June 2006 Newsletter - Steve Gray YHS 1971

Steve Gray YHS 1971 - wrote: Billy Carts As a kid, my brothers (Colin and Peter) who are that bit older than me, soon grew out of their beloved pedal cars and went on to make billy carts (Colin, especially). I was the one to inherit one of the pedal cars and would soon want to race them down the street (our little run down Broadway West to Fairfield Ave was a reasonable run, enough to get a bit of adrenaline happening (especially when you had no brakes!) Over time we made a range of billy carts and the search for suitable wheels, axles, decent chunks of wood etc was always at the back of our minds. Colin scored well one week with two HUGE steel wheels with axle that came from a railway trolley, it was very heavy but the results were well worth the hassle. I can still hear mum saying “What has he got now?” as she peered from the kitchen window down the racetrack, err street. I jumped up and raced outside the see him pushing the wheels by the axle, he had pushed from a friend’s place way over on the other side of town, he had a mate wheel his bike to save the return journey. It was not long before he had attached a wooden frame and made a cabin of sorts over the top. Because of the angle of cart with small wheels on the front it looked like a hot rod and it was not long before it had a reputation for speed and looks. Dad gave Colin various warnings about the speed and the danger of shooting off down the street, so before long we would post sentries at the bottom of the street to watch for traffic. Mum insisted it have brakes. Okay mum - but they soon failed and were ignored (all for show, not for go). After various modifications, Colin soon got the hang of handling the speed generated from the heavy steel wheels and on a darker twilight evening could hang a good wheelie and produce great sparks! Mum¹s pressure to slow the thing down finally took its toll (with steel wheels it was hard to not be heard, even from inside the house). One afternoon Colin and Peter with friends in tow took off for a better spot (out of mum’s hearing range) and ended up on the outskirts of town up near Castell’s place way up the hill. The windy road was long and had a good incline. Colin figured with pushing all the weight up the hill one run would be enough, but the adrenaline kicked in wickedly and a second one was soon underway, this time pushing the cart further up the hill. Well it did not take long for the boy to come to grief, sideways at speed across an intersection the cart flipped, cleared the gutter, became airborne and disappeared into the long grass flipping over and over. At some stage it belted the wind out of Colin and he lay on the side in agony, winded mainly, although he had a few good bruises to prove the event had happened, (I think his pride took an almighty battering too!) For a few days Colin vowed not to ride the cart again, leaving it in the long grass, no one else was game to try it. But once the pride battering had subsided he was off to retrieve it. From this point on he stayed with the short runs only, more a point of demonstration than a full on adrenaline run. By now I was getting the gist of things and went through many combinations of carts. Geoff Castell was of a small enough frame to fit in the back seat of a three-wheeled Cyclops trike (with the main seat removed) and that thing sped down the road like lightning. It got up a few speed wobbles on Coach Road, and I can still recall his yelps of pain from the grazes received (bitumen and gravel do not mix well!) Towards the end of this adrenaline-pumping era I was in high school and started to find out about wind resistance etc in some science class or other. The rest of school was more of a dull blur but this caught my attention. Ah hah I had it, create a billy cart you lie on so you can cut the wind resistance! Yes! It was light and easy to carry up hills (slung over the shoulder) and it went like a flash. We decided for safety sake to take it up the bush. Near the top of Coach Road there was a great track that was very steep in places and had some great turns. Head first on the billy cart (Okay not the brightest manoeuvre) and away I went. I still measure my adrenaline against this benchmark! I was ‘clocked’ at 35mph by my cousin on his motorbike and made many a speedy run down this track. Stopping? Well at the end the track flattened out and I could roll the beast. It was all good fun (how we did not kill ourselves is anyone’s guess) And a very practical way to learn to construct items and problem solve. I feel sure it caused my Mum to have heart problems at times! But where else would you want to have such “harmless fun” but in Yallourn.