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They said old Holdens never died ....


About James

I have lived a lot of years and the more years I have lived, the fewer answers i have found. I hope that by engaging here we can discover some answers together.


There were two kinds of family in my early years, Holden or Falcon. But it's not the only iconic Aussie duopoly to have bitten the dust.

The last Holden rolled off the production line in South Australia this week. It's truly the end of an era.

And it's an era that I remember well.

We were a proud Holden family, owning many models, including an FC.

We were a proud Holden family, owning many models, including an FC. Picture: Shutterstock

I can identify every Holden by its identification code - from the FC through to the HZ - and owned an EH, HQ and HX. My parents before me owned an FC, FB and EK, before going Japanese, much to the chagrin of many friends. We were a Holden family until my father ‘forgot the war’.

I recall there were two kinds of family in my early years, Holden families and Falcon families. No, not Ford families, but Falcon families. While this strict dichotomy has broken down in more recent years, I understand there are still Holden families, but now there are Ford families, responding to the passing of the Falcon and the birth of a wider range of options.

Read more James St James: Do you remember life before television?

My pondering also led me to consider the other duopolies that have caused dichotomies between families in Australia over the years.

The duopoly that is now Qantas and Virgin was, in the 1960s and 70s, TAA and Ansett. My parents liked TAA because it was government owned and not a capitalist conglomerate. Other families liked Ansett, because it was not government.

On the east coast of Australia there were two department store chains, Myer and David Jones, and families generally shopped at one or the other. There were even state biases, with NSW shoppers preferring David Jones and Victorians preferring Myer. Of course, this duopoly persists, although many observers would suggest only just.

In the supermarket sector, there was Coles and Woolworths or Safeway, depending on the state you lived in. Families tended to be loyal to one supermarket or the other, with advocates of both more than happy to argue the case for their choice. I also remember some minor players, like Tom The Cheap and Charlie Carters, in Western Australia.

Until the 1980s, there were only two commercial television stations in Australia, Channel 7 and Channel 9, and while many people tended to watch programs on both, there was a tendency for families to be loyal to one station or the other - especially when it came to news. There may also have been preferences in the test pattern at a time when it dominated all screens from 11.00pm to 12.00pm most days.

In wine, there were many smaller operators but just two really big players, Penfolds and Orlando.

Families who drank wine, and there weren't many, tended to favour one brand over the other. There were just two kinds of wine drinker, red or white. It almost never got more sophisticated than that. In the main, there were two types of drinker, beer or wine. And with regard to beer, there were usually two options depending on where you were from - Carlton or Fosters, Swan or Emu, Suthocks or West-End, Four X or Great Northern, Tooheys or KB and so on.

Which beer did your family drink?.

Which beer did your family drink?

In the world of mining, there was BHP and Conzinc-Rio-Tinto (known today simply as Rio). In the ‘new’ Japanese cars there was Toyota and Datsun (known today as Nissan). In menswear in Perth, there was Walsh’s and Worths (both have since disappeared). In shoes in Perth, there was Pease and Swan and Betts and Betts (now combined as Betts). In lawnmowers, there was Victa and Rover (with only Victa surviving to this day).

These duopolies or dichotomies extended beyond commerce.

People tended to live north, south, east or west of the river (depending on the capital city they lived in). Not only did they tend to choose one side or the other, but once the decision was made, it almost never changed. Families tended to be loyal to one side or the other.

We were a small country, so duopolies were the main source of competition and given the lax competition laws, businesses were often not as competitive as they could be.

We were a country of loyal purchasers and decision makers ready willing and waiting to rationalise or even justify our purchase behaviour.

We were a much simpler society that valued much simpler things including loyalty and tribalism built around a product, brand or side of the river.

Was it better then, or just different?

Are you better off now with more choice, or just confused?

Are you less loyal now, or just more price conscious?

And deep down, are you Holden or Ford?

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