Recently, the Clearfield County Historical Society received an acquisition of photos from the 1946 Soap Box Derby that was held in Clearfield. These photos led to this week’s Throwback Thursday article.
It was announced in August of 1946 that Clearfield would host the first annual Soap Box Derby. That upcoming Labor Day weekend was slated as the official date for the race.
The starting point was on the sidewalk at Cemetery Road while the finish line was at the intersection of Locust and Fourth streets.
Due to the steep grade at the top of the hill on Locust Street, it was decided to give a Soap Box Derby a try.
The popularity was growing at this time in the nation with a National Soap Box Derby competition being held in Akron, Ohio. The Junior Board of Trustees was the official sponsor.
The East Locust Street hill was selected to give the small racecars sufficient momentum to gain speed at a maximum rate.
The fact that Locust Street was also a straightway, and with speeds that could reach up to 25 miles an hour, a route with curves would not be considered safe.
The rules on the application were as follows:
- All racers must be 14 years of age or younger.
- They must drive cars, which they and their assistants have constructed at a cost not exceeding $12.
- The racing cars must be equipped with brakes.
- The cars must be built to the specifications outlined on the application.
- The weight, including the driver, must not exceed 240 pounds.
Prizes included for the top three winners were $100, $50 and $25, respectively. There was also judging for the cars themselves, such as, best upholstery, best construction, best mechanical features and cleverest designed car.
In preparation for the race on Aug. 27 while making a trial run, 14-year-old James Gray, wrecked his derby car and suffered a badly-cut leg in the mishap. The accident occurred on Coal Hill near Hyde when the steering broke on a curve.
On Tuesday, Sept. 3, 1946, the front page of The Progress told of all the excitement the race held! It was stated that the streets were crowded with spectators for the Soap Box Derby race.
Carl Belin of Clearfield was the grand-prize winner of $100. Jim Moore was Berlin’s chief engineer. Michael Palm and Howard Zeigler took second and third place.
In the midget class, Tom Stone took home the first-place prize with his car named “A-tom-ic.” Second- and third-place with the midget class went to Billy Chase and Billy Johnston.
Billy Thorn won the prize for the best constructed car. Cecil Bedford and Gawaine Adam won for cleverest and best upholstered cars.
The race did not go off without injuries. Several bystanders were hurt after the cars swerved into the crowds.
A small racer skidded into a fire truck and another flipped over and skidded on its side for several feet. The injuries were reported as minor.
The winners of the first Soap Box Derby were presented their prizes at the Clearfield Diner that following Thursday, Sept. 5, 1946.
The Junior Board of Trade announced in August of 1947 that they were going to sponsor the second annual Soap Box Derby in Clearfield. Due to lack of interest with only one youngster signing up, they abandoned their plans.