A lady sat at a desk in the home’s entrance. She greeted us happily and I told her I needed an adult ticket and a student ticket.
She gave me a knowing smile and explained, “WE call them youth.”
Well, okay. The list of fees I had seen talked about students and ID cards, but I wasn’t going to argue.
She went on to say that we’d have to wait 20 minutes for the next tour and we could go get a cup of coffee if we wanted. Not sure where we would’ve been able to do that in 20 minutes (which neither of us wanted), so we turned around to wait in the small entrance amidst a display of Hemingway’s books and a display of magnets that we could buy to help the upkeep of the home. The magnets said, “Write Drunk.” I didn’t feel the need to buy one.
Then another lady appeared and said that we could just go on the present group , they were only one room into the tour. (This began another interesting conversation which I won’t bother repeating.)
We decided to do that.
Hemingway’s childhood story is convoluted and interesting. His father was a doctor and his mother was a musician, often involved in her music to the extent that housekeepers and cooks took care of the house.. His parents were both well educated. His dad took him camping, his mother took him to the opera. Hemingway often said he hated his mother.
He didn’t like his name because it made him think of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest.
They were upper middle class and spent their summers in a Michigan cabin. The home we visited was Hemingway’s birthplace – later they moved to a much bigger house on Kenilworth (another Oak Park Avenue). That home is owned by private residents who hope to restore it for future visitors. Hemingway lived in Oak Park until he went to war. (Seeing where E.H. lived negates his stories about growing up in poverty which he often told the women in his life.)
Hemingway’s own description of Oak Park was: a place of wide lawns and narrow minds.
Hemingway was a direct descendent of John Hancock. Another relative – either his grandmother or great-grandmother (couldn’t find anything to back this up) was the first female student at Wheaton and graduated with honors.
Anyone who knows even a little bit about the Hemingways, knows that there were a lot of suicides in the family including Ernest himself and two of his five siblings. The family was a strange mixture of achievement and depression.
Here are some pictures of the inside of his house.
This is the kitchen – the family lived in the house for nine years and his mother never, ever cooked a meal.
One of the first – if not THE first – bathrooms in town. I just liked the look of the tile and paneled walls.
Ernest as a one-year-old.
His dad was a scientist and a photographer and took Ernest hunting and fishing and taught him to be a naturalist.
I took this picture because I have a chair like this that belonged to my grandmother. The tour guide explained that it was a sewing chair and that’s why the arms were low. I never knew that. Hmmm …
Would I recommend you visit the house? That’s a good question. If you’re interested in literature and the personalities of well-known authors – I would say yes. But it’s not a place to take small children. Or, if you do take kids, there needs to be good conversations about what you heard.