Tim Giago. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Tim Giago: Re-living our childhood Soap Box Derby days

Notes from Indian Country
Re-living our childhood Soap Box Derby days

My Aunt Mary Tapio-Torres was one of the kindest women I have ever known.

She, and her husband Pete, bought a home on Philadelphia Street in the 1940s when the streets running past the house were still gravel. At one time or another Mary had her brother Nelson and his wife stay at her house, she kept my brother Tony for many years, and when my Mom hit on hard times she let my Mom move into a tiny shack she had at the back of her property. Two of my sisters and I lived there when we were young.

My aunt was a great cook and none of us ever went hungry during the hard times we experienced after my Mom and Dad divorced.

Mary had five children of her own. She had three daughters and a son. Her oldest son Richard was nicknamed Sonny and since my Dad was also Tim, I was also nickname Sonny. We were about the same age.

Photo: Miki Jourdan
Back in those day there used to be a Soap Box Derby Race held in Rapid City and the winner usually got a small cash award. One year Sonny and I decided to build a Soap Box racing car and enter the race. We found a little red wagon, took the tires off, built a little car with a snug seat for the driver and then sat back and looked at the masterpiece we had built. But the job wasn’t done yet. We had to do a test drive.

Just behind my Aunt’s house was the big hill that was the guardian of North Rapid. We thought it would be a good test to take our car to the top of the hill and then race it down to Philadelphia Street. But we needed someone to pilot the car. And there he was; Sonny’s little brother Buzzy. So we took the car to the top of the hill, installed Buzzy behind the wheel and gave it a push.

Half way down the hill one of the tires came off and the car flipped throwing Buzzy down the hill. He hit his head on a rock so there was a little blood there and Sonny and I were scared to death when Buzzy started to yell that he was going to tell his mom. As I said, my aunt Mary was a wonderful woman, but she could still knock the tar out of any of the kids that gave her lip. Sonny and I immediately started to dig through our pockets to see how much money we could find in order to bribe Buzzy to keep him quiet. We came up with about 75 cents between us, big money in the 1940s, and this huge sum did the job. Buzzy said he would clam up.

We picked up the pieces of our once beautiful Soap Box Derby car and headed home. Buzzy was still bleeding a little from the wound on his head when we got there and my Aunt Mary about went crazy when she saw the shape he was in. Like a trooper, Buzzy fingered the coins in his pocket and told his mom he was playing on the hill when he fell down and hit his head on a rock. Sonny and I breathed a sigh of relief. My aunt Mary looked suspiciously at are mangled racing car and we were sure she surmised the true story, but she didn’t say a word.

That was the end of our Soap Box Derby days and we never forgot how we had almost killed Buzzy and after a few years we got a good laugh out of it and even Buzzy laughed along with us.

Contact Tim Giago at najournalist1@gmail.com.

Note: Content © Tim Giago

Join the Conversation