Thursday, July 9, 2020
Verla Goitiandia Recounts the Days When a School Bus Did More Than Take Kids to School
Verla Goitiandia maintains a large garden at her home north of Hailey.
Sunday, June 2, 2019


Verla Goitiandia’s roots run deep in the alluvium soils of the Wood River Valley.

She’s a fourth-generation resident of the valley and she proudly recounts how her grandchildren are the sixth.

Her grandparents owned the Susie Q Ranch east of Picabo, which got its name from its appearance in the movie “Bus Stop” starring Marilyn Monroe.

Verla Goitiandia got to meet her fellow Ladies—Mary Peterson, Pamela Rayborn and Connie Grabow—at a tea hosted by the Community Library.

“If you don’t pay attention right at the beginning, you’ll miss the whole thing!” Goitiandia said of the ranch where her grandfather raised sheep.

Because of her heritage—and the role she has played in the valley--Goitiandia was named to the 2019 Blaine County Museum Heritage Court by the Blaine County Historical Museum. She and this year’s ladies—Connie Grabow, Mary Peterson and Pamela Rayborn—will be honored at a coronation ceremony open to the public on Sunday, June 9, at The Liberty Theatre in Hailey.

Goitiandia was born in Hailey when the Fox Building that currently houses the library and City Hall—was the hospital.

She grew up on a farm near the Hayspur Fish Hatchery near Picabo.

 “My dad raised a little bit of everything—kids, mostly,” she said, alluding to herself and her 10 siblings. “My brother said we didn’t need a lot of friends because we had each other with whom to play marbles, hide and seek and kick the can. You didn’t go to friends’ houses after school. You rode the bus home from school and then you did chores, feeding the horses, milking the cows.”

Life for Verla’s family revolved around a wood stove. Her mother cooked on a wood stove, even using it for baking bread. And the family filled the bathtub with water heated up on the stove.

“One of my sisters got her hair caught in the wringer washer. We cranked it the opposite way and her hair rolled back out.”

Verla and her siblings swam in Silver Creek at her grandparents’ ranch. It was considered one of the top fishing spots in the country—and you could eat the fish then, she recounted.

“We also had a swimming hole at the dam—they had fish in the runs then. We got TV when I was 10—I loved the westerns, like Gene Autry. And we would listen to ‘The Lone Ranger’ on the radio in the kitchen.”

The school bus was used for more than ferrying kids to school, Goitiandia noted. If someone needed groceries, they’d put a box on the bus and a grocer would load it up on his end. If an adult needed to go to town, they’d hop on the school bus.

“I swam at the Hiawatha Hotel where they piped in hot water from Croy Canyon, and I’d stand at the end of the land and jump on the bus as it came up from Carey.”

Goitiandia studied for two years at the University of Idaho, then got a cosmetology degree. She met Juan Goitiandia—the man who would become her husband—while working in the kitchen at Sun Valley Resort.

Juan was a Basque man born in Vizcaya, Spain. He’d followed his father to the United States in 1963, working as a sheepherder for a Soda Springs rancher for one year before going to work for Atkinsons’ Market, the Christiania Lodge and Union Pacific Railroad just as it was in the process of selling Sun Valley to Bill Janss.

Juan worked for the resort for 53 years in a variety of positions, including groundskeeper.

”It wasn’t as nice as now in the beginning—the tennis courts were full of weeds and you could tell Sun Valley was past its heyday,” said Verla, who worked as a maid for the resort for a couple years before hiring on at Hemingway Elementary School to manage the cafeteria. “I think the Holdings are great people—they’ve really done a great job.”

Juan, who passed away a month ago, didn’t speak English so his co-workers would send him to each of the kitchens at Sun Valley to ask for things so he would learn bits and pieces in the process.

“He also never missed a movie and he picked English up watching them. He loved Westerns—he called John Wayne Juan,’ Verla said.

The two courted, attending Basque dances in Gooding and country music dances at the Silver Dollar Saloon and Casino. Even the Holiday Inn, near what is now Thunder Springs, had a dance floor then.

The two married in the judge’s chambers at Elko.

“No honeymoon—we just came home,” Verla recounted.

Goitiandia learned to ski while in high school at the little ski hill that used to overlook the Ketchum Cemetery.

“I thought that was the dumbest thing because you rolled up the hill on the rope tow then skied back down,” she said. “Then, when my youngest boy was 5, I enrolled them in a Learn to Ski program. Next I knew, I was helping out with the school ski programs. I liked working with the beginners because I didn’t have to take them to the top. I only went to Bald Mountain once, and that was to Lower River Run when they had a convention that was holding ski races on Dollar Mountain.”

Goitiandia also volunteered with the Blaine County 4-H program, teaching sewing and cooking to boys and girls alike. She taught them how to clean dishes and bake cookies and cake. And she taught them  how to build a campfire and cook biscuits on a stick.

Goitiandia also set up an archery club, even though she’d only shot a bow and arrow twice.

“I figured if you can read a book, you can learn to do it,” she said. “The kids didn’t just shoot an arrow. They also learned to give presentations and they learned how to speak when they went before a council to ask for money for arrows.”

Goitiandia’s three sons all live in the valley. Jess owns Audio Innovations; Scott, B& D Dirt Works, and Marcel works in construction.

A tight knit family, they’ve given her several grandchildren who range in age from 25 years to 16 months.

Her granddaughter Sochie says she can’t go anywhere without her grandmother talking to 15 people “about everything.”

“My grandmother is a hard-working lady—she taught us to work, work, work,” said Sochie. “And she’s there for everybody. She even has people who have run out of gas pull off the highway and knock on her door—she’ll lend them a five-gallon can and say, ‘Just bring it back.’

“That’s the way we were raised,” said Verla.


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