Greetings one and all for a special, limited-release serving of Bean Soup, sponsored by the Pemi Archives, where the discovery of a vintage photograph depicting what must have been a very special event—but for which we have no documentation—inspired us, in true Bean Soup fashion, to forego fact in favor of fabrication. So we asked the Pemi community to create their own back-story, aiming to give reason for such elaborate fanfare. Here, now, are a few inventive responses from some Bean Soup editors of the past. Please feel free to respond in the comments with your own version of the story, and as they say…on with the Soup!
The Direct Dock Procession, or, noissecorP kcoD tceriD ehT
Ah, yes! The lost PEMI tradition of The Direct Dock Procession, forerunner of Backwards Day — both of which have been lost to the sands of time and reasonable water safety standards. During the seasons of 1915 to 1929, one of the directors would be selected to ride on a hoisted litter from the Mess Hall down to the beach where the current Counselor’s Memorial Library stands. Backwards. The procession processed completely backwards, including all walking and music-making. The occasion was accompanied by pomp and fanfare from the Silver Cornet Band and the Sailor’s Sceptre-Making occupation (which, in the year this photo was taken, had only one participant, a barrel-chested 15-and-under named Ulysses S. S. Granthformer). And as you can see from the photo, this year’s procession honoree was Doc Reed.
The Direct Dock Procession began in the 1915 season, after a particularly unintelligible series of announcements from the directors. In order to calm the fury and incredulity of the campers, who felt they had journeyed far enough and paid far too much to be shouted at in gibberish, the Direct Dock Procession was organized to praise the enlightened qualities of “nonsense speech.” During Carnival Week of summer 1915, after a hasty construction of a canopied litter, the Silver Cornet Band was given the task of learning Ippolitov-Ivanov’s, “Procession of the Sardar” in retrograde in a modified wind band arrangement, which of course sounded incredible and not at all cacophonous in any way. The litter-carriers were selected from the Intermediates, and the rifle-bearers were chosen from the Seniors who could successfully fire over their shoulders without burns or whiplash. A flag (obscured in this photo) was painted with the words “TTESSAWEGIMEP PMAC,” and the dock was inspected for load-bearing safety (“It’s probably sturdy enough…”). Once the director was carried backwards to the middle of the dock, the Silver Cornet Band stopped playing at the soonest appropriate downbeat and a 10-gun salute was fired backwards. And then: the director would give a majestic, backwards speech. The rise and fall of the inverse cadence was rousing, and every so often one could make out a single word or short phrase, but it was otherwise complete balderdash, ending with a soft and crisp backwards greeting to the assembled spectators. Finally, the director was carried to the edge of the dock and tipped backwards into Lower Baker Pond, so that, indeed, if recorded on a modern video camera and played back in reverse, he would be seen to emerge mythically from the very depths of the water!
In this photo from the summer of 1924, one of the Fauver twins can be seen waiting in a rowboat (over Granthformer’s right shoulder) ready to assist Doc Reed, should he have needed rescue swimming back to shore in his heavy three-piece tweed suit. Additionally, Doc Reed can be seen covering his nose with his right hand, owing to a low water level and the ensuing rash of dead fish washed ashore. The litter-bearers can also be seen alternately laughing and grimacing from the terrible stench. As a result, Doc Reed spontaneously shortened his speech and hurried his drop into the water with the phrase, “Ydaerla em pmud tsuj!!” to the relief of all. And although the annual Direct Dock Procession has been abandoned, the grand tradition of non-sensical directorial oratory continues even today!
“Our backs hurt!” thought the campers carrying the counselor down the dock. Still, they were all smiling, and the marching band played happy music, because Pemi was celebrating the successful completion of the very first polar bear! Way back in the 1920s, when the world was still in black and white, things at Pemi were still quite prehistoric. Little icebergs and tiny swimming dinosaurs filled Lower Baker Pond. Instead of cabins, everyone lived in caves, and instead of soccer balls and basketballs, athletes had to use big round rocks, which Charlie Malcolm had the hardest time fishing out of the swamp. Instead of butterflies and moths, the Nature Lodge was filled with pinned pterodactyls, and camp director Reilly McCue rode around the grounds on his very own wooly mammoth named Tecumseh.
But we digress. Because the lake was so cold, most people who tried to take a polar bear were flash frozen in cubes of ice, and had to be slowly thawed out by the campfire. But one day, an especially brave counselor proved he could handle the cold. He jumped off the end of the dock, fought off several small dinos, took a quick soap bath, and then jumped back to safety! The campers and counselors traded their animals skins in for more modern clothing, and decided to honor him with a complete honor guard, marching band, and procession up to the mess hall, where the cook threw some dinosaur meat on the grill for Sunday barbecue.
Doc Reed returning from the 1922 Country Music Awards, having won Top Honors in the Confessional Pop category for his plaintive lyric, “I Kissed the One-Armed Brakeman — and I Liked It.” The song, part of a musical comedy featuring the summer adventures of a Wentworth milkmaid, has unfortunately been lost to Pemi — the result of an attempt by J.H.Nichols to suppress stories that might scare Junior campers. An early recording by Billie Holiday allegedly survives amidst Camp Tecumseh’s infamous “Blackmail Files.”
—Tom Reed, Jr.
Special Bean Soup patches to the above authors for their renditions, and remember, you can always turn in a Bean Soup article to be included in the printed (and then digitally saved) version. We welcome your version in the comments section!