Friday, 7 October 2016

My paternal grandfather had an FJ Holden

- one of those cars which appears in a song about kangaroos and meat pies. It is, I understand, considered to  be a very Downunder sort of thing. 
I am sure my grandfather didn't look at it in that way. When he bought it the car would have been made about six or seven miles away at a car plant on the main road between the port and the city centre.
It is the first car I can clearly remember my grandfather having. It was cream and it had red leather seats - real leather. 
Oh I remember those red leather seats very well indeed. There were major bush fires that summer and Grandpa came to get me and Brother Cat and take us back to their home in the city. The day he came to do it was incredibly hot. Cars had no air conditioning in those days so he had the windows open to let the (hot) air blow through. I was sitting in the back seat - no seat belts back then. My brother was in the front.
As we went through one of the tiny communities that led to the city Grandpa had to stop for more petrol. He got out of the car and I saw his white shirt. The back of it was covered in red. I thought he was bleeding.
Of course it was quickly discovered that the dye from the leather was coming out on his shirt. My top was the same. So was my brother's shirt.  Grandma was not impressed by the way the leather had been dyed! 
But that cream Holden served my grandfather well for years. When he eventually parted with it he bought another Holden. I didn't think of the old car very often. Then, one morning, in the local shopping centre, someone pulled in with a carefully restored cream FJ  Holden. He gave it a loving pat as he locked it.
Unable to resist I remarked that it looked lovely and that my grandfather had had just such a car in that colour.
"I bought this from a tailor in the Port," the owner told me, "Had a bit of trouble with the handbrake - there was actually a card on the dash saying "Don't forget the handbrake" - but the rest was still good."
It was my grandfather's car.  He was the only tailor in the Port. He kept the little card with the handbrake notice in front of him - and still forgot to release it sometimes. All those years later the car was a classic, not an every day item. The owner was taking it to show some school children.
I wonder now what my grandfather would make of that. There is good reason to wonder. The last of one make of Holden will roll off the assembly line to day. It will leave just one model - and that will soon go as well. The company no longer employs thousands of men. The process became  increasingly automated. Wages grew too high. Nobody believed the car industry could fail. 
Politics meant that millions upon millions was wasted trying to save something which could not be saved. It is money which should have been spent diversifying and finding other things to do.
But, I remember the car. I remember those seats.


Anonymous said...

Our son will lose his job either next week or next year, and last week we had a demonstration of why manufacturers are fleeing the state, and in many cases the country. The power is way over priced, and becoming less reliable as well.

catdownunder said...

I remember you mentioning that Judy - and that he was already making plans for when it happened. I hope it works out well for him because it must be a frightening prospect for most of them.