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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Emblem of the organization designed by Bob Willis and drawn by Joe Deggendorf, Jr.

SLO-POKES. In 1954 the Slo-Pokes was the Dubuque chapter of the National Hot Rod Association. Founded by Joe Deggendorf, Jr., the group rejected the image of wild driving up and down city streets. Hot rods, explained Deggendorf, unlike stock cars were built for beauty and speed. Hot rod racing done on a straight track with only two cars in competition was a perfectly safe speed contest, he contended.

One of the reasons the club was founded was to promote the construction of a track in Dubuque. The club members had to travel to Chicago to race their 120-mile per hour racers. Deggendorf watched for other hot rods around town and then tracked down their owners to establish interest in the club. Besides Deggendorf, the club members included Bob Willis, president; Joe Willis, vice president; and Leonard Pitz, treasurer.

The goal of the national group, organized in March 1951, was to "promote interest in various types of hot rod activities and to create an attitude of good sportsmanship and good citizenship among all members." To show its commitment to the national goals, the local club established that any member arrested for violation of a city ordinance or state laws who paid a fine had to pay half the same amount to the club's treasury.

The group sought to incorporate in 1955. Invitations were sent to representatives of the Road Knights from Cedar Rapids and the Ignitors, a group from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to a meeting to explain the purposes and practices of their organizations. Both were national association clubs. President Robert Willis of the Slo-Pokes invited those in attendance to join whether they owned a hot rod or not. Each person was placed on a 30-day probationary period before becoming a member. (1)

In 1955 a proposal for a safety campaign using bumper slogans was rejected. Members decided that a safety check on all member cars was as important and Robert Willis was named director of the car check committee. (2) The same year members of the Dubuque club and a Buchanan County highway patrolman helped form a new hot rod club in Jesup. (3)



1. "Slo-Pokes Hot Rod Club Seeks Incorporation," Telegraph-Herald, June 12, 1955, p. 6

2. Slo-Pokes Turn Down Slogan Plan; Prefer Car Check," Telegraph-Herald, September 18, 1955, p 3

3. "Slo-Poke Visitors Organize Jesup Auto Enthusiasts," Telegraph-Herald, November 3, 1955, p. 2