Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bowie's 2nd Annual Soap Box Derby, 1972

The 2nd annual Bowie Soap Box Derby took place on Sunday, July 8th, 1972.  The following article by Bob Reid was published in the July 13th edition of the Bowie Blade.

Bowie Entrants Far Back In 2nd Annual Soap Box Derby
By Rob Reid
Bowie Blade Editor
Thursday, July 13, 1972

Bowie youngsters were superior only in numbers for the running of the 2nd Annual Soap Box Derby here last Sunday, with the top four finisher hailing from out of town.

The winner, after some 80 heats, was Daryl Freeman, a freckled-face 11-year-old from Bladensburg, running in his first Soap Box Derby competition.

His needle-nosed, gold Takoma Transfer and Storage Special flashed over the finish line in the championship heat a bare quarter of a length ahead of Van Hanson, a 14-year-old from Takoma Park.

Hanson, from a family of Soap Box racing brothers, was awarded second place, while last year's runner-up, Everett Parson of Brandywine finished third, beating distaff racer, Cathy Leavy.

The races were run down a 900 foot stretch of Race Track Road, and consumed 5 1/2 hours, much of the time spent returning the cars from the finish line back to the starting ramps for further heats.

Five girls were among the 40 contestants, and one, Linda Winpigler, an 11-year-old blond with a flowing mane from Frederick finished fourth.

The favorite of the crowd was Cathy Leavy, 12, a student at St. Pius school, whose flower-embroidered car captured the fancy of the fans.

Cathy, the daughter of William Leavy, last year's derby director, was clearly the better of her family entry with brother Steve, 13, who was eliminated earlier.

Because of her flower-power car, the fans quickly nicknamed her "the flower girl," and Cathy, as cool as a veteran Indianapolis driver, kept them on tip-toe until the 71st heat when she was finally eliminated by Linda Winpigler.

Only a single accident marred the day's races when Nancy Perret, a 13-year older from Pius X school applied premature breaking at the finish line, and spun out into the woods.  The car suffered major damage, but Nancy was unhurt.

The derby, as it was last year, was sponsored by the Bowie Jaycees and Rogers Chevrolet. The winner, Darryl Freeman, received a $500 U.S. Savings Bond and the championship trophy, and earned himself a week-long trip to Akron, Ohio in August for the national finals.

George Sipe, zone public relations manager for the Chevrolet Motors Division, and Bill Rogers, owner of Rogers Chevrolet, were on hand to make the various presentations to the new champion, who confessed, "I never though I was going to win it."

Prior to the official racing, a pace race between last year's champion, Casey Muldoon, and Mayor Jim Conway in his bulky J.C. Supercar was run with Casey winning in 29.31 seconds.

By comparison, Freeman's winning time in the championship was 28.74 seconds, the second best time of the day. Earlier, Parson has posted 28.57 seconds in narrowly beating Cathy Leavy.

The Jaycees Marty Gear was this year's Soap Box Derby Director.  "I believe we ironed out a lot of the problems of the first year," he said after the races, "and all in all, we had a good day of it."

Innovations this year included sophisticated communications by citizen's band radio, intercommunication between starting ramps, finish line, and public announcement systems, and photographic finishes.

The Bowie Jaycees have the Soap Box Derby franchise for all of Prince George's County, and entrants came from Upper Marlboro, Forestville, Bladensburg, Brentwood, Crofton, Glenn Dale, Pasadena, Oxon Hill, Rockville, Brandywine, Laurel, Camp Springs, Accokeek, as well as the 18 from Bowie.

All contestants were required to personally construct their own cars, but adult advice was allowed.  No more than $50 could be spent, including the cost of standard racing wheels which must be purchased from Chevrolet, and the maximum allowable weight, driver and car, was 250 pounds.

For the first time this year in Bowie, many of the cars were of fiberglass construction.

The crowd peaked at about 2,000, but thinned as the long, hot, muggy afternoon wore on.  There was also better crowd control this year, with snow fencing erected along the west side of Race Track Road to prevent fans from running onto the raceway.

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The News Express, July 12, 1972, photos by Bill Strassberger 

Bowie Mayor Jim Conway in his J.C. Supercar
The News Express, July 12, 1972, photos by Bill Strassberger

Cathy Leavy
The News Express, July 12, 1972, photos by Bill Strassberger

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

The Bowie Blade and Post Times, Thursday, July 13, 1972, photos by Ken Smallwood and Bob Reid

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bowie 2014 Year in Review


  • Bowie City Council approves money for a new sports facility
  • Old caboose out at Railroad museum; new caboose to arrive in 2015
  • Solar panels grow in popularity in Bowie
  • Man murdered in parking lot of Belair Swim & Racquet Club
  • City of Bowie purchases its first electric car
  • Bowie Police Department purchases electric motorcycles


  • Melford plans moving forward
  • Plans for new Walmart Supercenter on 301 moving forward
  • Close to a deal at Marketplace
  • WB&A spur hiker/biker trail construction began in 2014; scheduled to be complete in 2015
  • Bowie Heritage Trail construction to begin in 2015, including playground at Railroad Museum


  • Todd Turner (County Council)


  • Geraldine Valentino-Smith (Maryland House of Delegates)
  • Marvin Holmes (Maryland House of Delegates)
  • Joe Vallario (Maryland House of Delegates)
  • Doug Peters (Maryland Senate)

No Longer With Us

  • Longtime Bowie politician Mary Conroy


  • Anthony's N.Y. Pizza and Pasta House (Free State)
  • Little Caesars (Bowie Plaza)
  • Smoothie King (Bowie Town Center)
  • Electric Charging Station (Bowie Town Center)
  • FastCare Clinic urgent care facility (Free State Giant)


  • Quizno's (Bowie Town Center)
  • Frozen Yo (Bowie Town Center)
  • Dairy Queen (Bowie Town Center)
  • Subway (Bowie Town Center)

Coming Soon

  • Chuck's Wagon Barbeque (Bowie Plaza)
  • Jimmy Johns (Bowie Town Center)
  • Speed Camera in front of Benjamin Tasker Middle School (January 5th)
  • Samosa Supreme (14207 Old Annapolis Road; format J-Mart location)
  • Wingzone (Bowie Town Center; former Quizno's location)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day in Bowie, 1936

How are you spending your Thanksgiving day?  In 1936, there were no football games on television, but there was horse racing in Bowie.  This picture was taken at the Bowie Race Course on Thanksgiving day, 1936.

This picture was also taken on Thanksgiving day, 1936 at the Bowie Race Course.  Apprentice jockey Ira Hanford is sitting on Piccolo after winning the Thanksgiving Handicap.  The 18 year-old Hanford made history earlier that year by becoming the first apprentice jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.  Hanford won the "Run for the Roses" while riding a 20-1 long shot - Bold Venture.  Handford's Kentucky Derby win came one year after Belair Stable's Omaha won the Derby and the other two legs of the Triple Crown.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Popular Bowie Politician Dies

August 9, 2014:  Mary Conroy, who represented the Bowie area as a Maryland State Senator and as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, died Saturday at the age of 82.

Conroy was appointed to the Maryland Senate to fill the remaining term of her late husband, Senator Ed Conroy, upon his death in 1982.  Conroy was later appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates to fill the remaining term of Gerard Devlin after he became a Prince George's County District Court Judge.  Conroy served as a delegate for more than twenty years, and she had the distinction of being the Deputy Majority Leader for four of those years.

Conroy's time in Bowie dates back to the time when Levitt & Sons first started selling houses in the community.  Conroy and her husband were one of the first homebuyers in the Belair at Bowie development.  They purchased a Colonial on the corner of Stonybrook Drive and Shawmont Lane in a section of town that was once referred to as a "professional row," according to Conroy.  There was no office space in Bowie in the early 1960s, so it was common for doctors, dentists and other professionals to buy houses along Stonybrook Drive to serve as homes and offices.  Ed Conroy had a law office in the Conroy home on Shawmont Lane.

The Conroys called themselves Belair at Bowie's first residents.  They signed the development's very first property title on the morning of October 17, 1961, according to the Washington Star.

Mary Conroy on Wikipedia
Mary Controy's House of Delegates Profile

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nixon Leaves the White House. What's the Bowie Connection?

August 9, 1974 (40 years ago today): Facing the possibility of impeachment, President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  So what's the Bowie connection?

During the Watergate burglaries in 1972, two phones were bugged in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) offices.  Only one of those listening devices worked.  That bug was in the phone of R. Spencer Oliver.  At that time, Oliver lived in a Cape on Felter Lane in Bowie with his wife and family.

After the bugs were discovered, Oliver was investigated by the FBI.  The FBI hadn't found the bugs in a previous sweep of the office, so there was some suspicion that someone in the DNC had planted the bugs themselves.  In an interview given by journalist Robert Parry years later, Oliver said, "they tried to tie me to radical groups and asked questions of my neighbors and my friends about whether I had ever done anything wrong, whether I drank too much, whether I was an alcoholic, whether I had a broken marriage, whether I had had any affairs.  It was a very intrusive and obnoxious assault on my private life."

Oliver also faced scrutiny from some of his colleagues who didn't feel that he was important enough to have his phone bugged.  There was jealousy.  "Everybody wanted to be the celebrity victim," Oliver told Parry.

After a civil lawsuit was filed, lawyers for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) deposed Oliver.  In an effort to discredit Oliver, they asked him if he was a member of the Communist Party or the Weather Underground.  They asked him if he had ever been arrested.

Oliver soon found himself at odds with DNC leadership.  The DNC wanted to put the Watergate break-in behind them, and they wanted to settle the civil suit.  Oliver felt it was important to continue the lawsuit because the related depositions provided the only opportunity to force the Republicans to answer questions about Watergate.  This was before the Senate Watergate Committee was formed.

Read more about R. Spencer Oliver's role in Watergate in the "Enduring Secrets of Watergate" special report by Robert Parry.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Gallant Fox wins the Triple Crown

June 7, 1930 (84 years ago today):  Gallant Fox from the Belair Stud Farm won the Triple Crown.  The Fox of Belair, as he was known, later fathered Omaha, the second horse from Belair to win the Triple Crown.  To this date, Gallant Fox and Omaha represent the only father/son pair Triple Crown winners.  Both horses were a product of the team of William Woodward, Belair Stud's owner, and trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Grand Opening Ceremony Held at Bowie's Market Place

April 6, 1983 (31 years ago today): A Grand Opening ceremony was held at the Market Place, a redesigned Bowie shopping destination that was formerly known as the Belair Shopping Center.  The Market Place was anchored by a new and modern Safeway grocery store.  The store was equipped with price scanners, and it was the third largest Safeway on the East Coast at the time.

Click here to see a set of newspaper advertisements that appeared in the Bowie Blade-News prior to the Grand Opening.  Special thanks to Megan Reilly who shared the advertisements with Bowie Living after discovering them in her shed when she moved into her Bowie home.