It’s Tuesday, August 14th, and boy is it quiet here at Pemi! The sun is out, there’s a soft but steady breeze wafting down the lake, the grass has greened up after some Pemi Week showers – but there are about ten people, total, on camp grounds. Our 105th Reunion is coming up this weekend, with some 170 folks scheduled to attend, but we’re currently enjoying a brief lull between the regular season and that special alumni event. Many of the staff who will be helping out at week’s end are grabbing some much-deserved time off – some in Boston, some in Vermont, and a major group spearheaded by Jay and Andrew McChesney paddling down the Saco River from Conway NH to the state of Maine. So, all in all, it’s a perfect time to scribe the last Newsletter of the 2012 season.
It seems appropriate to begin with a toast Danny offered at our Final Awards Banquet last Thursday evening. It does a wonderful job reminiscing about many memorable aspects of the season – with appropriate gratitude for the inspiring and often selfless contributions of so many.
May I propose a toast…
Here’s to summer 2012 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 105th in Pemi’s proud history, a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, and as many as ten weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic, the Nature Clinic, or Life Guard Training Clinic. (We won’t even try to calculate how many weeks ago Zach Barnard began his summer.)
Here’s to a camp season that ends with days growing shorter and the first hints of autumn in the air, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.
Here’s to the 270 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond, campers from over twenty of these United States and twelve foreign countries; and here’s to the Chilean and United Arab Emirates flags that we added to our collection in the mess hall this summer, as well. Here’s to campers in their first year at Pemi and, yes, TH Pearson, here’s to a camper in his eighth.
Here’s to the dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2012, to the cabin counselors and AC’s who become family with the boys, to the program staff that teach them skills that will inspire them for a lifetime, and to the administrators who do their best to support and guide both the staff and the campers throughout the summer.
Here’s to the hard-working maintenance crew that Chris Jacobs leads so vigorously each day, allowing us safe access to this beautiful campus; to Heather Leeds and Kim Malcolm in the office (who never get enough credit), and here’s to Stacey Moore and her crew who confirmed for us what we hoped was true – that the days of delicious food cooked from scratch and fresh produce from the nearby farms of New Hampshire and Vermont can still a part of the Pemi dining experience.
And, of course, here’s to the Reed and Fauver Families who, in their loving and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from each of us and who see stewardship of Camp Pemigewassett as their chance to make the world a better place, one boy at a time.
Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and to Kenny Moore for keeping everyone moving in the right direction; here’s to Deb Pannell down in Art World, to Charlie Malcolm and all the coaches in the athletics program, to Tom Reed and the dozens of trips that head to the mountains each week, to maestro Ian Axness and the beautiful music we enjoy, to Larry Davis’s world-class nature program, to Jeff Greene and Boomer [the robotic ball feeder] and the thousands of tennis balls we hit each summer, and to all of the great things that happen down on the waterfront.
Here’s to the weather, so many beautiful days— long days with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons, and that peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s closing that we never tire of stopping to admire. Here’s also to the thunderstorm on July 17th that gave a unique welcome to our new second-half campers and that left its mark on a tree outside the mess hall, a subtle reminder of the power of Mother Nature.
Here’s to athletic contests against our friendly rivals in the Baker Valley, contests hard-fought, the victories, the ones that got away, and of course, here’s to our Tecumseh Day victory (wow, did I just say that?) and to the celebration that ensued, not just here at camp, but throughout the ranks of Pemi alums scattered around the world. And, thank you Charlie for so poetically explaining to us that the Hat “does not represent winning; it represents our journey together. You, Camp Pemigewassett, are the Hat….”
Here’s to the things that are so uniquely Pemi: leaning flag poles, Pink Polar Bear, the Pee-rade, saxophone on senior beach at sunset, FRB, distance swims, Woods Dude’s Day, dope stops, the Pemi Kid, and the everlasting quest to discover “What’s a bean?” And of course, here’s to Metal Boy (Tom’s personal creation) and to the wonderful mid-season performance this summer that he inspired.
Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we’re loud and we laugh at ourselves, Campfire when we’re creative and artistic, and Sunday Service when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as history at Pemi, the beauty and power of water, “tipping points,” life-changing travel experiences, and the notion that there are many ways to be a Pemi Kid.
But most importantly, here’s to the life-long friendships that are created each summer at Pemi – and to the reality that Pemi is a place where you will likely discover worthy passions to inspire you for the rest of your life.
Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2012.
Good luck, long life and joy!
Many aspects of the Banquet itself are rich in tradition and significance: the salute to the chefs (this year especially fervent given Stacey Moore’s wonderful success on the culinary front); the penultimate singing of “The Marching Song,” basically Pemi’s national anthem; the annual observation that, for all of the accomplishments celebrated at this “awards feast,” perhaps the most meaningful memento to be carried away is the simple triangular felt banner that each diner finds at his place (this year, obviously, “Pemi ’12”) signaling not a deed or an act or a victory over self or opponent – but simply being a member of a committed and supportive community. That said, each year’s “special awards,” voted on by the entire staff, bring the evening to an emotional conclusion in ways that will not soon be forgotten. Think Academy Awards, but about exemplary boys, and many of them totally off-script. We’re not sure we’ve ever shared all of the inscriptions, so it makes sense to offer them to you here, together with 2012’s “winners.”
The Johnnie’s Medal, “For Dramatics,” went to Nick Gordon for his stellar rendition of the title character in the first-session Pemi-premiere musical, Metal Boy. Earning the Scott S. Withrow Gilbert and Sullivan Award for his lead in Pirates of Penzancewas Ezra Nugiel. And the third of the “performing arts awards” – Doc Reed’s Musician Trophy, “In memory of Doc Reed for . . . the camper who has contributed most to the music at Pemi” – recognized both Jivan Khakee (clarinet) and Jack Purcell (guitar).
Sam Grier and Byron Lathi shared the Pemigewassett Competitive Swimming Trophy, “Awarded to that member of the team whose swimming ability, competitive spirit, and sportsmanship combine to make him a leader among his teammates.” The Pemigewassett Soccer Trophy, recognizing “that boy who has demonstrated the greatest command of the sport of soccer, exemplified by his interest, determination, ability, and sportsmanship, went to Pepe Periel and Jamie Nicholas. Al Fauver, iconic former director, read the inscription not only for the Swimming Trophy (Al was a star swimmer at Oberlin, one of the early collegians to adopt the butterfly stroke) but also for the Fauver Baseball Trophy, “In memory of Doc Gar and Doc Win and the competitive spirit exemplified by them”: the winner this season was Oscar Tubke-Davidson, star pitcher and hitter for the 12-and-under team. Culminating the athletic awards, as always, was the Counselors’ Athletic Trophy, “for fine sportsmanship and all-around athletic proficiency and interest.” This year, the award went to Thomas Bono and Patterson Malcolm. Surely one of the highlights of the evening was Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm reading his son’s name for this honor (after carefully recusing himself from all discussion.)
It is not every summer that the Courage Award is granted. The inscription is as follows: “To the boy in camp who has displayed exceptional courage in overcoming pain, adversity, or self-doubt; in confronting danger to himself of his fellows; in standing by his convictions; or in defending the rights and convictions of others – and so has helped us all to find and draw upon our own reserves of inner strength as we meet the tests of life.” Bravery has always been very much in evidence at Pemi, whether it be facing a hurler with a wicked curve ball or a trail steeper than one thought possible. We have never thought this award, though, is about anything vaguely “routine,” even if it is something like coping with the pain of a broken bone. This year, however, marked the culmination of one wonderful camper’s multi-year journey from an all-consuming fear of deep water to becoming a valuable member of the competitive swimming team and ultimately “swimming his distance,” covering half the length of the lake in water over fifty feet deep. Caleb Tempro’s name was met with a palpable rush of recognition and appreciation.
Every year, it’s truly remarkable how each of these special awards commands the rapt attention of the whole camp family – and how thunderous is the response not only to the naming of the recipients but also to that moment when the winners hang the plaques back on the wall in anticipation of next season. None of the honors, however, equal these last three in terms of communal impact and appreciation. They are not about physical skills – or easily-measurable deeds – or formally-calibrated acts. They are about character, and about the opportunities, both individual and communal, that any educational institution like Pemi holds closest to its heart. The Achievement Trophy reads “Inscribed each year hereon is the name of him who has made the greatest all-around achievement, measured by the dual consideration of distance gained and goal achieved.” Winners this year were Andrew Kanovsky and Phineas Walsh (Juniors), Nicholas Gordon (Lowers), Hugh Jones (Uppers), and JJ Murray (Seniors.) The Divisional Citizenship Trophy goes to “the best all-around citizen in each division whose generous and unselfish spirit gives success, happiness, and self-esteem to others.” (What greater gifts to others?) Singled out from a strong group of nominees for 2012 were Teddy Foley and Tate Suratt (Juniors), Nick Toldalagi (Lowers), Pepe Periel (Uppers), and Zach Leeds (Seniors.) And finally, the Founders’ Citizenship Trophy: “In memory of Doc Gar, Win, and Reed, on this trophy is inscribed each year the name of him who is considered to have contributed most to camp beyond the line of duty.” This year’s winner was in his fifth year at Pemi, coming to us all the way from Papua New Guinea. Unremittingly active, continually sunny, infallibly kind and considerate, Sompy Somp brought the house down when his name was read and he strode modestly to the front of the room. This was Pemi operating on a global scale, and a truly fitting ending to a festive and emotional occasion celebrating a banner Pemi year.
Finally, the promised review of Pirates of Penzance, submitted (as always) by Clive Bean, North Woods cousin of Clive Barnes and maven of all things cultural in the upper Baker Valley.
Folks in the theater world sometimes say that a shaky dress rehearsal augurs a great show. If you’d been in the Pemigewassett Opera House this past Monday evening, you might therefore have been moved to predict that Tuesday’s Opening would be a triumph. Either that or . . . total Armageddon. That final practice session was about as smooth and professional as the Boston Red Sox season so far. But, lo and behold, when the curtain parted on the day that really counted, what ensued was one of the most spirited and finished Gilbert and Sullivan productions in recent Pemi memory – maybe of all time.
Anchoring the show were Ezra Nugiel and Dorin Dehls as the romantic leads, Frederic and Mabel (well before Mabel started sneaking Splenda and flinging that silverware!) Sterling performer in skirts in multiple past productions, Ezra stepped back into trousers with all the dramatic cachet and vocal deftness that Pemi audiences have come to expect of him. In make-up vaguely reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s in his own Pirates shows, Ezra convincingly and quickly won the tender heart of Dorin, who partnered him in the show’s set of lovely duets with truly professional finish. Her acting, moreover, was consistently beyond the mark.
Robert Loeser, Phineas Walsh, and Andre Altherr were wonderful as Mabel’s co-daughters of the paternally preternaturally prolific Major General Stanley, Edith, Kate, and Isabel. (Proof, incidentally, that a show CAN have its Kate and Edith too!) The trio handled their older sister’s idiosyncratic dating proclivities with real sensitivity and tact – and subsequently inspired the Penzance constabulary’s mortal combat with some convincing maidenly bloodlust. Back on the piratical side, John Stevenson was a highly effective Samuel, providing his seafaring bros the odd life preserver and dark lantern with all of the efficiency of a Victorian Amazon.com.
Pirates can’t work without a strong Ruth, and Henry Eisenhart played the none-too-bright piratical-maid-of-all-work with all of the daffy energy of Ben Walsh announcing cabin soccer matches. Henry is headed off to Australia for the coming year, and his remarkable knack for having fun in ladies’ clothing bodes well for his success in Brock Ellis’s upcoming Down Under revival of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – which, if you don’t know it, is about three Aussie Pemi Kids who decide it would be way cooler to be Bloomer Girls. Good luck, Henry. Just watch out for those rough lads in short shorts from Australian Rules Football.
Returning to his role as the fiercely independent Pirate King, Larry Davis outdid himself with self-righteous bluster, liberally sprinkled with credulous simplicity. Veteran Major General Tom Reed, Jr. matched Larry in confusion and irritability in the show’s fabled “orphan/often” dialogue, the two college professors amply proving that having a PhD degree is no guarantee of an ability to communicate with any kind of clarity.
One of the hallmarks of the Ian-Axness-era G&S is impeccable choral work, and both the “girls” and mens’ ensembles delivered themselves of sharp and engaging performances. Will Adams, Sam Berman, Richie Carchia, George Cooke, Jack Elvekrog, Hugh and Tucker Jones, Suraj Khakee, Ben Ridley, and Dash Slamowitz made it clear that, just because you slam Camp Tecumseh, that doesn’t mean you can’t look smashing in a dress. (Bridgid Ruf, by the way, was terrific as a girl – even though she didn’t have to pretend! Tra la la, tra lal la, tra la la la! The Wellesley Blue for me!) Meanwhile, on the x-chromosome side, Nick Bertrand, Ben Chaimberg, Teddy Farkas, Owen Felsher, Hugh Grey, Max Nugiel, Dylan O’Keefe, TH Pearson, Fred Seebeck, and Ian Steckler honored their tattoos, scars, and bandannas with bang-on cut-em-up performances.
All this was wonderful. Positively stealing the show, though, was the chorus of Police, with Jamie Andrews, Bryce Grey, Pierce Haley, Dan Reed, Owen Ritter, and Dan Willard making poignant cowardice visible (and audible) in ways that haven’t been seen since Monty Python’s Brave Sir Robin “personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill.” Deftly orchestrating their lily-livered lunacy was Mike Plecha as their ‘beater-wearing Sergeant. There have been great Sergeants in the past, including Larry Davis and Fred Seebeck; but Mike inhabited this role like none before him. A flawless Cockney accent all but guarantees that, if Mike is ever in search of a job, all he needs to do is go on a crash diet and he can easily take over from the Geico gecko.
Special thanks go to many folks behind the scenes. To Zach Barnard for his exhaustive refurbishing of the sets and for all of his other tech and production work. To Dorin Dehls for indispensable direction assistance and vocal coaching. To Deborah Fauver for her sustained and generous work with costumes. To Penelope Reed Doob for her great sensitivity and wit in staging. Top kudos and mega thanks, though, go to Ian Axness, as always the lynch pin to Pemi’s Gilbert and Sullivan productions as both musical director and pianist extraordinaire. This was Ian’s sixth show here – two Pinafore’s, two Mikado’s, and two Pirates. He has never been better at making sure everything happened when and as it had to, from casting the show through early rehearsals to the finished production. Given the state of the dress rehearsal we refer to at the top, he never had to be so patient. The proof, though, is in the pudding. And all of the top drama critics in the Greater Wentworth area agree that this was one of the best G&S shows in decades, if not since the original London production in 1880. Pour, o pour the private sherry. It’s time to celebrate!
[Thank you Clive. May your sugar bush run copiously come March – and keep braking for moose!]
Well, it is time more broadly to celebrate a wonderful Pemi season, capped nicely by both the Tecumseh Day victory and the upcoming 105th. As we wait for the next set of cars to rumble across our bridge with their eager (and somewhat older) occupants this coming Friday, we also look forward to next June and July, when you, our gentle readers, bring your sons back to us for another season. In the mean time, enjoy having them back in the nest, thank you for your trust, and have a wonderful Fall.
— Tom and Danny