Betsy Mook Reed, May 15, 1917–June 13, 2016

Here, after a busy but excellent summer at Camp Pemi, is the follow-up promised in our earlier post noting Betsy Reed’s death on June 13th.

Betsy died at the Thornwald Home in Carlisle, PA, where she had been living since May, 2014. She was literally only four blocks from Tom and Dottie’s house in town, and she announced within a day of first arriving there that she felt “so safe” amongst such “lovely people.” “Aren’t we lucky?” was for months and months to come her most frequent utterance, always delivered with a twinkling smile. Betsy quickly became the establishment’s songbird, spontaneously breaking into lilting melodies at all hours, for all present – residents, staff, and visitors alike. Even on the morning of June 11th, two days before she died, she brought our visit to a close with her final song – wordless, without any real identifiable melody, but offered with an unmistakably brave and generous spirit, as though to say in the only way she could manage, “Let my last message to you be wrapped in a joyous air.”

Betsy Mook ReedFollowing Tom’s passing in July of 2010, Betsy had spent her winters in their beautiful apartment in Oberlin, Ohio, to which they had moved from Providence twenty-one years earlier. For decades, they relished the remarkable musical and cultural offerings afforded by the College and Conservatory, and Betsy had learned to embrace the Cleveland Indians at least as warmly as she had the Red Sox. (Tom, by the way, always maintained his boyhood loyalties to his White Sox.) After Tom’s death, she was lovingly looked after both in Oberlin and at Camp Pemi by John Peck and Phyllis Rothemich, dear friends from Warren, New Hampshire, who became family in every important way. All the while, she kept Tom’s ashes on a gate-leg table near her dining room chair, labeled with this handwritten note in which you might catch a whiff of her pragmatic whimsy: “The ashes of Thomas L. Reed, Sr. To be sprinkled at Camp Pemigewassett, Wentworth, New Hampshire, along with those of Betsy Mook Reed – when available.”

Betsy Mook ReedBetsy was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 15, 1917, the daughter of DeLo Emerson Mook, a prominent Cleveland lawyer, and Vivian Maynard Mook, a former grade school teacher. Vivian died when Betsy was only three, and for a number of years, she and her older brothers Emerson and Maynard were looked after by a series of housekeepers, not all of whom were, in Betsy’s estimation, perfect Mary Poppinses. After a number of years, though, DeLo married Lois Tuckerman, who became an almost ideal stepmother for the three children: brilliant, attentive, and forever determined to live a life of intellectual fulfillment in an age when women weren’t always afforded that opportunity. Lois’s one shortcoming, according to the ever-stylish Betsy, was that she didn’t care very much about the principles of fashion. (One of the most remarkable things about Betsy, as some of you will remember, was her startling adeptness at climbing one moment into painter’s clothes and transforming a room from ceiling to floor and then, ten minutes after cleaning her brushes, emerging from her dressing room looking prepped for an Richard Avedon portrait). Among the joys of Lois and Betsy’s life together, though, were the summers they spent at DeLo’s wilderness hunting camp in Quebec, where Betsy remembered fishing with First Nation guides and eating wild rice that they had harvested in the bottoms of their birch bark canoes.

As a graduate of Harvard Law School, Betsy’s father wanted her to attend Radcliffe, but Betsy had her sights set on a completely co-educational institution, and Oberlin College, some thirty miles from the Mook homestead in Cleveland Heights, became their compromise. Once at Oberlin, Betsy continued the involvement in choral music she had begun in High School, and she soon decided that a major in English best suited the love of the classics she had cultivated with a very literate father and stepmother. She was also quickly noticed as one of the most beautiful young women on campus, and when it emerged that she and the dashing Tom Reed (four-letter athlete and stellar English major in the class just above hers) were seeing each other on a regular basis, it was widely deemed a match worthy of Hollywood.

Tom and Betsy were married on May 17th, 1941, with Tom’s longtime best friend and Camp Pemi compatriot Al Fauver standing as his best man. Tom had begun his graduate studies in Art History at Harvard, but the war led him to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he served on the medical staff in the Induction Center in New York City. Their daughter Penelope was born in August of 1943 – in New Hampshire, Betsy having retreated to her in-laws’ house at Pemi during one of the hottest summers on record. Son Tom Reed, Jr., followed in June of 1947, after which Tom, Sr., took a position on the Art History faculty at Brown University.

Betsy Mook ReedAs their years in Providence unfolded, Betsy’s love of working with children (together with a remarkable talent for woodworking that she had picked up who-knows-where?) led her to jobs, first, at The Gordon School and, then, at Providence Country Day School, teaching what was then quaintly dubbed “Manual Training.” Summers, of course, were spent at Camp Pemi, where in the summer of 1951, Betsy and Scott Withrow were the motive forces behind the first-ever Gilbert and Sullivan production at our camp, HMS Pinafore. The show featured Betsy as Josephine and the future mayor of Indianapolis, Bill Hudnut, at Ralph Rackstraw. She thereafter kept that ball in the air for well over half a century, making Pemi an incalculably richer place as a result.

Betsy’s later involvements in Providence included her taking an apparel design course at the Rhode Island School of Design (to which Tom had moved in the mid 1950’s) and then teaching the same at Providence’s storied Handicraft Club. Her circle of friends and former students in Providence was huge and appreciative, so when she and Tom moved to Oberlin in May of 1989, some of us were worried that she would miss the connectedness involved. Always outgoing and gregarious, though, she and Tom quickly established themselves as dynamic members of Oberlin’s community of cosmopolitan seniors. They continued to love and indulge in European travel, something they had begun with Penelope and Tom, Jr., on Tom, Sr’s year-long sabbatical in 1953-54. It was then, in fact, that Betsy first and indelibly established her capacity to travel with a modestly-sized suitcase yet emerge every day as though Edith Head and a dozen wardrobe assistants had seen to her apparel.

Betsy Mook ReedEffortless grace. That, whether it was apparent or actual, was Betsy’s essence. Her kindness flowed from her soul – instinctually, it seemed. She was willing to tackle absolutely anything and, by the time she had thought about it for a moment or two, her impeccable planning flowed into speedy execution and, thence, into most satisfactory completion. She was beautiful, but in a modest way that never called attention to itself. She sewed, and entertained, and built as though a needle and thread, Amy Vanderbilt’s books on etiquette and cuisine, and a hammer and Skil-saw had been the equipage of her cradle. In another age, she could have been anything. In her own, she was happy and fulfilled attending to the world she found around her – as an adoring but sometimes skeptical wife, a loving yet challenging mother (to hundreds of camp boys as well as Penelope and Tom, Jr.), an inspiring teacher, and a spirited fellow traveler to all who knew her. “Hurricane Betsy,” is what Tom, Jr. liked to call her – “wreaking order wherever she goes.” Order and joy.

A celebration of Betsy’s life will be held some time in the coming year, perhaps in conjunction with Pemi’s 110th Reunion next summer. In the mean time, contributions in her memory may be sent to Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, where Betsy volunteered; The World Wildlife Fund; or The Fred Rittner Pemi Campership Fund.

~ Tom Reed, Jr.

Final Toast, G&S Review, and on to Pemi 2017!

2016 Final Newsletter (#8)

Remarkably, as I write this, Pemi 2016 is within a whisper of its concluding hours. As we sit here on Friday afternoon, the mercury is pressing 90, but a brisk breeze from the west keeps conditions entirely bearable. The bulk of your sons are in the cabins putting the last touches on packing (which we dearly hope you will find to be satisfactory), but Timmy Coe, Spencer Hill, and a few other hardened tennis players are enjoying an impromptu last-minute doubles match, and there are queues at the ping pong tables as there have been all year long. So, in some ways, the last day of the season is like all the rest – hot and dry, but happy and active. The seventh ladling of Bean Soup will take place in just an hour, and we’ll dine a bit early (at 5:30) to leave room for the final campfire, which we hope an impending cold front will allow us to hold in its traditional spot on the Senior Beach. Then it’s cabin parties, perhaps another glimpse (weather permitting) of the spectacular Perseid meteor shower that many of us witnessed last night, and an all too hasty night’s sleep as visions of home-town sugar plums dance in everyone’s heads. It’s been a wonderful year, as Danny’s toast at last night’s Final Banquet made very clear.

Final Banqust toastHere’s to the summer of 2016 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 109th in Pemi’s rich and storied history – a summer that has come and gone, as it always seems to, in the blink of an eye, though in some ways it seems a lifetime ago that we all began to arrive in early June, way back when campers and young counselors were still attending graduation parties, fourteen Pemi Westers were still breaking in their hiking boots for their trip to Washington, and LeBron and company were finally hoisting an NBA championship trophy, making Cleveland the new “city of champions.” 

Here’s to a summer that concludes so late in August that leaves on Route 25A are already sporting a slight autumn tint, the Abbey boys are two weeks into their school year, fall athletic teams have begun to practice, and, as Pemi boys are returning to their cabins for an 8:30 taps, there is barely a shred of day light left – a summer that by all accounts has been a wonderful success, made possible by the collective efforts, wisdom, and care of the Pemi men and women in this room.

Here’s to the 258 (exactly) campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, 86 of whom were here as full session campers – campers from 25 states of the United States and 7 countries around the world. Here’s to the 79 campers who made the decision to attend sleep-away camp for the first time, the 22 who have or will collect their five-year bowls, and (Yes, Henry Jones, Reed O’Brien, Andrew Kanovsky, and Dash Slamowitz!) here’s to campers in their eighth. 

Here’s to 2016’s talented and dedicated counselor staff at Pemi – to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors, the young men who share such close quarters with their boys, and who, for some magical reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways even their own parents and we senior staff sometimes can not.  

Cheers to the incredibly hard-working crew that Reed Harrigan leads each day with such vigor, dedication, and love: Tess, Tawnya, Dennis, and Chris; to Office Managers extraordinaire, Heather and Kim, who do so much more than manage the office; and here’s to Dottie, who “does the Dottie” each day, attending to tasks both large and small and caring for campers with her maternal grace, wisdom, charm, and a large helping of love, as well.

Cheers to the chefs and kitchen crew this summer, led by Tom and Judy, who tackled the herculean task of providing a community of 260 with delicious meals three times a day and reminded us that it can be done with a smile, a sincere desire to meet the needs of everyone in the community, and with freshly baked bread each day, as well.  

Here’s to Kenny, the “kid from Cleveland,” who masterminds our four-pillared program (with a hand this summer from Dan Reed), oversees transportation, Pemi West, the daily and weekly schedule, and so much more. Thank you, Kemosabe. I’d never want to do it without you! 

Cheers to Laura and all the creative endeavors down in Art World; to Charlie, our big-hearted Athletic Director and all the coaches in the athletics’ program who always put Pemi’s values of sportsmanship, improved skills, and participation first…. Double boom! 

Thank you to Tom and the trippies who sent scores of trips tramp, tramp, tramping over the mountains and paddling on the mighty rivers; to Dorin (and Maestro Luke) for another remarkable G & S performance and to her staff for a summer of beautiful music. 

To Emily, to Paige, and to Molly and all the exhilarating, yet safe, fun we had in AND ON the water; to Harry O in the shop; Chris (and family!) on the tennis courts; Larry and Deb in the Nature Lodge; Steve (and his collection of flies) on the archery range; and all of the other instructors who brought major energy and mojo to occupation periods every day. And let’s not forget Head of Staff Ben, aka Senor Stacks, for overseeing his charges with such proficiency, thoughtfulness, and humor every day. 

Here’s to the things that were unique at Pemi in 2016; the Birthday Bell, spike ball, the Lake Thing, blue water skiers and green water skiers, “Sting” rockets, Ru-tu-tu, O-At-Ka championship trophies, and a July 18th storm that was a stark reminder of the power of Mother Nature and the infinite – yes, infinite – capacity of one very good man and a chain saw.

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we laugh at ourselves and anticipate “things to look for,” Camp Fire when we entertain ourselves in front of some of the most majestic sunsets one will ever see – especially in 2016 – and to Sunday Meeting when we reflected on such matters as short cuts and short circuits, “old school” Pemi, and the extraordinary gifts Al Fauver gave to Pemi throughout his many decades on the shores of Lower Baker Pond.

Here’s to our 27 fifteen-year-old campers, to their many years at Pemi, and to the lifelong friendships they have created. I know from personal experience that some day you’ll participate in each other’s weddings, be Godparents to each other’s children, and perhaps become the next generation of counselors at Pemi.

And of course, here’s to the Fauver and Reed Families who, in their loving, wise, and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from each of us every summer and who see the stewardship of Camp Pemigewassett as their chance to make the world a better place, one boy at a time.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2016. Good luck, long life , and joy!

And now, as in past years, the top drama critic of the award-winning Wentworth Times takes his measure of one of the highlights of Pemi Week and, indeed, of the entire season.

Clive Bean Reviews Pirates of Penzance 

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“Police” directing traffic

The Pemi theatrical season reached its apex this past Tuesday and Wednesday nights with 2016’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, The Pirates of Penzance. As one of our contributions to the town of Wentworth’s 250th birthday celebration this summer, we issued an open invitation to the local citizenry to attend this year’s show. Upwards of 40 did, and they enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining evening. Reading the Argument to the crowd prior to the first act, Tom Reed, Jr. pointed out that, fifty-one years ago, when a mess hall fire ruled out our performing Pirates at camp, Wentworth generously offered us the use of their town hall stage. In commemoration of that event, this year’s chorus of Policeman again directed incoming traffic in their Victorian “Bobby” costumes, as their predecessors had done over fifty years back out on NH Rt. 25. (How impressed unknowing motorists must then have been by the apparent sartorial traditionalism of New England constabulary!)           

Pemi Pirates of Penzance, Owen Lee

Pirate Lieutenant Samuel, Owen Lee

Tirelessly and flawlessly directed by Head of Music Dorin Dehls, this year’s show was as good as any in recent memory. Manning the keyboard once again was master pianist Luke Raffanti, a one-man orchestra whose remarkable ability to cover for minor vocal miscues amongst the cast was very much in evidence. The show opens, of course, with the male chorus copiously “pouring the Pirate sherry,” and this year’s buccaneers (Jamie Acocella, Will Adams, Harry Cooke, Whit Courage, Zacc Dwan, Michael Kerr, George Lerdal, Cam McManus, Kevin Miller, Braden Richardson, and Phineas Walsh) downed their imaginary Captain Morgan as avidly as fraternity brothers at a Fort Lauderdale bash. Fortunately, their lusty singing was in no way impaired by their overindulgence, and they carried the whole show on their broad and tattooed shoulders. 

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Wards of Major General Stanley

Far more modest and, we would assume, innocent than sorority sisters at the same Fort Lauderdale bash, the Ward’s chorus absolutely charmed the audience from their first appearance. Ted Applebaun, Julian Berk, Jonathan Ciglar, Andrea Geffert, Mac Hadden, Keiran Klasfeld, and Henry Moore looked positively ravishing in their gingham frocks, and their animated acting and spot-on singing easily matched the energy and impact of their “male” counterparts. Initially submerged in the coy ensemble were Christopher Ramanathan (as Edith), John Kingdon (as Kate), and Lucas Gales (as Isabel), but all three soon stepped up as soloists and positively wowed the crowd with their dramatic and melodic flair. (So charming and difficult to choose between were they that the Pirate King [played by Larry Davis] did his utmost to secure the favors of both Christopher and John – before being summarily reminded that even a nautical monarch couldn’t both have his Kate and Edith, too. (Apologies for a horrendous pun!)

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Rob, as Ruth

As the Pirate Lieutenant Samuel, Owen Lee was thoroughly professional (and accordingly earned this year’s Johnnies Plaque for Dramatics!), while real-life Brit Rob Leftwich played the infamous working-class cougar Ruth as though he had studied for decades with Betty White and Demi Moore. Rob’s powerful falsetto truly shone both in solos and in a series of dramatic duets and trios. If we ever stage Jersey Boys at Pemi, he is a shoe-in to play Frankie Valli. 

As mentioned, Larry Davis reprised his role as the Pirate King, combining bluster, braggadocio, and bathos in a way that only he can manage. Opposite him was Tom Reed, Jr. as Major-General Stanley, clearly relishing a role in which he had something close to a dozen children. “Given the Reed family’s historical under-production of offspring,” he was heard to say after the show, “it’s always tons of fun to play a man with a reproductive profile closer to that of the Fauver clan.” 

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George Cooke

Pemi police_smAlthough they appear only in the second act, the Policeman’s chorus of Eli Brennan, Dan Reed, Wesley Eifley, Ben Walsh, and Nelson Snyder stole the show. They got so quickly and deeply into their parts as inept and cowardly constables that this reviewer worries that, for weeks to come, they may all suffer severe cases of post-dramatic distress disorder. The same can be said in spades for George Cooke, whose Sergeant of Police came close to surpassing 2012’s Best-Ever Mike Plecha – and garnered George 2016’s Gilbert and Sullivan Award. In any case, if the show had been flagging in its second stanza (which it most assuredly was not), this half-dozen lads in blue would most certainly have dragged it, all by themselves, up to the level of truly memorable light opera.

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Oliver Giraud and Michaella Frank

If Pirates begins with the failed romance of Ruth and Frederic, it ends with the totally fulfilling match of before-her-time feminist woman-of-will Mabel Stanley and pirate-against-his-will-and-conscience Frederic. Playing the former with true musical accuracy and impressive dramatic flair was Oliver Giraud, whose off-season job as grade-school student on Florida’s Gulf Coast clearly leaves him feeling extremely comfortable advancing his personal interests in a seaside setting. And Michaella Frank, Pemi’s first-ever female cast in a male role, was arguably the best romantic lead a Pemi Pirates show has ever seen. She mastered the tenor range with the assurance of Andrea Bocelli, and combined her vocal brilliance with unequalled dramatic flair. Look for her to be in the running the next time Hamilton looks to replace its lead.

In sum, 2016’s Pirates of Penzance was a singular success, marked by great energy, musical precision, and singular playfulness. Special thanks, finally, to Producer Deborah Fauver, whose scores of hours ordering and organizing costumes and props made the show look as good as it sounded – and to the set crew of Reed Harrigan and Dennis Thibodeaux, who gave the cast the Cornish seacoast on which to have their loony fun. All in all, it was a spectacular team effort, easily one of the highlights of a wonderful camp season, and certainly a most appropriate treat for a White Mountain hamlet celebrating a quarter millennium of civic life and culture. As to anyone who knew and loved the Founding Director of Pemi G&S shows who took her grand earthly curtain call just this past June – we could most assuredly hear Betsy Reed crying “Bravo!” from on high.

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Producer Deborah Fauver, flanked by the leads of 2016’s “Pirates of Penzance”

On that distinctly beatific note, we’ll close our books on Pemi 2016. To those of you who entrusted your sons to us for the summer, thank you so much for sharing their energy, charm, and good natures. We look forward to spending another seven weeks with many of them in 2017. And for this year’s “graduating” fifteens, let us dangle the temptation of Pemi West in the coming summer – and, in the years to follow, the prospect of an actual paycheck just for hanging out with us in the snug little New Hampshire valley where so many memorable things always seems to happen.

— Tom

 

Pemi Remember this in the depths of February. Until 2017...

Remember this in the depths of February and March. On to 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proof is in the Pudding

2016 Newsletter # 7

Greetings from the sun-drenched shores of Lower Baker Pond! As we begin the last week of camp, the most oft-heard words from campers and counselors alike is, “I can’t believe this is the last week of camp! Wow! The summer has gone so quickly!” Indeed, another summer is reaching its final days, and we will be extremely sad to bid the boys adieu in just three day’s time. In the blink of an eye, the leaves will begin to turn red and gold, the evenings will become cooler, and we will all rejoin our families and reconnect with our home-away-from-Pemi.

As I type this note from the West Wing of the Senior Lodge, I can hear the yells of excitement and encouragement down at Senior Beach, telltale signs that Pemi Week is in full swing. Swimming, sailing, and archery championships, Games Day, Woods Dudes’ Day, two evening performances of Pirates of Penzance and, of course, Final Banquet are all on the week’s schedule as our summer climaxes with a crescendo of events. Pemi Week is a wonderful opportunity for the boys in each cabin to work, play, and bond together, and for all of us in the Pemi community to celebrate what has been a particularly sunny, active summer in the Baker Valley.

When I consider all of the things to be thankful for in the summer of 2016, right at the top of my list is the well-prepared, delicious, and bountiful food we have enjoyed this season. We consider excellence in food to be at the very top of our to-do list in preparing for each summer, and this year we have not been disappointed!

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Tom Ciglar

While I will mention others who have helped to tackle the Herculean task of feeding a community of 250 hungry souls three times a day, credit begins at the top, and my first “shout out” goes to Tom Ciglar, our Director of Food Services. As you may recall from the email we sent last fall, part of our reshuffling of the staff deck included dividing responsibilities in the Mess Hall in a new way and creating this new position. The world of food service has become infinitely more complex at summer camps, schools, and even at our own family tables than it was twenty of thirty years ago. Tom was hired for this newly constructed position last October with the idea that he would concentrate his efforts on creating the menu, ordering the food, managing the front room where the campers and counselors eat, and overseeing individual dietary requirements. While, of course, Tom has also seen plenty of time at the stove this summer, we recognized that having a single head chef oversee all of the responsibilities of the kitchen, and do all of the cooking, is an antiquated model that needed to be updated to attend to all of the demands of a modern camp kitchen. Creating this new position was the first step in rethinking how we prepare food and manage the dining operation at Pemi.

To say that Tom has hit it out of the park in his new role this summer would be an understatement! The reviews from boys and staff alike have all been overwhelmingly positive, and Tom’s love and aptitude for cooking and managing others has been at the top of the list of reasons why the boys have been so happy with the food this year.

When asked about his goals for this summer, about the things he thinks are important in cooking for a boy’s summer camp, and also about his love of baking bread in particular, here’s what Tom had to say:

Pemi bread“This summer has been a very satisfying one for all of us in the kitchen. My goal for the season was to take care of everyone and serve meals where all of the pieces come together so I see a whole community well fed. This is tremendously satisfying for me. A few years ago, Pemi helped me attend a baking class at King Arthur Flour Company, in Norwich, Vermont, where my love for baking really took off. The bread baking started as a way to supplement the meals and it just took off from there. The rest is history, I guess you could say.” Tom calculates that he has baked 1,000 loaves of bread this summer, or about 50 pounds a day, and that he has used a ton of flour! Wow!

When I asked Tom about the most exacting demands involved in cooking for 172 boys each day, he replied, “The biggest challenge is to serve a healthy meal three times a day, but with a good variety of things that the boys love to eat. Our boys love their meat, potatoes and bread; the test is not just serving the food, but also planning for variety in the menu and seeing that they enjoy what we serve.”

I also asked Tom if anything had been a surprise this summer. “Well, it’s not my first rodeo, so it’s hard to surprise me at this point. I guess if I had to identify something that I have been especially pleased with, it’s been the very positive reception we’ve received from the dining room this summer. The support and great feedback have been amazing and have been another example of Pemi’s big heart.”

Finally, I asked Tom if there was a dish he had served this summer that was especially satisfying. “The pot roast we had for Sunday lunch. The pieces all came together, and the Mess Hall was actually quiet for a few minutes!” Well, that silence spoke volumes about everyone’s appreciation of Tom and the kitchen staff’s efforts and skill. Silence in the Mess Hall is about as common as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series!

Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say, so I asked a few of our campers if they had any thoughts about the food this summer. As you might guess, they had plenty to say!

Braden Richardson in Lower Six said that he really loves “the mashed potatoes and meat loaf. They’re so tasty they remind me of my mom’s cooking, and she’s the best cook in the world”! (Tissues for Lisa Coleman, Braden’s mom, please.)

Gray Klasfeld in Lower One said, “I love how diverse the meals are. There’s always great variety. My favorite meals are the soups, the pasta, and especially the chicken fingers!”

Ian Hohman in Upper Three, noted that, “Tom spends so much time making sure we are all happy and full. I really love the BBQ chicken!”

Luke Bass in Lower Five really loves, “the Sunday Sleep-in pancakes. The toppings are amazing, especially the chocolate, strawberry, and fruit syrup.”

Jonah Reay in Lower One said he loves, “having Tom’s bread at so many meals because it’s homemade and tastes so fresh!”

Grady Boruchin in Senior Two thinks that, “the “food this year has been so healthy, with lots of vegetarian options.”

Judy Harrington

Judy Harrington

Obviously, feeding the boys three times a day is not a solo task. Tom has a crew of ten others helping him in the kitchen, including six young men from overseas (four from Poland and two from Turkey), two early-morning sous chefs, assistant chef Rachel Preston who works at Tilton Prep in the winter, and Tom’s second-in-command and main chef Judy Harrington, back for her second summer in front of the ranges at Pemi. Judy offers not only excellent food preparation but also a maternal warmth for the boys as well. “I love feeding my boys,” she says. “The look of joy on their faces when I described Sunday dinner, roast pork and potatoes, is the kind of thing that makes all the preparation worthwhile.”

While there are many aspects of the Pemi program and the Pemi day that we feel offer excellent experiences for the boys, it is particularly satisfying to include the Mess Hall meals among them. The food at camp is an important part of everyone’s day, and the rich experience of our dining together is enhanced by the delicious, plentiful, and nourishing food we have enjoyed in 2016. We look forward to continued success and happy days for Tom and his crew this summer and beyond, and we feel grateful and extremely fortunate to have this particular crew bringing us such consistently scrumptious and plentiful meals this summer.

Danny Kerr

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Adventure on the Allagash

2016 Newsletter # 6

[This week’s communiqué comes from Director of Athletics Charlie Malcolm.]

Each summer I am asked to write a newsletter on Tecumseh Day. This year, our boys from Pemigewassett ran into a very deep, talented, and well coached Tecumseh camp and lost the day 5-14-1. The shining exception to the general order of the day was the Pemi tennis program, which won four of five contests. Under Chris Johnson’s masterful leadership, our tennis players consistently won tight contests with nerve and grit.

Tecumseh Day provides the community with a fascinating challenge and an annual philosophical conundrum.   For a full week, we ramp up our preparation while at the same time we send kids out for hiking trips, exploring bogs, and keeping our general program moving forward. While camp gets on with business, many of our Seniors begin to sense that camp and their time as boys here are finite and they desperately want Tecumseh Day to be a crowning achievement of this journey.   As I mentioned last year, they look for opportunities to lead the younger campers and search for the right message for a range of ages and levels of commitment to athletics.

At Pemi, the Senior division has several experiences that are coming-of age-opportunities able to create life-long lessons and memories. I am often struck by how many of the lessons and experiences garnered while pursuing athletics nonetheless apply to a plethora of settings. For example, I recently joined our 15s on the annual trip to the Allagash Wilderness in Maine. For well over twenty years, I have jealously watched the Pemi 15s leave for their adventure on the Allagash Waterway just outside Baxter State Park. The Allagash is considered the capstone experience for the Pemi trip program, but it was not available when I was in Senior 3 in 1980. In the 1990s, legendary trip counselor Reilly McCue led Pemi boys deep into the wilderness with Senior counselor Phil Burnett, and their stories and the joy the boys showed when returning home to Pemi only stoked my longing to come along for the trip.

As Athletic Director, I usually sneak out of camp for one trip a season. Last year, I went to Madison Hut and walked along the ridge of the Presidentials. It was a great experience until the long, steady march down tested this old timer. When openings remain for a given trip, I’m quick to tell the potential participants that I can only remember a handful of athletic contests from my time as a camper in the 1970s, but I can tell you in detail about my three-day trip to Osceola, my four-day through Zealand and Franconia Falls, and my many walks along the Franconia or Presidentials ranges.

Not unlike our 15s, as I step into my fifties, I can feel the jaws of time gnawing away at some of my trip dreams. I won’t use the word “Bucket List” for I don’t want it to sound like I just want to check off some list without genuinely appreciating the experience. Nor do I want to make this sound like a midlife crisis blog; this trip is clearly a “coming of age” opportunity for the boys willing to embrace the Allagash’s power” it was also a “coming of age” for me, but for a different reason.

I was at breakfast when Ken Moore and Tom Reed made me the offer for the Allagash; they needed a van driver to navigate the seven-hour drive and knew I would jump at the opportunity. With an extremely light athletic schedule during “changeover” week, it was an ideal opportunity to send me along with the Pemi 15s to the Allagash. After a few days with the boys working on my C and J strokes, I declared myself ready for the sojourn; however, I did wonder if I was up for the challenge. I’m fairly sure several of the boys were having similar feelings as they struggled to master some of the critical canoeing skills.

Allagash packing

industryOn Monday morning, the vans left Pemi at 6 AM and we headed down Route 25 to Portland, Maine, then headed north on route 95 to Millinocket. You can’t help but notice the challenges small businesses face in the seasonal tourist industry when you’re passing along this route on an annual basis. After a long drive north along Route 95, we arrive at Millinocket, an old mill town and the gateway to Baxter State Park and the Allagash Wilderness. Over the last ten years two of the largest mills in town closed as digital media’s declining demand for paper hit this aging town fairly hard. Signs along the main street captured a debate over whether to make Baxter State Park a National Park. Many of the young people have left town to find work from Bangor to Boston. Those that remained found a community wrestling with limited employment opportunities and the opiate scourge that shakes many of our rural and declining urban areas.

We arrived at Katahdin Outfitters just as a storm was rolling in and we quickly loaded the trailers and vans with our gear. The boys worked together unloading our U-Haul Trailer and selected their paddles and life vests that were soon wrapped in a big blue tarp. The outfitter vans left Millinocket and within ten minutes we were out of cell reception and heading down logging roads, deep into the wilderness. Our driver Paul has been hauling Pemi into the wilderness for the last twenty years and quickly asked for an update on Reilly McCue. I let him know that Reilly was running an incredible fishing and hunting guiding service out of the North Shore of Boston. Paul shared a story about how he “accidently” hit a few partridges on the road and Reilly jumped out of the van and quickly de-feathered and zip -ocked the meat for the first meal of the journey. Ten jaw-dropping Pemi boys had watched with a range of emotions as Reilly made quick work of the game.

As we drove deep into the back woods, Paul shared with me the process of timbering the region, and some of the local struggles living in this far-flung locale. I asked how climate change was affecting the Allagash region and he provided three examples. The moose population was significantly down because tics have been moving further north and emaciating the moose. He had never seen turkey vultures in this region before, and bass were now populating trout-only lakes. While we talked, the boys watched the pine trees rush by and a raven carry away an unlucky red squirrel. Deer scampered, and the dust from the dry roads churned as the vans surged deeper and deeper into the wilderness.

After two hours, we arrived at Chamberlain Lake and began to unload the canoes and gear as dark clouds to our south inspired a touch of adrenaline to get the boys moving. Chamberlain is named after the famous Civil War colonel of the 20th Maine that fought gallantly at Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg. We stopped briefly for a group photo, and I wondered how these twenty boys would respond to the Call of the Wilderness. Would they come together as a group and return to Pemi changed by the experience?

Pemi Allagash group

15s: Reed O’Brien, Reed Cecil, Jackson Morrell, Thaddeus Howe, Nick Bowman, Andrew Kanovsky, George Cooke, Nolan Katcher, Lucas Gaffney, Will Adams, Henry Jones, Ethan Elsaden, Nick Carter, Dash Slamowitz, Tucker Jones, Sam Beesley, Rafe Forward, Jake Cronin, Pierce Haley, James Minzesheimer. Staff: Zacc Dwan, Jackson Reed, Harry Morris, Charlie Malcolm.

Fortunately, the storm that hugged the southern horizon moved away and the boys arrived at the Boy Scout campsite with plenty of daylight to set-up their tents and begin the process of preparing dinner. Harry Morris, counselor of Senior 3 and former trip counselor, prepared each group’s supplies, from tents to meals, all while running his cabin and meeting the demands of camp in the waning days of the first half. Anyone who has worked at Pemi knows that these points of transition are fairly time- and energy-consuming, so well done, Harry! As we went to bed Monday night, a nearly full moon began to rise somewhere just to the northeast of Mount Katahdin. At the time we had no idea how important this moon would be to our coming adventure.

Allagash coffeeAt 5 AM on Tuesday, I awoke to the first light of the day and thus began the ritual of the coffee. Unlike my Seniors, I tend to wake at the crack of dawn when camping in the backcountry. The process involves sliding out of your tent as quietly as possible, trying not to wake your tent mate, grabbing a pot and walking down to the lake for water. The birds harken your arrival and a family of loons across the bay peer with mild interest at the stranger on the shore. With the water in the pot, you light the Coleman Stove, boil the water, slowly pour the water through a coffee filter, relishing the smell of the ground beans and the quietness of being the first one awake. For about twenty minutes it is just the birds, the gentle sun, the sound of soft waves, the fresh chill in the air, and the hot coffee warming your hands and soul.

Allagash planningIt wasn’t long before I was joined by Jackson Reed, and Senior counselors Harry and Zacc Dwan. Over coffee, we discussed and reviewed our plan for the day. When choosing to paddle the lake section of the Allagash, you are blessed with a diversity of landscapes and challenges. If the wind is calm and there are no storms to negotiate, the lake route is fairly ideal for paddlers of a range of abilities and provides a diversity of wildlife. If the wind howls, the trip leaders have some fascinating and challenging decisions to make. One of the down sides of battling weather concerns the first night we arrived was that we were unable to knock off a few miles of Lake Chamberlain before setting up our tents. These miles would soon pose a challenge for our respective teams of canoers.

After a hearty breakfast, the lads broke down their tents and loaded the canoes with their gear and twenty buckets of supplies. The weight was evenly distributed in the canoes and amongst the group. As we turned out of our sheltered campsite, we soon realized the wind was going to pose a significant challenge for the group. The first group hugged the south side of Lake Chamberlain while my group decided to cross the lake at the narrowest section and make our way along the northern shore. The wind barreling down the center of the lake made neither option particularly inviting. The first group only made it two of the eleven miles planned for the day when they realized progress was fairly futile in the winds that were now gusting close to 30 mph. My group crossed the lake at the narrowest point and began pulling their canoes along the rocky northern shoreline, a slow and arduous process testing balance and grit. Whenever a point jutted out and cut down the wind, the boys paddled to the next exposed shoreline. We were able to cover 4.5 miles in seven hours; however, by late afternoon it was clear we needed change our plans.

Camp Nugent

Camp Nugent

Jackson and I found a deserted Camp Nugent, a seasonal hunting cottage with a cove protected from the wind and a grassy lawn to take a nap and have dinner. We all settled down to wait out the wind, many boys choosing to succumb to a well-deserved nap as Jackson prepared a meal of pasta and tuna fish. By 8:30 PM, the wind began to significantly die down and both groups decided via radio to push forward to our original planned destination. With a clear night and a full moon just beginning to rise from the east as the sun set in the west, the boys felt refreshed and excited for the adventure. I have to admit, I was tired and sore and was wondering what I was doing on this trip. Some of the boys were feeling and sharing some of their concerns, but the mood of the group began to change. As the moon boldly rose from the backdrop of Mount Katahdin, we all felt our spirits rise and began to paddle with positive energy and a renewed sense of adventure.

sunrise2_sm

Harry’s group crossed Lake Chamberlain and were soon on our tail as we made our way to the Lock Dam Campsite. The moonlight sparkled on the water and the white caps disappeared as the boys made up seven miles in two hours of paddling. There were some anxious moments as we hunted for the Lock Dam in the moonlight but we soon found our destination just as the wind began to pick up once again. It was an incredibly long first day for the boys as we pulled the boats ashore, set-up our tents, and fell fast asleep. Jackson set out a lamp to help guide the arrival of the second group and we were soon all together again.

Allagash sunrise

Lock dam was built in 1841 to help control the flow of water into the Penobscot River in order to improve the transportation of timber down the river. The boys awoke at 7 AM and began the arduous process of repacking the canoes for our trip to Eagle Lake. There was a debate whether to rouse the boys earlier to beat potential wind, but the length of the previous day and the possibility of more moon-lit paddling made sleep our choice of action.

We were not certain what we would find once we left the sheltered region just below the dam, for the the next day’s journey on Eagle Lake had the potential to be even more exposed to wind.   As we turned the corner and once again paddled west, the boys were met with dispiriting and relentless gale force winds that eventually forced both groups to find shelter. Fortunately, Thoreau Island serenely beckoned our boats and the boys, tired from the previous day’s challenges followed by another tough morning of paddling, were incredibly grateful to find a place to wait out the relentless wind. I imagine the politics and tension of the 1850s made the Maine Wilderness a special refuge for Thoreau in 1857. (Perhaps the politics of 2016 might make all of us also long for a Thoreau Island!)

Allagash nappingWhile the boys napped, I went with Harry and a few boys to explore the island where Thoreau made his summer retreat of 1857. We had learned some lessons from the first day and were quite content waiting out the wind with the hope that it would eventually die down. The boys napped, played cards, went for a swim or joined me for explorations of the island. At our campsite table, the boys shared and discussed their favorite book from the previous school year.

Allagash cardsFortunately, the winds once again died down and we loaded the canoes as the evening moon began to rise. We paddled for close to eight miles, as the lake was incredibly calm. The moon rose blood-red to our northeast, and I began to notice the boys were paddling with cleaner strokes and in tighter formations, allowing the lead boat to create a wake and decrease the resistance. It took 48 hours of hard paddling, but a team was beginning to emerge and the pace of our progress dramatically increased with each stroke of the paddle. Our broader appreciation for the adventure had reached a tipping point.

With the moon as our guide, we arrived at Eagle Lake campsite at 11 PM. We had now covered over twenty-five miles, negotiating tough winds, personal doubt, and previous expectations about a Huck Finn-like paddle down the Allagash River. In the first two days, we all had to adjust our aspirations for the trip. Some of the boys had images of rapids and gentle paddles down the Allagash River with little awareness of wind and open lakes. The lake route of the journey was magnificent in its beauty, as we saw eagles, osprey, loons, and stunning views of Mount Katahdin, but the physical demands and the uncertainties of when the wind might ease up tested each member of the group.

With everyone paddling with a partner, trying conditions can create negative energy that undermines the group’s ability to paddle with economy and direction. Each boy has a choice of whether to provide encouragement and push a little harder, wallow in self-pity, or swing somewhere in between. I know as I paddled in the bow of the canoe I didn’t always agree with the line chosen by my partner in the stern or understand how difficult it was to both paddle and steer when the wind relentlessly struck the canoe at various angles. I didn’t fully appreciate the challenge and success my partner Jackson was having keeping a consistent line until we switched seats and I realized that the wind easily defeated the counterbalancing C or J stroke. As a trip leader and coach, I found it interesting to watch each canoe crew work through a range of emotions. By the end of the second day of hard paddling, it was clear that the boys were stronger and beginning to embrace a broader appreciation for their journey. I also appreciated the care Harry Morris had taken in choosing canoe partners for this trip.

Allagash breakfastAt the Eagle Lake Camp site, the winds felt unusually calm when we awoke the next morning. I prepared chocolate pancakes for the boys, which were eaten with gusto and gratifying appreciation. We headed out toward a placid Churchill Lake with a few recommendations for fun and exploration from our good friend Reilly McCue. Our first stop was a bridge where the boys could jump into the water. Each boy launched into the cool waves, a fresh and exhilarating experience. After bridge jumping, we searched for Thoroughfare Brook, an ecosystem loaded with birds, brook trout, and moose.

Thoroughfare Brook

Thoroughfare Brook

At the entrance of the brook, we saw two moose, and Jackson identified dozens of birds. Kingfishers announced our arrival and escorted the canoes up the brook. I broke out my fishing rod and landed several brook trout that the boys later cooked and ate on Ritz crackers. The brook, shielded by wind, provided the boys a very different experience as we paddled deeper into the wilderness. The beauty was breathtaking, although I have to admit I was a little sad knowing our trip was nearly over.

After our adventure in the brook, the boys entered Churchill Lake with a stiff wind…at our backs, for once. Each canoe team desperately tried to build the most efficient sail from tent flies, raincoats, or tarps – with a wide range of success and failure. As we sped across Churchill, we soon saw the dam leading to the Allagash River, our final campsite and our launch site for our last stage of the adventure. We arrived at the campsite a day before the Ranger station was celebrating the Park’s 50th Anniversary. Rangers, past and present, and families with deep appreciation for the incredible beauty and transformational experience were flooding into the camp for the big celebration. A large pit filled with timber was set ablaze to build coals for the big baked bean cook-off the following morning.

The next morning, the boys carried their canoes to the launch of the Allagash Rapids. Jackson met with the team and reviewed the various strokes and maneuvers to successfully navigate the rapids. Each morning, the Allagash Ranger Station releases more water to lift the level of the river and create Class Two rapids. As the boys launch their canoes and point their bows down the river, they look for rocks and the “v’s” that emerge between two rocks, creating deeper, safer water. They quickly realize it is critical to keep paddling hard and hit uncertain water with speed. After each stretch of rapids, the boys wait for the trail canoe to join the group. In thirty minutes, the boys traveled a distance that had once taken us six hours in the wind. I couldn’t help but notice and appreciate my group’s cohesion and self-confidence. When the canoes reached our exit location, each boat waited and helped the next canoe out of the water.

Our return with Paul in the van took just under three hours to cover the nearly fifty miles of canoeing we covered in four days. We helped unload the gear and repacked the U-Haul for the long drive home to Lower Baker Pond. We consumed copious amounts of pizza while a television set on CNN dumped the latest tragedy in Munich. It was a little surreal to have been away from civilization for five straight days, seeing only a handful of people, yet we were quickly reminded of a complex world awaiting all of us. We asked the waitress to change the channel and we blissfully consumed the pizza and held onto the joys and innocence of our adventure.

~ Charlie Malcolm