Along with sauerkraut balls, the Goodyear Blimp and Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, it’s an Akron institution. Ronald Reed’s “A Look Back at the All-American Soap Box Derby 1946-1959” begins with the first postwar Derby, which had the greatest crowd ever; that record still stands. There was a huge parade and a jet flyover.
For each subsequent year, Reed includes the celebrities who appeared in the parade (Jimmy Stewart canceled two Broadway performances to come to Akron in 1947, the first of his six visits), racers in significant heats, rules changes and many great photos.
There also are many anecdotes, like the 1952 race in which an impoverished Georgia boy crashed and damaged his car almost beyond repair. Volunteers used “the top of a lunch box,” “several feet of adhesive and cellophane tape” to patch it up so the boy could become champion. There were awards for best construction, best upholstery and best design. The book ends with 1959, when Oscar winner Art Carney, singer Jimmy Dean and Vice President Richard Nixon were guests.
“A Look Back at the All-American Soap Box Derby 1946-1959” (346 pages, softcover) costs $22 from online retailers.
Civil War battle
It’s Gettysburg, Antietam and Bull Run that get all the attention. A lesser-documented Civil War battle is examined in “That Bloody Hill: Hilliard’s Legion at Chickamauga” by Tallmadge resident Lee Elder.
The three-day battle in September 1863 involved about 125,000 troops. Henry Washington Hilliard recruited 3,000 men who ultimately served under Braxton Bragg, one of the most unpopular generals of the Civil War. Elder describes the terrain, the strategies and the troop movements. Using contemporary accounts and letters, he attempts to reconstruct the events of the battle, especially difficult for the last day and the confusion surrounding Horseshoe Ridge.
Bragg repeatedly disobeyed instructions from his superiors; after the battle, he should have prevented the Union troops from moving north, but instead allowed them to escape.
The 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, organized at Camp Taylor near Cleveland, distinguished itself with the use of the new Colt revolving rifles until they ran out of ammunition and were left with only their bayonets.
About a third of the book is a roster of Hilliard’s Legion, giving names, in most cases, age, date and place of enlistment, and sometimes their fate during the war.
“That Bloody Hill” (239 pages, softcover) costs $35 from McFarland.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Brecksville branch, 9089 Brecksville Road): Laura DeMarco signs her pictorial history “Cleveland Then and Now,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday. Register at 440-526-1102.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Ellet branch, 2470 E. Market St.): Jim Clark, radio broadcaster of the Akron RubberDucks, discusses “Rally ‘Round Cleveland: The Franchise-Saving 1974 Indians,” 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Mayfield branch, 6080 Wilson Mills Road, Cleveland): Mark Dawidziak continues his series “TV Shows That Changed the World,” 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 440-473-0350.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road): Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., signs “Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Future and a Model for America’s Future,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 216-661-4240.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch, 1876 S. Green Road, South Euclid): Tara Conklin signs her novel “The Last Romantics,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday; Dan Rager talks about “The Maple Leaf Route,” about the Geauga County railway that ran from 1899 to 1925, 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday. Register at 216-382-4880.
Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights): Poets Lee Chilcote (“How to Live in Ruins”) and Patrick Culliton (“Sam’s Teeth”) read from their work, 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Middleburg Heights branch, 15600 Bagley Road): Mark Dawidziak presents “TV Shows That Changed the World,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Register at 440-234-3600.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.): Elizabeth Letts discusses “Finding Dorothy,” a novel about the creation of “The Wizard of Oz,” 1 p.m. Friday. Register at 330-653-6658.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (60 S. High St.): Bernard Powers, professor emeritus of history at the College of Charleston and co-author (with Herb Frazier and Marjory Wentworth), discusses “We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel,” about the 2015 murder of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a white supremacist, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. This event was rescheduled from September because of travel problems caused by Hurricane Florence.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive): Comitia Williams signs “What Are You Thinking?”, noon to 2 p.m., Saturday. Register at 440-238-5530.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Matthew Ferrence, associate professor of creative writing at Allegheny College, discusses “Appalachia North: A Memoir,” about the culture and boundaries of northern Appalachia, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Barnes & Noble (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere): James Freedman reads from “I Let the Dogs Out!,” 2 p.m. Saturday.
Dover Public Library (525 N. Walnut St.): Dave Lange signs “Virginity Lost in Vietnam: A Coming of Age Memoir,” 2 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Register at 330-343-6123.
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.