Petoskey was always my idea. Nebra had never heard of this small Michigan town of 6,000 on the shores of the Lake by the same time. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how to spell it until we were almost there. “Petoskie” was finally deleted from my mind in favor of the accurate “Petoskey.”
The answer to Why Petoskey was this. Hemingway.
Petoskey was where famous writer Ernest Hemingway spent boyhood summers with his vacationing family. The father had gone so far as to build a cottage on one of the lakes west of town, in 1899, the year Ernest was born. And, after his stint in World War I, in Italy, he came back to Petoskey on occasion, the last time in 1921 when he married for the first time. So there was that. The lore.
But even as we approached Petoskey several days ago I was clueless what kind of place it was. Atypically, the research bug alluded me on this one.
What we found driving down Highway 131 into town from the south was one of the most beautiful little places in America. A town set on hills leading down to a marina largely filled with sailboats, gorgeous old homes amid giant trees. And there was our vacation rental on Mitchell Street in the middle of it all. And, one of those giants, a Sugar Maple, shot up toward the clouds in the backyard.
Even a half-century after Hemingway’s death his presence lingers strongly. At the Chamber of Commerce information center, at the corner of Mitchell and Howard, you can pick up a free Hemingway tour guide with 11 points of interest. At one of the town’s two nice bookstores, McLean and Eakin, on Lake Street, the staff has organized a Hemingway collection with just about every book he wrote and many of those published about him. It was there I picked up a paperback copy of Hemingway’s “Torrents of Spring,” a fictional piece supposedly set in Petoskey.
West of town, at Horton Bay, where the Hemingways summered, Ernest’s life is buoyed at the Red Fox bookshop. The owner sports a beard ala Hemingway, gray and trimmed, and can cite from memory passages from Hemingway works. A quaint and interesting place.
But there’s more to Petoskey and environs than Hemingway. Much more. But that is a bit on “Why Petoskey?”