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Soap Box Derby days in Surf City

August 22, 2002

A LOOK BACK

I just heard on the radio that the police are going to crack down

on speed contests here in Huntington Beach.

Now I'm not so sure that I can agree that speed contests are so

bad and should be outlawed. What's so wrong with a good speed contest

anyway? I'm sure many of you remember sitting in a dark movie house

and watching the mother of all speed contests flash across the silver

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screen. I remember it had the spoiled rich kid with his bright fancy

high-tech racer and how he dared our hero to race him for the hand of

the lovely lady. Our hero's racer was far from being high tech and in

fact he had made it from parts found around town. You may have

guessed by now that the film's rich kid was named Waldo, the girl was

Darla and our hero was none other then that little rascal Alfalfa.

And the racers they were driving in that speed contest were soap box

racers.

This week we are going to look back at the very first sponsored

soap box derby in Huntington Beach. The race was part of our 1939

Fourth of July celebration. A few years ago one of our local realtors

put out a calendar of old photos and one showed this very race.

Huntington Beach resident Jack Weide saw me looking at the picture

and pointed to one of the very young boys in the picture and said,

that's me right there. Many residents know Jack as the husband of

that celebrated writer and teacher B.D.L. "Billie" Weide, but few

remember his daring exploits down Edwards Hill.

This historic soap box derby race was to have been a side event

for our Fourth of July celebration, but as it turned out was more

popular with the local public than the big celebration. The derby

race was to be held at the top of steep Edwards Hill at Edwards

Street and Ellis Avenue on Sunday, July 2, 1939. But weeks before, in

garages all over town, many a boy and his dad were putting together

bits of wood and metal that they found in their garage or on vacant

lots around town. And in the days that followed the racer took shape.

Each boy entered in the race was given a copy of the rules and

specifications that each car or driver must follow. Each boy wanted

to be the winner of the race and receive a brand new bicycle and a

chance to go on to the Los Angeles Derby and maybe even to Akron ,

Ohio for the national derby races.

Two businesses were found to sponsor the race, they were our local

Chevrolet dealer, Dave Wilson, and the Los Angeles Daily News.

Can you just imagine how those young boys felt and the hopes and

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