Hickory – Redhawk Publications is pleased to unveil the latest work of Catawba County historian, Richard Eller, “Down the Hill: Catawba County’s Soap Box Derby.” This eagerly anticipated book highlights the history of a short period of time that shaped many a local boy and girl.

Eller is not new to writing all things Catawba County, but this new book uncovers a unique sport that many residents have little to no knowledge of: Soap Box Derby racing! It is filled with interviews from the participants in the homemade car racing events that were held in the City of Hickory.

While soap box derby racing was around since the mid-1930s in the USA, it caught traction in Catawba county from about 1967 – 1972. Racers, aged 11 – 14, built their own cars and competed locally and even going as far as national races.

Eller explained how this project came to be, “The Historical Association of Catawba County had displayed a Soap Box Derby racer as part of their permanent collection for years. In fact, I walked by it daily when I taught at the museum. One of their employees, Lillian Underwood got a visit from David Puett, one of the racers, who brought by another car for her to see. She suggested that the HACC should do an exhibit. Executive Director Susan Holbrook contacted me about interviewing some participants on camera. I shot the interviews and found out there was color footage of one of the races. I began putting together a piece, incorporating the interviews, the footage and a substantial number of pictures that were available. Then, from those interviews and subsequent ones, we put together a book that details the experiences of the competitors.”

“The interest in the project comes from the people who participated in it,” continued the historian. “Their enthusiasm has been infectious. Listening to them reminds me of those times. In addition, they had all the ingredients for a good documentary, a great story, plus both old film footage and still photos that help tell the story. In the documentary, I show the instillation of the exhibit, and to watch the participants talk about their memories, it not only helps document great hidden history but also takes us all back to a treasured time and place. You see the hard work and ingenuity that the kids put into their cars. It was a pleasure to participate.”

Redhawk Publications invites local residents that like to uncover gems of history to check out this new book as well as attend the premier of Eller’s 22-minute documentary at the History Museum of Catawba County on Saturday, March 9th from 11am – 1pm. Past participants will be on hand at the event to celebrate the exhibition of many of the soap box derby cars on display.

“Down the Hill” is available for purchase at: http://tinyurl.com/CatawbaCoSoapboxDerby

Redhawk Publications is an artistic initiative of the Catawba Valley Community College, publishing written works of interest for the local community, North Carolina, and the entire United States. Established in 2017, Redhawk Publications offers nearly 150 titles to date and is one of only three community colleges nationwide with a publishing press. For additional information on Redhawk Publications, visit their website at https://redhawkpublications.com, or contact Patty Thompson at [email protected].