Shing Wong came from China to work alongside his brother Sue (anglicized version of Su or Soo) Wong in their uncle’s laundry at 46 Murray Street. Shing’s first priority was to save to bring his wife, Jew and son Kuey (Robert) from China. In 1924, when his brother opened the Yick Lung grocery on Albert Street, he went to work for him there. In 1937, he had savings enough to open a small grocery of his own. Wong Brothers was located at 797 Bank Street in the Glebe, a neighbourhood of gracious homes.
Shing and his wife would raise six children, with all but the oldest born in Ottawa: Robert (Kuey), Gordon, Edgar, Ruby, Leslie, and Isobel.
Robert became the first Chinese raised in Ottawa to graduate from university, earning a Commerce degree from Queen’s University in 1942. The only Asian in his graduating class of 25, he went on to become a land developer in California. Edgar was a doctor and Leslie made his name selling real estate in Ottawa and teaching a course on the profession at Algonquin College.
When Robert left for university, Gordon, at age 14, joined his father at the Wong Brothers grocery. He eventually took over as the proprietor. In 1997, after six decades of minding the store, Gordon retired and sold the business.
As former Glebe resident Mary Cook Morrison would later recall, “In the 1960s when we were in grade school we used to go to my grandmother’s place for lunch the odd time. She lived on Regent Street. I remember sometimes on these occasions Gordon Wong coming by to deliver items she had ordered from his store. Not only would he deliver them, if he saw she was busy he’d put them in her cupboard!”
Copyright © 2012 Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and Denise Chong