What is a hobo?
A hobo is a migratory worker, some with a special skill or trade, others ready to work at any task, but always willing to work to make his way.
The tramp is a traveling non-worker, moving from town to town, but never willing to work for the handouts that he begs for. A bum is the lowest class, too lazy to roam around and never works.
How did Hobo Days start?
And so these few hobos drew up articles of confederation for a Tourist Union for any hobo nationwide to join and avoid persecution for vagrancy. Finding that the hobos present numbered to 63 this Union was labeled Tourist Union #63. In August of each year Tourist Union #63 held a National Hobo Convention to renew friendships, collect annual dues, sign up new members, and honor the most deserving of their union to the temporary positions for King and Queen. The convention moved to different cities each year to appease the workers, but in 1887 the members voted to hold the 1888 convention in Chicago and it stayed there for 12 years.
In 1889 three Britt men named Thomas Way, T.A. Potter, and W.E. Bradford read a report in the Chicago paper that Tourist Union No. 63 has just elected new officers. They wrote to Charles F. Noe of Sycamore, Illinois and invited him to bring the Hobo Convention to Britt. Their desire was to gain some attention for the small town to “do something different to show the world that Britt was a lively little town capable of doing anything that larger cities could do.” Noe wrote back and said he would come out to Britt and see if the grounds were large enough. He must have liked what he saw, because he agreed to hold the convention in Britt August 22nd, 1900.
Next, check out the 61 things this man learned at Hobo Days
6 Reasons Why I Love Hobo Days:
1. Hobo Days is unique. Like I said earlier, there is no other type of celebration like this in the entire world that I know of. Sometimes the residents of Britt tend to forget this. You hear people say, “there is nothing to do in Britt” or “why would anyone want to come to Britt for Hobo Days?” I absolutely hate when someone complains about Britt or Hobo Days, because in the end you’re bashing yourself. Why do people travel hundreds of miles to learn about the hobos? Because it’s interesting. It’s unique. It’s weird. It’s different. It’s no different than the world’s largest strawberry in Strawberry Point or the National Hollerin' Contest held in North Carolina. People love weird and Britt residents need to embrace it.
2. Hobo Days brings the community together. Whether you own a business on Main Street, have a float in the parade, or just walked uptown to see the crafts you were involved in Hobo Days somehow. I almost can’t describe it, but it’s the feeling of belonging to something bigger. It’s the feeling that our town can gather once a year and rally behind this celebration. We’re celebrating the hobos obviously, but at the same time we’re celebrating Britt. What this town has accomplished in the past year, how far we've come in the past 100 years, and how bright our future looks.
3. Hobo Days is humbling. Even though nowadays some people choose to live the hobo lifestyle; the idea of living free and traveling where ever the road will take you. It’s important to remember that the hobo lifestyle didn't start out that way. Hobos first appeared on the railroads after the Civil War in the 1860’s. Many discharged veterans returning home began hopping freight trains looking for work. The number of hobos dramatically increased during the Great Depression when people, who had no work, decided to start traveling to find work. It’s not that people wanted to live this way, they were forced to. It’s important to remember that today, with all our technology and money, life as we know it could come crashing down someday. I’m not saying people will be forced to travel on the train to look for work, but there is always a possibility.
4. Hobo Days is hard work. Believe it or not, the carnival and vendors don’t just randomly show up the 2nd weekend of every August because they feel like it. It’s from many hours of volunteered time that Hobo Days is able to exist. With the help of the Hobo Days Association and countless other people in the community Hobo Days had one of its greatest years to date this year. It’s important that we thank these people for their hard work to put on this great event, but it’s also important to thank the hobos. I know that sounds strange, but without them attending every year what would we celebrate? It also goes back to this great quote from Linda Hughes, the Hobo Foundation President, “We celebrate what the American hobo did for this country. They built railroad systems, they built the courthouses, they worked the fields, they did any kind of job they could find, and we honor them, and we celebrate that lifestyle.”
5. Hobo Days is Tradition. Families have a lot of traditions. For my family our traditions include eating Grandma’s apple crisp on Christmas Eve, boating in Clear Lake over the 4th, and being in Britt the second weekend in August. Other than Christmas, Hobo Days is the only time of year my family is able to regularly get together. Friday nights we walk uptown to check out the crafts, Saturday morning I ride through the parade with Miller & Sons. In the afternoon we eat, talk, and drink a few beers and then head uptown to see everyone that came home. Its tradition and I love it.
6. My Grandma is a Hobo! Yes, she really is. She never rode the rails in her younger days, but she was "knighted" as a hobo by the Hobo Queens. Hobo Days 2010 my Grandma Bettie and I attended the Hobo Ladies tea. The Hobo ladies host it for the women of Britt every year. This particular year was special because the hobo ladies were hosting a contest. Whoever attended the tea with the most decorated walking stick would win a prize. Well, of course, my Grandma won. The prize turned out to be that the winner would become an official hobo. So all the past and present Hobo Queens gathered around her and knighted her a hobo with their walking sticks. It was all very similar to how they do it in Britain I assume. So that's how Boxcar Bettie was born.
So now you know. Now you know what Hobo Days is, why it's important, and why I love it. Thanks for reading!