The two pictures at the top are from the Milford Daily News. The one at the bottom is from Henry “Tip” Stenberg, passed on to me by Jack Hayes. Evidently the group in the bottom photo is watching the soapbox derby awards being presented. Henry and Jack are both in the picture. Jack’s father is at the back, left of center with hat on. The policeman at the front is George Ardell.

Many Take Part in Hopedale
 Soapbox Derby Over Weekend

Hopedale – Fifty-two boys and girls participated in the colorful Hopedale Soapbox derby down Freedom Street hill over the weekend. The event sponsored by the Walter G. Tillotson Post, A.L., got underway Saturday morning but was halted by a downpour of rain. The races were continued yesterday.

Wayne Kearsley posted the fastest time of the derby breezing to a victory in the Junior High division in 35 seconds. Each contestant received a pass to the State Theater and either a baseball or three tennis balls. Special prizes were awarded to the winners.

The winners were: Fifth and Sixth Grade race, Ronald Hazard, in 53 seconds, first, and Owen Dow, second; Fourth Grade race, Henry Stenberg, Jr., in 53 seconds, first, and Frank Cardarelli, second.

Second and Third Grade race, Ronald Kimball in 53 seconds, first, and Bradford Crosby, second. Junior High race, Wayne Kearsley in 35 seconds, first, and James DiSabito second; Girls race, Susan Kaiser in 1 minute 18 seconds, first and Jennie Gray, second.

Cub Den race, Edward Daige of Den 8, first, Phillip Roberts of Den 4, second, and John Strapponi of Den 6, third.

Carl Rose was awarded a special prize for the best constructed vehicle. The committee in charge of the derby consisted of Carlton Miner, C. Victor Pepper, Herbert Picard, George Lunt, Ernest Tetlow, John Driscoll, Vincent Rubeo, and Charles Watson.
Milford Daily News, June 19, 1950   

Above – 1951 winner, Hendrik Rickenback.

In 1950, Wayne Kearsley’s ball-bearing wheels were the subject of discussion among Hopedale kids for weeks after the race. The next year, Hendrik Rickenback’s time was eight seconds faster than Kearsley’s 1950 time. That leaves me wondering if his wheels were that much better or if the course had been shortened.

I’ve checked the Milford News from 1949 through 1953. It appears that they started in 1950, and the last one was in 1952, or so I thought until I received the clipping below,sent by Miriam Grillo Loiselle. The race shown took place in the 1970s. Unlike the ones from the 1950s, this was a school event. Here’s what Miriam wrote about it.

We raced two. One from grade five and one from grade six. We strategically planned and put our smallest person in. Can not remember if it worked though!!

                                                          Soapbox Derby

Soapbox derby races, sponsored by the Hopedale post of the American Legion were held on Freedom Street for three years in the fifties. I was interested in getting in to one, but in those days very few parents would go out and buy the parts for such an event, so it was usually up to the kids to find them. I went to the dump quite a few times, hoping someone would have discarded a baby carriage so I could get the wheels, but I didn’t have any luck.

The races started near the Freedom Street/Oak Street intersection and the finish line was probably between Dutcher and Hopedale streets. As you saw in the caption under the $64? picture above, Wayne Kearsley’s car went well beyond the finish line. In a July 2015 Facebook discussion of Saltbox Road, a couple of people mentioned hearing of soapbox races being held on that section of Freedom Street. (Near the end of Overdale Parkway to the bottom of the hill.)

I was very doubtful that there were ever soapbox derby races at what is now called by some “Soapbox Road.” (Or Soapbox Hill or Saltbox Road) However I decided that Arnold Nealley would be the one to ask about it. He was born in 1926 and told me that he was in a race there sometime in the mid-30s. As far as he recalls, that only happened once. He remembers that his brother helped him to build his car, and that they had some trouble getting the steering to work. The number of kids involved was small enough so that, unlike the timed races in the 1950s, they lined up side by side, and all went down together. He didn’t win, and doesn’t remember who did. .Although he raced his soapbox car down the hill, he always called that section of Freedom Street “Saltbox Road.”

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