Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flint Artifacts: Soap Box Derby Button

1 comment:

  1. 9/9/2013 My name is Allen Sparks. I was born in Flushing, Michigan in 1940 and lived around Flint for half of my life. In 1954 I was entered in the Flint Soap Box Durby that was held on Cadillac st. There were 3 lanes the Durby race was held on. A problem in the race was that the middle lane #2 had a man-hole cover about 1/2 way down the track that did not lay level with the paved street, but stuck up about 1/4 inch. When a Durby Racer would run over that protruding man-hole cover the inmact would slow that Racer down just enough to loose the Heat. I had a Soap Box Durby that was built well and weighed the limit, designed to be airo-dinamic and I knew how to keep my head down just seeing over the top of my Racer and keep my Racer streight on the track to maximize wind resistance and speed. I won my first 2 Heats (each race was called a "Heat") and was to be next in one of the smi-final Heats. Then if I won I would be in the final Heat for the Championship. In my first 2 Heats I won and set the fastest time of the day at 28.3 mph over all Heats including the final Championship Heat, so that made me know that at age 14 I was the Real Chanpion of the 1954 Soap Box Durby, but there is more to this true story. My Durby was covered with tin, painted blue with painted red flames from the front back to half way. A short time before my smi-final Heat a young man came to me holding 3 slips of folded small papers with his fingers as one of the slips was sticking out about 3 inches farther than the other 2 slips. He told me this was a draw for lanes in my next smi-final Heat and each of us was to draw for the lane placing. I should have known better, but being trusting of older people and being nieve I took the slip of paper that was closest to me that seemed to be handed to me the way he stuck his hand out for me to take one of the slips. When I looked at the slip of paper I drew it had lane #2 on it and I dropped my head as the young man walked away. All 3 Racers including my Racer were placed on the starting ramp slanted down with the Racer's front end up against the starting block that is let down by the official when He releases a big handle at the start of each Heat. After our start and going down the track I kept my Durby Racer streight in lane #2 and my head down just so I could see the track and with side vision see if any of the 2 other Durby Racers were coming up on me and I could see that I was well ahead as the other Durby Racers were well out of my sight behind me. About half way down the track I ran over the man-hole cover that stuck up about 1/4 inch which slowed me down just enough for the Durby Racer on my left to come up and pass me about 2 feet as we crossed the finish line. That day in 1954, (59 years ago) a 14 year old Trusting boy was cheated out of winning the Soap Box Durby in Flint, Michigan. I have one picture of me at 14 years old setting in that Soap Box Durby with my Durby Helment on. In Prayer with my heart I have forgiven that young man who cheated me out of winning the 1954 Soap Box Durby in Flint, but I cannot forget and I wish that I did not have this memory that breaks my heart every time I think of it. Makes me wonder how honest every person connected with the Soap Box Durby has been over the years and how many other youngsters in the Flint Soap Box Durby have been cheated in different ways. I believe noone cares about my true story and I will never hear anythig of it, but at least I let someone know my feelings and thoughts.
    Kind Regards, Allen Sparks -


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at