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CK Faces: Bill Court is Silverdale's derby master

Never a Soap Box Derby racer himself, Silverdale Sunrise Rotary President Bill Court helped bring the races to Silverdale four years ago and has overseen the sport’s local growth for the past two years as derby director. - Photo by Valentina Petrova
Never a Soap Box Derby racer himself, Silverdale Sunrise Rotary President Bill Court helped bring the races to Silverdale four years ago and has overseen the sport’s local growth for the past two years as derby director.
— image credit: Photo by Valentina Petrova

Bill Court’s father worked for Chevrolet in Detroit in the 1950s and 1960s when the company sponsored the area Soap Box Derby events. Court remembers when he was 10 he used to tag along with his dad to help kids from the Boys Club assemble their cars.

Some 45 years later, Court had an opportunity to follow in his father’s race tracks.

“I never raced a car,” he says, thinking back to his childhood in Detroit. “But here I am doing the same thing he was doing.”

Court is the Silverdale Soap Box Derby director for the second year in a row and a fraction of his duties include helping boys and girls fix up the racing cars they pilot.

Court used to spend weekends on end watching kids his age race derby cars. Since then he has wondered why he himself never snuck into the cozy cockpits of the shiny racers.

“I’ve asked myself that a lot of times,” Court said, laughing. “So, that’s why I was very supportive of the adult cars we bid on now.”

The adult cars, known as Oil Can cars, are oversized derby racers intended for the grown-ups’ enjoyment. At this year’s Silverdale Soap Box Derby adults will be able to bid for the opportunity to race in one of the big cars.

The Silverdale Sunrise Rotary recently purchased four of those and some of the derby association members put them together in time for the rally races in March and May in Bremerton. The club, where Court is this year’s president, created the Silverdale derby as its primary community project and is putting it on for the fourth time on Ridgetop Boulevard next weekend.

More recently the Kitsap Soap Box Derby Association added several rally races to the original championship derby and it was at this year’s March rally that the Oil Can cars debuted.

It also was the first time that Bill Court raced. He won his heat but lost to the overall champ.

Racing down Fourth Street in Bremerton was “a thrill,” Court said. But it was not nearly as thrilling as watching children race downhill.

“This is what gets me is the kids when you see the smiles on their faces and they’re congratulating each other,” Court said.

Soap Box Derby parent, fan, and assistant director for the rally races, David Tippets has been involved with the Silverdale race since its launch and now has two daughters who race. He said Court’s often the first one out on the street on race day, setting up the cones, tires and the timing equipment.

Once the race is rolling, Court is usually at the bottom of the track, lifting the 100-pound-plus cars up onto a trailer and then taking them and the young racers back up the hill to the start.

“And that’s when you listen to them and they’re just having a ball,” Court said, smiling. “There’ll be tears of happiness and pats on the back.”

“It’s pretty commendable for a person to get that involved in an organization like that without having kids in it,” Tippets said.

Court has been the director of the Silverdale derby for two years without having kids or grandkids of his own rolling down Ridgetop Boulevard at 30 mph.

When the Silverdale Sunrise Rotary initiated the event, the derby became the president-elect’s project. Bill Wright, former Rotary president and derby director, says organizing the event and preparing for leading the Rotary club at the same time was too demanding.

“Bill (Court) recognized the (derby) needed a consistent person,” Wright said.

Thus, Court volunteered to stay on as derby director for a second year. And now he may have found his niche.

In addition to the championship race and rallies, the derby association hosts three car clinics at the Silverdale Community Center throughout the year. Court and other Soap Box Derby enthusiasts spend those weekends teaching kids and their parents how to safely assemble the racing cars, which come in kits and have to be put together by the drivers.

“It really brings families together,” Court said.

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