Cuyahoga Falls Councilman Pens His Soapbox Derby Memoirs‎

He’s known as “Mr. Derby” to some, and now Jeff Iula dishes on what it was like to growing up during his All-American Soapbox Derby days.

He grew up around the Soap Box Derby most of his life and now, Cuyahoga Falls City Councilman and former All-American Soap Box Derby general manager Jeff Iula is sharing his favorite memories in a new book.

My Photographic Memory of the Soap Box Derby will go on sale on July 15 at the University of Akron bookstore. Iula shares stories on his favorite moments, including watching the races at a young age along side his father, Ralph Iula.

“It’s been my entire life, growing up and knowing all the different people,” he said.

It’s become a family affair. Iula said four of the groomsmen at his wedding 21 years ago were derby world champs. After he was elected to an At-Large city council seat, Iula and the derby mutually parted ways in December of 2009. But, he kept the tradition alive and began helping his granddaughter, who is now in the 3rd grade, get her racing car ready.

“I’m not going to divorce myself from the derby, I still love it, I have a lot friends connected with it,” he said.

It was before his departure in 2006, that Iula started writing the book. It took three-and-a-half years to complete, but Iula said finding a pubisher was the toughest part of the process. After presenting his book to about 22 companies, Iula finally found success through his friend and publicist Ronald Syroid. The University of Akron Press picked it up and just in time. He said the UA Press planned the release date close to the premiere of Corbin Bersen’s derby movie, 25 Hill.

“They’re paying us and we’re very excited, it will have over 300 pictures in it,” he said

Iula said the book focuses on interesting moments from his experiences in Akron and while he was on the road in close to 30 states for derby races.

“The guy (a Falls native) that parachuted, he was trying to land on the track and he ended up landing on the bridge and hit the flag pole all the way around and almost landed on somebody,” Iula shared, detailing one of the stories he highlights. “Also, there was a time the derby didn’t’ have a lot of money and they ended up having a picnic and served bologna sandwiches.”

Readers will see photos of the old champs, celebrities and presidents who attended the races and old sponsors. 

The book, written by Jeff Iula and Bill Ignizio, can be purchased at the University of Akron bookstore or readers can buy it on the UA Press website. Patch readers can receive a 20-percent discount by using the coupon code: DERBY.

Iula will host a presentation and share stories from his book at “My 10 Most Memorable Moments in the Soap Box Derby" at the University of Akron’s Martin Center. Although the presentation is free and open to the public, advance reservations are required and those interested may call 330-972-7498.


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