In May 1940, the newspaper announced that Doylestown was to have a Soap Box Derby, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Winners of the Doylestown races would compete in Philadelphia in July; and the winners there would go to Akron, Ohio, for the finals. Every boy, ages 11 to 15 years, was to build his own car. The committee promised to have a sample “wagon” on display so that all contestants could see just what was required. The rules prohibited the assistance of any adult in the actual construction. No car could cost more than $10; and usually second-hand material was used, such as wheels from baby carriages and toy wagons.
Charles Mamounis was in charge of entrees and asked that any businesses interested in sponsoring a contestant get in touch with him “as he has a list of boys who are raring to go.”
The derby took place June 18. The boys were divided into two age classes and the races run in elimination heats of two cars each. The racecourse ran from North Main Street, down West Court Street to Clinton Street, a track of 803 feet which the racers traveled in less than 30 seconds. The cash prizes awarded were: first place $15, second place $10, third place $7.50. All entrants received one silver dollar as a participation award, along with a racing helmet.
The Soap Box Derby is still “an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to build knowledge and character, and to create meaningful experiences through collaboration and fair and honest competition.”
The name “soapbox” came from the fact that these little human-powered machines were originally made from wooden soap crates and roller-skate wheels. Soap Box Derby champions from around the globe still earn a trip to Akron, Ohio, each year to compete in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby at the world-famous Derby Downs Track.