The story behind camp’s logo, the Pemi Kid

Pemi KidSkinny, angular, caught eternally in mid-stride with evidently no part of his body on the ground, the boy depicted in Pemi’s logo is known simply as the Pemi Kid. Cap in hand, socks pulled to his knees, a Pemi “P” on his shirt and a big grin on his face, he captures a lot about the Pemi spirit. He’s happy and running, we just don’t know where to. And he’s been holding that pose for more than 90 years. Today, the logo is on the sign hanging in front of the camp office, and has a prominent position here on our newly redesigned website. He’s graced Pemi clothing from the itchy wool tank tops of the 1920s and 1930s to the Under Armour tees of today.

To learn more about the logo’s history, I called up both Tom Reed, Sr., and Al Fauver to ask them what they remembered about its creation. Both of them spontaneously began to sing bits and pieces of a song, written by Dudley Reed (Tom Reed Sr.’s father), about the creation of the image of the Pemi Kid:

List to the tale of the Pemi kid

Born in 1919

Created by Williams of Oberlin

Out of the back of his bean

He carries a message of “pep and speed”

Most unlucky gossoon

Always going but never arrives

He was born in the dark of the moon

Don’t use “gossoon” in your everyday speech? It means, according the Oxford English Dictionary, “a youth, a boy; a servant-boy, lackey.” It’s also a convenient rhyme with “moon.”

packingPemiblueThe original image of the Pemi Kid—hanging in the camp library—was created by a counselor named Jack Williams in 1919, sprung seemingly from “the back of his bean,” (his head) where most good things usually originate.

I asked Tom Reed, Sr., what the Pemi Kid symbolized to him. “It is the kind of innocent active energetic skinny Pemi kid, striding along with his cap in his hand,” he said.

“It was the indomitable Pemi kid,” Tom added, with a chuckle.

“Action,” is what Al Fauver said the Pemi Boy symbolizes to him. “Always doing something.”

“What it really means to me, anyway, is here’s a kid that goes away, and there’s so much for him to do,” Al said.

“I think that the greatest thing” about the Pemi Kid, Al added, “is that song.”

And what about that cryptic line, he was born in the dark of the moon?

To be born in the dark of the moon, Tom Reed Sr. explains, means “that you would have misfortune.” Why did Dudley Reed include that line? Perhaps because the poor “unlucky gossoon” is “always going but never arrives.” Happy running, Pemi Kid. Whatever the alignment of your stars, you’ve managed to be a central part of Pemi mythology for nine decades.

Music and lyrics to the song, below.

Rob Verger

Music and lyrics © Camp Pemigewassett

Music and lyrics © Camp Pemigewassett

Thank you

Pemi sailing program, circa 1930s.

Pemi sailing program, circa 1930s.

Thank you to everyone who commented on the first item of this blog. It was great to read about the rich and profound memories many of you shared.

One theme was education. Dan Murphy wrote, “Pemi inspired me to become an educator. Many of my favorite counselors were teachers during the school year and their influence led me later to a career in education.” And Phil Landry, a full-time fly-fishing guide and instructor, followed that thought by writing, “While on Pemi’s staff I learned too much to summarize here, but I learned how to teach. Not only that, but I learned how to teach ‘the things that I love.’”

Other themes were love of sports, music, and the outdoors. Jim Bingham wrote about “Hiking the Presidentials in 1966, on a 4-day trip, using a Pemi-supplied Army surplus wood-and-canvas pack ‘frame’ that I lashed my canvas duffel bag to…” (We don’t use those frames anymore, but a few do still kick around the trip room.) And Jan Zehner, who had a career in the foreign service, wrote that, “Four years as a Pemi counselor (late ’50s) cemented a love of water, mountains and nature in general.” Oliver Pierson, who now lives in Namibia, Africa, captured the fullness of life at Pemi this way:

“I was lucky enough to beat Tecumseh, hike the Mahoosucs, win a tri-state soccer tournament, take the lead (female) role in Pirates of Penzance, win the Pemi Brave, and enjoy countless other awesome memories while a camper at Pemi.”

Musician Stephen Funk Pearson credits Pemi as being where he learned the guitar: “I first picked up a guitar and took lessons at Pemi and went on to perform all over the world and my newest cd “Artists Around the World” is all my original compositions for guitar with other instruments which are performed by world-renowned musicians.”

Personally, the best thing about being at Pemi for me was the close friendships the place offers, and the simplicity of being so close to the natural world for a summer—the beauty of an afternoon spent sailing on the lake, or the feeling of space and air and freshness when you break above tree line on a hike in the White Mountains. Jaime Garcia spoke to that when he wrote about how Pemi influenced the way he saw the world during a career in the Navy:

“Throughout my trips around the world … I have appreciated the natural beauty of the visited ports and had the opportunity to go on several nature trips during my time-off (hiking, whale watching, etc). Even while the ship cruised through the Pacific Ocean, I appreciated taking a few minutes to watch the stars – they always reminded me of standing the ‘night patrol’ duty” on “clear but cold summer nights” at Pemi.

Counselors love to halfheartedly complain about having night patrol duty, but most find that it’s usually a peaceful way to spend an evening, outside and under the stars.

Finally, Erik Muller, who I believe was my assistant counselor when I was a camper in U-1, captured the Pemi spirit in broad strokes, this way:  “… I discovered so many things to appreciate. The importance of sportsmanship, trying new things, giving, the beauty of the outdoors, and just how to live with others began at Pemi for me.”

Thanks, everyone, who commented. We encourage you to share your thoughts, and suggestions for the blog, in the comment field below on this item and the previous one. It’s great to connect with so many people here. Keep your eyes out for more items to come!

Rob Verger

Welcome

The Four Docs, the founders of Camp Pemi.

The Four Docs, the founders of Camp Pemi.

Welcome to Pemi’s new blog! Check this space often for news from camp, information on Pemi’s history and traditions, discussion on camp-related topics, and the occasional profile of a Pemi alum, camper, or staff member.

We plan on offering a wealth of information– varied, useful and possibly even entertaining– in this space. We hope that it grows into a forum where everyone in the Pemi family can participate, be they parents, campers or staff. We also hope to include as many voices as possible, both in the blog items to come and in the comments field below. We’ll explore topics that pertain to campers, like Pemi’s diverse programs or the possibility of homesickness, and to parents, like the challenges of “letting go,” or how colleges might view the camp experience.

Since 1908, Pemi has been on a remarkable journey. As those who know Pemi well can attest, Pemi’s excellence comes not just from the singularity and warmth of its community, but also from the balance it strikes between tradition and change. For example, most Pemi boys still start each summer day with a jump in Lower Baker Pond, but happily we no longer have to cut ice from the lake each winter to use as a refrigerant during the summer, as we did in the early twentieth century. In short, Pemi has been around a long time, and has evolved a great deal since its birth. While boys at camp still have to write a letter (on paper!) home each week, here we’re happy to embrace the digital age.

To celebrate the launch of the new web site and this blog, we turn to our Pemi alums, and ask: Did one or more of Pemi’s program areas– sports, nature, music and the arts, trips, the waterfront and boating– influence your passions or professions? And what ideas might you have for how this space can be used?

Please submit a comment below to join the discussion. (If you don’t see the comment field below, click on the “Full Post and Comments” link above, just underneath where it says “Welcome.”)

–Rob Verger

Rob Verger, a freelance writer, is a former Pemi camper and staff member. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Travel Channel’s website WorldHum.com, the Valley News, and other publications.