All-American Soap Box Derby
The Greatest Amateur Racing
Event in the World
Imagine walking across a street and nearly
being run over by a wooden crate atop a set of baby buggy wheels racing down a hill.
That's just what happened to Myron E. "Scottie" Scott when he encountered three
boys racing home-made, engine-less cars down an inclined brick street in Dayton, Ohio,
back in 1933.
As a news photographer for the Dayton
Daily News, Scott was always ready for a scoop. Scott was known at the News for his
creative thinking as much as for his photographic ability, and one of the best ideas of
his life hit him at that moment, why not hold a coasting race and award a prize to the
He told the boys to come back to the same hill
with their friends a week later, and they could participate in a race with a "loving
cup"- as it was called in Depression America-as a prize.
The week passed, and sure enough, 19 boys and 19 race cars
showed up with an impressive crowd of onlookers. The first Soap Box Derby race was held on
Hilltop Avenue, in Oakwood, Ohio (in suburban Dayton). When the race was expanded it was
held on Burkhardt Avenue near Smithville Road in Dayton, Ohio.
One of the cars that did not win the first cup personified
Scott's vision of a "Soap Box Derby" racer. Obviously handcrafted, it was
painted black with a big white "7" on it, the racer had been built by Robert
Gravett, son of a Dayton metal stamping plant employee. Scott took a picture of Gravett in
his "Old No. 7.", as he christened it and that photo would become the symbol of
the Derby for the next thirty-five years.
Sensing a hit, Scott talked to his boss and
sold him on the idea of holding an official race. Soon Chevrolet®, along with the
Firestone®, Goodyear®, Goodrich®, and General Tire® companies all joined to help
sponsor the event.
On Saturday, August 19, 1933, 362 kids aged
6-16 showed up with homemade cars built of orange crates, sheet tin, wagon and baby-buggy
wheels and almost everything of "junk value" to race with soap box racers they
built themselves. No doubt one was actually made from a soap box, although there is no
record of such a creation. The police and the Dayton Daily News estimated that
there were 40,000 watchers along the hill. The kids raced. The crowd cheered. The
All-American Soap Box Derby® was off.
More than 70 years latter, the Soap Boxes are
still racing. Each summer, boys and girls from around the world gather at Derby Downs near
Akron Municipal Airport Ohio to try to roll to victory. Who would have imagined that a
near-accident would end up becoming, "The Greatest Amateur Racing Event in the
While the All-American Soap Box Derby is only
held once a year, you can find dozens of qualifying races all year long, all across the
country. Why not visit them at AASBD.org
and try to catch a race near you?
Cracker Barrel Old County Store Travel Almanac 2005,
All-American Soap Box Derby website (www.aasbd.org), and
Dayton Sportscaster, Tom Hamlin.