Migrant workers move from place to place to find work. In agriculture, that means going where the crops are. This was true for Estella Ozuna Zamora and her family in the 1950s and 60s. Her parents and her 12 brothers and sisters lived in Texas, but crisscrossed Idaho every year, following the crops.
Inside the mobile StoryCorps booth in Boise, Zamora told her good friend LeAnn Simmons about what her early life was like.
“My parents traveled up here to Idaho and Oklahoma, following the agricultural labor work. Our living conditions weren’t necessarily the best," says Zamora. "We lived in farmworker housing, provided by the farmers sometimes. We lived in shacks. We lived in chicken coops. Whatever housing the farmer provided or the rancher, that’s where we lived in.”
“I remember being cold, not having a heat source. Sometimes looking up and seeing the holes in the buildings that we lived in. I think the best housing that we had was probably out at Farmway Village, that was known as the Caldwell labor camp back then. Originally, when we first came, we lived in the barracks. They were one room and they had wooden stoves. They had to use them as a source of heat and also cooking. That was in the winter and in the summer, in 100 degree weather.”
“Where you happy as a child?” asked Simmons.
“I was very happy,” said Zamora. “You know, we were very poor, we didn’t have much. The very first monopoly game that we had, we found at the dump. That’s where we got a lot of our toys when we were traveling. My Dad, for some reason, always managed to find the dump. He found a monopoly game at the dump and it was missing some pieces but we played monopoly for years, taught ourselves how to play. We ran all over the place. We took care of each other. The older brothers and sisters worked very hard out in the fields. Those that were maybe 12 or 13, took care of those that were younger than that. We pretty much got to do what we wanted. We were very, very happy. As poor as we were, I don’t remember being unhappy.”
“Living at Farmway Village out at the labor camp, I remember playing with the kids all over. We weren’t allowed to go very far. A lot of houses had fruit trees behind the houses. We never let the fruit ripen. We’d always pick it when it was green. We’d either eat it with salt, or we’d play war with it and throw it at each other.”
“I remember spending so much time with my brothers and sisters and them taking care of us all the time. I remember my oldest sister Eva. She was probably who I looked up to. My mother was always there, but she was always taking care of so many of us and probably the younger ones. So my sister Eva kind of took care of those middle-school age ones. So I remember her being the one to comb my hair and give me a perm and doing different things. Yeah, we were really happy.”
Farmway Village was built in 1939 as the Idaho Migratory Labor Camp. It eventually was turned over to the Caldwell Housing Authority. It’s been transformed from a campsite with barracks into a small town with 243 housing units.
Estella Ozuna Zamora is currently a commissioner on the Caldwell Housing Authority. She's also the President of the Idaho Human Rights Commission.
StoryCorps is a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people. Excerpts were selected and produced by Boise State Public Radio.
Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio