My son has 1st & 2nd place trophies on the mantle, along with two
butt-ugly cars that have only his fingerprints on them. We researched
the principles, brainstormed ideas, and drew up plans together. But the
construction was all his. He wouldn't trade one of those cars for an
We lived in a cramped apartment at the time, and didn't have much in
the way of tools or workspace. Just a 9" bandsaw, benchtop drill press,
and a 1" belt sander, all from Harbor Freight. But we got 'er done! I
may have overdone the safety thing at first. :-)
You agreed to let your son into the Cub Scouts.
You thought there was a value there.
You found out that there was little, if any value left.
Parents are mostly non-participating in den and pack activities.
It's become a quest for patches. A desire to complete the check lists of
It is what the parents let it become.
Don't contribute to your son's decline by giving validity to the other
overdriven parents dubious actions. Years from now, what he'll
remember is that his dad built a car using whatever he could to
"teach those other cheating parents" a lesson.
Just find a few other people in your area with kids about the same age as
and have weekly or monthly BBQ and camping events.
Both you and your son will get more out of it anyway.
My son started scouts as a 6 year-old tiger cub and is now a few months
away from making Eagle. I didn't see a lot of life-skill value in the
Cub Scout program, but he enjoyed it enough that he never asked to drop
out, so he stayed in. But Boy Scouts is a whole different program. It
teaches a lot of good things kids just need to know. And it isn't all
taught by adults. They learn a lot from each other. I'm really glad
my boy had the opportunity.
The parental involvement issue with the Pinwood Derby has been beat to
death. Yes, there are a few parents who build or buy the cars while
the kid plays Nintendo, but that doesn't totally ruin it; it only ruins
it for them. My boy had a part in every step of every car. When he
was six or seven, he chose from several design options I gave him.
Then, he put his hands on the coping saw while I guided the cuts. Then
he made a few awkward strokes with the rasp, and I finished up. He'd
sand a while and I'd finish up. He'd spray on a coat of paint,
complete with drips and runs; and I'd sand it off and re-coat after he
went to bed. He would hold the trigger on the cordless drill to spin
the axle while I polished at just the right place.
Each year he did more and I did less. My point is that every year, he
was convinced that HE had built the car, even in those early years when
I was doing it all. And I'm certain that he learned more than he would
have if I had handed him the box of parts and told him to build it
himself. We'll see what his memories are years from now. Mine are
"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom
that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down
on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid
again---and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold
one anymore." - Mark Twain
> Stop. Tom...Stop...
> You agreed to let your son into the Cub Scouts.
> You thought there was a value there.
> You found out that there was little, if any value left.
> Parents are mostly non-participating in den and pack activities.
> It's become a quest for patches. A desire to complete the check lists of
> mundane activities.
> It is what the parents let it become.
Times change, people change, human nature doesn't.
I was in the cub scouts as an 8-9 year old kid.
About the only thing I remeber was the chase to collect merit badges.
Got to be a total PITA and I dropped out.
As a point of reference, that was 60 years ago.
You could always tell pinewood derby season had arrived at my old
engineering company. Lengthy (and sometimes heated) lunchtime
discussions of the best location for weights, effectiveness of
streamlining, wheel and axle lubrication, and some really science
fiction go fast ideas.
Come the great derby night. We had a large and active troop, and
EVERY kid showed up for the race. A huge track with electronic timers
was set up in the middle school gym. Throngs of excited scouts, hordes
of parents, ear shattering noise, and an infinite number of cars zipping
down the track. By 11 o'clock I was secretly hoping we would get
eliminated so I could go home to bed. No such luck, our car was quick
enough to place, the kid got a certificate and everything. Didn't get
home til 2 in the morning. Big night.
I guess I'm confused, the moral of this story then is that "two wrong
DO make a right"?
I thought scouting was all about teaching and showing honor, loyalty,
The pack my son is in works on their cars at their meetings. Parents
vote early in the year as to whether or not there will be a Parent
derby for those who can't simply advise...
Tom Watson wrote:
ASTM is about a mile from my house.
Lockheed Martin is about two miles.
Eaton Aerospace is nearby, as is Boeing-Vertol.
Glaxo Smith Kline is half a mile from my house.
Dupont is a thirty minute ride.
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
I can't believe this shit is still going on. I was a scout in the early
60's and parents were carving and customizing their son's cars even then. I
came in third my first year, but whar pissed me off was #1's father owned a
hobby shop and I *know* the kid didn't do a damned thing to the car. I
tortured the kid until he became an adult and even now if we happen to cross
paths. I did get him back when his father had a model building contest with
first prize being a mini-bike and $500. Daddy couldn't help him there as
the contest was judged by monogram. Maybe some of the old timers here might
remember the psychodelic trash truck with the surf boards mounted to the top
and sides. I actually took black thread and used it for plug wires and
18ga. wire for brake lines. At that time the judges never seen anything
like it. To shorten the story, I sold the kid the bike for $500, which
daddy coughed up, and he wrecked it 3 days later. I ended up with a grand
and an ear-to-ear grin for many years after that. :)
"Anybody can have more birthdays; but it takes
balls to get old!"
Just so you know I'm also Mike M and have been posting here for a few
years. I don't have a problem with sharing a nick, but it may cause
some confusion. I don't post all that often but at some point we may
find we don't share opinions.
We had the PW Derby yesterday. My son's car was the shape of an arrow
(this is his fifth and final year), I've elaborated on early issues
like how he learned to use bondo this year.
Saturday night, final assembly. Cracked part of the body installing
an axle. The the lead interfered with the rear axles, had to drill,
oversized, axles won't stay put. Son is royally pissed. We mix up
some old epoxy, never really hardens but we go to bed. At least the
car is in one piece.
Sunday a.m., rolls hard to the left, never gonna win. Left rear axle
was angled forward, pushing wheel into body as it rolls - way too much
friction. Ask son if he wants me to try to fix, and risk re-breaking
and repairing with crappy epoxy that takes forever to harden (was hard
by morning). Says to go for the win. Bend the axle "crack" but
nothing came off and axle is square. Car rolls pretty straight, maybe
an inch to right over 8 feet. I'm thinking "no way" but he's happy,
let's go. Car too heavy, drill out lead until within weight.
Race time. Took first place in the first race, and never relinquished
over all four races (they have to race in each lane). First place.
Back to super derby ... a mixed blessing. After 3rd race, the gap
between him and number 2 was 0.012 seconds cumulative (never saw 4th
race results). So that's your margin you're working with (top 10 cars
all pretty close).
So he was pack champion his first year, and his last year. He was
much happier yesterday than Saturday night. Car did not look like a
winner. I told him the difference from an average WWer and a better
one is the ability to hide one's mistakes.
His friend, who came in 35th overall, was every bit as happy as my
son. The Dad, happier, as he didn't need to go to superderby.
It was a good, fun father-son experience all these years and I'll miss
the time together. He also has gained an interest in WWing, and wants
to try some projects (so does his older sister). So that will be a
real payoff if we can do these sorts of things down the road. Says
he'd really like to try the real soapbox derby racer - not so sure I'm
up for that.
In the time since Mr. Watson posted this I've started to have 2nd thoughts.
Theoretically this is supposed to be the child's project, but I'm beginning
to believe the primary benefit of the contest is to have the generations
work together, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge, doing the best that all
generations working together can do. It's often been said that young ones
don't listen to their elders; perhaps this is one scenario that has the
youngsters willing and eager to listen to the advice and wisdom of their
Illustration 1. In NASCAR Dale E. Jr. is a great driver. Does anyone think
he would be where he is today if Dale E. Sr. wasn't related to him?
Families make a real difference in life accomplishments.
Illustration 2. I recall my dad and I working on my derby car together in
the basement in the mid 1960's. I had ideas, he had ideas, and we came up
with a design together. I did some of the cutting but he did most of the
"roughing out" of the pointed design. Why? My dad is a (now retired)
medical doctor, not a woodworker. All we had was a few hand tools, and we
had *no**clamps* to hold the car body to cut out the distinctive "A" shape
we decided on. It was too hard for a 9 year old (me) to rip a 2"x2"
lengthwise, holding the wood in one hand and the 36" (probably dull) handsaw
in the other. ;-)
The nails that formed the axles for my car were malformed. There were two
stamping ridges along each side of them. In retrospect we should have
gotten new nails or used an emery cloth to make the nails round. Instead we
(both of us) decided to drill the holes in the wheels slightly larger. The
result was that my (our?) car was one of the few, if not the only one, to
*not* make it to the finish line on the race track. The car ground to a
halt just after the incline portion of the track. The friction from our poor
engineering decision was obvious to all. But what do you expect? I was
just a child and my dad had articles published in medical journals, not
engineering journals. ;-)
Fast forward to the early 1990's. My young son and I worked together on his
car. He had specific design ideas and that was fine. He did some of the
work and I did the rest. This was before the WW bug bit me so I didn't have
a single clamp or power tool. ;-) I made the long rip cuts in a 2"x2"
block with a hand saw, no clamps. My less-than-10 year old son did
everything else he could reasonably do. When it came time to mount the
wheels on the nails I told my son about my last-place finish in the 1960's.
Together both he and I:
-- Made sure the nail axles had no ridges,
-- Made sure the nail axles were as parallel as possible, and
-- Made sure the nails were the optimum distance, having the wheels as 90
degrees as possible with as little side-to-side friction as possible.
We followed all the rules. We used only the wheels, wood and nails that
came in the box; we did not install any bearings or other illegal items.
My son did everything he could do. I helped him make sure the the nail
axles were parallel to the track and the wheels 90 degrees to the axles, but
he knew what we were doing and why. He was *very* excited about having a
car as fast as possible and he was very interested in what I had to say.
(As a teen age person, later, he "got over" that. <g>)
The results? His (our?) car won the pack trophy and came in 2nd at the
regionals. I think his/our car would have won the regionals if either:
- It was more aerodynamic, or
- It had not been dropped after the pack races, messing up all the axles.
My son and I had a good time working on his car. Without a doubt his car
was better than anyone else's in his pack because:
- He *and* I worked together, sharing the knowledge from one generation
to the next, and,
- At a practical level he *understood* what his engineering-dad had to
say about very small things that make a big difference. When the both of us
were getting the axles as parallel as possible, and the wheels as
perpendicular as possible, he understood (or at least acknowledged) the
He (we? <g>) just barely lost in the regionals. I think it was because his
car was dropped after the pack races and we never could get the axles and
wheels perfectly aligned after that.
We had a great time building and racing the car. Maybe that is the key
point of the whole derby -- families working together on a common goal.
All points well taken. But it does make you sad for the many youngsters that
don't have the kind of Dad like you guys are. They don't have a chance with
the kind of parental participation absolutely required for many "childhood
endeavors" these days.
Reminds of when I was playing football in HS in the late 50's, right on the
cusp of the game getting out of hand with the "professional sports fan"
Dad's. The next to last year we had two Dad's who had professional sports
careers in mind for their sons, and it basically ruined the game for the
whole team. A few of us quit in disgust at the politics/BS after that year
and never went back to football. Then, lo and behold, the same damn thing
happened, with the same two individuals, on the baseball team!
I've had a bad taste in my mouth ever since about parents getting involved
in organized sports at that level. All you gotta do is look around to see
that it's even worse today, with extreme examples making the news
So, IME, even minimal parental involvement in what should be formative
"child's play" can rob a lot of kids of an experience they'll never get
back. Nonetheless, you guys can't take the ills of the culture on your
shoulders, and you gotta do what it takes to get your kid's raised right.
My hats off to you for making the most of it.
Who made the tune what it is?
The four trumpets?
The four bones?
The five saxes?
The four rhythm players?
How about the board man?
Did the producer have some juice?
"The Summer Wind" is most often called a Sinatra tune, with some
aficionados insisting that the Riddle influence is strong enough to
make it a collaboration.
How about the young dude that was smart enough to spike Frank's coffee
after the third take?
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
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