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Reminiscing With Rolly

Featuring Rolande Blouin
Retired Insurance Administrator

July 5, 2015
Delmas, Saskatchewan, Canada

The story

Rolly, as she is commonly known, is the oldest of five siblings born to a farming family in hamlet of Delmas, Saskatchewan, one of many French settlements in the province. (Population 116!) Along with the standard English curriculum, they also followed the French curriculum set out by Association Culturelle Franco-Canadienne (ACFC). That “translated” (get it?) into four extra subjects taught to us in French plus catechism. Although they had monumental amounts of homework their mom was a school teacher, so they had no choice but finish it all.

Let’s turn to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan for some serious background:

While French settlements were developing in the northeastern region of the Saskatchewan prairies, others began to develop in the northwestern region. During the early 1880s, Père Cochin established missions to serve Indians and Métis at Cut Knife, Delmas, Cochin, and Meadow Lake. Onésime Dorval, who was to become the best known and most respected French-language teacher in the settlements on the northern plains, arrived in Battleford in 1880, having come to the Red River settlement in Manitoba from Quebec three years previously; in 1896 she moved to Batoche, and in 1914 to Duck Lake. The Prince brothers, one of whom was to become a senator, began farming in the country immediately west of the Battlefords in 1888, having immigrated from St-Grégoire, Quebec. By 1907, immigrants from France had settled at Delmas and Jackfish Lake and had joined Québecois at Vawn. Today people of French origin number some 1,500 on the north side of the river, around the communities of Vawn, Edam, Cochin, and Jackfish Lake (parish of St-Léon); and they number about 800 on the south side of the river around Delmas (parish of St-Jean-Baptiste-de-la-Salle). In 1971 they constituted a large majority at Delmas and Jackfish Lake, and almost half of the population of Vawn and one-quarter of Edam.

See that log cabin behind her? It belongs to her family. It was built around 1927 for use as a blacksmith shop. To “top” it off, a Ukrainian worker was hired to thatch the roof. To this day it still holds the forge, vice, blower and the original hand tools.

Fun facts

Rolly is an infectious giggler.

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Her nickname is Rolly because when she moved to Moose Jaw, no one could pronounce her name properly.

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She’s claustrophobic.

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Being bilingual helped her land several jobs, including one with the Government of Canada.

People recognize her by my accent or voice even before they even see her.

Longevity on the runs in the family. Her grandma lived to be 105, her mom is 94 and her dad’s sisters who passed away all did so in their 90s or early 100s!

Among her neighbors she’s known as “the lady on the corner with the beautiful yard.”

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Her children regard her as a devil’s advocate.

After retiring, she took on the task of scanning old family albums so the family has copies of old photos.

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