Kids making cars out of wood boxes goes back about as far as since cars have been around. And in particular, soap boxes seemed to be a good place to start.
Then in 1933, a youth program was organized for building and racing these home made soap box racers. The first official All-American race was held on August 19, 1934 in Ohio, and then the country seemed to join in the craze.
Instruction books with tips and designs could be found for anyone who was serious about being a contender in their local races.
The official national competition took a hiatus during World War II, but in 1946 the races began to take off even faster. This time, the little town of Goldsboro decided to get in on the action, sponsored by the Goldsboro Fire Company as a part of their annual celebration.
Kids from ages 11 to 15 could race. They needed to be sponsored by a local business, which would pay for the cost of the wheels. The design and construction was led by many of the dads, with help from their sons that would be the racer.
Goldsboro had a lot more local businesses back then that could sponsor the local boys.
The racers would line up on the hill coming into Goldsboro, on West Broadway.
In the town square near the memorial is where the announcers would setup to call the races.
The racers would go down the hill, across Broadway, around the roundabout with the memorial, and across the finish line on the other side.
The ramp for the start of the race was next to the parsonage of the Church of God. Traffic was rerouted around Goldsboro by the State Police.
The racers would roll down the starting ramp and gain speed down the hill, then coast on the flat road to the finish line.
As racers whizzed past the square, judges were there to record their times and keep their scores.
At Goldsboro’s first soap box races in 1946, Carman Gross won first place. 2nd prize went to Wendell Rehm, driver for Eppley’s Store in Newberrytown. 3rd prize went to Larry Repman, driver for the Commercial Hotel in York Haven.
The three day festival put on by the Fire Company in 1946 was well attended. About 1,500 people were there to watch the races.
The first Goldsboro Soap Box Derby was so sucessful, they decided to do it again the next year, and this time it would be over the Fourth of July weekend 1947.
Goldsboro continued to hold races for at least a few more years, still sponsored by the Goldsboro Fire Company.
Years later, you can still find an old racer in a barn or a garage from back in the day.
Carmen Gross, with his winning racer from 1946, was reused and sponsored by Boy Scouts Troup 56 in Goldsboro. But, it had been a loooong time since it had seen any action, so he decided to sell it.
If anyone in the area has any more photos of soap box derby races or cars from the area, please contact us as I would love to make some scans of them for our archive.
*Special thanks to Lynetta Gross and Harriet Reeser for sharing their photos for this article.