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The Hornes, the Hemingways, and Havana

Recollections of relationships with Ernest Hemingway and memories
of meeting the Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Story by lisa stamos

On June 6, 2021, Bunny and Bill Hornes’ children—Luigi, Ted, and Ben and their late brother Peter’s son, Bill—joined me on a conference call to share recollections of their parent’s relationship with Ernest Hemingway and memories of meeting the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Here are highlights of what they shared.

Key West and a Matador

Luigi Horne Mumford: In 1936, late January or early February to April 1, our family went to Florida to get away from Chicago’s cold weather. We had a day of adventures when Mom (Bunny) and I went to the movies. But Dad and my brother Peter, who was just a couple of months short of 3, went fishing on the original Pilar with Hemingway. This was recorded on Bunny’s 16 mm camera. There was a photo sequence with Peter grasping a long fishing rod which, I think, was attached to the boat. Another classic film sequence by Bunny comes very early in her film series. It may have been at the early Hemingway house in Key West. Hemingway is playing matador with a suit jacket. What a delight!

The only time I met Hemingway was when I was a year or so old. No memory of that but it’s recorded on my Mother’s movies. I of course met Mary Hemingway later, [but] I did not go on the trip in 1958 over Easter to Cuba because I was at Cornell and I couldn’t afford it and I had measles then. One [other] reason I did not want to go to Cuba for the trip was because I’d been reading about Castro, and really worried about it, because I had a lot of Cornell friends who were South American and they had warned me about him. I had notified my CIA contact, a friend who worked the South America desk, who was also a friend from Barrington, and she said, “Oh Luigi, those guys are a dime a dozen.” My CIA contact a year later said, “Luigi, I should have listened to you.”

Hemingway’s Favorite Bar

Ben Horne: When I was a freshman (age 18) at Princeton, Bunny, Bill, and Ted were in Cuba at Varadero Beach and during spring break I flew down and joined them. One night we went into Havana and that’s the only time I remember having met Hemingway. We met at the Floridita, a bar in Havana where Hemingway would go meet people. They knew him very well. When we left for the Floridita it was the four of us. Got there, met him. It was a big deal for me, but I wasn’t very enlightened in front of Hemingway. Here I was a freshman engineer working hard at technology and that wasn’t his interest at all.

He was talking [and concerned] about politics; I think Eisenhower was president at that time. I do remember we had a hotel in Havana and after having a few drinks at the Floridita, we walked back to the hotel and…apparently a year before, Castro had said he was going to take over Havana on that day. The streets were deserted but every now and then out from behind the pillar of some building a soldier would step out with a machine gun. Havana was being well-guarded that night. It was the Batista Police, the head of Cuba then. Castro was still out in Oriente, on the east end of Cuba. The soldiers were trying to guard against Castro.

When Hemingway died, my wife, Jean, and I [at the time] were planning to get married that fall and we were in Barrington then, too, along with Ted. We had heard in the news before Bill and Bunny were going to go out that Hemingway had died. It was not claimed to be a suicide, but a gun accident. Bunny and Bill went out to the party and we had the number to call in case there was a problem or they were needed. While they were out, Mary Hemingway called and that’s when we called Bunny and Bill. They had to be paged at the party and eventually Dad came to the phone. Ted thinks they were at a party at the Barrington Hills Country Club. Mary propagated the story of the accident. She wanted him to be buried in a Catholic cemetery, because it was the most beautiful one in Ketchum, Idaho. Presumably, that was the motivation. There was a problem paying for it [the trip West for the funeral]. Bill went to the poker room at the country club and borrowed money to get the tickets to go to Ketchum to the funeral. In 1961, there weren’t credit cards so you had to pay with cash. Bill flew out the next day. Bunny went a day or so later, in time for the funeral.

Lunch at Finca Vigiá

Ted Horne: I had always known that Dad had this connection with Hemingway, so Mom and Dad called me at Choate and said they were going to take a spring vacation in Cuba. I said that’s great, what do you want me to do? I think then they flew to New York, we met up, and we flew together to Cuba. We stayed in Cuba at a place called the Casa La Rosa at Varadaro Beach. It was a very nice place. Mom and Dad’s room had an ocean view. Mom kept saying to Dad, “You’ve got to call Ernie, he’s down here.” And my Dad said, “No, he doesn’t want to hear from us.” Mom kept saying yes, he does. So, he finally called him, and apparently Ernie said, “Oh you have to come for lunch. When can you come down here?” We were on the same road between Varadaro Beach and Havana so we got on a bus which let us off at the top of the driveway going down to Finca Vigiá [the name of their home] and we walked down the lane and were met by Mary and Ernest Hemingway and he was big, and bearded. I was 13 at the time and was awed because he was so big. He and Dad had a very good reunion and one of the things I do remember is sitting in the house at Finca with all his African heads on the walls which was amazing. He was very kind to me and talked with me a little bit.

We sat down to lunch and Mary Hemingway served us this cold, vegetable soup. It was our first experience with gazpacho. It was Mary Hemingway’s recipe and Mom got the recipe from her. Years later, my wife Penny and I found that recipe and for Mom and Dad’s 50th, and we made it for 300 people.

After that luncheon and meeting, Mom and Dad had decided that we shouldn’t spend all the time at the beach. We went into Havana and stayed at the Ambos Mundos. They had a roof bar and that’s where I had my first drink, a rum drink. I was 13 or 14. Once we were in Havana and Ben then joined us, we went to the Floridita bar where Hemingway was very well-known and they gave us this wonderful booth and table. There we were, my Mom and Dad, my brother Ben and me, and Mary and Ernest Hemingway. All at the same table.

Special thanks to Bill Horne for our conference call, and to his aunt and uncles who shared their memories.

– End –

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Frances Thorne (Bunny) Horne and Ernest Hemingway
Frances Thorne (Bunny) Horne and Ernest Hemingway sit on the running board of Ernest’s ‘yellow Ford runabout’ on or about August 10, 1928.
Ernest Hemingway in Milan recuperating
Ernest Hemingway (left, standing) in Milan recuperating during World War I (1918). His friend from Chicago (later, Barrington) Bill Horne is standing fourth from the left, wearing glasses.
Ted Horne, Ben Horne, and Luigi Horne Mumford
On Nov. 30, 2018, Ted Horne, Ben Horne, and Luigi Horne Mumford at their brother Peter Horne’s Memorial Service. Download a copy of Mary Hemingway’s Gazpacho recipe from Cuba here. Recipe courtesy of the Horne family.