AN Auchinleck man who celebrated his 90th birthday this week was overwhelmed as local people flocked to toot horns and wave out car windows to wish him many happy returns from a distance.

Chic Houston has been isolating himself throughout the coronavirus pandemic but was delighted when lockdown measures eased last weekend, meaning he could celebrate his 90th birthday with close family.

Chic, originally from New Cumnock, is well known in Auchinleck and surrounding areas having owned local furniture shop C&R Stores on Mauchline Road with his wife, Rita, who sadly passed away in October last year.

Gemma Houston, Chic’s granddaughter, said: “This was my papa’s first birthday without my gran so we wanted to make it special. I put up a Facebook post asking people to give him a toot and a wave because he misses standing in the garden speaking to people that pass by.

“I knew lots of people would appreciate doing that for him but I couldn’t believe the amount of attention my post got – people from Canada and Australia that my papa has known for 40 years were even commenting.

“I didn’t tell him about it beforehand so when I phoned the next day to tell him what I’d done, he said he’d heard people tooting all morning!”

Chic came out the army and moved to Auchinleck where he met his wife of 68 years. The pair were married in 1952 and had four children.

Chic is known locally as ‘Esso blue van man’ as it is the van he drove around the town for decades. On Saturday, he was presented with a cake dedicated to the infamous Esso van.

Gemma said: “We’d been making plans to go out for dinner but we had a family reunion tea party in the garden instead. We put up ‘90’ banners and balloons and could hear people tooting all day.

“I love his company and I think he’s the best person ever. Everyone’s always got great things to say usually because of his Esso blue van so I thought he deserved the attention.”

Chic said: “It was a wonderful day with a lovely turn out. My daughter’s friend made a cake shaped out of my blue Esso van. It’s still sitting there waiting to be cut up.

“We were all separated in the garden so it didn’t feel the same but I’ve got great people around me. Gemma’s so good to me as are all my children and family. I still have people coming to the door with bottles of whiskey.

“I have a lot of bowling friends so it’s good that they haven’t forgotten me even though I’ve not been to the bowling for nine years.

“I’ll go to 100 now. I have no complaints in life, I’ve been really fortunate. The day was perfect and sun was shining. I’ve had a brilliant life.”


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