Friday, July 18, 2008

Ketchum, Idaho: Hemingway's Final Home

Ernest Hemingway's great love for fishing and the outdoors brought him to Ketchum, Idaho, a beautiful resort town in the middle of Sun Valley.  In 1930 he was invited to visit the new Sun Valley Lodge and he wound up staying there, living in Room 206 and working on a good chunk of his famous novel For Whom The Bell Tolls.  After serving in World War II, some travels in Africa and an extended stay in Cuba, he actually moved back to Idaho in 1958, buying a house in 1959.  It was in that house that he committed suicide on July 2nd, 1961.  During his last years in Ketchum, he enjoyed life, frequented the taverns, went fishing, and didn't do much writing.  Though his final years were sad because of his illness and his melancholy feelings about the political situation in Cuba (the reason why he had to leave), I think that the beautiful atmosphere and friendly vibe of Ketchum would be a great place to live out the end of your life. 

On my visit to Ketchum, I went to the Sun Valley Lodge.  The Lodge is gorgeous and has a fully functioning ice skating rink in the back that is open year round.  I knew that I had to get outside to see Room 206, but I never thought that I'd be able to go in.  Luckily, as I walked down the hall, I saw two adorable little ice skaters in sparkly costumes, walking with their dad toward none other than Room 206.  I asked the dad if I could come in for a minute to take some pictures, and he obliged.  The walls of the room are covered with pictures of Hemingway, and there is also a bust of him and his typewriter.  It was pretty exciting. 

It is impossible to get anywhere near Hemingway's last home in Ketchum.  It is owned by the Nature Conservancy and all of its ritzy neighbors do not want traffic flooding their streets.  You can go to a lookout point to see the house, and apparently inside it's kept exactly how Hemingway left it.  There is an exhibit at the Ketchum/Sun Vally Historical Society, and it shows pictures of the inside of the house (see above) as well as a small but thorough exhibit about Hemingway's life in Ketchum. 

I was most touched by Hemingway's last words, which are hanging on the wall.  So, everyone in the town used to call him Papa Hemingway, and the kids in the town were allowed to call him Mr. Papa.  However, there was one little boy, Fritz, with whom Hemingway has a special friendship.  The two would fish together and Fritz was allowed to call Hemingway just plain Papa.  Apparently, Fritz had problems with his heart and had to go into the hospital for special treatment.  When Hemingway heard, he penned him a letter, and this letter was the last thing that Hemingway wrote.  Fritz got out of the hospital and went to visit his beloved Papa.  He saw him at Hemingway's house, and the next day learned that Papa had died.  Hemingway committed suicide with a rifle, apparently because he was very sick and uncomfortable.  He could no longer write sitting down but had to stand up at the typewriter.  There are no pictures available from these last days of Hemingway's life because his family wants him to be remembered as the fun-loving, outdoors-man who ran about town enjoying people, nature and the occasional whiskey.  

There is a Hemingway Memorial in an idyllic setting on the outskirts of Ketchum.  You can also visit his gravestone and his wife's in the Ketchum Cemetery.  It's not exactly easy to find though... I needed some help from a nice man who was there on his own business.  

Also, if you stop at the Ketchum/Sun Valley Historical Society you can get a "Highlights of Hemingway in Ketchum & Sun Valley" map that tells you important stops on your trip. You can dine at Cristiania's, the restaurant where Hemingway ate the night before he died, and you can go to various bars and taverns around the area, where Hemingway was a patron.  

The town itself is gorgeous and our friend heard that both Bob Dylan and Tom Hanks were spotted in a local ski lodge not too long ago.  I guess this is representative of the number of celebrities who hang out here. Of course, we ate at this ski lodge and saw not much but a Lefty Burger, monkey fries and Moose Drool ale, but that was good enough for me.  


Ms. Martini said...

By the way, I kind of wanted to call this post "I Love it When You Call Me Big Poppa," but I didn't think that was appropriate.

Petey said...

Wow -- I can't believe that you got to see Room 206!! What luck!!