In the tourist magazine Out & About, you can read all about what’s on in the region here, plus catch up on some quiet reading in front of the fire. Enjoy this story in the winter edition.
Holidays and weekends meant freedom for us kids, the time when we could shuck off the restrictions of school and adults, and pursue our own fun.
Of the generation where you were sent outside to play straight after breakfast, and not expected back until tea time, my bothers thrived.
June and November were spent gathering trees, tyres and bushes for bonfire night, guarding the hoard, and a few sneak attacks on the rivals tastiest finds.
September was the month when the billy cart races were on in earnest.
But first the cold winter days rounding up spare bits and pieces had to be endured. Old pram wheels, car steering wheels, metal for the chassy and old bike lights for headlamps, plus something like a pram handle for the official ‘pusher’ to use, were brought home in chilblained fingers.
The pay-off for all this gathering would come when they took their scrounged parts down to Mr Liewczuk’s house.
To our Aussie ears his name sounded like Leftchook.
It was 1958 and our country town had swelled with European migrants, with names like Gravilovic, Angeli, Romanenko and Jeremenko. We unashamedly mangled them all in the pronunciation.
My brothers couldn’t care less where all the kids came from, as long as their dads were handy with a hammer, spanner, and had a heap of useful bits and pieces in their sheds.
As did Mr Leftchook who happily contributed his time and goodies to their machines; The Billy Carts.
The vehicles had to be built for the best aerodynamics possible so as not to impede their downhill flight. Mr Leftchook was THE top ‘mechanic’ to my brothers’ minds.
The vehicle building was a delicate process, as the Leftchook boys, Henry and Michael, also wanted the fastest billy cart built so they could win the race.
There was great prestige attached to the winner of not only the heats, but the main race as well.
The races were scheduled for after lunch on the last Sunday in September.
We had to go to church in the morning, where the brothers treated the collection plate as their personal ATM , (five pence in and a shilling out was the usual) then be assembled in time for the billy cart race heats.
The starting line was at the top of ‘skid hill’, a 50 degree incline swooping down to a long flat piece of runway at the bottom.
To the flash of the starter’s flag and the shout of ‘burn rubber!’, the first heat of the day was run.
No helmets, seatbelts, elbowpads or… brakes in evidence.
I only ever did the run once. It was a spine cracking, fearsome ride, the scenery flashing past and the cart going too fast for anything but a death grip, and the fervent hope that we wouldn’t crash.
The brothers won their heats, and attacked the final race of the day with their only rivals to beat, the Leftchook brothers.
My brothers always claimed they would have won if they hadn’t been so sick.
A combination of terrifying speed and stomachs full of the goodies they had purchased with their stolen coins, gave them both a dose of motion sickness.
And so it came to pass that shaking hands and sweaty faces had no place in the winner’s circle on Skid Hill.
Victory was declared in favour of the Leftchooks.