To go forward you would walk backwards on the drum and to go backwards you walked forward.
When we were kids, we never had the chance to get bored for there was always something to do around the doors. Now, as we lived just outside of Smith’s Dry Dock Company in North Shields, there were always empty 45-gallon oil drums lying around. These were perfect for racing each other to see who was the best.
You did not have to be on the flat, as a bank was just as good for laughs and spills. First you would roll your drum onto its side, then push it forward and back just to check for slops spilling out. Once that was done it was a simple case of hop aboard and get your balance – which was not as easy as you might think. Like everyone else I had some lovely bruises on my body to prove just how hard it was. Right, you are up, so to go forward you would simply walk backwards on the drum and to go backwards you simply walked forward.
Once you had the knack it did not take long for some daft carry on to come into play, like hoying a stone in front or behind and bang – the barrel stopped and whoever was on came down like a bag of hammers. Roars of laughter would come out – you never got in a rage because, as the saying goes, revenge is sweet, so you got your own back.
Sometimes we would nip into Dryden’s Timber Yard on Dock Road and pinch a couple of lengths of wood. Now we were Knights of the Round Table and our horses were of course the drums. This was a simple way to have a good time and the fact it cost us nothing and had some great laughs made up for the bruises we got.
I can say I have never seen any old drums lying around for god knows how many years, but even if there were, could you imagine the reaction of the young ones of today if you challenged them to a race. It would be something like “the old nutter should be locked up for his own good because he’s senile!” But as always, I would say, if it cost £100.00 or a similar amount that would be a different story no doubt, for then it is hip hop, isn’t it?