Some of the Catalan migrants that ended up in the city went into the seafood business, as they came from the Catalan coastline: el Maresme (most of them from Montgat or Badalona). These included the Garriga, Canals, Majo, Villà, Grimau, Gesa, Galimany, Ferrer, Bruy, Matons, Martret, Valls, Sureda, Georges, Granell, Casas, Bigs, Power, Angelats and Sagatal families.
Michael Canals went into the fish business in 1917, five years after he arrived in Melbourne and after working as a cook in two of the Parer hotels, ‘The John Batman’ in Spencer Street and ‘The Continental Hotel’ in Sorrento until he improved his English. He also went to Queensland for a season to cook for a cane cutting gang.
In 1917 he went into partnership with Mr. Major in his first fish shop venture, in Johnston Street. In 1921 he married by proxy Dolores Aguilera ‘Lola’, whom he met working at the glass factory in Badalona. Lola arrived in Australia in January 1922 and they worked and lived with the Major family until they bought a fish shop in Johnston Street, Abbotsford. Jack Canals was born there in 1922 and his sister Teresa in 1926.
In 1925, Michael’s parents (Josep Canals and Maria Pol), and Lola’s sister and brother (Rosa and Herman Aguilera) came out and lived with the Canals family in Collingwood. Rosa married Luis Valls in 1926 and took over Michael and Lola’s business. With their grandparents, the Canals family moved into a house belonging to Peter Garriga in Elsternwick for a few months, until they bought a ‘fresh fish only’ shop in Glenhuntly Road. Tony was born there in 1928. When the lease expired in 1931, they moved to 703 Nicholson Street.
Grandma Maria passed away in 1934 during a visit to the Sargatal’s. Michael sent his father to Badalona to escort Lola’s mother and sister (Escolastica Aguilera and Eulalia) to Melbourne. Grandma Escolastica went to live with Luis and Rosa Valls and Eulalia with the Canals at Nicholson Street. In the 1940s she married Emilio Cuartero and went to live at Keilor.
On August 18th 1940, a group of Catalan families went on a picnic to the Valls’ hobby farm at Diamond Creek. Luis Valls drove up the driveway unaware that Teresa was on the running board of the car and she fell off. The doctor recommended treating her with ice packs. Rosa Villà went to her shop in Hawthorn with the Canals, as the Villa’s still used ice-chests (the Canals had refrigeration). Teresa ended up dying at 6pm that Sunday evening.
Jack Canals and Josephine (Josee) Villà married in 1947 and bought the business at Nicholson Street, where all three generations were still living. Eventually Michael and Lola bought 17 Whalley Street, Northcote and moved in with Grandpa Joseph and Tony. Tony married Gwen on the 30th of April 1949 and lived in Whalley St. Grandpa Joseph passed away in 1951 and he is buried in the family grave at Fawkner cemetery.
In 1952 Michael and Lola went for their only trip to Spain with Frank and Frances Power. Jack and Josee did major alterations to Nicholson street shop and moved into Parkview Avenue in 1956. Tony and Gwen bought at Bird Avenue. On their return, Michael and Lola built their home at 1 Lewis St. Lola died there on the 5th of July 1975 and Michael died on July 10th 1981.
The fourth generation (Jack and Josee’s sons) are still running the Canals fish shop at Nicholson Street, and they have been recognised for their dedication and excellence in their products and service.
From Canals memories by Josephine Canals, 2001