The spirit of Hobo Day lives on


Jamison Lamp & Amy Poppinga

It has escorted almost 70 Grand Poobas, it once carried presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower, and now, the Bummobile has left for California.

The Hobo Day icon was loaded onto a truck for California on Oct. 4. There it will undergo a year-long restoration in the mechanic shop of SDSU alumnus Harold Hohbach.

“There are major issues with the Bummobile,” Jennifer Novotny, director of The Union said. “It is in great disrepair.

“It needs a highly specialized restoration that could cost up to $60,000.”

Hohbach stepped forward to help with the project late last year after hearing the Bummobile was going to Missouri to be repaired. The class of 1943 alumnus said he could do the project more cost effectively with his mechanic. The Bummobile did not go to Missouri for the renovation process.

Nick Wendell, assistant director for student activities, said the restoration project will focus on “maintaining the integrity of the current Bummobile while refurbishing the exterior to make it a more authentic-looking 1912 Model T.” He said that could include painting the car blue, which would make the car “feel more SDSU-esque.”

Other mechanical work may be done during the process, as well, Wendell said, but too much work on the engine and other parts of the car may take away from the spirit of the Bummobile.

“People from other generations have added different parts,” said Wendell, who has been working on the project from the start. “The motor is from the ’20s, so it’s not an authentic 1912 Model T, but that’s the beauty because it is a collaboration of Hobo Day committee members throughout the years.”

The restoration project will be funded in part by Hohbach and also through fundraising, said Wendell. No student funds will be used, said Novotny.

The Bummobile should return to Brookings for summer parades in the early summer of 2009, but other details of the renovation remain vague, said Wendell.

“Restoration is hopefully on track,” he said. “We will know more in the coming weeks.”

Many students, faculty and staff that have worked with the car in the past agree that it needs some work.

In a 2007 article by The Collegian, that year’s Grand Pooba Kelsey Wuttke said, “The Bummobile has started on fire, a tire has fallen off and the brakes are not good.”

Wendell said the Bummobile has actually even been in a small accident. In 2006, the Bummobile ran into Waneta Hall because either the brakes were not applied or did not work. Wendell said the goal of the restoration is to prevent accidents like these by making sure the car is “user-friendly and safe for students to drive.”

Both Wendell and Novotny are excited to move plans forward. “(The restoration project) has been an evolution,” Wendell said. “It is now a much bigger project than when it first started.”

“It is an old, old piece of car,” Novotny said. “Alumni are interested in long-term restoration.”

The 2008 Grand Pooba also thought a repaired Bummobile will be an asset for future Hobo Days.

“I’m really excited about the Bummobile being restored, because the Bummobile is an important Hobo Day icon,” said Grand Pooba Bethany Wuttke. “Driving the car around during Hobo Week makes people get excited about Hobo Day, so it’ll be exciting for the car to be more reliable and to run.”