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Curious Facts You May Not Know about Hemingway, Cuba, & Key West

Charlie Chaplin enjoying a quiet moment in Key West.

Charlie Chaplin enjoying a quiet moment at the Hemingway House in Key West.

… Gregorio Fuentes is often credited as the inspiration for the old man in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Since he was almost Hemingway’s age when he worked on his boat, he was hardly old. Carlos Gutierrez was already an old man when Hemingway first met him. He was also the one who told Hemingway a Cuban tale about an old fisherman and his struggle with a marlin and sharks.

… Hemingway would often finish writing by two or so in the afternoon then head off to Sloppy Joe’s Bar to unwind.

… While Hemingway was away covering the Spanish Civil War, his wife Pauline decided to have a pool installed in their Key West backyard as a surprise. He was surprised all right! When he returned home, he pointed out Key West was an island and they could go swimming anywhere, anytime.

… Angry, he slammed a penny down by the pool and stormed off. “You spent my money building the pool; you might as well take my last cent.” Visitors to the Hemingway House can see that penny still preserved in cement by the pool.

… Though Hemingway blustered about the money, the house was actually a wedding gift from Pauline’s uncle, Gus.

… Ernest and Pauline often swam nude in the pool in the afternoon. Workers were admonished to stay away under threat of being fired.

… Pilar, the name of Hemingway’s boat, was the pet name Hemingway called Pauline while courting her.

… The five-toed cats that prowl the Hemingway House in Key West are actually descendants of the cats that roamed his property in Cuba. No word if they speak Spanish.

… Each cat living on the property is given a name. A cat cemetery is tucked into a corner behind the house. The graveyard is resident to the likes of Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin.

… The original bar where Hemingway hung out was originally located where Captain Tony’s is now. Back then it was called Sloppy Joe’s and was the former city morgue. Sloppy Joe ran his bar there from 1933 to 1937.

… With the help of Hemingway and a few friends, he moved it across the street one night  to its present location on Duval St. because the landlord raised the rent six dollars a month.

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