Good ol’ days! Do you remember building a billy cart out of bits from the dump?

Jul 12, 2020
Building a billy cart from bits found at the dump was a fun experience for kids in the 1950s and '60s. Source: Getty

They say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure – and that certainly was the case for kids growing up in the 1950s and ’60s when random bits of junk found at the dump could be turned into a racing machine – otherwise known as a billy cart.

A trip to the dump as a kid was an exciting adventure. Dumps weren’t locked up like they are nowadays and you could peruse through the rubbish at your pleasure to find something worthwhile. Usually for children, this meant anything that could be used to create a billy cart.

Finding a paling from the back fence, an apple crate or a couple of pieces of cross timber was like discovering gold – they were the perfect bits of rubbish to create a sturdy billy cart. Then all you’d need is a bolt, to hold the paling together, and some rope to help steer it.

Putting it together was sometimes a family job, with Dad helping to put the parts together before you raced off with friends to find the biggest hill in the area to put it to the test. The aim was to get as much speed as possible, so a lot of thought went into what type of wheels were used – and usually wheels were the hardest thing to come by!

But, once it was all together you felt a sense of pride for building something so incredible out of what other people considered to be trash.

And forget protection, there was no bubble wrap around Baby Boomers, with no brakes, crash helmet or knee or elbow pads. It was scary, but exhilarating. Would you make it down the hill first? Did you have the fastest billy cart? Or was something a little off and you’d take a tumble? That was all a part of the excitement.

If you didn’t have nerves of steel, then you’d likely come last, but for most, speeding down the steepest hill was easy. As kids, you didn’t have a worry in the world. And poor Mum just had to wait by and see what new scratches, bumps and bruises you’d return home with.

It’s a far cry from what the kids of today do to stay entertained. Billy carts have been replaced with video games and playing outside with friends, for many is a dreaded part of the day, instead of an entertaining and fun experience. But, even if children did want to have a go at what their grandparents enjoyed, seeing kids speeding down the hill without any helmet in sight, would leave most parents petrified!

Perhaps it’s better to help the grandsons and granddaughters build a billy cart and use it to cruise down a small hill – which has grass as padding. But, you might have to find a new way to get the pieces together, because scrambling through the dump is certainly a thing of the past!

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Do you remember heading to the dump to find things to create a billy cart?

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