State - Midland Picturing Papa Hemingway's Michigan Book tells of author's summers spent 'up north'

By Lori Qualls

Midland Daily News

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) -- Ernest Hemingway spent many summers as a child and teen with his family at their simple clapboard cottage on a northeast bank of Walloon Lake, south of Petoskey off Highway 131.

And just like thousands of children who travel "up north" in Michigan with their families in summer, Hemingway spent many a day splashing and swimming in the lake with his sisters and brother, fishing for trout and bass, netting minnows, playing dress up, roasting marshmallows, and exploring the countryside. In his teen years, though, he preferred to hang out with his friends rather than his siblings.

It's this warmer side of Hemingway that Midland resident Michael Federspiel captures in his book, "Picturing Hemingway's Michigan," which is a compilation of Hemingway family photos and other glimpses into what northern Michigan was like in the early 1900s. Federspiel supplements the photos with well-written narrative that tells the story of the Hemingways as well as the areas they visited. The 200-page hardcover book, published by Wayne State University Press, was released in May.

It is almost as if the Hemingways wanted their story to be told. Ernest's father, Clarence, was an avid photographer and took most of the family photos. Ernest's mother, Grace, was an avid scrap-booker and made memory books for each of her six children, complete with handwritten captions.

"She had a lot of time on her hands," Federspiel said. "She hired a girl who would help with the children. She loved doing this for all of her children." She would go back to Chicago and show everyone "what it was like up in the wilderness."

The Hemingways lived in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, where Clarence was a general physician who practiced out of his home and offered his family a modest lifestyle. The Hemingways could have vacationed at several of the posh resorts in northern Michigan that offered oyster on the half shell and nightly entertainment, Federspiel said, but instead they became part of Michigan's first wave of cottagers.

It was in 1898, when they purchased a double lot on Bear Lake (later named Walloon Lake).

"This beautiful spring-fed lake was deep, clear, and in the summer's light resembled the Caribbean blue water Ernest would enjoy later in life," Federspiel writes. "Fish were plentiful (primarily bass and trout), and surrounding the lake were forests of maple, poplar, and cedar and some cleared farmland. ...

"A year later, in September 1899, they returned, bringing their weeks-old son, Ernest, with them, to inspect their property and formally identify the site for the cottage they named Windemere. Designed by Grace, Windemere cost $400 to build and was a simple, functional structure measuring twenty by forty feet."

At the start of summer, the Hemingway family would make its way north from Chicago on the steamship SS Manitou to Harbor Springs, and then take a train to Petoskey. There, they would get onto a short distance train to Walloon Village and then take a boat to their dock.

Imagine all the loading and unloading of trunks, Federspiel said of what would have been a 36-hour trip for the family. The family eventually would include six children, Ernest, his brother Leicester and his sisters Carol, Marcelline, Madelaine and Ursula.

Ernest would return to Windemere each year until he was married in 1921. After his honeymoon, he and his bride moved to Paris, where he worked as a correspondent for the Toronto Star. He also began writing short fiction at that time, including his Nick Adams stories.

It wasn't until he moved to Paris in the 1920s that his Michigan experiences began to turn into stories, Federspiel writes. "Writing in cafes and in his room (where, it was reported, he had a Michigan map tacked up on the wall), he blended the real and imagined to create a character named Nick Adams and stories that seem so real that it is hard to believe they are fiction. But they are."

The cottage still stands today and is home to one of Ernest's nephews. It is not open to the public, but Federspiel has been told that people have dug up sections of grass from the yard and on one occasion, the nephew, fresh out of the shower, found someone walking around his living room, thinking it was open to tourists.

Federspiel knows the "up north" of Hemingway's youth. He grew up in Wheeler, but his family moved to Alanson, which is north of Petoskey, when his father took a teaching job in 1960.

Federspiel, a graduate of Central Michigan University, worked in Mount Pleasant before he moved to Midland in 1982 to teach ninth grade at Central Middle School. He found that his students were having a hard time relating to the required reading of "Old Man and the Sea," written by an old man named Hemingway.

He knew Hemingway somehow was associated with Michigan and after some research discovered the Walloon Lake connection.

"I realized he was connected to the very part of the state that I call my second home," Federspiel said. Believing that most of his students probably had some connection to an "up north experience," whether it be in Sanford or Traverse City, Federspiel started using snippets from Nick Adams stories to get his students interested in the author.

Federspiel himself became enamored of the author. He researched the family as well as the Petoskey region they were part of.

In 2007, when Michigan was celebrating Hemingway's Nick Adams stories as its Great Michigan Read program, Federspiel, now president of the Michigan Hemingway Society, was called on to help. One person told him with all the information he had on the Hemingways, he should write a book about them.

"Typically in biographies of Hemingway, there's a token picture or two from the Michigan years," he said. "Nowhere has the whole story been shown."

So in 2008 he got to work on the book, which he divided into three parts. The first is a section on the history of the Petoskey area and what the Hemingways would have seen and experienced. The middle section is loaded with photos of the family, reminiscent of a family album. The last section is for real Hemingway geeks, he said, and more about how Hemingway's fishing and hiking episodes went from inspiration into literature.

Federspiel, who is coordinator of social studies for Midland Public Schools and teaches history at Central Michigan, traveled several times to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, where Clarence Hemingway's photos and Grace Hemingway's scrapbooks are kept. He also visited the Clarke Historical Library at Central, which has a substantial collection of Hemingway memorabilia, including handwritten letters, and the Little Traverse Regional Historical Society museum, housed on Petoskey's waterfront and home to a permanent Hemingway exhibit and photo collection.

The Hemingway story ends sadly for some of the family members. In 1928, Clarence Hemingway, suffering from depression, diabetes and angina, committed suicide. Grace Hemingway gave Ernest the cottage in exchange for a trust fund he set up for her with money he made from "A Farewell to Arms." His mother had hoped Ernest would bring his children to Windemere to spend summers the way he had. Hemingway had three sons, but most likely none visited Windemere.

Ernest Hemingway took his life in 1961.

Published: Wed, Jun 2, 2010


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