During the early 1930s, Mr. Myron Scott created the Soap Box Derby race event which soon became an important part of life to many fans throughout the world. Assembling a race care for the Soap Box Derby was more than merely putting together component parts that young adults created for themselves, but also, a vital lesson in good sportsmanship leading to stronger relationships in the community. The Soap Box Derby taught many young men how to win graciously or to lose courageously, because either way, everyone who entered the race was already considered a winner.
The Soap Box Derby offered special rules that all young racers had to follow. In order to compete, a young man had to enter the race with an authorized Soap Box Derby contest near his home by registering with a sponsoring Chevrolet Dealership in the area in which the race would take place. To enter, a young man had to be a student enrolled within the school system and all the work required in building the race car was to be performed by the entrant. Each race car was closely examined Inspection Committee of the Soap Box Derby to prove that each man build the car by himself.
There were many sponsors of the Soap Box Derby, such as Chevrolet who was a co-sponsor, among other support from popular newspapers, radio and television stations, and civic and fraternal organizations. In the 1950s, many famous celebrities such as Dinah Shore, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and Mr. James Stewart would entertain crowds at the Soap Box Derby event and later would sign autographs for the Champions.
The young men who would win their local Soap Box Derby race headed for great fun and thrills at the All-American Soap Box Derby event which would take place in Akron, Ohio at the Derby Downs. The Soap Box Derby was opened to boys in two class categories; Class A (ages 13-15) and Class B (ages 11-12). The final winners from Class A and Class B would then race for the city championship. In Akron, Ohio crowds would line the streets to welcome the champions while police escort brought them into the city.
Champions from across the world would compete together for a $15,000 college scholarship, among many other valuable merchandise, awards, and trophies. The Gala Banquet of Champions would then honor all the city winners who came to Akron. The champion’s parents, celebrities, local Derby sponsors, and Chevrolet dealers and executives had a special tribute to all the young men who competed in the All-American Soap Box Derby. In 1934, Robert Turner of Muncie, Indiana, was the first world champion of the first All-American Soap Box Derby in Dayton, Ohio. In 1957, Terry Townsend, a Soap Box Derby winner, was rewarded with a two week all expenses paid trip to Europe.
The Soap Box Derby raced into its better days during the late 1940s through the 1960s. The May 1959 issue of Boys Life Magazine reported that three million people witnessed and/or took part in some form of the Soap Box Derby Championship races in which is an exciting experience that many young adults will remember for the rest of their lives. Dwight Eisenhower, former President of the United States, stated, “The skill and hard work required for entry in these annual races will sever you in good stead for the rest of your life. In our land, competition brings out the best in each citizen, when it is combined with the traditional American spirit of good sportsmanship”.
Today, the Soap Box Derby has changed its name to, "The International Soap Box Derby". This popular event has also opened its doors to many young ladies wanting to participate in this popular event. For more information regarding the Soap Box Derby please call Adam Bozic, events manager, at (330) 733-8723 Ext. 13.
A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection.
Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at email@example.com. If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Lisa Ambriez at firstname.lastname@example.org.