Museum exhibition features history of soap box racing in Swift Current
A long-time Father's Day tradition in Swift Current is the focus of the current exhibition at the Swift Current Museum.
The display features the history of the Swift Current Soap Box Racing Association and includes two of the original soap box cars that were built 35 years ago.
“This is a little bit more recent history and it’s really interesting history,” said Stephanie Kaduck, the museum’s education and public programs officer. “Swift Current has the longest-running soap box derby association in the country and at one point it was the largest in the country. So it’s a really interesting subject to explore and it’s important for the museum to cover some of the local groups and the passions of a particular community within the community.”
The idea for the exhibition started when Dee Laverdiere, the current secretary of the Swift Current Soap Box Racing Association, approached the museum and asked if it would be possible to display items collected by the club at the museum.
“The light bulb went on and I said yes, that would be fantastic,” Kaduck recalled. “I didn’t know a whole lot about soap box derby. So I started doing some historical research about the original races in Ohio, and then they started bringing stuff in. They brought in scrapbooks and piles of photographs and then, as it got closer to the time, they brought in the ramps and the cars, and they were also very much involved in providing me with the information.”
Current and past members of the association have a lot of pride in their club.
Those in attendance at the exhibition opening on Sept. 20 included people who were at the original race in 1983 as well as young racers who have participated in this year's race.
According to Laverdiere the association wanted to do something to honour the late Dennis Loeppky, who was actively involved since the early years of the association and served as president a number of times.
“So we pursued it and Stephanie has been great,” Laverdiere said. “She's gone above and beyond.”
Laverdiere was impressed with the exhibition and the information presented about the club's history and activities.
“This is overwhelming,” she said. “It's awesome, just the history that we have here. The community support has been phenomenal. It's just great, it's beyond words.”
The museum digitized the pages of a scrapbook that belonged to Loeppky, and visitors to the exhibition can page through the document on a touchscreen monitor.
“I put it like this so that people could actually look at the items and read the articles without the scrapbook getting damaged,” Kaduck explained. “Even though it is just from 1983, it’s brittle, and so rather than have our visitors damage it, we put it on here.”
Another screen in the exhibition displays video footage about soap box races in Swift Current that were recorded by the former CJFB television station and the current Southwest TV News.
The exhibition highlights the broader history of soap box racing, stretching back to the Great Depression, and includes information about other soap box racing associations in Saskatchewan. It provides details about the history and current activities of the association in Swift Current.
“One of the challenges is tracking down next-to-new information,” Kaduck said. “I haven’t finished the timeline, because I haven’t found documents or newspapers that are giving me the information that was in the older newspapers.”
Something that was striking from the history of the soap box racing association in Swift Current was the passion and enthusiasm of those who were involved with the club.
“They’re almost a family,” she said. “They’re a very tight community and the purpose of the race is to give parents and kids an opportunity to work on something together, get some quality time, and to have fun and fair racing.”
That is still the case today and Laverdiere talks with a lot of enthusiasm about the club and their efforts to attract more families.
““I think I have the racing bug,” she said. “There's nothing better than watching our kids go down the hill and watching them win or watching them lose, but congratulate the winner, just the character that comes out of them, the friendship and the integrity.”
Jennifer Dickson, who is the treasurer of the Swift Current Soap Box Racing Association, said it is special to be part of an organization that has been a community tradition for so many years.
“It's something that I'm very proud to have something so unique in our community,” she mentioned. “We just want to keep that tradition going and the fun and we would like to really instill in the kids about being a team, being part of an organization, being proud, and they learn how to work on their cars, fix their cars, learn great sportsmanship. It's a family event that we do.”
Their goal is to keep it affordable to race and the membership fee is $30 per child. The support of sponsors and fundraising activities make it possible to keep that fee low.
“It usually costs us around $5,000 a year to actually hold our races here in Swift Current,” she said. “That's things like insurance, we provide the helmets for the senior racers and we keep an inventory of parts for the cars.”
The association has been very active to promote the organization and to increase the number of soap box racers in the club, and this year there were 21 racers.
“We've just really been working hard at word of mouth, different things that we can do to get this club going, and talking to the kids,” Dickson said. “The kids are doing a great job. They're talking to their friends, saying I do soap box racing, and get the kids involved that way and interested.”
The exhibition about the history of the Swift Current Soap Box Racing Association will be on display at the Swift Current Museum until Oct. 27. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m.
A truck from Swift Current joined trucks from Moose Jaw and Saskatoon for Special Olympics Saskatchewan’s 12th annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy and the 7th annual Truck Pull in Regina, Sept. 15. This was the second year that Swift Current was a location for the official convoy kickoff. Swift Current Special Olympics athlete Harold Robinson raised $ 3,120 for Special Olympics Saskatchewan, almost double the amount he collected last year and also the highest individual amount raised for the event. He was therefore again able to travel in the truck from Swift Current to attend the event in Regina. Pat Laybolt drove the Austin's Courier semi and the trailer was provided by Wanner Industries. Three RCMP vehicles from the rural detachment in Swift Current provided an escort for the truck and pilot vehicles out of the city. Seven trucks joined them in Moose Jaw and a total of 42 trucks participated in the final celebration event at the Turvey Centre in Regina, which included a barbecue, entertainment and a truck pull. The event raised over $17,000 for Special Olympics Saskatchewan, which will be used to support programs in 17 communities across the province.
The opening event for the Swift Current Museum's current exhibition about soap box racing took place on Sept. 20.
Families who have been involved with soap box racing over the years attended the opening event for the Swift Current Museum's current exhibition, Sept. 20.
Racing car #64 is one of two original cars from 35 years ago on display at the Swift Current Museum's current exhibition about soap box racing.