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Hemingway's birthplace in Oak Park, Illinois.


 


Hemingway fishing as a young boy.




The Kansas City Star building where Hemingway took his first job as a cub reporter.





  Ernest Hemingway Biography>Childhood

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born at eight o'clock in the morning on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. In the nearly sixty two years of his life that followed he forged a literary reputation unsurpassed in the twentieth century.  In doing so, he also created a mythological hero in himself that captivated (and at times confounded) not only serious literary critics but the average man as well.  In a word, he was a star.

Born in the family home at 439 North Oak Park Avenue (now 339 N. Oak Park Avenue), a house built by his widowed grandfather Ernest Hall, Hemingway was the second of Dr. Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway's six children; he had four sisters and one brother. He was named after his maternal grandfather Ernest Hall and his great uncle Miller Hall.

Oak Park was a mainly Protestant, upper middle-class suburb of Chicago that Hemingway would later refer to as a town of "wide lawns and narrow minds." Only ten miles from the big city, Oak Park was really much farther away philosophically. It was basically a conservative town that tried to isolate itself from Chicago's liberal seediness. Hemingway was raised with the conservative Midwestern values of strong religion, hard work, physical fitness and self determination; if one adhered to these parameters, he was taught, he would be ensured of success in whatever field he chose.

As a boy he was taught by his father to hunt and fish along the shores and in the forests surrounding Lake Michigan. The Hemingways had a summer house called Windemere on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, and the family would spend the summer months there trying to stay cool. Hemingway would either fish the different streams that ran into the lake, or would take the row boat out to do some fishing there. He would also go squirrel hunting in the woods near the summer house, discovering early in life the serenity to be found while alone in the forest or wading a stream. It was something he could always go back to throughout his life, wherever he was. Nature would be the touchstone of Hemingway's life and work, and though he often found himself living in major cities like Chicago, Toronto and Paris early in his career, once he became successful he chose somewhat isolated places to live like Key West, or San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, or Ketchum, Idaho. All were convenient locales for hunting and fishing.

 

When he wasn't hunting or fishing his mother taught him the finer points of music. Grace was an accomplished singer who once had aspirations of a career on stage, but eventually settled down with her husband and occupied her time by giving voice and music lessons to local children, including her own. Hemingway never had a knack for music and suffered through choir practices and cello lessons, however the musical knowledge he acquired from his mother helped him share in his first wife Hadley's interest in the piano.

Hemingway received his formal schooling in the Oak Park public school system. In high school he was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, water basketball and serving as the track team manager. He enjoyed working on the high school newspaper called the Trapeze, where he wrote his first articles, usually humorous pieces in the style of Ring Lardner, a popular satirist of the time. Hemingway graduated in the spring of 1917 and instead of going to college the following fall like his parents expected, he took a job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star; the job was arranged for by his Uncle Tyler who was a close friend of the chief editorial writer of the paper.

 

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