After many years of meeting socially, probably at one of the various Basque hotel and restaurants that lined the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks on Sumner Street, on March 20, 1944 five men met to draw up Articles of Incorporation and By-laws for the group thereafter to be known as THE KERN COUNTY BASQUE CLUB, INC. These men were: John Ansolabehere, Frank Maitia, Sr., Felix Etcheverry, Raymond Castanchoa and Inocencio Jaurena.
The Club was organized for the purpose of perpetuating the Basque culture, which is first the people, then their social events, the eating, drinking, laughing, dancing, singing and whatever God may have desired for the Basque and their friends to take pleasure in and enjoy.
After two years of borrowing the old Swiss Hall on Stine Road, the property was purchased and held until 1958 when it was sold and the $3,500 deposited in a savings account known as the Building Fund.
From 1944 until 1972 the Club was active on a limited scale. However, in 1972 many younger Basque, with the backing of the older members, decided to buy property, build a handball court and become more active. This became a reality in August, 1974 when President Jean Erassarret Jr. and Secretary-Treasurer Jo Frances Ansolabehere signed escrow papers for the Corporation. The original building fund, plus added interest and current funds were used to purchase the Union Avenue property, known as The Rainbow Gardens, for sixty thousand dollars. A down payment of $15,000 was made leaving a mortgage of $45,000. The building was remodeled inside by donated labor, donated supplies and donated equipment. Estimates have been given that property is worth more than one half again the purchase price in just this short time.
During 1974 the Club realized a net income of over $13,000 which was invested in a money making project of building a concession booth at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Hereafter all monies realized from our annual Basque Festival, our fair project and other events were put into the building of the handball court, completing the kitchen at the clubhouse and beautifying the exterior of the new hall.
The “Etchola” is still the biggest single fundraising project, (the ten days at the fair serving Basque food) that makes it possible to continue the expansion of our building and property and maintain the day to day expenses. Another source of income is the renting of the hall for wedding receptions, parties, dances, etc. The Board of Directors tries to have one function a month for its members. Another money raising function is the annual Basque Festival. Our first festival was held in 1972 and it is the largest annual Basque Festival in California.
In the four years since the purchase of this property we purchased the three acres of land adjoining the original property, built the storage building, the restrooms, the picnic area and last but not least “Gure Amentsa” our dream, the handball court has become reality. Sure, the work is great, the expenses must be met, the different ideas of some must be dealt with, but never, never are we not willing to work, play, donate and last but not least be PROUD TO BE BASQUE IN THE AMERICAN WEST
Since 1979, lawn and trees were immediately planted and as you can see are doing quite well. Cement was poured and picnic serving area had improvements made both for the serving lines and barbeque pits. Member Martin Etcheverry and his firm of ERNST BROS INC. constructed the cover for the pit area for both weather protection and ventilation. Martin also donated and set up the flag pole that today proudly is flying the American and Basque flags.
In the fall and winter of 1979 the building housing the restrooms and showers were built behind the handball court. This is an additional investment to the buildings and is completely paid for. In the month of January 1980 the Clubhouse took on a new look when it was rented out to a movie company for the filming of “Hard Country”. It was this rent money that made it possible to pay off the new restroom/shower facilities.
The Basque Club of Bakersfield hosted the Mexican Olympic handball players that our players had met in Europe during the 1979 world handball Olympic finals. Many friendships were renewed and I’m sure the Mexican team will long remember the exceptional hospitality of various members and the various Basque restaurants. The Bakersfield Club had a Handball-Dinner-Dance program while they were in our city at which time racquetball finals were held.
The Building and Land Fund was graced in 1979 by the generous donation made by Theresa Anne Morris in memory of her grandfather Raymond Castanchoa. Their names have been engraved on the perpetual plaque on the North wall of the Clubhouse. Donations are gratefully accepted and any for the amount of $250 or more are honored by engraving their names on the Perpetual Plaque. What a wonderful way to remember your loved ones.
Who are the Founding Fathers of the KCBC?