Hemingway grew up in the Midwest in the prewar years of the new century. Always observing, appraising, categorizing, and recording the world around him, the fifteen-year-old Hemingway kept an "Inventory of Personal Property" in his pocket account book of what he owned, knew, and wanted to do:
1 worn out suit of clothes, I pair of hiking shoes . . .
1 Lot of knowledge about Woodcraft. Hunting. Fishing etc.
1 Lot of knowledge about farming, Lumbering etc.
"I desire to do pioneering or exploring work in the 3 last great frontiers Africa, Southern Central South America or the country around and north of Hudson's Bay. I believe that Science, English and to a certain extent the Latin that I am now studying in the high school will help me in this object. I intend to specialize in the Sciences in college and join some expedition when I leave college. I believe than any training that I get by Hiking in the spring or farm work in the summer or any work in the woods which tends to develop resourcefullness and self reliance is of inestimable value in the work I intend to pursue. I have no desire absolutely to be a millionnaire or a rich man but I do intend to do something toward the scientific interests of the world." (6)
By the next year's summer camping trip, he was leaning more toward writing as he recorded the fish he caught, what he spent, his adventures, and:
Good Stuff for Stories and Essays
1 old couple at Boardman
2 Mancelona-indian girl
3 Bear Creek
4 Rapid River
5 Mancelona, rainy night, tough looking lumberjack, young indian girl, kills self and girl. (7)
In Oak Park the family attended the Congregational church where Grace was choir director and soloist. Hemingway's high school notebooks show the classical education he got in the Oak Park schools. Always the eager sportsman and enthusiastic joiner, he went out for the football team, though with little success, and the swimming and water-basketball teams. "But writing came easier than team sports. 'His themes were almost always read aloud in class as examples of what we should all strive for,'" classmate Susan Lowrey remembered. (8) The school literary magazine, the Tabula, published his early short stories--adventurous, sometimes bloody tales about boxers, Indians, and Canadian trappers. He wrote at least one journalistic piece a week for the school newspaper, the Trapeze, and was later its editor. (9)
In later years the successful author dismissed these early efforts. "What sort of shit were you writing when you were 14-15-16 or 17? All I know is that I wrote shit." (10) "The worst thing you can do to a writer," he complained, "is to dig out his worthless and childish stuff which he deliberately never allows to be collected or republished. It is like publishing the contents of his wastebasket." (11) But he is the one who kept them despite his many moves.
Graduating from Oak Park High School in 1917, you had three choices--college, work, or war. Hemingway chose work, but only after a happy summer in Michigan. In the fall he moved to Kansas City, where his Uncle Tyler (Hemingway) lived and where Hemingway spent seven months with the Kansas City Star covering drug raids, ambulance chases, striking mobs, and war recruitment efforts. (12) The Star's style book instructed "Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English, not forgetting to strive for smoothness. Be positive, not negative." (13) The emphasis was on clear writing. "Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing,"Hemingway declared. "I've never forgotten them. No man with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the thing he is trying to say, can fail to write well if he abides with them." (14) "On the Star you were forced to learn to write a simple declarative sentence. That's useful to anyone." (15)