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Soap box derby

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:53 a.m. CDT

Not all new spectator thrills came from television. A newly formed Soap Box Derby club formed in Osceola in 1951 was equal to about anything seen for quite a while.

Osceola Soap Box Derby attracted an increasingly large number of entries and audiences. The races took place two blocks east of the square on Jones Hill on South Adams Street between Washington and Jefferson streets. The city would block off South Adams Street in the winter months as it was commonly used for coasting, and in the summer for soap box derby races. The hill was so named Jones Hill as Osceola attorney E. K. Jones residence was on the northwest corner of South Adams and East Jefferson streets.

Committeemen supporting the derby events were Ralph Siefkas, Don Hickman, Ray Kerns, Henry Peterson, Gene Saddoris, James Depperman and David Gorman.

Time trials for the weekly races started at 6:30 p.m. on Fridays, and races got under way at 7 p.m. Each driver had a look of determination as they sped their rolling soap boxes down the hill on everything from baby buggy under couplings to bicycle wheels. Although traffic was blocked out during official time trials several of the racers scored near misses when practicing during periods when they were not supervised, sometimes after dark. No serious accidents were reported for the season.

Interest was high in the races and entries swelled. Races got underway without too much delay. Each of the heat winners competed in the feature race at the end of the season. Winners of the weekly feature races were eligible. The derby champion would be crowned when all the feature race winners competed for the championship title.

The races had all the trappings of the real thing. Interested parents did the officiating, handled the public address system and provided protection from traffic.

The crowning of the Aug. 1951 championship Soap Box Derby season with first place in the sweepstakes to Donna Hickman, second place winner John Ewoldsen, with Lonnie Mongar, third. Jr. McLaughlin placed fourth; Larry Reed, fifth; and Jack Fowler sixth. Lewis Chevrolet donated its 4th of July parade prize money to the derby committee for expenses. The parade entry featured a company car pulling all of the Osceola Soap Box racers.

The racing season ended when school started.

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