Rega Products: Let us spray!

Rega Products: Let us spray! While memories of the Depression lingered, factories on Marrickville’s Carrington Road roared back to life. “The activity visible on all sides of this plant of General Motors – Holden is one the finest proof of the definite return of prosperity to the country as a whole,” according to The Land on 1 May 1936.

So what was this activity? We’ve already introduced AH Peters and Duly & Hansford, but Rega Products’ new factory was also going up on the other side of Carrington Road.

Designed by modernist architect Aaron M Bolot, the factory was praised for its design and connection to consumers. It was said that people would feel “good and reliable products must come forth from efficient and beautiful buildings.” I’m sure this remains true for the factory’s current occupants, New Directions.

So what did Rega Products make? It provided “men on the land with sprayers for the cattle and their fruit trees, for the manufacture they provide spray pistons for duco-ing or painting their goods; for the house-wife sprays for suppressing moths and vermin; and for the motorists the pumps for their cars” according to the Building (24 July 1937). One of these clients was General Motors-Holden, ordering a massive 30,000 pumps from Rega Products!

Pumping and spraying chemicals was soon to be even more important but we’ll cover that another time. And that so-catchy “let us spray” tag line? It came from a 1932 ad for Rega Products merchandise.

The Great Depression in Marrickville

Boots, shoes etc, the world-famed Marrickville tweeds, porcelain baths, basins, sinks… famous Marrickville blankets, rugs, clothes, motor bodies wonderfully constructed bodies of superfine grace, beautifully streamlined…furniture, hardwood, toys, machinery! Some marvelous machinery – made in Marrickville. That is the point sought to be driven home by the Marrickville manufacturers “Made in Marrickville” (Australian Made, Labor Daily, April 1930, p 7)

1930 began with a hope. Could the depression be avoided through the manufacturing excellence, showcased at Marrickville Town Hall?

But it was not long before factories slowed due to low sales. General Motors on Carrington Road Marrickville shut in 1931 as Australian car sales declined to just 5 per cent of the previous year. Unemployment in Marrickville reached 29 per cent. Other areas were worse-off (nearby Newtown reached an unemployment rate of 43 per cent).

The NSW Government scrambled to create Relief Schemes to provide work for the unemployed by fixing roads and drainage. A particular focus was to “improve” low lying land in Marrickville, Tempe, Wolli Creek and other parts of Sydney by filling and draining swamps (SMH, 28 July 1930). This included work on the Sydenham pit and drainage of the former Gumbramorra Swamp to the Cooks River.

Relief work was low paid and hard. Those who complained about the conditions were threatened with being cut out of food rations and further work. It is no surprise that strikes and industrial disputes became common. And Marrickville Town Hall once again became an important meeting place, this time for the Unemployed Workers’ Movement, Women’s Vanguard as well as hosting fundraising events to help the unemployed.Next time we’ll find out how General Motors survived the Great Depression.

You might also like to read about Made in Marrickville now.