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Welcome to the National Hobo Convention
August 21, 2012 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Every year since 1900, Britt, Iowa, has played host to the National Hobo Convention. In 2008, CBS sent a camera crew. The main event at the four day convention is selecting the Hobo King and Queen. Meanwhile, no one knows where the word 'hobo' originally came from.
posted by jasonsmall (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
jasonsmall: "Meanwhile, no one knows where the word 'hobo' originally came from."

Almost no one.
posted by The White Hat at 3:42 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Daily Show should send John Hodgman.
posted by JHarris at 3:43 PM on August 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd be disappointed if Hodgman and some of his 700 Hoboes Project artistic collaborators HAVEN'T been there before.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:05 PM on August 21, 2012


While in College at the U of Iowa in the late 80s / early 90's I met a number of regular Hobo Convention attendees, including former Hobo King Iowa Blackie, author of One More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes. I often saw Iowa Blackie typing away at a computer terminal in the U of Iowa computer lab - even though he was clearly not a student no one ever asked that he leave. I was bummed to read, a year back or so, that he's left us to ride the golden rails in the sky.
posted by tidecat at 4:07 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correction to the above: Iowa Blackie is NOT the author of One More Train to Ride, but his poetry and prose are included in the book.
posted by tidecat at 4:12 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 7th grade my partner's social studies class had a day where they were to dress up as their choice future-career. She went as a hobo, and talked about how she wanted to live on a bus and hop trains and travel the country. Her teacher was disapproving, at best.
It makes me happy that there are people still out there who haven't had that dream beaten out of them by society. (Luckily, yes, she's one of those people.)
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:14 PM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


We prefer "Homeless Bozo."
posted by The Potate at 4:18 PM on August 21, 2012


I'd always understood 'hobo' to come from the Old Normandy French term au bulot - referring originally to somebody (un homme au bulot) who adopts the mannerisms and lifestyle of a hermit crab.
posted by Flashman at 4:18 PM on August 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Quick trivia quiz: which Supreme Court Justice was at one time a hobo?
try Google
posted by Postroad at 4:22 PM on August 21, 2012


We're all Homeless Bozos on this train.
posted by tommasz at 4:33 PM on August 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd always understood 'hobo' to come from the Old Normandy French term au bulot

And I had always thought it was a more recent abbreviation/anglicisation of haut bohème, that is bohemians so above the avant-garde that they eschew even shelter and sedentary occupation.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:47 PM on August 21, 2012


It is somehow appropriate that the hobo election rules are posted up in Comic Sans, I think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:48 PM on August 21, 2012


I thought I read somewhere recently that 'hobo' was a contraction of 'homeward bound'.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:55 PM on August 21, 2012


Here a gallery of former Hobo Kings and Queens
posted by Postroad at 5:02 PM on August 21, 2012




Meanwhile, no one knows where the word 'hobo' originally came from.

My first-grade girls were using the term hobo a couple of years ago, and I asked them where they saw it... turns out it was in an American Girl book or movie, not sure which. They equate homeless and hobo, and we talked about the difference, but it's not easy to explain to a 6 year old.

I knew a guy who was an engineer for one of the big aerospace companies, and he used to quit his job every few years and jump a train to south america. He'd travel for a while and eventually return and ask for his job back, and they'd give it to him because there weren't many who could do it. That's what he told us, anyway, and I don't know if he still does it. He's always been my idea of a hobo.
posted by Huck500 at 5:20 PM on August 21, 2012


Hobo Blues by J.L. Hooker
Hobo Blues by R.L. Burnside
Hobo Blues by F. A. Midnite
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:21 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, there were hobos in Heinlein's novel Sixth Column.
posted by Huck500 at 5:23 PM on August 21, 2012


"I'd always understood 'hobo' to come from the Old Normandy French term au bulot - referring originally to somebody (un homme au bulot) who adopts the mannerisms and lifestyle of a hermit crab."
- Charles de Gaulle, 1947.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 5:30 PM on August 21, 2012


1200 what? 1200 what? Hobos. Hobos.
posted by box at 5:46 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The linked CBS video says hobo came from "hoe" and "boy". Migrant workers wielding hoes, looking for work. Also if you want to hop a freight train, here's how.
posted by fzx101 at 5:52 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


k.d. lang performing Ridin' the Rails live, from the Dick Tracy soundtrack. (Movie version, with Take 6.)

brakeman leave me be, let this hobo rest his bones
sleep will overtake me when that diesel moaaanss....

posted by seanmpuckett at 6:17 PM on August 21, 2012


Huck500 writes "there were hobos in Heinlein's novel Sixth Column."

As well as Starman Jones.
posted by Mitheral at 6:19 PM on August 21, 2012


One of the saddest things I've ever seen was when, right after college, a friend got a teaching job in Britt and tried very publicly and very unsuccessfully to convince herself and everyone else that she was excited for the Hobo Fest.

Not that the Fest is intrinsically bad-- it's just not really on many 22-year-olds' wish lists for Awesome Stuff the want in their new towns.
posted by COBRA! at 6:27 PM on August 21, 2012


I heard it had something to do with the railyards in Hoboken, NJ, being at one time a meeting place for itinerant rail-riders from across the country.
posted by acb at 6:47 PM on August 21, 2012


You'd think that Jeff Bezos would step up as a sponsor.
posted by SPrintF at 6:57 PM on August 21, 2012


The Hobo Queen used to be a dude.
posted by jonp72 at 7:07 PM on August 21, 2012


Starring Ernest Borgnine.
posted by ovvl at 8:51 PM on August 21, 2012


no one knows where the word 'hobo' originally came from.

It's a corruption of 'here boy'. D'uh.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:24 AM on August 22, 2012


Man, I was hoping this event would be held in Moonshine Holler, but guess not.
posted by Kitteh at 5:45 AM on August 22, 2012


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