SEVENTEEN years ago Liz Edwards published the history of the Email factory to mark its 50th anniversary. Yesterday the Orange author described news of the closure of the current day Electrolux plant as a very sad one for Orange.
Though its workforce has dwindled from more than 2000 in its heyday in the 1960s to 500, when the gates close in 2016 it will leave a hole in the culture of Orange, she says.
“It’s not as important today in terms of jobs as it once was, but there is enormous affection for the plant amongst Orange residents because at one stage so many people did work there,” Mrs Edwards said.
“I think many people will feel tremendously sad because their jobs revolved around Email. It wasn’t just their jobs it was their social lives as well.
“Whole families worked there. Sometim-es three generations relied on the factory for their livelihood.
“For tradespeople it was very good. Ordinary people wanted a good job and security and they found it there.”
Email Ltd established Emmco/Elcon at the site in 1946 as a decentralised industry and it became one of the nation’s most successful decentralised manufacturing plants.
It was chosen because there was already a huge factory building, it was on a railway line, there were hundreds of people, male and female, desperate for work when a small arms factory, which made .303 rifles closed down after the war.
The factory was pivotal to the town economy shifting from a dependency on orchards to manufacturing. It was workers from Email who established the Orange Credit Union. Today it is a multimillion dollar institution open to anyone.
Its workforce was boosted by a huge influx of post war migrants from 1949 onwards. The factory’s fortunes affected the whole local economy, Mrs Edwards said.
“If anyone wanted to gauge the state of the economy in Orange, the Email factory was the litmus test. People would say, ‘what’s good for Email is good for Orange’,” she said.