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When firefighters look back on the 2012 Vinton Fire Department waterball fights, what they may remember most will not be who won, or how well the Vinton teams fared. Instead, they may remember the man who didn’t compete this year.

For the first time since the summer of 1969, Paul Schellhase was standing with the audience instead of participating with his Garrison teammates.

Schellhase, 70, and his younger brother Don, 67, were legendary waterball champions four decades ago. The Garrison Emergency Services Building still has many of the trophies and state championship banners the Schellhases’ team won in the 1970s.

It began in 1969, said Schellhase, as he watched firefighters young enough to be his sons – and a few perhaps even young enough to be grandchildren – when Garrison firefighters learned from some Brandon firemen how to compete in the event. Schellhase remembers another set of brothers – Bob and Earl Bearbower – along with Roger Duello and others from Brandon.

“They were the best in the area. They taught us how to do it and we entered our first tournament in 1969,” recalls Schellhase.

They finished in fourth place that year.

Paul gives Don, who later moved to Traer and served as fire chief there for many years, credit for the team’s success.

Their team won several championships in an era when just about every department had a waterball team, and competitions were much more frequent. Schellhase recalls competing in 20 events within 30 days in 1972 or 1973.

“I was very competitive back then,” he said.

But this year, says Schellhase, age has caught up with him.

Now, he says, competing in a waterball fight would be like “kissing your sister;” he repeated that comment to several firefighters who asked him on Sunday if he missed competing.

“We had a lot of good times,” he recalled. ‘We made a lot of great friends.”

And although the firefighters are, indeed very competitive and winning is very important, Schellhase said he never once saw an argument in all of his decades of competition.

Click HERE for a 2010 VT story about Schellhase's history of waterball fights.

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Comments (5)

Great article! Thank you!!
By: Amanda Schellhase-Erickson on July 16th 10:34am
Great Tribute to a Great Man!
By: Traci Malecek (Schellhase) on July 16th 3:47pm
Good story on a good man. Remember 1970 in Cherokee Paul??????
By: Bob La Grange on July 16th 5:28pm
As one fireman said to me waterball will never be the same! Was lucky enough to be on both Dad and uncle Don's teams in the past to me that's the biggest WIN any one could ask for...
By: Rick Rommann on July 17th 7:47am
But, Paul, you NEVER had a sister!!!
By: on July 17th 4:44pm

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