Pinewood Derby

2011 Pinewood Derby

This weekend I had the privilege of shooting the Cub Scout’s annual Pinewood Derby.  The very first Pinewood Derby was started in 1953 by Cubmaster Don Murphy of California.  His son was too young to qualify for the popular Soap Box Derby, where the boys actually sat in their home-built racer, so he came up with the idea of building miniture racers out of a block of pine and letting them “race by gravity” down a six lane track.  Its popularity spread quickly across the nation, and was firmly established in America’s heartland when I participated in my first Pinewood Derby in 1955.  In 2006, Reader’s Digest selected it as part of “America’s 100 Best”. 

It brought back lots of good memories for me.  Except for computerized scoring and sorting cars’ times by den and overall pack, nothing much has changed.  The car “designs” lean more towards a wedge now than the cigar-shape “Indy racers” of my day, and the tires resemble racing slicks now instead of large rubber bicycle tires.  But the creativity and individual pride put into each car is still evident.

Excitement and nervous tension was building as the cars were weighed in.  Once the car was weighed in and accepted, the scout would not see/touch his car until after the competition ended, so the tension amplified as the boys worked off nervouse energy during the agonizing wait for the first heat. 

I was fortunate to get a “pit pass” so I could shoot the boys in the background, while the cars raced by in the foreground.  Oh, the emotion shown on the scouts’ faces (parents too, sometimes) is about as raw and unvarnished as it gets.  As shown in this photo, you can see tension, anticipation, joy, triumph, disappointment, hope, doubt, fantasy, envy, apathy and relief.  You can almost tell which boy’s car is meeting or exceeding his expectations and which ones’ car was underachieving.  Regardless of how they finished, I know this will be a fond memory for all the boys. 

Thought for the dayI had a lot of pimples when I was a kid.  One day I fell asleep in the libary.  I woke up and a blind man was reading my face.   Rodney Dangerfield

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