An interview with Jack
stated, Ernest Hemingway was his eldest son Jack’s life-long
since I was very, very little my father was my hero,"
he explained in an interview at his home in Ketchum. "He
really was, and probably more so than most fathers are
boy’s heroes because I wasn’t with him a lot of the time."
Jack Hadley Nicanor Hemingway was born to Hadley and Ernest
Hemingway on Oct. 10, 1923, in Toronto, Canada, it was
only three months later that the Hemingways traveled back
to Paris to settle into what Jack remembers as a cozy
but noisy flat above a sawmill on the rue Notre Dame des
were a happy family until my father got himself into the
unfortunate position of loving two women at the same time,"
Jack writes in Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman. "While
such affairs are not all that uncommon, it was unacceptable
to him and to my mother without making a definite choice.
After much self-chastisement, he made that choice and
that changed life for my mother and me."
would no longer be Jack’s full-time father and the boy
would see his bigger-than-life "Papa" only on
summer vacations and special occasions. The exception
was the one year Ernest and his new wife Pauline stayed
would see him after kindergarten," Jack remembered.
"My school was only about a block away from the Closiere
de Lilas, which is one of the places my father used
to write in back then. Oh, it was not the place it is
now, very fancy, expensive and closed in. Then it was
just a cafe. I‘d have a grenadine and he’d be either writing
or talking to people."
remembers his father as a people magnet, attracting men
and women both famous and unknown.
he was in a room with people, everybody gravitated around
him," said Jack. "Even when there were very
famous other people, they tended to gravitate around him.
It wasn’t because he spoke loud or dominated the conversation;
it was just that what he said was interesting and there
was something captivating about the way he spoke."
as a very small boy Jack remembers the time he spent at
Shakespeare & Company while his father debated with
Sylvia Beach, the owner and a publisher, or James Joyce.
get to go with him to Shakespeare & Company on the
rue de l’ Odeon," Jack recalled. "The store
had a little semi-attic that was at a level just above
the ground floor. There were some children’s books up
there that I’d look at while Papa was down below talking
to Sylvia Beach or James Joyce. I’d give anything to have
had the perspicacity or to have been a child savant to
remember everything that went on."
memories Jack treasures most are the times he and Papa
walked along the Seine and watched the fishermen trolling
for whitebait with long bamboo poles.
take me for walks along the bridges that crossed the Seine,"
Jack explained. "That’s when I learned about leading,
which helped me latter on with shooting. We would spit
from a bridge and see if we could get it into the smokestack
of the bateaux-mouches, the excursion boats that
go up and down the Seine. It was tricky because you had
to spit way in advance because the boat was coming.
first interest in fishing was with him looking at the
French catching gudgeon or minnows. These guys had 18-foot
rods with little tiny tips and very fine leaders. They’d
sell their catch to these places where they’d have them
deep-fried. They were a great treat and a favorite of
my father’s and mine."
Ernest and Pauline moved to Key West, Florida, Jack would
spend his summers there. Often they would drive across
country to a ranch outside of Cooke City, Montana. It
was a typical western guest ranch with clusters of log
cabins nestled in groves of lodgepole pine.
was writing in the mornings," Jack said, "and
if Pauline would go for a ride, I would beg to be allowed
to watch him fish. Every once in awhile he’d let me. Unlike
most dads who want their kids to learn, he’d say, ‘Stay
back, kid. Don’t scare the fish.’ I built this hunger.
Finally at the end of the first year, I was allowed to
fish with one of Pauline’s rods with a grasshopper impaled
on a fly, and I caught my first fish. I haven’t been able
to get enough of fishing ever since."
was more and more fishing and shooting and boxing between
the Hemingway father and son. Although their time together
was limited, they made the most of every moment.
I came for a vacation, my father took a lot of time off
to do things I could participate in. And so I got a very
positive view of him. I think my brothers had a little
more realistic view. When he was working, quiet was the
order of the day. It would cause great anger both from
him and Pauline if we disobeyed."
wasn’t until much, much later that Jack realized why the
rest of the world thought his father was great. He was
prepping at the Storm Gate School in Cornwall, New York.
A previous enrollment at Lake Forest High School was a
disaster, because it was Jack’s first experience with
a coed school and he "spent the time ogling the girls."
was sent away to school in the interests of getting my
mind back on the right track," he said with a smile.
"I wasn’t really conscious of my father’s importance
as a writer until I was in my junior year. My English
teacher, Mr. Borg, just couldn’t believe I hadn’t read
my father’s work. He made me read several things. I wasn’t
mature enough to appreciate Papa’s prose writings until
the war years."
were so many things Ernest Hemingway taught his son, including
lessons on how to navigate the challenges of the world.
And although Jack says his father was very old-fashioned,
the lessons were timeless.
taught me what was important was the truth," explained
Jack. "He told me never lie. Total honesty even if
it seems stupid at the time. Except...there were two very
famous sisters when I was a teen-ager. They had been great
beauties--the Dolly sisters. He said you’re going to meet
these two really beautiful women. They are very old now
and they’re no longer beautiful but you’re going to treat
them as if they were the most beautiful women you’ve ever
seen. And I did. And their eyes just lit up. I learned
something. Whatever someone’s values really are, you must
respect them even if you have to prevaricate."
Jack, his father was all excitement and unbounded enthusiasm.
He also remembers him as very serious and occasionally
plagued by black moods.
could be rough, too, and talk rough," Jack says.
"For instance, my godmother, Gertrude Stein, was
one of the people who really helped him early on very
much. But at the same time he continued to grow after
he no longer had anything to do with her. But she would
periodically make these statements that everything he
ever did he learned from her. And he would get furious;
‘That old bitch,’ he’d say.
thing that carried him was his enthusiasm. He had a great
ethic of teaching. If he liked something--large ladies
he found attractive, young writers--he liked to teach
them and to introduce them to stuff, like the bullfights.
He had an enormous amount of courage. He was on the edge
of being a Leo and a Cancer.
is a Libra who likes things to balance out in the end:
wish I could write like him," Jack says. "But
I eclipsed him in fly-fishing."
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