Soap Box Derby
Soap Box Derby Photographs
Throughout the 1980’s
By Jack Coll
Thanks for all the nice responses pertaining to Part Four in the series on Soap Box Derby articles, I had a few request for a few more pictures from the 1980’s decade so I emptied my file of hundreds of 1980’s photographs and picked out a few I thought thesoap box derby fans might enjoy.
I’m sure there are some younger soap box derby fans asking, what’s this guy doing with all these photographs? When I say younger fans keep in mind, if you raced in 1990 and were 15 years old, well that makes you somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 years old today, yea, think about that.
Well here’s my story, I was a freelance photographer for local newspapers for close to 30 years. My two children Brian and Jackie both raced in the 1980’s and Jackie in 1990, I took thousands of photographs of them alone. (Yea, I’m one-of-those fathers) But along the way I also pointed my camera in other directions in an attempt to capture the moment. For more than a decade I contributed to the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper Soap Box Derby Supplement, a separate or special section every year in early July, pertaining to the soap box derby. The supplement would have all the drivers’ photographs, photographs from past years, and a number of interviews with past and current participants. I also wrote a lot of GAG-articles, if you were in the soap box derby circles, you understood the gag-comment in an article or just an entire gag article, many of the not-in-the-circle readers couldn’t understand the article.
For instance, I wrote an article on the “Secrets of Winning Soap Box Derby.” The article was filled with three or four bags of BS, but a lot of readers bought into the winning secrets. Another article was the “Joy of Building a Soap Box Derby Car,” in Jack’s world there was no joy in building a soap box derby car.
One of the best gag articles I wrote pertained to Dave Bowe as the derby announcer. For a number of years Dave Bowe did the race day announcing and did a great job. One year he couldn’t do the announcing because of a family matter, (I think). So I wrote an article stating that the soap box derby committee hired me to do the announcing because I was so much better at announcing than Dave Bowe I might have said that the committee was paying me a whole lot more than Bowe. (The truth of the matter is no announcer was ever paid for the job). In reality I was no-where near the announcer Bowe was, as a matter of fact I hated the job, being strapped into a seat during the entire race, it really was awful, and I kick myself to this day every time I think about it. The following year I was glad to see Dave return to the announcer’s booth. I wrote another article stating that the committee had re-hired Bowe and gave me the boot, and this was just flat out wrong, and I was going to stage a protest about not being re-hired. So I jokingly asked for supporters to show up at the track on race day at 5:00 a. m. when we would start to put the fence up, I asked all protesters to meet me at borough hall where we would march on the committee.
Well, on July 4th, 5:00 a. m. four people showed up with signs stapled to sticks saying give Jack back his job as announcer. I asked them what the hell they were doing, they told me they came out in support of me as the announcer.
I also wrote a lot of really nice articles on past and present soap box derby drivers, committeemen and other residents who greatly supported the derby. In my years of writing the supplement I and members of the Conshohocken Recorder newspaper won several state-wide awards in the newspaper world. I wasn’t aware that there were awards for “Best Supplements” in the state of Pennsylvania.
So image my surprise when I was awarded a First Place document for best supplement in the state of Pennsylvania, in-all, I and the Recorder Staff won a number of First, Second and Honorable Mention awards for these supplements over the years. The 1980’s and 1990’s were an extremely special time for me writing and photographing our soap box derby. I photographed the winter meeting at the Fellowship House, I photographed the pre-inspections and final inspections, I photographed installing the fence the night before the race, I photographed the beers we drank at Pat’s Bar when we were done installing the fence, the Pits on race day, the race, the finish line, the spectators, the winners, the awards banquet and the All American Race in Akron, Ohio. Yes I photographed every aspect of soap box derby.
Anyway enough about me, and as promised, if you were around our soap box derby race during the 1980’s I hope you enjoy a small photo collection. No words needed from me, feel free to point out a few people you might know or tell us about a photograph and let me just say that it’s been a pleasure writing and photographing soap box for the last 40 years.
If you see me walking the track next year please stop and say Hello, I’ll be the guy with a camera strapped over my shoulder.