Songs, prayers, parades and touchdowns

Handling a celebration of 100 Years of Hobo Day takes two committees: the traditional student-led committee to see to all the regular details and a special alumni and university-led 100 Years of Hobo Day Committee to offer up a few extras for all the alumni who will be coming back to Brookings. We asked some members of that committee to offer their favorite memories of the day.

Ann Holzhauser

1982 grand pooba, assistant attorney general, S.D. Department of Social Services

One of my fondest memories of Hobo Days past is the Campanile prayer held by members of the Hobo Day Committee. The prayer was held at the top of the Campanile at night. Except for limited moonlight that came in the windows, our ascension up the many flights of stairs was in the dark. Voices were hushed as we climbed. Once we arrived at the top, we stood in a circle and held hands while a prayer was said for good weather, good times and great memories for all.

After the prayer, we raised our voices in song, including “Far Across the Plains of Brookings” which ended in us shouting at the top of our lungs the cheer “One, two, three, four, tell the people who we’re for….” A cheer that echoed down the stairs and across the campus green. Although I never did so, I’ve heard that some committee members slept at the top of the Campanile.

Another fond memory is the chili feed that followed the football game. The feed, which was held each year at United Ministries, was attended by both Hobo Day Committee members and their parents/families/ significant others. The pooba and assistant contributed the chili while others brought a dish to share.

Each committee member introduced his/her family and date. Whether or not we won the game, we were always “pumped” by the time of the feed. As a result, the time was spent telling jokes, teasing each other and breaking into songs.

In fact, as you may have noticed, a common theme in my memories is the songs that we sang and that we continue to sing. To this day, when a group of Hobo Day Committee alumni from the ’80s and earlier gather you can bet that someone will start a song. The repertoire includes songs that are “suitable for all audiences” as well as those that are clearly not.

Fortunately, however, we have “matured” over time in that the songs we now sing are generally appropriate for the surroundings. The lyrics to many of the songs were printed and copies distributed to committee members. Such copies are treasured along with other sacred mementos from Hobo Days past.

One of my fondest and proudest memories was driving the Bummobile in the Hobo Day Parade. Back then, a member of the committee was the “Bummobile chair” and was responsible for learning to care for and drive the Bummobile. However, although the Bummobile chair was in charge of driving the Bummobile in the various parades we attended during the summer (and who always had a gallon or more of water to help cool it off) and for various activities during Hobo Week, it was a tradition for the pooba to drive the Bummobile in the Hobo Day Parade with Weary Wil and Dirty Lil on board.

After hours of practice and due to the patience of our Bummobile chair, I learned to drive the Bummobile (the ability to drive a stick shift helped, but not much). Needless to say, I was a bit anxious about driving in the parade, but was also very excited, and honored, to do so. With my bottle of Pepto-Bismol by my side and Weary Wil and Dirty Lil in the back seat, I hit the road or, rather, the street.

While I can’t speak for the rest of the parade or for my passengers, my drive went off without a hitch (at least, in my memory). I didn’t stall and didn’t collide with anything. On the other hand, maybe my trip down the parade route was the reason why members of the Hobo Day Committee no longer drive the Bummobile.

Matt Fuks

’89, president & CEO, SDSU Alumni Association

When I think about Hobo Day, I remember two separate occasions.

Both my parents went to SDSU. As a matter of fact, like many Jackrabbits, they met and fell in love in the “Jungle” at Pugsley Union, so SDSU is in my blood and since my mom is from Brookings I had been going to Hobo Day all of my life.

I remember as a kid being across the street from the old Spies Grocery Store on Sixth Street for the Hobo Day Parade. It was cold and I was all bundled up. It had snowed, yet there we were, ready to watch the parade and, more importantly, as a kid I was ready to collect candy.

As the parade wound its way from campus to downtown I couldn’t help notice one of the hobo mobile homes. For those too young to remember, these were old cars with homemade, multistory “buildings” (and I use the term loosely) on them (think of it as hobo-built RVs) attached to them. The one I remember from my childhood was packed with college students and they had a bathtub on top full of snowballs.

They had turned their hobo mobile home into a rolling fortress and had a running snowball fight that had been going on for blocks with the people watching the parade. Well, don’t think for a minute that I didn’t jump right into the fray. I’m not sure how old I was, or what year it was, but man that was fun and has stuck with me through the years.

The other Hobo Day that sticks with me happened on Oct. 19, 1985, my sophomore year at SDSU. I remember feeling very mature as I had done the “Hobo Day” thing as a student the year before, and it was a picture perfect day with a high somewhere in the 70s. My friends and I all wore shorts to the football game and we were playing the No. 1-ranked Coyotes from USD.

More than 16,000 fans packed Coughlin-Alumni Stadium (a record at the time) to watch our beloved Jackrabbits hand the Coyotes their first loss if the season. As the gun went off signaling the end of the game, the final score read SDSU 24 – USD 12. As I and my friends left Coughlin-Alumni Stadium to celebrate, I couldn’t help but think that Hobo Day couldn’t get much better than what we had just experienced. It was a great day to be a Jackrabbit.

So whether young or old, Hobo Day lives in my memories as one of the great days of each year, but those two are my favorites.

Wesley Tschetter

1968 Hobo Day Parade chairman, vice president of finance, SDSU

I was the assistant parade chair in 1967 and parade chair in 1968. Parades are the more visible part of a celebration and everyone has an opinion. In 1967 the parade route was reversed to have the parade travel from south to north on Main Street.

The change was made for various reasons. Previously many stunt cars were abandoned on South Main before completing the entire route. Some bands would simply quit the parade at the south end of Main Street “to see the parade.”

When I was parade chair in 1968, many parade watchers were calling for a return to the north to south format, citing picture taking into the sun as a problem with the new route. However, I had support from the Brookings police chief and local businesses who wanted the stunt cars to end up on the north end of Main nearer to campus. That parade route format remained for many years.

Since 1968 was an election year, candidates for office wanted a prime spot in the parade. There were political races for governor, the Senate as well as other state and local elections. I got a front-row seat for the actions of political campaign committees posturing for the best, early spots in the parade order.

Candidates do not want to be followed by school marching bands. Bands don’t want to march behind horses. Bands and horses don’t like being around stunt cars and hobos. There is simply no way to satisfy anyone except the first person through the parade route. Oh, and a candidate who by chance was in the route before his or her political opponent was also happy — so 50 percent of them were happy.

Bruce Nearhood

1980 grand pooba, wealth advisor and vice president, First Interstate Bank, Rapid City

One of my favorite memories of being on the Hobo Day Committee was leading the committee into a big basketball game at Frost Arena. I don’t remember who we were playing but it was a packed house and it was rocking! We were dressed up in our bum clothes and I had a large SDSU flag on a big wooden pole.

I remember as we ran into the arena with me in the front carrying the flag that it seemed like the whole arena stood up and started cheering as we ran around the court. It still gives me goose bumps thinking about it!

Those were also the years that if the football cheerleaders were having difficulty getting the crowd fired up we would go down to help. A lot of fun!

Nick Wendell

2001 grand pooba, director of student engagement, SDSU

There are so many great traditions and privileges that come along with service on the Hobo Day Committee. One such tradition involves the grand pooba and key members of the committee sleeping at the top of the Campanile during Hobo Week. We camped out at the top of the tower in the fall of 2002 during a torrential rainstorm.

Nothing could douse our Hobo spirit, but we were sure to make the 167-foot trek to the ground before the chimes played at 8 a.m. The group included myself, Abby Bischoff , 2002 grand pooba; Kelly (Bickel) Wendell, Hobo Day committee member 2000-2003; and Brian “Tito” Flynn, 2002 bands coordinator.

Christi Williams

Assistant athletic director for ticket operations, SDSU

My first Hobo Day was in 2003, but the most memorable was 2009 when the Jacks played No. 6 in the nation, UNI. The game lived up to all the hype and the Jacks sealed the win with a Colin Cochart diving touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone. It was the fourth largest crowd in stadium history with 15,523.

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