farm worker on the Caricaburu farm
Miles City, Montana
Life on the Farm