I hate to whinge … But I cried over a red Commodore this week.
Now, I’m no rev-head nor car enthusiast; I’m from Adelaide and never been to a Clipsal event, and can confidently say I knew not much more about that car other than it was red and had four wheels.
I’m just a sucker for goodbyes; and this one, was greeted to quite the farewell party.
As a kid from the outer northern suburbs of Adelaide, it’s fair to say Holden, or GMH, has always been a part of my life.
For a start, I can’t remember a time there wasn’t one in the driveway.
My dad worked at the Elizabeth plant. My uncle. My brother. My cousin. In fact another cousin was still working there up until Friday when the last car rolled off the line. (And it must be noted, he got some serious airtime in those tear jerking AMW Union videos that have been getting a good run on Facebook over the past few weeks! )
So as images of that red Commodore streamed across my screens, not only driving out as the last car to leave the Elizabeth plant, but as the last car that may ever be called “Australian made”, I – like many – felt a great sense of sadness.
I felt sad for all the families negatively affected by the job losses.
I felt sad for all the men and women who spent 10, 20, 30 years – some even more – who have known no other workplace, and now have to venture out and start again.
I felt sad for Elizabeth. I mean, I remember when the term “Holden traffic” would get thrown around, and how your parents would avoid certain roads on the way home from school to try and miss it. Fair to say, that hasn’t been a problem for a while.
And with all that sadness, was a sense of nostalgia, as memories of my own Holden experience came drifting back.
Like the day in primary school when all the kids in class were excitedly talking about the brand new metallic-orange commodore in the school pick up zone; and the sense of excitement and pride that rushed through my body when I realised it was my parents behind the wheel, having just picked it up from the car yard. (On a side note, dad reluctantly let mum choose the colour … & in hindsight I think we all agree it was a terrible colour that dated very, very quickly)
Then there were the amazing Christmas parties at the Elizabeth factory every year; I remember Father Christmas would arrive in a helicopter and have a present for every worker’s’ child. There were presents for every girl and every boy of every age group. (If memory serves me right, I scored a pretty sweet t-shirt making kit when i was 8 or 9, that I would love to get my hands on again!)
Then after you picked up your presents, you’d be able to jump on these little train tours of the plant. Dad would walk us through the factory, and show us where on the line it was he worked every day. There were long stretches of big loud, moving machines as far as the eye could see, that pushed and prodded and polished and did things we didn’t really understand; all we knew was that a shiny new car came out the other end. And in that moment, to that small kid in that big-arse factory, your dad had the coolest job in the world.
My dad – like many – spent 30 years working there. 30 friggin’ years! As a shameless member of Gen Y who’s never been at the same workplace for more than three, the idea of 30 somewhere blows my mind. And I think something has to be said for a company that can hold onto an employee that long. I mean, they’d obviously been doing something right. Right?
But it’s over.
Now I’m in no position to argue if or how Australia’s car manufacturing industry could have been saved. Or to say who’s to blame, or whether there had been enough support leading up to that final clock off for the plant and its’ 950 workers on Friday.
All I can say, is that it was a truly sad day to watch.
But we move on. Change is forever bittersweet.
And when all else fails, there’s always ice-cream; so excuse me while I go look through a few more old pics with a bowl of Golden North, smothered in FruChocs … while we can still proudly call them South Australian.