MOOSE CREEK — Moose Creek shopkeeper Claude Provost turned 98 yesterday at the convenience store where he’s been working since the 1930’s — a stretch interrupted only by his service overseas during World War II.
Friends and long-time patrons celebrated the March 20 milestone by presenting Provost with a vintage 1956 7-Up push bar, exactly like the one stolen from the store’s inner front door late last month. When a late-night thief unbolted the vintage metal piece adorning the entrance to Provost’s Store, outraged local residents swung into action to make the nonagenarian whole in time for his birthday.
“We didn’t like the fact someone would do that to Claude. He’s such a sweet man, and he’s kept this place open to ensure we don’t have to go to the next community to get our milk,” said Wendy Hill, right before presenting the wrapped replacement bar — the same model and vintage year as the original — to a grateful Provost in the art-gallery side of his store.
Hill said she worked with son Brigham and friend Joanne Hebert on the Facebook campaign that drew two dozen local donors who pitched in to cover the $275 cost of the new bar a Quebec-based collector had for sale on Kijiji. The seller paid for shipping and insurance upon hearing the story, she added.
See the birthday presentation to Provost in the video clip, below. The bilingual, vintage 1956 7-Up handle uses the long-forgotten slogan “Fresh up” in English.
Heather Maynard-Rolfe, a 32-year employee of the store, said she was “quite perturbed” to discover the missing push bar on a Thursday morning. “The sense of entitlement that they would have to take something on the store since 1956,” she exclaimed.
“It was always part of the store, and it will be again.”
“Thank you for going all out for me,” said the appreciative store owner after a procession of individuals delivered birthday cake and the wrapped gift to the table where he was sitting, wearing a suit for the occasion.
Hill suggested that extra funds collected could help pay for some other exterior flourishes on the building, perhaps hanging plants. Provost smiled and nodded eagerly.
“Claude’s like family to most of us. He knew my grandparents. When I was a kid, he used to lift me up to look into his candy case,” Hill added.
Provost also happily reported that members of his old military unit, the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, had paid him an early birthday visit this past Sunday.
He’s had people come by looking to buy antiques from the store before but has always insisted the old 7-Up bar was part of the building. “The company used to supply us with this sort of thing,” he said, recalling when the soft drink maker gave the original item back in the 50s.
Even at his advanced age, Provost still personally mans the counter in the family store — once operated by his late father, a veteran of World War I — a couple of days per week.