Cars

Vancouver Slo Poks still revved up over cars

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In 65 years, a lot has changed for the Slo Poks Car Club, but plenty hasn’t.

Today, like when a group of Vancouver High School students started the club in 1952, the Slo Poks meet at a different member’s house each week. The reasons for meeting at new locations, however, have changed. Now, roughly 30-50 members of the club, which still has 100-plus, meet every Friday night and the host is in charge of providing the meal. When the club started, switching meeting locations wasn’t always part of the plan.

“We’d go to one of our houses,” said Roger Porter, one of the club’s founding members. “When everybody left, they’d start revving their engines and burning rubber, so then that house didn’t want us there anymore.”

Porter, 82, of Boring, Ore., was back in Vancouver with generations of Slo Poks on Sunday for the club’s 65th anniversary celebration. More than 150 guests met at one of the member’s homes, and packed the yard with vintage American hot rods.

None of the founding members in attendance said they could imagine still being in the club 65 years after starting it as high school students.

“We didn’t think we’d live that long, let alone the club,” said Ken Moore, 85, of Vancouver.

Porter said one of the reasons for the club’s success and longevity is that the members share a love of cars, even if they come to the club from all different backgrounds and professional lives.

“There is no stranger here,” said Ron “Steve” Stephens, 82, of Vancouver.

Club members like to say “once a Pok, always a Pok,” and that was true for founding members like Porter, Moore and Stephens.

All three either left the Vancouver area or got caught up with career and family life, spending decades away from the club.

Moore spent 40 years away from the club then asked to rejoin only to find out he was still considered a member.

Stephens was invited to start attending meetings again after striking up a conversation with a person he didn’t know at a car shop who turned out to be a newer Pok member.

Jeff Petersen, secretary-treasurer of the Poks, said it’s been fun to see younger members with an interest in classic cars join the club.

Petersen, 65, of Vancouver joined 22 years ago and said getting younger members is key to keeping the club going.

“The club is maturing,” he said. “It’s gone on 65 years. We’d like to see it continue. It’s a pretty cool legacy. We’ve got some second- and third-generation members.”

Longtime Poks members were around to see the legacy start to develop while the reputation of car clubs changed. Porter said that, at first, people thought of them as hooligans who raced around the streets of Vancouver. While partly true, club members also started pulling over to help drivers whose cars broke down. They’d hand out Slo Poks cards to those drivers to try and drum up some positive talk about the club around town.

But club members are still plenty happy to talk about their more nefarious beginnings, like run-ins with the law, especially one former Vancouver Police Department officer they called “Smiley.”

“He had arrested just about all of our club members at one point or another,” Porter said. “He’d sit up at Vancouver High and fill up his ticket book.

At our 20th anniversary party, someone invited him as a guest of honor. He came and had a great time. He remembered all of our names and where he arrested us.”

Adam Littman: 360-735-4518; adam.littman@columbian.com; twitter.com/a_littman

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