Sun Valley Years
© 1999 Frank Simons, from
Remembering Ernest Hemingway
by James Plath and Frank Simons (The Ketch & Yawl Press, 1999)
Tillie Arnold's husband, Lloyd R. "Pappy" Arnold, published High on the Wild in 1969 (Caxton Printers), a pictorial recollection of Ernest Hemingay's years in Idaho. After his retirement in 1962, Arnold spent seven years assembling material for the book as a memorial to the man he loved. Arnold was on assignment to photograph Sun Valley, then in its early stages of development, and that assignment extended into 20 years. Averell Harriman and the Union Pacific Railroad had conceived of Sun Valley as a skiing mecca, and later Sun Valley became a year-round western playground. In these early years, Hemingway, by his own admission, was a tourist attraction, a publicity property hired to work and play in Sun Valley with full run of the fishing and hunting in the Sawtooth and Pioneer Mountains which surrounded the complex. Tillie, of course, accompanied her husband, who accompanied Hemingway--whether it was a gathering for hunting trips, bird shooting, picnicking, or simply dinner and drinks. Today, Tillie survives her husband and is in retirement in Buhl, Idaho. The interview took place on September 29, 1998.
Frank Simons: I'm reminded of the wonderful photo taken of you sitting with Hemingway in his Buick convertible.
Tillie Arnold: Yes, and that photo wasn't a planned thing. He had a new car and the man standing with us is Toby Bruce, his man Friday, who had driven Papa and Marty to Sun Valley. This was in 1939. Toby had gotten out of the car and my husband was taking pictures. I just happened to be there and someone suggested I get in the car with Papa. That was a very long time ago. Pappy died in 1970, and I've been alone for quite awhile.
FS: Do you recall your first meeting with Hemingway?
TA: Yes, the day after he arrived in Sun Valley. He told me I looked like Pauline, his second wife. Pappy, my husband, and I met him in the Challenger Inn. It was about nine o'clock when we walked in as they were having breakfast. He had asked Lloyd the day before if he was married, and Lloyd said "yes," and he said, "Well, why don't you join us in the morning, and bring your wife." So we went in and I happened to be dressed in western clothes. He suddenly stopped laughing and smiling altogether, and when we walked across the dining room he never took his eyes off me. He was actually staring at me, and I thought, What in the heck? I wondered, What's wrong? Then he began saying a lot of things to Marty [Gellhorn] and they began laughing again. Marty apologized and then Papa explained that I had "spooked" him--that I had spooked the hell out of him. He said that I looked like Pauline--close enough to be her sister. I had seen pictures of her, but I didn't think there was much resemblance at all. But he said that my coloring and round cheeks--round much like his own, he added--reminded him of her, and he wasn't expecting to see Pauline in Idaho. You see, the divorce was not yet final. Anyway, he hoped I wasn't offended, and of course I wasn't. He wanted to know how I'd come to have the name "Tillie," and was it short for Mathilda? Yes, I told him, and I explained that in the '20s, when the young ladies began frequenting barber shops and had their hair shingled very short in back, that my father said I looked like Tillie the Toiler, and the name "Tillie" stuck. Papa continued discussing the resemblance [to Pauline] and said that if I had tan saddle pants, shirt and chamois jacket with a wide-brimmed hat, he could imagine my standing in a safari tent. He said, "If you'd had a hat on, I would have thought she was tailing me!" I laughed and said, "Do you mean P.O.M.?" And he actually blushed. Later, he said to Gregory and Patrick, when they came in 1940 and first saw me, "Who do you think this lady looks like?" And they said, "Our mother." Anyway, when we sat down at the table, as the maitre d' pushed the chair in for me, I sat there for a few minutes and thought, What a breakfast! Finally, I just couldn't contain myself. I said to him, "Mr. Hemingway, is that breakfast ?" And he said, "Yes, have some, Daughter. It's good for the kidneys." He had a plate of marinated herring and two steins of beer, one half full. I thought that was very funny, and he laughed too. From that time on, we were the best of friends. I was always very comfortable whenever I was with Papa. I think he was the best friend I ever had, from the moment of our first meeting. We had many good times together.
FS: Did you confide in one another?
TA: Yes, we did, though he never discussed his work too much with anyone. Once in awhile we talked of concerns we had. When Marty was gone to Finland and he was alone, we were together a lot because he was new at Sun Valley. As he was writing For Whom the Bell Tolls, he asked us if we'd care to read the work-in-progress, which Pappy and I both did. I recall now that many years later, in the '50s, he would tell me of how he couldn't write anymore and that nothing sounded right when he got it down. So yes, I think we were very close. After that, when we were off hunting someplace, I started calling him "Papa." I didn't call him Papa that first year until after the boys had been there and called him Papa. It just became sort of normal for me to call him Papa as well. I think I may have started the notion of calling him Papa--at least at Sun Valley. Eventually, practically everyone was calling him Papa.
FS: Did he speak of any difficulty with Marty?
TA: She was wonderful. I liked her very much. I never heard a cross word between them--no arguments or anything like that. Never. But it was during the war and they weren't married yet. They went to the Burma Road together. Papa didn't want her to go alone, and told her that he'd rather she didn't go, because it was a rough trip. But she insisted, and she finally got the assignment for Collier's. There had been another lady who had the assignment, but had decided against it because of the difficulty of it. So Marty got it. And I said to her, "Marty, I think you're crazy to go on a trip like that and leave your new man. I just think that's bad." And she said, "Tillie, I'd rather have that than anything else in the world." She said, "I guess it's just in my blood. I can't help it." So Papa went with her--he got a news assignment too--and they agreed when they got the divorce that she wouldn't write anything that would mention his name at all, so she didn't. When she wrote of being over there long after that, she called him "Unwilling Companion," but with just the initials U.C. And she referred to him all through the story as U.C. But when she got back, she admitted that she would never have been able to make the trip without Ernest. She always called him Ernest.
FS: Hemingway did a great deal of hunting and fishing in the Sun Valley area. Did you hunt with him very often?
TA: Oh, yes. I didn't get to go all the time, but when there were women in the hunting party, Papa always took care to see that we were given a good position so that we'd have good shooting. But if I didn't go, I would always see them when they got back and we would get together for drinks. When we were in his suite the second evening--he invited us over to room 208--he said that Mr. Rogers had put him in a pretty fancy wigwam. I said, "Yes, there have been a lot of very important people who have stayed in this suite." "Oh?" he said. "We'll have to call it Glamour House." And it was called Glamour House from then on.
FS: Do you recall your thoughts of when you learned that Hemingway had shot himself?
TA: Well, I knew that he would do it. I just had a feeling that he would. Of course, he had tried several times before. He had the guns and the ammunition and everything. Even so, I felt that it should never have happened, because I think Mary should have gotten the guns out of the house. I asked her, "As long as you locked the ammunition up, why don't you lock the guns up?" And she said, "Well, that's the first thing that Papa would look for when he would get home from Rochester." I guess she didn't feel that it was necessary as long as the ammunition was locked up.
FS: Had you talked to him when he wasn't feeling well?
TA: Yes. He came to me for many things to chat about and to complain to me about.
FS: Can you recall his complaints?
TA: He complained about going to Rochester, that he didn't want to go there anymore. He had this idea that he had an incurable disease and that nothing could be done about it. He had said, as far back as 1939, that he was mad at his father for committing suicide. He thought he was a coward for taking his own life. He said there are only three reasons for killing yourself. If you had an incurable disease, that was one. Or if you were tortured beyond endurance, like if you were a prisoner of war. And the third acceptable reason was if you are hastening a drowning because you can't swim all of the sea. But then he said, "If you don't live behind the eyes, you can't expect to see all of the view."
FS: Did you know Mary well?
TA: I knew Mary extremely well. We all called her "Miss Mary." I remember, he used to complain to me about Mary, and I would say, "Oh, Papa, Mary loves you and wouldn't do anything against you"--you know, little things that would bother him about her. I always took her part, but later I thought that maybe it was the wrong thing for me to have said, because he needed help. He couldn't write anymore. After those terrible shock treatments he said, "I can't write anymore. They fooled with my think-machine." And it wasn't too long after that that I was attending his funeral. It was a private funeral, an outdoor service. People had to have a card to attend. The priest didn't know him and wasn't very specific during the eulogy, so maybe that's the reason I can't remember anything about he said. I was very upset at the funeral, thinking about the things Papa had told me. And I sure did miss him when he was gone. We were so close. He had called me Daughter for a long time.
FS: Did you visit him at the Finca?
TA: No, we didn't get down there. We were invited to go down, but we just couldn't seem to get away. We had our father and mother with us, and Father was ill about two years and then he died. We had a house in Ketchum, and Mother lived with us for about 11 years.
FS: What about good times? Shooting parties, for example, that you were part of?
TA: They used to shoot clay pigeons in back, where the drive came in. There were no houses or buildings close, so they shot a lot of trap there. There would be four or five of them shooting, and they used to have a thing where if you hit the bird you'd get a drink from the bottle, but if you missed you stayed dry. Papa, of course, was an excellent shot and got more than his share of the bottle.
FS: Was caution a concern during hunts?
TA: They were experts with their guns. Wherever you hunted, you didn't have any liquor. After the hunt they could have a drink or two, but not during the hunting. The guns had to be put away first.
FS: Who was running the show?
TA: Papa was the general. Everyone looked to him for direction. The first year he came was the first hunting season open at Sun Valley, because they only intended in the beginning when the lodge was built that it would be just a ski resort. Then they decided it would be a year-round resort and put up more buildings. When they put Papa in the lodge, they had told him that they had closed skiing just a week before and would he mind going to the Challenger Inn or The Ram for meals. They served lunch in The Ram, which Papa was especially fond of. They had a nice bar and good food. He enjoyed that very much. Music, dancing.
FS: And other celebrities?
TA: Gary Cooper came in 1940. He had been invited, along with Papa, the year before, but he was making a film and said he would make it the next year, which he did, and practically every other year that Papa was there, and sometimes when Papa wasn't there. But Papa never did meet Clark Gable because they were never there at the same time. He knew Ingrid Bergman and was very fond of her.
FS: What can you recall that might be typical of his stay at Sun Valley?
TA: He loved picnics. Lloyd would go into the kitchen and they would pack the lunch and it would be wonderful. About five of us would pack it up and run over to Silver Creek, or somewhere like that. Sometimes, if they were here, the [Hemingway] boys would go with us.
FS: Did he relate to his children well?
TA: I thought he did. It's been said that he wasn't a good father. If he was writing, he would often complain that they were making too much noise, or something like that. That's what I've been told, but I never knew him anyplace but here at Sun Valley or in Ketchum. He was a very congenial, happy person. But when he came back in 1958, we knew that Papa was a sick man. There was a little incident when Mary wrote and wanted Lloyd to find a place for them to stay. Lloyd was always making some crazy crack about something, and I don't know, he made some remark which I don't recall now, but it bothered Papa. And he wrote and said that if Lloyd felt that way, maybe he wasn't wanted, or if Lloyd had a problem with their coming he should just say so. He said, "Don't hesitate to say if you think there is a reason that I shouldn't come, because if anyone would write to me now and want me to come down and go out on the water, it isn't the same as it was, and fishing has not been good at all, I would tell them not to come, because it just isn't good right now." Lloyd said to me that there was something wrong with the tone of the letter, that Papa is not a well man. I agreed, because he had never been so pessimistic before. So Lloyd got right on the phone and called Toby Bruce and told him to get in touch with Papa and tell him to get the hell out here. And then he wrote another letter, and that was it. He was happy as could be about coming back. But we knew. We could see certain little signs that he wasn't like he was before. He hadn't been here for 10 years. He then came in '58, '59, and '60. On the 30th of June they got to Ketchum in the afternoon to the house that he had bought in the interim. George Brown had driven them. George Brown had a professional boxing ring in New York where they would work out. When Papa would go to New York, he would always see George, a very old friend, and they would box. Papa had asked Mary to get in touch with George and ask him if he would drive him back from Rochester, which George did. So this was on the 30th of June and he was in Ketchum on the 1st day of July and he shot himself on the 2nd. That was the only time he'd been here in the summer. I always thought that if he had spent some summers here, he would have loved them. But anyway, George was with Mary when it happened. Did you by chance see his biography [A&E, 1998] on television a few nights ago? I thought it was wonderful, and his granddaughter [Mariel] did such a great job. You know, she never knew her grandfather. Her mother was pregnant with her when Papa died. But she certainly had a lot of good information. I miss Papa. And of course I miss my husband. I never remarried, and we were 10 days short of being married for 42 years.
FS: Do you reflect much on those years in Sun Valley and Ketchum?
TA: I had wonderful times with Papa. He was always very kind and nice to me, and he was a real gentleman. I think he was hard on Mary, and I don't know why, and I don't know what happened for sure. Dr. George Saviers would take Papa's blood pressure every day, practically, because it was so high the last couple of years. But then he hadn't met Papa before the Sun Valley years. George, of course, had been in the service, and after his discharge was off to become a doctor. I remember once when Papa had tried to jump over a fence like some of the other boys did, and he sprained an ankle [laughs]. It wasn't a bad sprain, but enough to bother him for maybe a week. Papa was very fond of George, who took good care of him.
FS: Did you appreciate Hemingway's sense of humor?
TA: Of course. I remember he accused Lloyd of robbing the cradle. Lloyd said, "No I didn't. She's the same age as Gene Van Guilder [Lloyd's young male friend]," and at that time I was 34. But I did look young for my age, and I wish I did now [laughs] at 93. But I was looking at the pictures for quite awhile after Lloyd was gone, and they brought back so many memories and conversations that I thought, Tillie--in fact, I said it out loud--"Tillie, you really led a more than interesting life, and you really didn't know it!" I met so many interesting people, knowing Gary Cooper and Clark Gable quite well, for example. But of all of them I thought Papa the most interesting. He was a person that a lot of people said was blustery or belligerent, but it was impossible for us to imagine that. Cuba or Key West, those settings are pretty rough, but not here in Ketchum. And there are those who said he was a drunk. I don't know of anyone who saw him drunk. He could drink a lot, mind you--especially wine, having learned to do it in Paris in the earlier years--but you could never tell if he'd been drinking. When I think about it all now, as late as 1959, when he was so troubled and worried so much about his own finances, he'd say to me, "How're you fixed for dough?" and "Are you sure?" He thought he was broke, but would still offer money. He was so kind to us, and it was so wonderful to have spent those good years with him.
© 1999 Frank Simons
from Remembering Ernest Hemingway
by James Plath and Frank Simons (The Ketch & Yawl Press, 1999)
Note: Tillie Arnold recently co-authored The Idaho Hemingway with William L. Smallwood (Beacon Press, Buhl, Idaho, 1999). To order that book, phone 1-800-794-1742.
Remembering Ernest Hemingway