Celebrating the hobo way of life

Honoring the hobos

BRITT, Iowa – The National Hobo Convention is definitely a unique summertime event, but it’s something that a north Iowa community has built their town around for years.

This was the 114th consecutive year that the Hobo Convention was hosted in Britt, Iowa, and board members with the convention committee say, they’re just getting started.

“We are very proud of our history with the hobos, and it’s important for us to keep that alive,” says Amy Boekelman, the convention president. Boekelman has been serving on the committee for a number of years, and says it’s an important event to keep around, since it’s one of the main outlets for bringing the hobo community back together.

Connecticut Shorty was one of the many hobos who returned to Britt for the festivities. She tells us that over the years, she has ridden more than 5,000 miles of freight trains across the country. Even though she has retired from the rails, Shorty says the convention is the perfect way to “see friends from all over America,” and come together and honor the hobos who are no longer with them.

Just outside of the downtown area, there is a cemetery specifically reserved for hobos who have “taken the westbound train,” or passed away over the years. Shorty tells us it’s always bittersweet to be back in north Iowa since the first time she came to the area was to honor her father, Connecticut Slim, and bury him in the hobo cemetery.

These days, hobos are traveling less and less by train, but the little bit of travel they continue to do is all a part of an effort to give back to the community of Britt. “Most of us in the hobo community spend a whole year promoting Britt trying to get people to come to the area,” Shorty says.

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