The Sea Hagg nautical/antique/curio shop, in the historic fishing village of Cortez, is as artifact-filled and intriguing as any museum. I spent an hour there Saturday morning rummaging through the shelves of salvaged seagoing hardware—portholes, propellers, ship’s wheels, and compasses, and left with a nifty solid brass sea-turtle door knocker.
Monthly Archives: July 2011
For thirty years Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West has hosted the Ernest Hemingway Look-A-Like Contest, which takes place during Key West’s Hemingway Days Festival (July 19 – 23). Key West’s most famous resident writer, Ernest Hemingway, lived on the island from 1928 to 1940. Between afternoon fishing expeditions and all-night bar expeditions he produced some of his best known work, including A Farewell to Arms and To Have and Have Not. In 2007, to celebrate our 50th birthdays, Doug Davidson, Gary Mayer, and I spent a long weekend attending the festival. I couldn’t talk Doug and Gary into entering the contest, but it had been on my to-do-before-I-die list since the contest began back in 1981. It’s not something you can just decide to do at the last minute. There’s a registration process, forms to fill out, plus, if you don’t already have one you need to grow a beard. It is loads of fun, a rowdy event, and somewhat bizarre to see all these old guys, most of which who actually do look like Ernest Hemingway, all in one place. Many of them come back every year. If my memory serves me correctly (and it sometimes does not) there were about seventy entrants the year I entered. By at least twenty years I was the youngest. All contestants have to go on stage and give a little introduction speech. I heard a few comments (in good-natured jest) that perhaps I should consider coming back when I’m a little grayer, a little fatter, and a lot older. I assured them that I would. What I refrained from telling them was that, in fact, Ernest Hemingway was in his 30’s during most of his Key West tenure. When he left in 1940 he was only 41 years old. Doug took this photo of me with a couple other contestants (whose names I don’t recall). The guy in the middle looks somewhat like my cousin Kent Corral, but its not. I have told Kent he should enter—he could easily pass for Hemingway.
California may be known for its towering redwoods, but Florida has its lofty cypress trees. Big Tree Park, near Longwood, is home to The Senator, likely the oldest (3500 years) and tallest (116 feet) cypress tree in the United States. It used to be even taller. In the mid-1920’s hurricanes crisscrossed the state much the same as they did in 2004-2005. The worst came in 1926, but one blew across Central Florida in November 1925 and sheared the top off of the then-165-foot-tall Senator. It’s not the only big cypress here. 89-foot-tall, 2000-year-old Lady Liberty is just a few more steps down the boardwalk trail from the Senator. Big Tree—a Seminole County park can be found just east of County Road 427 on General Hutchinson Parkway, just north of Longwood. Rollins College Environmental History professor (and Visiting Small Town Florida blog contributor) Leslie Poole graciously served as my tour guide when I visited the park to shoot the photograph below.
Post Script—Interesting Big Tree trivia, compliments of Leslie Poole from her dissertation notes: At its fifth annual convention in 1930, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, composed of many local groups across the state, adopted a resolution to fund protective iron fencing around the base of a bald cypress tree “dating from 2800 to 5000 years” in Seminole County “to prevent the public from carving its initials upon it, and otherwise defacing it.” The tree, now estimated at an age of 3,500 years would come to be known as “The Senator” and currently is the centerpiece of Big Tree Park in Longwood. They were following the national impulse for preservation of large trees that had occurred earlier in California battles to preserve redwood trees and, notably, the sequoia grove near Yosemite that featured the General Sherman Tree, “the largest of all living things,” notes historian Alfred Runte. California had its General—Florida had its Senator.