A Farewell to Arms is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway set during the Italian campaign of World War I. The book, published in 1929, is a first-person account of American Frederic Henry, serving as a Lieutenant (“Tenente”) in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The title is taken from a poem by 16th-century English dramatist George Peele.
A Farewell to Arms focuses on a romance between Henry and a British nurse, Catherine Barkley, against the backdrop of World War I, cynical soldiers, fighting and the displacement of populations. The publication of this, Hemingway’s bleakest novel, cemented his stature as a modern American writer, became his first best-seller, and is described as the premier American war novel of World War I. The novel was first adapted to film in 1932.
Believe it or not, where the novel was written is one of Key West’s best kept secrets! Most would assume his more famous paid tourist attraction home on Whitehead Street, they’d be wrong! Even though it’s posted on the outside alleyway wall (seen below) it’s not facing the road and is missed by almost all.
Seen here is Hemingway’s first Key West residence now called Casa Antiqua, he lived on the second floor corner directly above the door. Hemingway’s first Key West home can be found at 314 Simonton Street on the right hand side of the infamous Pelican Poop Shoppe.
Welcome to “The Conch Republic”!
Now, why and how did it become “The Conch Republic”… well, here’s the truth as recorded by the events of that ONE tumultuous week in April 1982!
It all started with our 40th President Ronald Reagan who declared a “War On Drugs”… remember our 1st Ladies TV commercials that said “Just Say No To Drugs”. In an effort to curb the flow of drugs coming from all parts of the world through the Florida Keys, President Reagan set up a road block at the mouth of the Keys curtailing & hassling tourists traveling to the sunny vacation land mecca. As a result, the tourist industry dropped instantly and income plummeted as tempers rose from Florida’s tourist trade and the cities they represented led by Key West who after only 5-days had enough! They in a nutshell “seceded from the United States”, “declared war on the United States”, “immediately surrendered”, “then applied for economic aid” all to prove a point sending Washington DC a clear message! Washington heard Key West loud and clear and stopped its blockade… but it was too late, it had already given birth to “The Conch Republic” movement and a genius tourist campaign & city money-maker still going strong today. A little known pedestal and marker commemorating this event in history goes unnoticed by 1,000’s of tourist daily in the heart of Key West’s Mallory Square beside the Welcome Center (as seen below) which reads: “On April 18th, 1982 at the head of the highway out of the Florida Keys, the United States Border Patrol established a road block. For the first time in the United States’ history, an entire section of the country was officially treated as a foreign land. Returning travelers were required to prove United States citizenship and subjected to forced searches. At noon on April 23rd, 1982 the Island of Key West, in a mock ceremony, declared its independence from the United States by naming minister of the new nation which it called “The Conch Republic” and by hoisting its own flag.
Side note: Boston College did an analysis on the legal process by which Key West had magnificently laid out its overall plan to rebel and said: “It was a stroke of genius!”… oh yeah, they used the same legal process in the following years as Key West had to prove a point of theirs. TOO COOL!
The famous boat noting “Conch Republic” (reportedly now repainted) can be found at Mile Marker 103.1 on the left side of US-1 South heading towards the Keys.
The city of Key West is honoring its hometown folk artist with a bronze bust inside the terminal of its International Airport surrounded by a sample of his work.
Mario Sanchez (1908-2005) was a native of Key West, son of a cigar maker. As a self-taught artist he began carving and painting in 1930 while still holding a regular job until 1970 when he devoted full-time to his art work.
Through Mario’s art we are provided an insight into people’s lives who otherwise never would have become a part of Key West history. Their lives and tangible associations such as old wooden buildings and street scenes are alive today for us to see.
ARE YOU A CONCH? I AM! I know what some of you are thinking: “What the HECK is a “Conch” and where did the name come from? I’m here to straighten you out and get you caught up to date on the entire lingo associated with the referral of different categories of Key West residents.
Here we go so hang on tight and make sure your pocket change doesn’t fall out when upside down! :-) Rule #1: No it’s not named directly after the shell & meat out of the shell of the same name conch. Here’s the poop on CONCHS – Many of the early residents of Key West were immigrants from the Bahamas known then as Conchs (pronounced ‘conks’), who arrived in increasing numbers after 1830. The true original meaning of Conch applies only to someone with European ancestry who immigrated from the Bahamas. In the 20th century many residents of Key West started referring to themselves as “Conchs”, and the term is now generally applied to all residents of Key West. However, some residents use the term “Conch” to refer to a person born in Key West, while the term “Freshwater Conch” refers to a resident not born in Key West but who has lived in Key West for seven years or more… until your 7 year coronation, your simply known as a tourist who stayed. :-) Many of the Bahamian immigrants live in an area of Old Town next to the Truman Annex called “Bahama Village”.
In the days to come you’ll be enlightened on why and how it became known as the “Conch Republic” which believe it or not ONLY came about during the 1980’s! It’s an awesome story so set your VCR’s on record! :-)
I’ve always wondered what those white plastic poles were sticking out of the water throughout the keys… now I know… and you will too!
While on a catamaran on our way to Lignumvitae Key we past several areas where birds were roosting on stakes pitched in the ocean as I began to question their purpose. In speaking with a park ranger I learned that those are seagrass regrowth areas brought about by boating accidents, propeller scars, and running aground. If caught, as this gentleman was, the park ranger said he was fined $27,000 and forced by the courts to pay it!
There’s a standard three-step process in recovering these vital marine habitats, they are: Sediment fill for deep scars, transplanting of nearby seagrass, and bird stake roosts.
We’ll focus on the latter, bird stake roosts. Bird stakes are used when the injury occurs in less than 5 feet of water. Like all plants, seagrass need nutrients to grow. It’s possible to encourage faster regrowth of seagrass in an injured area by fertilizing it with the needed nutrients. However, chemical fertilizer is expensive and needs to be replaced every few months. An alternative is to use a free, natural source of fertilizer—bird feces. Once an injury has been returned to grade with sediment fill, scientists install bird roosting stakes throughout the injury. These bird stakes extend about 10 inches above the high water level mark. After a hearty meal, birds come to rest on the stakes—and do what birds do after eating. The feces deposited by the roosting birds reach the bottom in concentrated doses, naturally fertilizing the area to encourage seagrass regrowth. Bird stake roosts are removed after approximately 18 months of the restoration process.
Welcome to the Big Pine Key Visitor Center (as seen full view below) where you can drop in for a rest from your Florida Key’s drive or a much-needed pit stop to relieve more than tensions! :-) As you can see from the photo (top left), this stop is more than just pamphlets, discount coupons & restrooms… this comes with an added bonus of a photo-op for those with an artistic eye or those needing to be told this makes a great photo! :-)
You can find this Visitor Center with a view at Mile Marker 31.3 on the right hand side of the road of US-1 driving south on Big Pine Key. And yes, that’s my red & white Dodge Viper car in the parking lot… no not really, I’d never trade my yellow & black custom Corvette with a blower & side pipes for that! :-)
Where can you find the COOLEST shark in the Florida Keys? That’s easy, it’s at Mile Marker 83.8 within Whale Harbor Marina in the city of Islamorada behind Wahoo’s Bar & Grille!
This is not the largest fiberglass shark in the Key’s nor is it the most visible shark in the Keys. This one you will have to search out but I guarantee that it will be worth a souvenir photo or two! In order to find it, you must first park your car in the front of Wahoo’s Bar & Grille which is on the left side of the road on US-1 heading south. Once parked, walk towards the back docks behind the bar & grille and there it will be… the coolest shark in the Keys. If you look close at the photo to the left you will see a placard underneath the shark’s mouth nailed to the dock which reads something like “Keep hands & face away from sharks mouth”. I think you better listen… you don’t want to begin your Key’s trip with a boo-boo from wahoo’s! :-) Pictured below is a full view of the shark and marina sign. Enjoy and be safe!