Aiken resident to participate in Senior Day at Soap Box Derby

·3 min read

Jul. 8—On Aug. 11, an Aiken resident will be able to fulfill a dream of hers 72 years in the making.

Julie Callahan, 83, will be participating in Senior Day at the Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. In 1950, when she was 11, Callahan wanted to race in the All-American Soap Box Derby, but at the time only boys were allowed to race. She found this out when she went buy tires for the car she was making and the store would only sell the tires to boys. This upset Julie, so she decided to do something about it.

"She wrote a letter to the Akron Beacon Journal... and the letter started a series of letters that followed up and the letter was published on Aug. 6, 1950," said her husband Ken.

The letter was published in the Sunday, Aug. 6, 1950 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal and said:

"Dear Jim,

Since girls are not permitted to race in the Soap Box Derby I suggest that a Derby for girls be held. The reason for this is that many of my friends would like to build cars and race them. Boys always get to do things that the girls don't and I would like to show them that the girls know a thing or two. I would like to have this matter discussed before you again say no.

Julie McCoy

Cuyahoga Falls"

After her letter was published, Julie said the response among her friends was good and they told her to go for it.

Girls were eventually allowed to participate in 1971, but Julie she had passed the age of eligibility to participate. According to the Soap Box Derby website, the race is open to ages 7-20. She said the fact that she wasn't able to race was "still burning under my skin."

But that will change for Julie on Aug. 11 as she returns to Derby Downs in Akron to participate in the Senior Day.

"...I am looking forward to being able to race somewhere, somehow. I'm not quite sure how it's all going to come about," Julie said. "But it was one of those things you reach a point in life where you go on with your life and whenever the opportunity came up where there was a conversation about, gee I wish I could've done this, gee I wish I could've done that..."

Julie will soon have her chance to go to the 989-foot track in an adult-sized derby vehicle. She said the vehicle does not have a motor, they just let down the gate and let gravity do its work pulling the vehicles down the hill.

"You could say that (it's like fulfilling a dream)," Julie said. "I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to fulfill that dream because that's something I had seen, I wanted to do it, I thought I could do it."

Aug. 11 is a special day for the Callahans because not only will Julie be racing, but she and her husband will be celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary.