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History of the Slo-Pokes

Founded in 1955

The "Slo-Pokes" Firematic Racing Team has a long and rich history. They were originally founded in 1955 and some of the original members included George Karl, Russ Swanson, Ron Chipman, Bob Leising, Jerry Hoffman, Horace Henning, John Ulrich, Art O’Leary, Earl Metzinger, Fred Wysocki and Al Maue. Each of the original members contributed $5 towards the purchase of their first vehicle: a 1949 Ford Convertible. This became their first Class "C" Truck. The "Slo-Pokes" team competed in their first tournament at Sea Breeze in Monroe County on June 24, 1956 and earned a tie for 4th place in "C Hose" competition. In the same year they participated in their first Western New York Convention Tournament at Batavia, NY, using old Engine 2 for their "B" Truck.

During the 1960’s, the "Slo-Pokes" continued to improve with greats such as Ron Chipman, George Karl, Jim and Wayne Leising, Bob Leising, Russ Swanson, Fred Wysocki, and Jerry Sanford.

The team experienced a rebirth of sorts in 1976. The first trophy was won at the North Bailey Tournament in the Bucket Brigade competition. Team members included John Karl, Bill Karl, Paul Schill, Scott Lawida, Jon Kemp, Carl Trenz, Wayne Leising, Chris Leising and Buddy Vanderlinden. Their competitiveness has continued to this day.

The "Slo-Pokes" won yearly championships in 1983 and 1985. Names like Robert Karl, Jon Kemp, Jim Gesel, Darryl Steinman and Randy Leising put the team in the top spot for years.

 

The Slo-Pokes Heart & Soul

Just as the "Slo-Pokes", and the Main-Transit Fire Department was joyously looking forward to hosting their first New York State Drill and Parade, they lost "the heart and soul" of the team. Past Chief George J. Karl, one of the teams first founding members, died in the line of duty while responding to a reported structure fire in July 1990. At their annual Tournament, Main-Transit and the "Slo-Pokes" dedicated the George J. Karl Firematic Training Facility on July 13, 1991.

 

In 1995, the "Slo-Pokes" acquired a new Class "C" Truck from the Bayshore Redskins Drill Team and hit the tournament circuit with it the same year. The team won the Wehle Trophy in 1995 and 1996. The "Slo-Pokes" set a milestone in 1996 by winning virtually every tournament including the Western Convention. Their hopes of "retiring" another Wehle trophy were dashed in 1997 when they came up seven points short for the yearly championship. Team greats and veterans with names like Tom Vanderlinden, Brett Lesser, Jim Lawida, Jim Rusin, Chris Feuz, and Jim Jackson rounded out the mid 90’s.

 

During the past decade, the "Slo-Pokes" have hosted the New York State Drill and Parade five times: in 1990, 1992, 1994, 2000 and most recently in 2004. The Slo-Pokes are proud to be hosting the New York State Drill in 2008.