KBOI Basque Radio Program, Boise, Idaho

Espe Alegria, speaker of the Radio Program during 30 years.

Isolation, both in language and distance, was one of the biggest issues that the Basque immigrants found when they reached America. To solve this problem, some Basque communities took the initiative to create radio programs in their cities to help to overcome this isolation.

In 1948 certain Boise Basques (Julian Lachiondo, Juan ‘Tacolo’ Chacartegui, and John Bastida, according to information provided by Inaki Eiguren) took a step forward and got 30 minutes of free air time for a Sunday radio show at the recently founded KDSH radio station which in 1955 became KBOI. Accordingly, some members of the recently created Basque Center (1949), volunteered to be hosts on this 30 minute program which became the first radio show broadcast entirely in Basque in the USA, later followed by radio programs in Buffalo, Wyoming, Euskaldun Ordua, and Elko Nevada, The Basque Program.

 The format consisted of three parts:

  •        Music hits (classics or new tunes) coming from Spain and the Basque Country.
  •         Social news of the Basque community such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.
  •        Local news and weather broadcasts
  •        International news and sports scores from Spain or France.

The KBOI Basque radio show was the only way for many of the Basques in the Treasure Valley to get news from their homeland.

Over the years, it had four volunteer hosts:

Julian Lachiondo, from Ibarrangelu, Bizkaia, was the first long time host.

                  ·         He apparently got the idea for a Basque radio program from Dar Dodds, a local radio personality.

                  ·         The show began airing on Sunday nights from 8:00-8:30 p.m. on KDSH (changed to KBOI-AM in 1955) in Boise.

                  ·         As a music lover, Julian owned lots of Basque music LPs that he used on the show.

Cecilio Jayo, from Aulestia-Murelega, Bizakaia

                  ·         Active on and off from 1955 to 1975.

                  ·         He broadcasted from the KBOI studio and also recorded and prepared some programs at his home.

                  ·         When Cecil had summers off, Espe Alegria filled in, and vice-versa when Espe later hosted the show.

                  ·         He got information about what was going on in the Basque Country through letters from family and another friends in Spain.

                  ·         He also borrowed LP’s from Julian Lachiondo and got others from Spain.

Cecilio is the only currently living broadcaster and he is still active in the Basque community in Boise.

Espe Alegria, from Legazpi, Gipuzkoa

·         Espe was the hostess first on KGEM for 1 year, then on KBOI for 26 years (1955-1982)

·         She was known as the “Voice of the Basques” among her listeners.

·         She was the longest running host on the Boise program and according to local historians arguably the most successful because of her social and immigration connections.

·         She did interviews with many visitors from the old country, including important sports professionals and politicians.

Inaki Eiguren, from Boise, Idaho

·         First broadcast on KBOI on September 5, 1982.

·          His show aired Sunday nights from 10:30-11:00 (this late time slot was probably one of the main reasons for a decrease in listeners during the last year)

·         Euzkaldunak provided financial support.

 

So, it came to be that the Boise radio show, later named the Voice of the Basque by Espe Alegria, was the first time any radio show in the American West was broadcast entirely in the Basque language. It stayed on the air for 30 years.

These radio programs played an important part in the development of the Basque communities of North America thanks to the hard work and dedication of the volunteer hosts who persevered for years, not only to lessen the isolation of the sheepherders in the hills, but also to bring together the local Basques and give them stronger a sense of community. Even more significant, all this was taking place during the darkest years of the Franco dictatorship.

 KBOI’s signal was so strong that the program could be heard in areas of all the western states from Canada to Mexico.  Espe Alegria’s program was especially popular among the Basque sheepherders who were working in the hills of those western states. For many Basque sheepherders, Sunday nights were the only minutes during their entire week when they could hear something in their mother language, enjoy the music of Espe’s program and have a real break from their lonely job. It was a hard time for these men and the radio program filled a great need in their lives.

In one program from 1968 Espe joked that some listeners needed to have more patience in their lives…She had heard that one sheepherder was in the hills and could not get the signal for the program one Sunday night…. he started kicking the radio.

Source: Erin Passehl, Boise State University and the Voice of the Basque Radio program records today hosted in the Idaho State Archives.