Throwback Thursday #1 – Wallish Greenhouses: The Early Beginnings

Decade 1 & 2 – 1920s & 1930s

2019 is a special year for us at Wallish Greenhouses.  It marks 100 years of the Wallish family’s tradition of growing for the greater Edmonton region. Over the years we have grown fresh vegetables, bedding plants, and many beautiful flowers.  Our roots lie in the soil of central Edmonton, near the old Northlands Coliseum, where John Wallish began growing vegetables and bedding plants.

John Wallish was born Johann Wallisch to Franz & Juliana Wallisch as the second of 6 children on December 11, 1883 in the small community of Schwarzau am Steinfeld, Austria.  Family rumor has it that John left his home at the age of 20 (c 1913) and headed to Canada.  He spent some years riding the rails from coast to coast finding that he easily adapted to life on the railway in Canada because of his work experience as a fireman on steam locomotives in Vienna prior to leaving for Canada.  Having seen the country and all his options, John chose Edmonton and settled down.

John did a few different things for work.  He worked as a teamster (one who drives a team of horses and wagon) harvesting crops all over Saskatchewan, and in Edmonton he worked as a teamster for the O.K . Coal, Wood & Excelsior Company owned by Otto Peets.  He delivered wood and coal to homes. John had started his vegetable business in 1919.  He brought his produce weekly to the Edmonton City Market, known as the Rice Street Market at that time.  He continued to work for O.K. on the side during the winter months to make ends meet.  Somewhere in all of this John became a Canadian citizen.  When he did, he dropped the ‘s’ from Wallisch, being told that it was unnecessary for a correct pronunciation.

John met his wife Salome (Sally) Christman at the Peets residence where she was working as domestic help. Sally was born on June 29, 1899 and immigrated with her family from Alsace Lorraine, Germany in July, 1920.  The two of them married on Saturday, May 2, 1925 and the story is told that Sally worked at the city market the very next week. Sally didn’t know much English, so Mrs. Tyler from Tyler Greenhouses befriended her and took her under her wing.  They stayed good friends their entire lives.

Robert John was born to John & Sally in 1927, Jean Sally followed in 1930, and then Charles Henry in 1931.  They all attended Eastwood School, were fluent in the German family tongue, and helped as young children alongside their parents in the vegetable gardening and bedding plant business through 1930s.  As John and Sally made their living during the challenges of the Great Depression, one thing they did have was food for their growing family.

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