Knowing Ohio: How the Soapbox Derby Was Born | Topic NewsDepth

Get ready for a ride! Gabriel reviews the history of the All American Soap Box Derby and how Akron became the venue for the race.

Class discussion questions:

1) Akron has been nicknamed the “Rubber City” due to its involvement in the tire industry. What would be a good nickname for your city? Justify your answer.

2) Design your own soapbox derby car.

3) Compare and contrast the original soapbox derby cars with modern soapbox derby cars.

4) The first girls didn’t compete in the All-American Soap Box Derby until 1971. Imagine it’s 1965 and write a letter to the event organizers convincing them to include girls.

Read the script:

[Gabriel] Anybody else got the need, the need for speed? Well, it might be a few years before you can get your driver’s license and join a NASCAR team, but there’s another way to try your hand at racing now. I’m talking about the All-American Soap Box derby.

It was established in 1933 right here in Ohio. It all started when Myron E. Scott, a photographer for the Dayton Daily News, took a picture of boys racing down a hill in little homemade cars. Scott noticed that the cars were both built using soapboxes and had four wheels. So he dubbed the race a soapbox derby.

Scott thought organizing the races could be a fun event, so he talked to his boss and sponsored a series of soapbox derbies in the summer of 1933, as well as another race the year next. More than 300 children came to participate as well as 40,000 people who came to watch the 1934 race.

[Announcer 1] But wait until you see the other participants in the 1935 derby. There will be everything from boxes of crackers to cheese boxes on wheels. Only a few more weeks until the starter gun goes off.

[Gabriel] This caught the attention of the Chevrolet division of General Motors and they agreed to sponsor an annual event. With the sponsorship came a change of venue for the race.

Approved by the residents of Dayton, who were a little annoyed by the disruption of the first race, the city of Akron lobbied to host the annual event and won. It was a good choice as Akron is called rubber town because of their involvement in tire production.

The first race in Akron was held on Tallmadge Avenue in 1935. A year after moving racing to Akron, Chevrolet and the City of Akron believed that a permanent track to hold derby races was needed.

[Announcer 2] Maybe you’d like to take a spin on the track. Okay, let’s go.

[Gabriel] With the help of the Works Progress Administration, Derby Downs was built in 1936 in Akron. the Work progress administration, or WPA, was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program to help the country after the economic destruction caused by the Great Depression. The WPA employed unemployed men to work on projects for the community. The WPA even included artists to design posters like this for the races. It’s pretty cool that kids’ races were able to create jobs and make people smile during tough years.

Since 1933, there have been only a few times when races have not taken place: a four-year hiatus during World War II and an early end to the 2019-2020 racing season due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

And although it started primarily as a sport for boys, the race opened up to girls in 1971, and it wasn’t until a few years later in 1975 that Karen Stead of Pennsylvania was the first girl to win. the All-American Soap Box Derby.

Over the years, some things have changed. Cars aren’t made from soapboxes, for one thing. They are carefully designed to follow racing rules and go very fast, but still no engines in the cars. It’s about using downhill design and gravity to pick up speed. The Soap Box Derby has become a national and even international competition, but the final championship race is still held at the All-American Derby in Akron.

So no need to wait for NASCAR. You can build your own soapbox derby car today.

Jessica C. Bell