He was born, probably on a farm, on the 11th of September 1891 in Saint Zacharie, Quebec. Growing up in the St. Zacharie area with his five sisters and five brothers (he was the middle child) must have been an interesting time although little is known of this period of his life. He moved to southeastern Saskatchewan in about 1920 and was married on November 21, 1923 in Storthoaks, Saskatchewan.

The marriage got off to quick (but respectable) start with the birth of a daughter on October 21, 1924 in Storthoaks. His next three children were also born in Storthoaks with a second girl arriving in 1926, the eldest son in 1927 and another son in 1931.

He'd found his life's calling in Storthoaks where he worked in a store. He and his family moved to Dumas, Saskatchewan in about 1932 where he was responsible for running another store owned by the same person as the Storthoaks store.

At the time, Dumas was a small community of about 50 people located on a fairly busy train line. There was a school, a church, a blacksmith's shop, a stable, a lumberyard, at least two and possibly three grocery stores, a butcher shop, a farm implement dealer and a hotel/boarding house.

Disaster struck both his family and the town one night in about 1933 when a fire burned down the store and a number of other businesses. Although he and his family had been sleeping in their rooms above the store when the fire broke out, everyone got out alive. He and is family were left with few possessions beyond the few things that they'd been able to grab as they ran from the flames.

Shortly after the fire, he opened his own grocery and dry goods store in an old boarding house which happened to be located right on the edge of the part of town that had survived the fire. He soon became the town's postmaster and his mechanical and other skills allowed him to develop a sideline of repairing cars and pretty much anything else that needed fixing in town (everyone who knew him could attest to his talent with his hands).

The store was what was known as a "general store" carrying all manner of goods including groceries, meat, baked goods, dry goods (soap, cloth, and other household goods, etc) and hardware (tools, bolts and screws, lubricants, gasoline/petrol, etc). He also carried seasonal goods like garden tools and flower seeds in the spring and with good rail service, he was able to bring in all manner of goods when requested by his customers (I've got a receipt for a twenty eight cent ($0.28) order of seeds that was placed in 1947).

The realities of being a prairie storekeeper, especially in the 1930s, was that customers would frequently require credit as they wouldn't have the funds to pay for essential purchases. Consequently, he'd allow many of his customers to run up an account when necessary in the hope that they'd eventually be able to pay it off. If necessary, customers would be allowed to pay off their debts using products from their farms or by performing work for the storekeeper.

His family continued to grow with the birth of two more sons in 1933 and 1938. The outbreak of the Second World War in September of 1939 found him with a wife (soon to give birth to their last child, a daughter), six children and a reasonably successful business.

Sadly, Dumas itself never really recovered. Many of the businesses destroyed in the fire simply never reopened. Other communities nearby offered similar services and continued to thrive. By the late 1950s, there were a couple of businesses and a handful of families left in town. They shut down the train line in the early 1960s, took out the track and moved or disassembled the grain elevators.

The eldest daughter had been married in 1943 and moved to Ontario. The other children were married in a series of weddings starting in 1950 and ending with the marriage of the youngest daughter to a local farmer in 1962. With the exception of the youngest daughter who still lives in the community today, the other children moved away from home and established themselves elsehere in Canada.

He'd always been interested in world events and had raised his children to be aware of the world around them. Although "only a storekeeper", he always knew what was going on in the world and was definitely a "worldly" person.

He reached mandatory retirement age in 1961 so his wife became the postmaster and, despite the hard times faced by the community, the store survived as a going concern. When his wife reached mandatory retirement age in 1971, the time had come to close down the store and move to the nearby community of Wawota. Over the next few years, his health gradually failed and he passed away in May of 1979. His wife passed away in 1992. They're buried together in Wawota.

His name was Alexandre Boulet and he was a storekeeper.

He was also my grandfather and his eldest son, Roland, is my father.

Dumas postscript

The last store in Dumas closed in the 1980s. Today, the town no longer exists in any meaningful way (there are, I believe, only two families left) although there's still a Dumas sign on the highway.

The 'point' of this writeup is to provide a glimpse into the life of a storekeeper from an era when being a storekeeper was a very different experience than, for example, running a Walmart is today. It also describes the "storekeeper" that I happen to know best.

Store"keep`er (?), n.


A man in charge of stores or goods of any kind; as, a naval storekeeper.


One who keeps a "store;" a shopkeeper. See 1st Store, 3.

[U. S.]


© Webster 1913.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.