How Clyde Street has changed, even in the time that I’ve been in Hamilton North. The Electric Lamp Manufacturers of Australia (ELMA) factory produced its last light globe in April 2002, after more than 70 years of production. When 220 people lost their jobs it was another nail in the coffin of Australian manufacturing.
The scent of bread baking at the nearby Buttercup Bakery was wonderful, though people I know who live on Clyde Street don’t have such romantic memories of the noise that came from the ELMA factory: an industrial hum and buzz that went on day and night. Now the building’s part of a muddle of secondhand shops.
In May I recorded an interview with two women, Ila and Elsie (below) who worked in at the ELMA factory in the 1940s.
I bought a teacake at Georgetown Bakery on the way over and we drank tea and ate buttered cake and they told me what it was like, making and packing thousands of light globes every day, the noise and clatter of the multi-graph machine and the froster and the burning frame. Elsie lent me a book, dated 1929, that had a picture of the inside of the factory.
Near the end of our chat, Ila remembered going to see the Queen down at Chatham Road. “The Queen?” I said. “What, like, Elizabeth?” “Yes! When she came over here,” said Ila, “she left town on her way to Maitland, or wherever, and to get there she came down Chatham Road. I got down there early to get a good spot: right on the corner of Chatham Road and Clyde Street.”
I said, “What!” I said … no, what I thought is, I thought: that’s another story.