How One Man Influenced 100 Million Boys

I just learned in the October issue of Scouting Magazine that the creator of the Pinewood Derby passed away at the age of 90.

I have participated in over a dozen Pinewood Derby races as a Scout, Cubmaster, and father of two Scouts.  Yet, I had never wondered about who came up with the original idea and “invented” the Pinewood Derby.

Cubmaster Don Murphy organized the first pinewood derby, held on May 15, 1953 in Manhattan Beach, California by Pack 280.  Murphy’s son was too young to participate in the popular Soap Box Derby races, so he came up with the idea of racing miniature wood cars. The cars had the same gravity-powered concept as the full-size Soap Box Derby cars, but were much smaller and easier to build.

It is estimated that over 100 million Cub Scouts have participated in Pinewood Derby races in the past 55 years.

Murphy said he wanted to “devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition.”

If you’ve ever participated in one, you know that he accomplished his objective.  The last minute building and weighing of cars is an amazing experience. Watching the boys cheer for each others car is fantastic.

Think about the impact his five-ounce block of wood, wheels, paint and nails has had around the world.  Simplicity is genius.  Thank you, Don.

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