Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Soap Box Derby — Life Imitates Art

posted by Nell Minow

Derby-Soap-Box.jpgIt bills itself as “The Greatest Amateur Racing Event in the World!” But the Soap Box Derby, once a popular event with racers, spectators, and sponsors, has, well, gone downhill. It began during the Depression and now has races across the country. Children from 8-17 build their cars, which operate through gravity only, no engines. They compete locally and the champions come to Akron, Ohio to compete for prizes and scholarships.
The Wall Street Journal reports that

Advertisement

kids today are more likely to play video games than to tinker in the garage with power tools. And audiences have other distractions. The annual race, held in July, once drew crowds of more than 50,000; last year it attracted only 15,000 people paying $5 at the gate.

The erosion of corporate support, however, has been crippling. In the heyday of the derby, in the 1960s, Chevrolet sponsored and promoted the race. Over the years, big corporate backers brought celebrities, including Ronald Reagan, Rock Hudson, Evel Knievel, and O.J. Simpson. The late actor Jimmy Stewart attended six times.

With the last corporate sponsor pulling out, the Derby was in trouble. It was sued by its bank. There was a temporary reprieve when its home town of Akron guaranteed the debt. And then, just like in a movie, a hero arrived. And just like in a movie, it was not the hero you’d expect. It was Corbin Bernsen, the actor best known for playing sleazy litigator Arnie Becker on “L.A. Law.” Bernsen wanted to help, and decided to make a movie about the Soap Box Derby, with a part for himself as a one-time champ who steps into to help a boy whose father was killed in Afghanistan. In the movie, called “25 Hill” and scheduled for release next year, the boy finds a sponsor. In real life, GEICO, the sponsor signed up by Bernsen for the movie has signed on to sponsor the race as well. Soap_Box_Derby_Racer.jpg

  • Wendy

    I think this is a really wonderful story. I appreciate these under-the-radar stories of celebrities “using their power for good.”

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Wendy! I loved this story, too.

  • http://www.kcsbd.com Debra Edwards

    Hello – I am the Fund Raising Coordinator for the Kansas City Soap Box Derby Association and I wanted to send a message to Ms. Minow. Her April 30, 2010 article on the Soap Box Derby was a wonderful commentary on a sport that my family has been involved with for over 7 years when our son climbed into his first car. We have been incredibly blessed to be a keeper of this part of Americana and I wanted to thank her for her kind words. I also wanted her to know that in communities all over the US this sport is alive with dedicated volunteers who work incredibly hard at keeping it growing for future generations. Our track in Kansas City was built in 1977 and remains one of the fastest in the US but 30 years of wear had taken its toll. Through a five year fundraising campaign our organization began resurfacing our track last week and we will be rededicating our “new” track for our local race on June 12, 2010. It is a very exciting time in our organization and Soap Box Derby and we thank her for her support.
    Sincerely,
    Debra Edwards
    Kansas City Soap Box Derby Association
    Fund Raising Coordinator
    (and mom of driver “Crazy Squirrel” Jerry Edwards)

  • Jim Cassidy

    Hi,
    I was just wondering if you had any source information regarding the amazing black and white photograph that accompanies this posting. Thanks.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I love that photo, too, Jim! It’s from old-pictures.com: http://www.old-picture.com/american-history-1900-1930s/Derby-Soap-Box-Car.htm

Previous Posts

The Oldest Living Movie Stars
The Film Experience has a put together a list of the 200 oldest movie stars, from age 82-105.  It includes two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland ("Gone With the Wind"), John Wayne c0-star Maureen O'Hara, and century-old Norman Lloyd, who ...

posted 8:00:53am Aug. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Tom Cruise Runs -- Supercut
I love this supercut of Tom Cruise's best running scenes, first because it shows the range of films he's worked in over the decades, and the different ways different directors and cinematographers shoot the scenes (and some similarities), and ...

posted 10:17:54pm Aug. 01, 2015 | read full post »

You Can Help Support This new Ed Asner Film on Indiegogo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAY_sMucKl4 Ed Asner stars in this new film about a young man who finds a book at his grandmother’s memorial, with a series of fantastical tales that his grandfather wrote for his grandmother. Each is a ...

posted 4:18:09pm Aug. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Opening this Month: August 2015
August is usually one of the slowest months of the year for major movie releases, but this year we have some prospects that could include both ...

posted 3:15:47pm Aug. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: On Beauty
[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/110407707[/vimeo] ...

posted 8:00:06am Aug. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.