Ancestral Notes

My Family History blog

Josephte Desbiens – My Grandmother

My grandparents, Josephine and Bill Hines holding my brother and me,1959.

Josephte (Josephine) Desbiens was born on April 7, 1897 in Rochester, Essex County, Ontario but her first language was French. Her parents, John and Celina Tremblay Desbiens had only been in the province for seven years, having come from the Saint Jerome, P.Q. She lived in a predominately French-speaking area of the county, so she never learned to read or write more than a few words in English, but she spoke it fluently.

Josephine was the middle child, she had twelve siblings, three were born in Quebec, one sister died before her parents and maternal grandparents, Philias and Marie-Louise Dallaire Tremblay, came to this province. Josephine’s maternal grandfather died within the first year of arrival to Essex County,so she didn’t know him, but her grandmother lived next door all of her childhood.

Josephine married William Edgar Hines at the age of twenty and lived in the house that his father built until her husband’s death in 1977. Her five children were all born at home, and her second child, Evelyn, died from burns in a fire in the house.

My grandmother loved sewing and needle crafts, she was always working on embroidered pillowcases or crocheted doilies. She sewed her dresses, she always wore dresses, and always had an apron on, unless she was going to the dime store or the market, then she would take it off, but as soon as she got home, she put it back on. My grandmother never wore a pair of slacks until she was in her ’90s!

Josephine, my grandfather always called her Josie, loved gardening, always puttering in the flower garden, deadheading her roses, they always looked spectacular. She loved African Violets and wherever there was a window, there were pots of them, always full of blooms.

One peculiarity of hers was that, although being mild-mannered easy-going lady, she loved to watch wrestling. Every Saturday afternoon she would watch Bobo Brazil, the Sheik, Haystack Calhoun among others fight it out, her arms swinging with every punch, hollering up a storm. I think that’s the only times that I even heard my grandmother raise her voice.

Our family would go for Sunday dinner about once a month, and the whole family, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins would be there on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter or any other special occasion. Grandma was a great cook, she would often cook wild game that my grandfather hunted. She could even make squirrel and raccoon taste great. One thing I loved was her date nut loaf, I don’t know what she did, but I can’t even come close to making it the way she did, but she didn’t use a recipe. I have never seen her with a cook book, she couldn’t read English anyway, she did all of her cooking and baking from memory.

My brother, sister and I would take turns with my cousins going to Grandma’s for the weekend, there were always grandchildren there. We would spend the week there in the summer-time. I don’t know what the attraction was, there were no toys to play with there, we would take a colouring book and crayons, but we didn’t do much colouring. There was a lawn swing in the back yard, but the back yard also bordered on the railroad tracks. My grandfather kept bees and he had beehives lined up across the back of the property and we weren’t to go near them, so we just sat on the swing watching the trains pass by. My grandmother didn’t let us play in the living room, unless we were watching TV. So we were restricted to the dining room and kitchen. We would go into the sewing room, but only when she was in there, otherwise it was off limits. So many rules.

I guess the attraction was my grandparents, just spending time with them, watching my grandmother doing her embroidery, helping in the kitchen, helping to hang the laundry on the clothesline, my grandmother chatting to the neighbours over the fence, watching my grandfather’s reactions while he was watching The Little Rascals, he really liked that show.

My grandparents didn’t come to my wedding, my grandfather was very ill and my grandmother stayed home to take care of him, but we did stop at their house after the wedding for a visit. My grandfather died the next spring and my grandmother moved in with my aunt, her oldest daughter, who was widowed.

There was a huge birthday party for her at the Moose Lodge for her 80th birthday, she got up was dancing around as spry as can be when the band played “Josephine”.
My sister had us over to her house for a barbecue a couple of years later, she invited grandma too, and she was running around playing Frisbee with my kids. My grandmother had been living with diabetes for years and later in her life, she developed cataracts and couldn’t see and didn’t go out much at all. She lived with my aunt until she died at the age of 97 on July 4, 1994.

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Ancestral Notes by Earline Hines Bradt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

Filed under: Josephine Desbiens Hines bio

January 2021