Pinewood Derby Memory – Generations

As some mothers do, mine being a great example, they save the key items from their kids that they felt held lots of meaning. My mother tends to send strategically timed packages of odds and ends from my childhood to me or my kids. Last fall she sent me a package of Cub Scout items … my uniform, my vest full of patches and pins, and a couple of my old pinewood derby cars. My sons (oldest going into 1st grade at the time) liked the uniform – very excited to be a Cub Scout – but the hit of the package was the derby cars. My mother visited a few months later and brought the other two derby cars I’d made and my trophy for winning the pack race my last year. In talking with the boys about it I recalled that the trophy was the first I’d ever won, and I told my kids about how proud I was of it when I was their age. We also talked about all the time I spent with Granddad working on it (my kids like woodworking with me already). That began the quest for my son to get his own trophy.
Determined to not make my son wait four years to win a trophy, I read a few web sites and checked out all the books on pinewood derby from the library. Joshua and I talked extensively about all the principles and went through several iterations of design until we found something we both thought would be fast. I cut out his car in the wood shop and he did most of the sanding, painting, and finishing (with close supervision). We followed all the steps carefully (there were a few things we chose not to do), and made about a dozen trips to the hobby shop for tools and supplies.
As derby day approached we ended up taking a trip to Disney to visit my father and got additional advice and assistance from him on how to make the car fast (my Dad ran the derby several years when I was a kid). Due to winter storms we almost didn’t make it back home to race, but thankfully the weather at home was so bad they delayed the race several weeks.
As the new race date approached we were nervous that his car might not be competitive enough – our pack is full of Microsoft engineers which means the cars could potentially be really competitive. As we tried to set his expectations kind of low, Joshua said he’d had a dream that he was going to win. Well after looking at the cars of some of the other participants I wasn’t so sure.
After our first few Tiger races (won by a full car length or more) I knew he was competitive, but was worried about the cars of the older kids that looked really fast. After watching the older ranks race it was time for the pack championship. We were up against some really fast cars. As the kids chanted “cheese wedge” for one of the older kids, surprisingly the parents were chanting “Tigers, Tigers”, rooting for our son. In the end Joshua went undefeated and won grand champion in his pack and won his first trophy!
After calls to the grandparents – especially my Dad – and celebratory ice cream, Joshua came home to proudly display his trophy next to mine. Looks like a new family tradition has begun!
Now Joshua and I are both bitten by the derby bug. His goal next year is to win a district trophy. Since Granddad is retiring just before the district race next year we hope we can have all three generations of Williams boys there to cheer him on.
David Williams
From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 12, Issue 2
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