Celebrating the end of an era

The closure of Holden was a sad occasion. The reaction to it underlined Holden’s incredible success in creating generations of loyal Holden devotees creating a whole community of like-minded enthusiasts.

Leading up to the closure, on Sunday the 15th of October, thousands of those enthusiasts flocked to Elizabeth for the Holden Dream Cruise and Family Fun Day.

They lined the streets of the route of the Cruise and cheered the close to 1200 Holdens of every vintage and model that passed by.

It’s fair to say that the Cruise was a huge success. It achieved its goal of being a celebration of Holden, it’s workers and Holden owners.

The atmosphere amongst the people watching was terrific, lots of banter and laughs. However, hanging over the day was the shadow of the coming closure. Amongst the celebration was a tinge of sadness . . .

Later, many attended the Family Fun Day at the Elizabeth Oval, home of Central Districts footy club.

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Just a few of the many Holdens cruising past the Holden plant.

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A small section of the large crowd gathered on the cruise route.

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Flying the flag.

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There was a lot of Holden red on display.

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A happy cruiser.

 

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Arriving at Elizabeth Oval for the Family Fun Day.

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BurnoutBand. These young guys rocked a small but very appreciative audience.

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Part of the crowd enjoying a beautiful sunny day at Elizabeth Oval.

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Back at the Holden plant, people were parking their cars on the lawns for photographs.

 

20th October 2017

 

As expected, there was a huge media presence camped outside the Elizabeth Holden plant on its last day of operation.

There were also hundreds of people who’d come from far and wide, mostly in their Holdens, to pay respects to the workers and to mourn the death of car manufacturing in Australia.

The mood was generally sombre but, at the same time, there was a celebratory feeling in the air. There were cheers for the Holden cars that drove past along Philip Highway as well as for the workers heading off to their lunch in buses. People took selfies, swapped stories about having worked at Holden, or people they knew who had worked there and, of course, about their cars.

The crowd hung around all day with some not leaving until evening. The neighbourhood was awash with mixed emotions. People seemed to not want to go home.

Perhaps that was because that would mean it is truly over. No more Holdens rolling off the assembly line and out into our lives.

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Holdens lined up in front of the plant.

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Part of the large media contingent.

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Even Santa made an appearance.

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Nathan and Cassie came all the way from Queensland to show their respects. Cassie said it felt like attending a funeral.

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A Holden employee, Peter came outside before starting work to check out the atmosphere. After seven years at Holden Peter admitted to feeling quite emotional.

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This beautiful FC Holden was very popular with the media and the photography enthusiasts present.

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A floral tribute which had with it an obituary that commented on the political background to the closure. It ended “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, when the wheels stop turning, it all turns to rust. Rust in peace.”

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One last photo before the sun sets.

It’s actually happening.

Although the concept has changed and developed as it’s progressed, this project had its beginnings back in late 2013.

Concerned by the shock announcement that Holden would close its Elizabeth plant in 2017, I was inspired to do this photo documentary about Elizabeth, my home town.

And now, here we are, a week or so away from that closure that, for the most part, and for someone a bit removed, has been almost theoretical – not actually real.

But, here it is. So real that the ramifications are starting to hit home.

Over the last four years I have had the pleasure of meeting with and talking about Elizabeth with many Elizabethans, past and present, young and old, prominent and everyday. All of them, in their own way, extraordinary.

I’ve heard stories that would break your heart and stories of great resilience and inspiration.

Their thoughts on the Holden closure have been quite varied. One prominent business man said me “Just f……g get on with it!” A young person told me how she just can’t get used to the idea of an Elizabeth without Holden. “It’s just always been there and it is part of the fabric that makes up the culture of Elizabeth.”

A mature-aged worker facing an uncertain future told me he felt “shattered”.

Of course there are those whose job it is to talk up the future of Elizabeth and there are certainly positive things in train for the city. Time will tell.

In the meantime, on Friday October 20 the workers at Holden’s Elizabeth plant will work their last shift.

Having been, and continuing to be, very involved with this project, my own feelings run quite deep. Having heard and read so many arguments for and against the closure and all the different personal stories, I mostly feel sad. Sad for the people who will struggle to find employment, and sad for the passing of such an important era in the history of my hometown and Australia’s car-making industry.

I’m sure that, in the future when I drive past the plant, I will reminisce about my own short time working there as well as how it provided employment for not just my own father, but for so many other migrants who have come to Elizabeth over the years seeking a new life.

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

TS. Eliot

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