Alumni return for Hobo Day


Charlie Maricle

About 25 SDSU graduates from 1943 will celebrate this year their Hobo Day that was cancelled in 1942 by World War II.

No other Hobo Day has been cancelled.

“It’s just the chance to make right something that had to be cancelled that was out of all of our control,” Ryan Howlett, Alumni Program coordinator, said.

“It’s a group of alumni that are very connected to this university, and they’re very excited about South Dakota State,” he said.

The group of 1943 graduates will be co-Grand Marshalls for Saturday’s parade and will be recognized at the football game.

Esther Ophiem is one of the returning alumni. She graduated with a home economics degree and is a housewife in Lennox.

“I think it was a wondeful gesture, because we did sacrifice quite a bit that last year, our last year,” she said last week.

In 1942, then South Dakota State College President Lyman Jackson suspended classes from Oct. 13 to Oct. 26, which cancelled Hobo Day for that year.

Wallace Lees, fellow 1943 graduate, recalled his reaction to the cancellation.

“We knew that there was a lot of pressure in needing help, but we didn’t know they were going to do that. We were all somewhat shocked about it, but we agreed,” Lees said.

The students were sent across South Dakota to help however they could, including harvesting.

According to Collegian files, Paul Hanson, SDSU student body president in 1942, told the students, “Let’s take this in stride, prove beyond a doubt what State can do, and then come back ready to start all over again.”

Sioux Falls resident Ada Yeager, another 1943 graduate, explained why the student body complied.

“I think people were more upset about the war. They weren’t that upset about Hobo Day,” she said.

Upset or not, the fact remains that a group of alumni graduated one Hobo Day short.

Howlett said he thought cancelling the 1942 Hobo Day was not a concensus decision.

“Because of the world war, the president (Johnson) just called and said there was going to be no Hobo Day this year (1942). So, nobody really had much input into it,” he said.

Now, however, it is the class of 1943 who has come forward and given their input on making their return possible.

Howlett said the alumni’s interest in coming back is what makes this Hobo Day special.

“It’s just a chance to take an opportunity to say, “Hey, thanks you guys for being seniors at South Dakota state. Thanks for being interested.”