Tecumseh Day 2017…as Seen by Our 10s

Newsletter #6: Tecumseh Day 2017

The following comes from the desk of Charlie Malcolm, now in his 27th year as Pemi’s Athletic Director.

For over a hundred years, Camp Pemi and our friends at Camp Tecumseh have engaged in one of the more entertaining and pure sporting events in the country. Five age groups lock into an intense competition in four sports—a total of twenty contests—with each event having the potential to bring out the very best in our respective campers and communities.

Two years ago I wrote a blog article from the perspective of our fifteen-year-old seniors and how they come to grips with their last Tecumseh Day, the meaning of the day, and ultimately, the closure of their competition as boys at camp. I’ve watched boys walk up from the Tecumseh waterfront, pause at the top of the hill, and look back with tears in their eyes as they witness the end of something deep and special.

In this newsletter, I want to travel with our youngest campers to Camp Tecumseh. Let’s explore the Ten-and-unders, “Doc Nick’s wonders,” and reflect on their perceptions of the day and maybe shed some light on the value of this experience. Does this day create a positive energy and bind our community more tightly? What important lessons and experiences provide growth, and is this appropriate for our junior campers? I’ll cover the day from the Ten-and-under perspective, weaving together their experiences and the words that shaped their understanding of Tecumseh Day.

The Build-up

There were 32 Ten-and-unders living in the Junior Camp at the beginning of the season, and of those, 24 left us in mid-season, leaving our eight full-session boys to welcome their second-session teammates a mere ten days before Tecumseh Day. Even with eight seasoned veterans, it still takes thoughtful work by the Junior Camp staff to pull the age group together. Junior Camp Division Head Wesley Eifler and his incredible counseling team masterfully foster a kind and supportive community, foundational for a successful competition. It is the cementing of these relationships that anchors a given age group’s success on a long and challenging Tecumseh Day.

The majority of the boys sign up for team occupations/practices during the week leading up to Tecumseh: baseball, soccer, tennis, and swimming. Over the course of the week, the cheers in the mess hall grow louder with each passing day, and the juniors, along with the seniors, are often the loudest and most enthusiastic. Some of the boys who were experiencing homesickness are drawn into the camp’s collective enthusiasm and begin to feel fully present at camp. While the cheers occasionally chase Head of Nature Larry Davis out of the mess hall, the reverberations of “Beat Tecumseh!” cascade out of our communal dining room, bounce off Dead Man’s Hill and Victoria’s Peak, and split Mt. Carr. One skips through Plymouth and Center Harbor, sending tremors through Moultonborough, while the rest of the cheers bounce through the Franconias and Presidentials and end up on the porch of Orin Tucker somewhere north of Millinocket, Maine. All true….

While the mess hall rocks most evenings leading up to Tecumseh Day, the Ten-and-unders work tirelessly on their strokes in swimming, their ability to land their first serve in tennis, their willingness and ability to combine on the soccer field, and their ability to hit and play defense in baseball. The beauty of Tecumseh Day is that many boys play sports that they only do at camp, leaning a little further out of their comfort zone for the good of their team and community.

On Friday morning, the juniors wake to the bugle and to a group of seniors who cheer the boys as they rise from their cabins. After a quick polar bear in the lake and an expedited breakfast in the mess hall, the boys are loaded on the buses and leave camp by 7:35 AM. All praise to Assistant Director Kenny Moore, master of logistics, as the buses leave on time and allow ample time for the boys prepare for their matches when they arrive at Tecumseh.

10s Baseball: Setting the Tone

Shep Griffiths

Shep Griffiths

Shep Griffiths returned to Pemi this summer after taking a year to travel with his family. The fire-baller from Rye, NY, straddled the mound, took a deep breath, and looked into his catcher’s mitt. “I was really nervous, but once the game started I was really into it.” Well, Shep certainly was up to the challenge as he proceeded to mow down the Tecumseh batters from the opening inning. He struck out thirteen batters and fielded four bunts for a total of seventeen of a possible eighteen outs. He did this with a pitch count under seventy, a stunning feat at any level.

Twice, Pemi loaded the bases but could not deliver the key hit to break open the game. With the contest still tied 0-0 in the bottom the 6th inning, Shep issued a one-out walk and Tecumseh’s next batter laid down another bunt. Shep fielded the ball and fired to second base, only to find no middle infielder covering. Fortunately, Jake Landry backed up the play at second and literally saved the game with his heads-up, well-coached baseball play. (Editor’s Note: Phil Landry, Jake’s Dad, is a Fauver Baseball Trophy winner, played numerous seasons for me, and became a great baseball coach at Pemi for six seasons.) With runners at first and third and one out, the Tecumseh fans were making some serious noise, and Shep needed to respond with Tecumseh’s heart of the order at the plate.

With laser focus, he struck out the first batter for the second out and the atmosphere was electric. Cheers of, “Let’s go, Pemi!” resounded in spite of an incredibly loud Tecumseh crowd. According to Shep, “This is Tecumseh Day; I’m going to throw it my hardest.” The batter swung and the foul tip landed firmly in Giacomo Turco’s mitt for the final out of a thrilling 0-0 game. “We all ran onto the field and hugged Shep,” said Philip Fauver. “Seeing him pitch like that really set the tone for the day.”

Soccer: Resiliency

After the thrilling end to the baseball game, the Ten-and-unders walked confidently up to Grant Field to prepare for their soccer match. One of the great challenges of Tecumseh Day is to transition from one sport to the next event over the course of a long day. It takes focus and mental fortitude to keep the enthusiasm going or to dust off after a difficult defeat. Tecumseh quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes of play as their speed and competitive spirit put the Pemi Tens on their heels.

Jackson Davies, Keiran Klasfeld, Oliver Phillips, and Charlie Bowman celebrate goal

Jackson Davies, Keiran Klasfeld, Oliver Phillips, and Charlie Bowman celebrate goal

Jackson Heller fought tenaciously at midfield while Shep’s defensive clears bought Pemi time to solve Tecumseh’s defense. With better tactical commitment to attacking the flanks, Pemi was able to turn the outside backs of Tecumseh and serve balls into the middle where the hustling and opportunistic Oliver Philips jumped on a loose ball and buried it to cut Tecumseh’s lead to 2-1. After scoring, Oliver dashed to the Pemi bench and ran the gauntlet of high fives getting everyone excited to play. Coach made some changes in the defense and sent out Philip Fauver, who’d not started the game, to left back. Philip jumped into the game. “I was disappointed not to start and I thought I wasn’t going to play. But once I got in there, I stopped my wing and blocked a lot of shots. I wasn’t afraid.” The ability to overcome initial disappointment and to embrace an opportunity embodies the personal resiliency that makes a team successful.

Pemi started to play more confidently but Tecumseh struck again just before halftime, pushing their lead to 3-1. A late goal can be fairly demoralizing, but Coaches Kim Bradshaw and Sam Dixon rallied the boys. The defensive trio of Shep, Jake Landry, and Philip Fauver held their line for much of the second half and, with great support from cheering seniors on the sideline, a fired-up Ten’s team made a commitment to combine on the flanks and avoid the middle of the pitch. Kieran Klasfeld, Merrick Chapin, and Oliver united to beat several defenders and Oliver once again drew Pemi within a goal. Tecumseh, always a relentless opponent, then pushed their lead to 4-2. Pemi nearly scored when Shep’s penalty kick whistled by the cross bar. “After I missed my penalty kick, no one was mad at me. They told me to keep my head up and make the next one.”

With Shep off the field, Charlie Bowman stepped up and converted a free kick to pull Pemi to just a 4-3 deficit with the fans of both camps urging the boys forward. With under a minute left to play, Pemi received one last free kick from just outside the penalty area. Bowman’s kick just missed the upper corner and Pemi lost a hard-fought match 4-3.

It was a tough loss, but the gritty determination of our youngest Pemi boys to keep fighting back was one of the defining moments of the day and an important lesson for athletes and spectators alike on the critical importance of resiliency. The Tens received great support from their Pemi fans, especially with the cheers of the Fifteens urging the team forward, and they repeatedly responded with courage and fortitude. Kieran summed up how he felt about the loss: “When the game was over, even though we lost, we never put our heads down. The Fifteens watching our game came over and told us we did a great job and they were proud of us. I was bummed out, but we had tennis next, and I decided to make up for it in my doubles match after lunch.”

Tecumseh Dining Hall: Friends in the Zoo

Dining at Camp Tecumseh is one of the highlights for our boys. They hear stories about the cheers and banging on the tables as the dining hall is a source of great fun and energy for the Tecumseh community. While Pemi sings songs about cans of beans and bloomer girls, our friends from Tecumseh have a series of interactive cheers and spoofs that make for a lively environment.

In the back of the dining hall is an area known as the “zoo,” where the more colorful entertainment pulsates and drives the rest of the dining hall. Philip Fauver described it this way: “A senior told me to sit in the ‘zoo.’ It was really fun and really odd. A bunch of middle-aged men and kids whacking the table and singing chants about bananas, coconuts, and the olé chant you hear at soccer games. They even sing and do the hokey pokey. It was fun, but yes, a little awkward, too.”

Shep enjoyed the mess hall, but what he most enjoyed was meeting the boys from Tecumseh. “I sat with a kid who played baseball and tennis. He was a really nice kid and we shared stories about our camps. He told me about the blue/grey competition they have each week in all different sports.” At the end of the lunch, the boys went up to the tennis courts to continue their battle. They had tied their baseball game, lost a competitive soccer match 4-3, and now needed to muster their energy to play tennis and swim in the afternoon.

10s Tennis: Evening the Score

I’ll let Coach Jon Duval describe the tennis match and then give you the juniors’ take on it:

Oscar Andersson

Oscar Andersson

The Tens took the court following lunch at Tecumseh and a brief rest hour. The team came in confident after their dominating performance at the 1st-session Baker Valley Tournament, where they went 9-1 in matches played. The first match to finish was #2 doubles, where Norwood Davis and Kieran Klasfeld quickly dispatched their opponents, identical twins, 8-1, giving Pemi a 1-0 lead in the match. After a quick start, Sam Young and Jake Landry finished their match at #1 doubles 8-4, widening Pemi’s lead to 2-0. Tecumseh responded to being down by winning #3 doubles against Thomas Ruhanen and P.J Reed 8-4. Despite a massive comeback after being down 5-0, Giacomo Turco also fell to a tough opponent at #4 singles 8-5, evening the match at 2-2 with only 1, 2, and 3 singles left to finish. After leading the whole match, Shep Griffiths won #3 singles 8-5. In a heartbreaker, Oliver Philips lost a tough match to a very good Tecumseh opponent 7-6 (9-7) in a tiebreaker at #1 Singles. With the match tied 3-3, everything came down to Oscar Andersson at #2 Singles. Oscar clutched out the match 8-6 after a great effort from his opponent, securing the 4-3 win and giving Tens tennis an undefeated season.

With the victory in tennis, the Ten-and-unders brought their overall record to 1-1-1 with only swimming left to go. The boys felt proud of their accomplishments and appreciated all of the support from their coaches, cabin mates, and seniors.

Swimming: The Last Race

As the boys walked down to the waterfront, they were immediately struck by the inspiring view of Lake Winnepesauke. The massive lake with the Ossipee range in the background and dozens of boats buzzing by the waterfront can be quite disorienting for the Pemi boys from Lower Baker Pond.

Shep walked down to the waterfront having pitched in the baseball game, played centerback in the soccer game, and won his singles tennis match. He had no idea of the overall score of the day. “When I got down to the docks, I started thinking about the story of Metal Boy and how, for him, whoever won the event won the day. Charlotte reminded us of our strokes and we began practicing. The water was awesome, cold, and you could see the bottom. It was weird having the beach be so public with boats driving by and the lake was so big.”

Lucas Vitale

Lucas Vitale

Pemi led for most of the meet as Boone Snyder won the breaststroke and Lucas Vitale won the ‘fly. Merrick Chapin finished second in the breaststroke and Ben Cavenagh delivered a second in the freestyle. Unfortunately, Pemi would eventually lose the meet when Tecumseh took 1st and 2nd place in the final freestyle relay for a 33-27 victory. “I was standing on the docks and I looked over and saw all of the Pemi people cheering,” said Shep. “When they announced the results at the end of the meet we were kinda down. No one was crushed, but I felt a little bad for the seniors.”

After a long day, the Tens and Fifteens came together for one last cheer to celebrate the race and salute Tecumseh’s victory. Our fifteen-year-olds faced the end of their camp competitive days while our ten-year-olds pulled together their feelings about what this meant to them.

Home: Understanding a Bigger Picture

As I write, the van is waiting to take Sam Papel, me, and six boys for a four-day backpacking trip through the Mahoosuc Range, so I’ll let Philip Fauver and Shep Griffiths share their final thoughts on the day.

Welcome home

Welcome home

Shep described returning back to Pemi and the community he felt when he arrived. “When we returned home everyone was waiting for us and clapping. It felt good. The seniors brought us together and said they were proud of us and how we had came together. They all said ‘Pemi on three,’ and then everybody cheered together. In my two years of competing, it is definitely my favorite day at camp. Tecumseh had great sportsmanship. They were never negative, they always hustled, and they were really fast. However, I kinda felt like we won the day, not in terms of points or wins, but in teamwork.”

As for Philip Fauver, he had some advice for future juniors. “It’s a really hyped-up day, but don’t get too cocky. Tecumseh is a sports camp; we are not. We still believe we can do it, but don’t be crushed if we don’t. Give us another week of preparation and I think we can beat these guys. I’m excited to prep for another Tecumseh Day again, but next week I’m going hiking, working in the wood shop, and going on a nature hike because camp isn’t just about sports. There are so many things to do.”

And on those final words…I’m taking Philip’s advice and getting into that van to hike some gnarly mountains.               ~Charlie Malcolm

Off to the Mahoosuc Range! Charlie Malcolm, right

Off to the Mahoosuc Range! Charlie Malcolm, right

Survey says…My Favorite Pemi Moment

Summer 2014: Newsletter #5

Hello once again from Wentworth, where we are now (almost unbelievably) a full week into the second half of the 2014 season. Since we were last in touch, 80-odd first session campers have said their good-byes for the year and an equal number of lads have taken their places – a great new crew brimming with eagerness to start their 25-day sojourn in the White Mountains. Sad as we were to say farewell to the group that has gone on to other involvements and climes, we are always hugely energized by the influx of new boys. Not to be too wed to athletic analogies, it’s a bit like being Germans at the World Cup final and watching Miroslav Klose leave the pitch while Mario Goetze sheds his warm-ups and trots out onto the field. There are great things in store, and there’s nothing like “fresh legs” to make sure they come to pass.

SoundPainting

Sound-painting performance

Naturally, the whole Pemi operation has been in full and energetic swing since our Changeover days. The trip program, about which we spoke in our previous number, took special advantage of the beautiful weather at the end of last week, sponsoring outings near and far under inspiringly cerulean skies. On just Friday, for example, more than eighty of our campers were involved in an outing by foot or by canoe. Music has been bolstered by the week-long visit of former Music Head Ian Axness (who has offered both the always popular “Sound Painting” and “Percussion Explosion”) and the first-time residency of Kenny Moore’s uncle-in-law, Eddie McKendry (teaching a week’s worth of Advanced Guitar.) Meanwhile, of course, rehearsals continue apace for this year’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore, with Dorin Dehls and Josh Hess doing a stellar job getting choruses and principals up to speed.

Nature occupation

Nature occupation

Down at Art World, Laura Bubar has introduced Origami for what we think is the first time at Pemi – that on top of ever-popular activities like Mask Making and Duct Tape Art. Andy Bale is also in the second week of his residency and has already had a number of boys out after taps for his remarkable Light Painting Photography workshops. (Perhaps you saw examples in the past photo postings.) As for Nature, Conner Scace has a group of campers positively riveted with the inaugural “Bees, Wasps, and Ants” occupation of the season, while “Geo Lab” begins its second week, as Dan Reed and Deb Kure introduce their charges to the fascinating details of plate tectonics. And while the athletic schedule has been relatively light this week, given the arrival of the new boys and the necessary reforming of the various teams, we have started to gear up for our big annual competition with Camp Tecumseh, scheduled for August 1 and very much our equivalent of Harvard-Yale, Duke-North Carolina, or Red Sox-Yankees. (More on this next week from Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm.) So, as you can see, for all of our Thoreauvian pond-side residency, we have hardly been twiddling our thumbs.

First Session camper surveys

First Session camper surveys

After this quick peek at what is keeping our energetic little community hopping, we figured it might be interesting and informative to look back at what some of your sons made of the first half of the season. Shortly before they left, first-session boys were offered the chance to fill out a survey on their experience. As we pored through the results, it occurred to us (those of us, at least, who endeavor in these newsletters to convey how it actually feels to be here at camp) that one way to open a window on the Pemi experience is to let the boys speak for themselves. All of you, of course, have been hearing from your sons on a weekly basis (although how copiously we have no way of knowing.) But, since each of us (or so we are told) comes at life with his or her own perspective, there is arguably value in hearing what lots of people are saying. So, with that as a prologue, let us let you in on what 80-plus first-session campers had to say about their “Favorite Pemi Moment.” (We also, by the way, asked them what their “Least Favorite Pemi Moment” might have been. Let’s just go with the favorites, though. For some reason, that seems to make sense.)

From the Juniors (8-10 years old):

“My favorite Pemi moment was finishing my distance swim and after my campfire performance.”

“Winning inspection for the third time.”

“Meeting my counselor was exciting because that was who I would be with for three weeks.”

“They were all awesome.”

“Seeing all my friends again.”

“Waterpolo with my friends.”

Bean Soup [our weekly version of The Daily Show] and P-rade [the 4th of July parade].”

“Pretty much all of the F.R.B. [Frisbee Running Bases] games. It’s really fun. The way it works is there’s three bases and the kids try to run from base to base. And not get touched by the Frisbee that the counselors are throwing.”

“Waterskiing, because it felt like you were flying on water.”

“When I first got here, being able to go fishing and being with other boys my age.”

“When I played my first F.R.B. game.”

“The P-rade.”

“Getting to know my cabin mates.”

“In the middle of my distance swim, when I knew I was going to make it.”

“Climbing Mt. Stinson.”

“When I went to Camp Robin Hood for the archery tournament.”

“The first Bean Soup when I was just laughing with everyone else when I didn’t get half of it.”

“The Counselor Hunt [on July 4th, when ‘found’ staff must ‘walk the plank.’]”

“Playing F.R.B. in Juniorville with all my friends and taking the risk of being hit by a Frisbee.”

“When I got up to the Pemi Hill shelter for the night and I saw the view.”

“I loved going up Pemi Hill.”

From the Lower Intermediates (11-13 years old):

“Doing the P-rade skit.”

“Jumping off the high dive in free swim on a sunny afternoon into the cool, refreshing lake water.”

Bean Soup. I liked it because it was funny.”

“When I made paracord bracelets.”

“When I stood in wakeboarding.”

“The Tecumseh track meet.”

“Probably the second Bean Soup. I remember knowing my A. C. [Assistant Counselor] Jack would get Counselor of the Week. It was incredibly funny.”

“When I learned how to get up in wakeboard.”

“When I made a paracord bracelet.”

“When I arrived for my first year!”

“I don’t have one because it was all amazing.”

“When I arrived here to enjoy it.”

“Getting up on water skis.”

“Birthday Banquet and birthday greetings. Hiking.”

“The occupations were the most fun, especially trying new things.”

“Making new friends and seeing my old friends like Suraj.”

“When I was fishing in free time with my friends.”

“Moose Day [competition with our neighboring camp] in the 13’s soccer game. Our team-mates were all friends and we all worked well together. We pulled out the victory and I had a hat trick. So, yeah, it was my favorite!”

“When I had a war in the cabin.” [Ooops! BTW, we didn’t hear about this at the time, nor did subsequent investigation turn up anything noteworthy. Is this a metaphor for tangled sheets? A way of talking about biting insects?]

“When there was pancakes at breakfast and not eggs.”

“When I got on top of Mt. Mooslock [Moosilauke] in a cloud. It was cold and windy, which was nice and refreshing because we had been hiking for so long in the sun. You could see all of the mountains.” [In an intermittent clear moment?]

“Scoring a goal for the 12’s soccer team was a great Pemi moment because my team made me feel amazing about my goal even more.”

From the Upper Intermediates (13-14 years old):

“Singing ‘The Campfire Song’ around the fire at the Senior beach because it showed me the love that binds the Pemi community, which survives the competitiveness of a regular day at camp.”

“When I scored against Moosilauke on Moose Day in soccer because I felt accomplished and it was the final goal.”

“My campfire act and my archery awards.”

“Having to make more friends and to see old ones.”

“I loved driving on the game bus and chanting with friends.”

“Afternoon free time.”

“Trying new things that I couldn’t have a chance to do at home, and meeting new people, and making new friends.”

Bean Soup.”

“The last campfire for me this year. I was sitting next to my friends, just relaxed and enjoying being together and listening to great music.”

“When the whole cabin was stuck in the bunk during a storm and we all played together and talked with Idrissa.” [Idrissa Bangura, our A.C. from Sierra Leone and Brooklyn.]

“I loved slalom skiing and playing baseball. I especially loved catching and our walk-off win against Moose. Also meeting a friend from my town.”

“When lunch ended that one day and Rest Hour started.” [Which had seemed to us to be a daily occurrence! Did we miss something?]

“I enjoyed sitting on the mess hall porch with a plum and looking out on camp.” [during afternoon ‘fruit bowl’]

“Barrel Ball and pick-up events that happen after dinner.”

“On Moosilauke Day I won my tennis match 8-0 then hit a game-winning single in baseball.”

And, finally, from the Seniors (14-15 y.o.):

“Going on a 3-day hike with a group of friends. The overall experience included the hiking, the people, and the adventure that came with the trip. It was amazing!”

“I liked when I played in the lacrosse B.V.T. (Baker Valley Tournament). I made closer friends while doing something I liked.”

“Playing Barrel Ball in the rain.”

Bean Soup.”

“Bonding with my friends on Mt. Washington.”

It may seem like a fairly random selection of “appreciated things,” but we suspect you’ll have seen some patterns emerging. Boys were justifiably proud of their individual accomplishments, be they making it through their distance swims, performing at camp fire, getting up on water skis or wakeboard, or playing well (and as a team) on the soccer pitch or the baseball diamond. Others treasured more communal endeavors and moments, such as winning cabin inspection, reuniting with old friends and getting to know new cabin mates, or sitting with tried and true mates at the camp fire and feeling the strong sense of community that emerges so unmistakably every Saturday night. There were nods to some subtle kind of spirituality, as in the feeling of flying over the water – or, perhaps, in describing how special it is on a balmy summer afternoon simply to be fishing with a few close friends. (Isaac Walton would surely agree.) Pretty much every leg of the Pemi program got noted here: the beauty of a mountain summit and the camaraderie of the “Happy Wanderers” who go up there; the satisfying process and product of making paracord bracelets; the thrill of scoring a goal in soccer and, even more, being celebrated by friends for tickling the twine; and the joy taken in listening to great music as the campfire crackles down at lake’s end. Predictably – and gratifyingly – some of the things the boys relished are unique to Pemi. It’s striking how many times F.R.B is mentioned, together with Bean Soup. And finally (for us; you may have seen other common threads) there is a slight undercurrent on the growth and satisfaction – not to mention the excitement – that can be found in taking on moderate risk. We see that in the repeated mention of trying new things or meeting new friends; or in dashing to a new base in F.R.B. despite the threat of a Frisbee strike; or leaping off the high dive at free swim. Session after session, year after year, the boys find a way to provide the support systems that allow them to extend themselves. It’s a potent formula for self-confidence, growth, and an appreciation for those who help us on our way.

Well, we’re running long now and we’ll close. Thank you, though, to all of the parents who entrusted their boys to us in June and July. We miss them and we hope that they’ve come back to you hale and healthy and perceptibly better for the experience, if only in small ways. Thanks, too, to “ongoing” parents. We’re so enjoying our time with your son and intend to relish every day between now and August 16th. Tune in next week for the latest iteration of our century-plus friendly rivalry with the Boys from Winnepesauke.

~  Tom and Danny

 

 

 

 

 

Pemi’s Mission in a Rapidly Changing World

This past fall, 17 members of the Camp Pemigewassett family* gathered near Boston to discuss Pemi’s past, present, and most importantly, Pemi’s future. The agenda – crafted as a result of in-depth, one-on-one conversations between facilitator Nat Follansbee and each participant prior to the weekend – was ambitious, relevant, and varied, and kept the group engaged for two full days and then some.

All of our conversations—whether in the meeting room, during coffee breaks, or over group meals—were energetic, informative, positive, and productive and were often (not surprisingly) laced with good humor. But perhaps the most critical dialogue took place when the group, ranging in age from 17 to 67, tackled the task of articulating Pemi’s mission. Why do we exist? Who do we serve? How do we do it? What are the key words that best define Camp Pemigewassett? Part of the exercise involved looking back at our long history, considering what it is we’ve traditionally tried to do and why we’ve done it. Part of it involved looking forward and thinking about how Pemi might best respond and contribute to a rapidly changing world. We knew that an objective look at ourselves and clear identification of our mission would provide an invaluable roadmap for all future decision-making.

Below is the result of that session. It is posted on our web site and serves as a touchstone for all of us at Camp Pemigewassett as we move towards this summer and beyond.

Camp Pemigewassett’s Mission

Since 1908, Camp Pemigewassett’s abiding mission has been to inspire and support boys aged 8 to 15 as they find their own distinctive paths in becoming self-reliant, caring, and successful young men with a passion for all that they do.

For over a century, Pemi has balanced tradition and innovation to fulfill our mission in the context of an evolving world. Today, we continue to realize that mission in the following ways:

CAMPERS of differing backgrounds from all over the world live simply in small and inclusive cabin groups. These close-knit camper families meld with the larger Pemi community in ways that foster key civic values, such as respect for others, integrity, responsibility, sustainability, and generosity of spirit. Our varied program teaches and nurtures practical skills while it encourages the self-challenge, creativity, and resilience that develop a boy’s self-confidence. From the beginning, Pemi’s culture has been one of good humor and joy.

Pemi recruits STAFF members who are dedicated to the development of the whole camper, and we train them carefully with an eye to the most informed thinking on the social, physical, and emotional well-being of boys. Our staff’s enhanced leadership, mentorship, and communication skills serve our campers and parents well and become vital traits for staff to carry into future roles and relationships.

For PARENTS at home, Pemi offers support and guidance, sets clear policies, and communicates honestly and dependably as parents navigate the profound challenge of “letting go” – a crucial aspect of their partnership with Pemi and one that is essential to launching their sons on the first stages of their own life journeys.

Pemi serves as a practical and inspirational resource for ALUMNI of all ages as they carry “Pemi” back into their schools, communities, professions, and ongoing involvements. Alumni in turn form a vital network of kindred spirits and lifelong friends who welcome and support our “graduates” as they find their own way in the world beyond our mountain valley. They are our most potent and inspiring examples of the enduring benefits of the Pemi experience.

________________________________

Special thanks to Nat Follensbee, of The Loomis-Chaffee School, who guided the discussions. Participants included Board members Penelope Reed Doob, Peter Fauver, Fred Fauver, Danny Kerr, Roger McEniry, Tom Reed, Jr., Fred Seebeck, and Ander Wensberg, joined by Deborah Fauver, Dottie Reed, and 7 of the 9 members of the fourth generation of the founding Reed and Fauver families, Megan Fauver Cardillo, Sky Fauver, Jonathan Fauver, Alison Fauver, Abigail Reed, Sarah Fauver, and Alex Fauver.

What is it About Camp Friendships?

I see it at every major life event—weddings, graduations, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, any time family and friends gather to celebrate a significant milestone—that huge smile and even bigger hug when one very long time camp friend sees another. The immediate connection and feeling of absolute familiarity take over, transcending time, geographic limitations, and the busy pace of our lives. Yes, camp friends are our best friends, one of the many, many benefits of the years a boy or girl spends at a summer camp like Pemi.

As the years roll along—and thanks to the 21st century opportunities offered through social media, email and Skype—I have been able to keep in even closer contact with my decades old camp friends than I ever thought possible. So, recently, I wondered why are these camp friends my best friends? Not only did I marry a “friend” whom I met at camp more than 25 years ago (Julia and I really did begin as friends), but my children’s God Parents are camp friends, my weekend get-always are very often to visit camp friends, the largest contingent of friends I have on Facebook are camp friends, and the idea of missing a camp reunion and the opportunity to spend a few more precious days with these best friends—at the actual place where these deep bonds were formed—is not an option! So, what gives? Why are our camp friends so often our best friends?

I have a few theories, including the uncomplicated life we enjoy at camp that affords us the time to develop these close relationships, the success and growth we experience side-by-side, and quite simply, that camp is a place we can return to for so many summers. Indeed, many of us were lucky enough to begin camp at eight or nine years old, and we continued through our school and college years, into our young adult years and even beyond. These are all sound premises, but admittedly, I don’t have an exact answer to this very happy reality.

In his book “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow,” author Michael Thompson interviews a group of five woman in their forties, all with families of their own, who first became friends at a summer camp. Together, they’d progressed through the ranks of young camper, senior camper, counselor in training and head counselor. Thompson, too, could not find an exact answer as to why camp friends are so often our best friends, but he came up with a few theories of his own after speaking with this group. These include the ritual activities and traditions at camp, the freedom and opportunity to be the person you want to be at camp, the shared love of camp, and the physical intimacy of the unfettered cabin life that campers enjoy. Each of these theories makes sense, but the sum, of course, is far greater than the individual causes, to the degree that even Thompson admits there is something else going on here that perhaps no one can completely identify.

So what are your theories? My guess is that if you are reading this you’ve been in touch with a camp friend very recently (I know I have) and that you’ve also developed and maintained these deep camp friendships over the years.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this wonderful reality of the summers we spend at camp! Fire away!

~ Danny Kerr

 

HOW ROOFBALL CHANGED MY LIFE (7 campers share their essays written for the “real world”)

Bean Soup isn’t the only source to find descriptions of life at Pemigewassett. The following—written by 7 campers who range in age from 9 to 17—were composed for reasons as diverse as a back-to-school homework assignment to an essay for ED college admission. Some were written just last month; others were created a few years back and played significant roles in the boys’ next step in academics. We’re pleased to know that these young men chose to share their camp experiences with the “real world” and thank them for offering them here for the Pemi family to read and enjoy.

 

The Amazing Camp Pemi

by Ian Hohman, age 9

Pemi is located in Wentworth, NH near Hanover.  It has fun, loving counselors and kids who are always very kind.  It is a sleep away camp and you can choose whether you want to go there for 7 weeks or 3.5 weeks.  The sunrises at Camp Pemigawasset are truly a sight to see because they include all the colors of the rainbow.  Pemi has nutritious food.  Don’t worry kids the chef makes pancakes.  They offer desert at lunch and dinner.  They call their dinning room the mess hall.

Pemi’s sports program is very strong.   Every week you get to pick occupations. Every week you get to choose from sports to nature programs to sailing and many others for 1st Hour, 2nd Hour, 3rd Hour, and 4th Hour.  We have a rivalry with Camp Tecumseh every year and it is very competitive.   It is the oldest camp rivalry in the entire country!  Every year we compete in many sports against Tecumseh and we call it Tecumseh Day, while they call it Pemi Day.  Whoever wins gets a metal trophy shaped as a hat. This trophy is very old and has been passed between Tecumseh and Pemi for 98 years. Tecumseh kept it for twenty years but Pemi took it back this year.  When the buses came in with Pemi kids from Tecumseh it was so loud.  Kids were jumping out of the emergency exit and the sirens added to all the screaming.   The whole camp went into the lake and everybody started splashing each other.  There was so much splashing people could not even see.  Pemi is a unique place.

 

SUMMER

by Caleb Tempro, age 10

Have you ever gone on vacation for summer? Like going to Trinidad, Las Vegas, going on a cruise, stuff like that? Well…have you ever thought of going to a sleep-away camp? I know a great one! It is called Camp Pemigewassett.

Camp Pemigewassett is a camp in Wentworth, New Hampshire. The first time I went to Camp Pemigewassett (also known as Camp Pemi or Pemi) I went for three and a half weeks. I enjoyed it so much I did not want to return home. The second time, I made sure I went for the Full Session, seven weeks!

At Pemi, you can do all sorts of stuff like wake boarding, archery, sports, arts and crafts, music, swimming, trips, hikes, and perform. These activities are called occupations.

Every day after lunch we have rest hour. Rest hour is an hour in your cabin to rest. If you are not tired you can play cards, read, write letters, listen to screen-less iPods, etc. quietly. On Mondays we have Bean Soup. Bean Soup is when everyone at the camp meets in the mail lodge to listen to funny stories, songs, re-writes, twisted-up experiences, poems, and other funny and interesting things. At dinner campers and counselors hand in their articles to be read during Bean Soup.

On Saturdays, we have “Camp Fire.” This is when the camp sits in a big circle around a camp fire and campers come up to perform acts, jokes, riddles, plays, songs, skits, etc. Camp Fire is great because it is basically your whole camp family coming together to see you perform. It feels good to show people your talent and know they enjoy it and are proud of you.

On Sundays, we have a cook out for dinner. After that, when everyone dresses up in polos, buttondown shirts, slacks or nice shorts and meets in the main lodge to talk about Camp Pemi’s history.

Now let us talk about cabin life. Since Camp Pemi is a sleep-away camp, we sleep in cabins. Living in a cabin is probably one of the coolest things to experience at camp. In my cabin there were two bunk beds and three more regular beds. Five of the beds were for campers. The other two were for the counselor and the A-C (Assistant Counselor). The special thing is that living in a cabin with people around you, makes you feel like you are all a close knit family. The feeling is just so great, it seems like it is too perfect to be reality.

So that camp would not become boring, the camp directors organize each day’s occupations. Occupations take place between 9:20am and 11:30am. Out of the occupations I did, knee-boarding was probably the best! I also tried wake-boarding but after my second fall the boat driver said I should try knee-boarding. That was a great idea!

So personally, I think Camp Pemi is a pretty great place. Everyone is there for you when you need them. On a scale of 1-10, could I rate Camp Pemi and recommend it to you? I would recommend it to you, but I would not give it a ranking. Camp Pemi is just too much of a wonderful and unbelievable family to judge with numbers. I am sure that any boy from the age of 8 to 15 would love Camp Pemigewassett.

 

MY FIRST YEAR AT CAMP PEMIGEWASSETT 

Darren Mangan, age 12 (assignment: write about something that has changed your life)

When I went to camp the first time it was extraordinary, going down the hill leading into camp was one of the most beautiful things of my life with the radiant lake and the big delightful forests. When I first got to my cabin I met my counselor and unpacked my things for the next three and a half weeks ahead of me.

After I unpacked my things one of my cabin-mates took me on a tour of the camp with a couple other cabin-mates. I was amazed at how big the camp was and how many things there was to do. After the tour we went up to the mess hall for lunch. The first lunch was really good.

The next day I had my first cabin inspection. Cabin inspection is where one of the other counselors comes and inspects your cabin. Things that the inspectors do are check your nails, check your bed for sand, check for dirt/sand on the floor, check for messy shelves, and check for a messy porch.

A couple of days later I had my first soccer game of camp and we beat the other camp 5-2. After that game, soccer was my favorite sport and I still play a lot of soccer to this day.

Almost every day counselors try to play a game called Frisbee Running Bases (FRB.) In Frisbee Running Bases the object of the game is to run around the bases as many times as you can without getting hit with the Frisbee (the counselors are throwing the Frisbee.) Everybody in the camp wants to play it.

The comedy show of the camp is called Bean Soup. Some people used to trick the first time campers into carving out spoons and bringing them to the show. Bean Soup is basically making fun of everything that happened that week. They have it every Monday night.

The talent show of the camp is called campfire. Every Saturday night the whole camp would gather around the campfire and share our acts, whether it is music or it is a skit. I recited Shakespeare quotes during one of them.

There is also a show dedicated to music and skits called Vaudeville. This show only happens every season (three and a half weeks.) At the end of everyVaudeville there would be one comedy act performed by two counselors. At the Vaudeville I performed with my saxophone.

The last full day of camp is usually just packing and making sure you have all of your stuff. You also have to get your creations or butterfly/moth catches from the shop, the nature lodge, and the art room.

My last dinner at camp that year was the Birthday Banquet. This is where we got served turkey and all the people with birthdays got acknowledged. Then after the Banquet we went down to the awards ceremony were everybody got their badges for completing accomplishments. My first year I got a lot of badges!

The next day it is just waiting for our parents to pick us up and saying bye to all of our friends who would be going to all kinds of different places in the world. When our parents pick us up it is a very bittersweet ride back home. When I got home and looked back at the summer at camp I just could not wait for my next summer at camp!

 

SUMMER VACATION

Rafe Forward, age 12

On June 23rd I went on the bus to go to camp. I waited for the bus and got my cabin (I got a tent this year but there are only 3 tents in the camp.) When the bus finally came, I was sad to leave my parents on the hot sunny day that it was so I hugged my parents and felt my dads scruffy recently shaved beard. I said goodbye to them and hopped on the air conditioned bus to go to camp. I sat far back on the noisy bus alone and sad as the city turned to fields and the day went on. Halfway to camp we stopped for a quick snack at Mcdonalds and I just got a Sprite (because I don’t eat Mcdonalds fast food). The hours went by and when the eight hour drive was finally over I sighed, hopped out of the bus and got my camp trunks. Then I started to walk the half mile to junior camp.

On the way there I stopped, remembering the pine road that I walked over a lot the year before and smiled at the good memories and continued. When I finally got to my tent I saw my friends Ben and Reed from last year and a new person who I would later become friends with. I found a bed and put my trunks under it and socialized. My tent councilor Matt who was new introduced himself. After I got ready we all went to lunch in the mess hall. The mess hall is huge and has a flag from every country a camper or counselor had come from and the furthest was Papua New Guinea which is near Australia. The food at camp was very good so I enjoyed it.

Here was my schedule for the first week.

1. Wake up at 7:00
2. Polarbear, where we run into the lake and dunk our heads.
3. Breakfast
4. Inspection where a counselor from another cabin checks to see if our cabin is clean
5. First occupation activity that you choose and hope to get the beginning of the week
6. Second occupation
7. Third occupation
8. Lunch
9. Fourth occupation
10. Free time
11. Dinner
12. Camp activities like campfire and sunday meeting.
13. Tattoo where we brush our teeth and get ready for bed
14. Taps we go to bed

Camp went on for three weeks, occupations changing every week and camp life getting more easy. Some camp days we had special activities like councilor hunt and galactic capture the flag where the whole camp was divided into two groups and we play CTF. Some days we went to other camps to play sports like soccer, baseball and tennis. I learnt how to sail, I made new friends and I played a lot of my favorite sports.

When camp ended my mom came and picked me up. We drove back to brooklyn and then went straight to Long Island.

 

…EXCERPT FROM A BOARDING SCHOOL ESSAY

Jack Purcell, age 14

Camp Pemigewassett is where I have lived for four to seven weeks each of the past four summers.  I first went when I was ten years old, and I was petrified.  Pemi has been around for over 100 years, and has many important traditions, including an emphasis on music, literature, sports, and the outdoors. It is a community where people encourage one another to try new things and do their best. The person who has influenced me most at Pemi is Danny Kerr, the camp director.  Danny and I share a passion for playing guitar, and I always appreciate it when he sits down with me for jam sessions.   He can absolutely shred (which is a good thing) – he makes any song look like he was just playing Smoke on the Water. I’ve played with him a few times the past few years, and it has always been a learning experience. I would say that I have learned about half of what I know on the guitar at Pemi. There’s nothing better than just kicking my feet up by the lakeside and playing guitar by myself on a pretty day.

 

A VOICE IN THE DARK

Dan Reed, 15  (application essay for high school junior year program)

As independent as I like to call myself, I realized this past August that at some point, everyone needs help.  For the last eight summers, I have attended Camp Pemigewassett for boys.  Pemi is known nationwide for its remarkable trip program.  This past summer—my last as a camper—I took part in many trips, one of which was caving.

The first couple of caves on this outing served as “practice caves.”  We were simply getting used to the feeling of being underground and in the dark.  While there were many tight spaces and great heights, I managed to “keep my cool,” without any feeling of discomfort, as I’d never before been afraid of heights or tight spaces.  Even the 100-foot vertical entrance to the second cave didn’t daunt me.  So when Larry, our trip leader, told us of the 40-foot entrance shaft to the next cave, I didn’t give it a second thought.  What I didn’t know, however, was that the entrance was not vertical, and therefore we could not be lowered down using a line.  We would have to wedge ourselves between the two walls and lower ourselves down, without any lines or anchors.

Now as straightforward as that sounds, it was not.  I was the first to volunteer, and was therefore the first to discover what the cave was like.  The shaft started out lowering at about 45˚, but after about ten feet, it was a straight drop.  However, the wall behind me went straight down, while the one in front, after a vertical section, evened out to another 45˚ section, lowering away from me.  In other words, I could wedge and lower myself for ten feet, but then had to go another ten feet slowly stretching farther and farther out so that I would end up with half of my back pressed against the wall behind me, and my legs fully-extended, with my feet searching for minute footholds on the far wall, which sloped away from me.  If I lost grip at all, I would fall.  Below this section of the shaft, the wall behind my back would even out to become the floor.  Well, I didn’t even make it fifteen feet in before I couldn’t go any further.  For the first time in my life, I was terrified.

Larry wasn’t coming in with us because this cave was quite a tight fit.  In his stead, Colin, an English counselor, was coming into this one with us.  When he realized that I wasn’t moving, he came in to try and encourage me.  Still, I didn’t move.  Then he went past me, and offered his leg as a “step” for me.  Even still, I didn’t dare.  Finally, after over a half hour, he realized that I had to get to the bottom soon, or we wouldn’t be able to complete the trip.  He told me things like, “Dan, you know you can do this.  You’ve done harder things than this.  You can do it.  Okay Dan, one step at a time.”  At first this didn’t help much, but I thought about what he was saying, and I realized that he was right.  I could do it.  It was all mental.  Physically I could easily climb down.  I just had to get past the mental block in my mind.  And with Colin’s encouragement, I did, and I lowered myself down slowly, step by step, only thinking of my current hand- and foot-holds.  The whole time, my heart was beating wildly.  All I could see past my feet was darkness.  There wasn’t a sound that reached my ears.  I suppose memories of horror movies don’t help in times like that.

I thought, when I reached the bottom, that I would be down there alone for a long time, as the next person would probably be just as scared as I had been.  One minute later though, my friend Nate appeared next to me.  After Nate, 5 others followed, each taking fewer than 5 minutes.  Naturally, I was a little ashamed.

While we explored the cave, I noticed that a few kids in our group weren’t with us.  I assumed they had gotten sick or something, and had gone back to the campsite with Larry.  When we finished caving, we all climbed back out of the entrance (this time, all of us taking only a few minutes.)  The few kids that had been missing were sitting there, swatting at mosquitoes, waiting for us to emerge.  I later learned that they hadn’t even tried to navigate the entrance.

I look back on that day, and realize that I did the best that I could.  When faced with a challenge like mine, some people can just plough straight ahead and climb right down into the darkness.  Others see that it’s going to be a challenge, and take the safe way out.  They don’t challenge themselves, leaving no room for failure.  People like me can be just as scared as the latter, but eventually, we learn that we have to try, and slowly but surely, we make our way through the challenge, and succeed.

Still, although there is a reason for me to be proud of what I did in that cave that day, I now realize that without Colin’s help, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.  I was terrified, and I needed help.  The events on that summer day have changed my outlook on life.  Everyone needs help every once in a while. I hope the recollection of Colin’s voice will make it easier for me to find a way to encourage myself in the future – and to play the same crucial role in the challenges of others.

 

HOW ROOFBALL CHANGED MY LIFE

Josh Kaplan, 17 (College application essay)

In the foothills of the Presidential Range, on the edge of Lower Baker Pond, sits one of New England’s oldest sleepaway camps.  It is one of those places that people who don’t know better might roll their eyes about, as if its values and charms really exist only in the imagination of its dewy-eyed fans.  I know differently — Camp Pemigewassett, or simply “Pemi” — changed how I saw the world.

I’ll never forget the day I arrived at Pemi, in the summer of 2002.  My family dropped me off at my cabin and left for parents’ orientation at the Mess Hall.  I’m sure they were anxious, though they did their best to put on a good face.  I, too, was unsure what to expect from all these new people in a place far from home.  Even before I’d unpacked my duffels, I noticed a few boys playing a simple, unfamiliar game nearby, tossing a tennis ball onto a rooftop and catching it as it came down.  A few of the older campers noticed my standing off to the side, and they showed me how to play and then joined the game with me.  When my parents returned, I was happily playing “roofball,” I had eight new friends, and I wasn’t the least bit upset to see my parents wave goodbye.

I treasured my next seven years at camp.  Nearly every day reinforced the values I’d learned on Day 1.  I met new people, tried new activities, and, in my later years there, helped out the younger campers.  More than anything, Pemi was a retreat from academic demands, the pressures of middle- and high-school social life, and the stress of competitive sports.  Nobody at Pemi would laugh when you dropped a ball in the outfield or couldn’t sing in harmony — instead they praised you for trying.  That obvious behavior is often missing in the adolescent universe.  The resulting atmosphere at Pemi was unlike anything I’d experienced.  My world of possibilities grew — I hiked Mount Washington, canoed the Allagash over the course of five days, annually swam across a large lake, and joined the “big buddy” program, in which I mentored a young camper.  I don’t know another place where I would’ve had the confidence to try such things.  Pemi also encouraged me to excel at new endeavors.  After working toward it for five summers, I was proud to earn my “Brave,” awarded for proficiency in areas all around camp, from plant identification, to hiking, to sailing.

Every year, on camp’s final Sunday, the directors talked about how the end of summer was bittersweet.  Bitter because camp was again over, but sweet because we could all take the example of Pemi home to our own communities.  I tried to follow the directors’ advice as best I could. The changes were subtle at first.  I was willing to try a different sushi roll; I was more open with friends; I tried to notice if someone needed a hand in class or at the rink or even at home.  Commenting on my increased self-confidence, my best friend Zach told me, “Josh, you’ve changed a lot this summer.” One year I signed up for “Challenger Baseball” program, where I helped mentally disabled children play.  At home, in 9th grade, I finally learned to ride a bike — a skill I never got around to as a child and which I’d been too embarrassed to learn since.  Whereas before camp I was too afraid of what people would think of a 14-year-old learning how to ride a two-wheeler, I stopped being concerned about others’ disapproval.

In August 2008, when I left Pemi as a camper for the last time, I decided to try to inject “the Pemi way” into my school life more than ever.  I applied for, and was accepted into, Peer Leadership, a program in which a core of high-school seniors leads a weekly class with freshmen.  A long tradition at our school, Peer Leadership aims to dissolve the cliques that are so common among the freshmen.  For seniors, the program helps us think outside our social norm and get to know classmates whom we may not have talked to in years.  This breaking down of social barriers reminded me of Pemi.

I went to sleepaway camp to play sports, enjoy the sunshine, and be away from home.  From that first day playing roofball, shaped by a special place, I came away with values and interests that have changed my life.

__________________________

Did you or your son write something about Pemi that you’d like to share? If so, email it to camppemi. Please include the age of the author at the time it was written.

 

Summer 2012: Final Newsletter, #8

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.

Danny offers a toast at Final Banquet

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.”

Jivan Khakee and Jack Purcell

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).

Byron Lathi and Sam Grier

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.)

Caleb Tempro

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.

Andrew Kanovsky, Phineas Walsh, and Hugh Jones

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.           

Ezra Nugiel and Dorin Dehls

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.           

Henry Eisenhart

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.           

Robert Loeser, Larry Davis, and Andre Altherr

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.           

Police

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.      

Ian Axness and Owen Fried (page turner)

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

 

 

 

Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

Tom Reed Jr. and Bridgid Ruf introduce “Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man”

Singing in the Mess Hall is a time-honored staple of Pemi life.  Noon and night, we rock the building’s rafters with a healthy variety of tunes, many of them written for camp by Doc Reed, many of them borrowed from distinguished U. S. colleges and universities, many of them plucked from the general American Song Book. We’re an old camp, catering solely to boys, so some of our numbers predictably contain fossilized evidence of a certain male arrogance and exclusiveness. We like to think that we have attained some humanizing perspective on any such lyrics, and that the civility, admiration, and respect with which we treat our many female staff members argue compellingly that we’re far more enlightened than we might once have been; that our singing these “traditional” songs is, in part, to acknowledge that they are in fact “dated” in many ways. Truth be told, if you examine one of our signature tunes – “Pemi” (which we tend to sing the very first night of the season) – Doc Reed himself seems to have realized that the male exclusivity of Pemigewassett was just that, artificially exclusive, something that needed to be acknowledged and kept in mind as we moved forward. The lines in question go, “There we sport on land and water, far from Eve’s disturbing daughter.” Hmmmm! But then, as a crucial coda, he added “Though, perhaps, we hadn’t oughter.” Some folks are perceivers and fans of irony, some not. (On which, more below.) But are we wrong to assert that this is humorous posturing; not actual, blatant, unqualified gynophobia? We hope we aren’t.

In any case, it recently occurred to us that, while we sing the songs of many traditionally male and now co-ed institutions, we had never, ever learned and chorused anything from a womens’ college. Given one of our current staff is Bridgid Ruf of Wellesley, why not, we wondered, ask her to research some tunes from her alma mater and introduce them to the Pemi Songbook? Bridgid was game to follow up. She went online, downloaded a dozen Wellesley tunes, and vetted them with the help of Music Head and messhall pianist Ian Axness. They evidently reached a quick consensus, choosing “Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man,” penned in 1939 when the male editor of the Harvard Lampoon went in drag and crashed Wellesley’s May Day hoop-rolling contest, winning by a fair length. Reminiscent of catching the bouquet after a wedding, the victor was traditionally expected to be the next Wellesley bride. Ned Read, however, was unlikely to enjoy that fate. Instead, when his curly wig tumbled from his head, he was revealed as a fraud and hurled ignominiously into Lake Waban.

Here are the lyrics. Know that the tune is quite jaunty.

 

“Peggy” Read

Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

Oh! Many an old alumna will remember with a thrill
The First of May when ’39 was gathered on the Hill,
For among the smiling maidens, like a serpent in the grass,
Stood a masquerading Harvard man who cried, “They shall not pass!”

Chorus:

Sing hey the handsome Harvard man who posed as a Wellesley lass,
Sing hey the Senior gown that made him one of the Senior class,
Sing hey the Harvard Crimson flashing so triumphantly,
But tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la-la!
The Wellesley Blue for me.

He murmured as he took his place at 7:23,
“My little sister, Mary Smith, has saved this place for me.”
Not hoops nor rhododendrons could check the villain’s stride.
He won the race, was crowned the class’s best prospective bride.

Chorus:

But as the crown was placed upon the wig that had concealed,
It slipped from off the May Queen’s brow; the rascal was revealed.
From many mouths the cry arose of, “Treason! She’s a man!”
The pseudo-queen grew deathly pale; he quickly turned and ran.

Chorus:

The crowd pursued him to the lake; they threw him in the drink.
They laughed and said, “It’s up to you, either to swim or sink,”
And then returned triumphantly to crown the rightful queen,
On the most historic May Day that our alma mater’s seen.

Chorus:

Ned Read, Pemi alum

So are you all lovers of irony? Here’s where it truly comes in. Pemi makes, in this case, a game effort to nod to the distaff side in our messhall singing. We introduce a song (premiered lustily in mid-July) about females rising up against male arrogance and deception. The mild shocker came when the rough shape of the tale rang a bell with us, and we looked further into details. The Ned Read in question was, in fact, the editor of The Harvard Lampoon. He had also been a frequent contributor to Bean Soup!!! During his days as a camper at Pemigewassett!!! Ned’s sons Bunk and John were campers here in the late fifties and early sixties, and John was one of my best friends and cabin mates, returning to the staff in 1967 as an editor of Bean Soup.  Remarkable coincidence? Machination of fate? Ironic it is (as Yoda might say) that we go to some lengths finally to bring the woman’s perspective to the Mess Hall songfest and – lo and behold – a Pemi boy irrepressibly pops up in the song, if not as the hero, at least as the villain. Makes you think the cards are stacked against political correctness.

Well, we won’t stop striving to bring our institution squarely into the 21st century. But we thought you’d enjoy knowing the novel twists and turns of this particular iteration of the effort. Guess it’s just proof that you can’t keep a good Pemi boy in the shadows of anyone, either man OR woman.

 

Summer 2012: Newsletter #5

As promised, this week’s newsletter comes from Assistant Director Ken Moore, in charge of Pemi’s general program.

“The beauty of our programmed instructional time is that the boys become accustomed to making choices.”

Life is full of choices, and Pemi boys can speak firsthand about making thoughtful and good ones.  Each week, boys sit down with their counselor to sift through the upcoming occupation schedule.  They navigate through offerings in athletics, water activities, nature, music, and art.  They must choose among the twenty or so activity areas that are offered, and are required to make a choice for each hour.  “Should I keep working on my serve in tennis?”  “I’ve never water-skied, maybe I should try that?” “Larry mentioned some occupation called Wilderness Survival, which sounded pretty cool; maybe I’ll choose that.”  These are the questions the boys find themselves asking, as each of them independently chooses what he would like to pursue for the week ahead.  The beauty of our programmed instructional time is that the boys become accustomed to making choices.  Guided only slightly by his counselor, each boy is tasked with designing his own program.

Walking around camp during the 3rd hour of our fourth week of occupations, you gain a good sense of the choices available.  Head of Staff and basketball enthusiast, Dwight Dunston, opened up the 10s Basketball occupation by asking the boys the keys to winning a championship.  The responses were varied, but the boys eventually nailed his three keys: defense, lay-ups, and free throws.  Yesterday, the focus was on defense; today would be the fundamentals of lay-ups.  Dwight had the boys line up on the right side from the 3-point line extended. With a smooth fluid motion, boys took the necessary time to line up their lay-up to bounce off the backboard, using the square to guide their shot.  Ethan Elsaden and Kevin Miller showed extra focus by launching off of the left foot and using only the right hand.

On the archery range, Jon Belinowitz announced that he just hit his first bull’s eye.  Sasha Roberts added that he had just scored his first yellow shot, a 9 out of 10.  The boys left the shooting line to retrieve their arrows only after the appropriate “go ahead.” Safety is always paramount.  Instructor Adam Sandler reminded the boys about the procedures for removing an arrow from the target without ripping the fabric or damaging the arrow.  As they began to shoot again, the instructors gave individual attention to the boys’ stance, checking that their feet were a shoulder-width apart and that they had an upright posture and straight arm.  The combination of safety, strong instruction, and recognition of progress are hallmarks of Pemi’s commitment to our instructional program.

During this one particular hour of note, four nature occupations were meeting, exploring and discovering the world around us.  Deb Kure led the Animals and Animal Homes occupation, this week preparing the group for an upcoming trip to a porcupine den, now vacant in the summer months. Matthew Cornell and Will Olsen investigated the porcupine quills, eagerly awaiting more information from Deb.  Within a stone’s throw was Ponds and Streams, a classic nature offering that has been extremely popular this summer.  Each boy carried a net through the stream, actively seeking organisms native to the stream habitat.  Ty Avery uncovered a salamander, while Jack Wright and Will Noble caught water spiders.  The boys were eager to share their discoveries with the group, and intently listened to what the others had to say about their findings.  Inside the Nature Lodge Library, the Nature Drawing-Water Colors occupation was underway, led by Kristen Cole.  Music played to set a creative mood, helping the boys in find inspiration from their natural surroundings.  Michael Kelly colored a mountain scene reflected off of a pool of water, using high-quality water color pencils as his tools. Caleb Tempro, while canoeing earlier in the morning, had found a flower on Lower Baker Pond and began to trace its basic shape before painting in the details.  The final nature offering was the ever-popular Wild Foods, led by Larry.  This group was off-site collecting their next tasty ingredient for a delicious – and unusual – upcoming meal.

Going full tilt further down the camp road in J-Ville was Deb Pannel’s Art World, today focusing on African Mask making.  The boys, of all ages I might add, had constructed the basic frame of the mask using cardboard and were in the paper mache process when I stepped in.  Lots of unique artistic visages were taking shape before receiving the final coat of paint.  Henry Seebeck explained his design, as he chose to create a round nose, triangular mouth, and a yet to be decided eye.  Eli Brennan’s choice in eyes was clear –  only one – as his African Mask was a cyclops¸with a long nose and almost bunny-shaped ears.

In the Junior Lodge, Ryan Fauver and the Advanced Music Class were practicing their riffs.  This music occupation, like African Mask making, was a mixed-age activity with Senior Jarrett Moore on the drums, Lower Jivan Khakee on the clarinet, and Junior Nick Holquist on the trumpet.  The group listened to Freddie Hubbard’s piece “Red Clay” and made a game effort to emulate the patterns and the chord changes. The potential was clearly there for a hip performance at an upcoming vaudeville or campfire.

Just outside was the Knee/Wakeboarding occupation, one of Pemi’s most popular and sought-after activities.  Graham Struthers, on his second day on a wake-board, successfully stood up and traveled the full loop around the lake.  Devin Hohman showed improvement in jumping the wakes, a more advanced maneuver, and was very pleased with his progress.  Perhaps in an effort to beat the heat of this summer, windsurfing has become a close second to this last activity in terms of its popularity.  Alex Sheikh was caught grinning ear-to-ear while carrying his sail out of the water.  He commented on the strength necessary to pull the sail up and the balance and touch needed to surf properly.  He advanced on the learning curve every single day, explained Alex, who was clearly enjoying his time on what we used to call a sail board.

Back on land was Jeff Greene, our Head of Tennis, who had a small army of 12-year-old tennis players improving their net game in a version of King of the Court.  In a best-of-three-point challenge, partners needed to win two points while approaching the net.  If the winners, the Kings, held their court, a new duo would step up from behind to challenge.  If the Kings were unseated, those challengers would race to the other side of the court to take their rightful place as the new Kings.  This fast-moving activity allowed many boys to be involved and to improve an important skill to count amidst their tennis arsenal.

Seeing so many occupations underway during one hour demonstrates in a marked way the breadth of choices that Pemi boys have, and further highlights the importance of offering such a dynamic range of choices.  The campers were so engrossed in the great variety of options, and it’s even more impressive that each occupation was staffed by caring and knowledgeable instructors.  Each counselor was focused on creating a goal individualized for each boy, whether introducing a new activity or  concept or helping him master a previously discovered area of interest, and provided just the right amount of coaching to achieve that goal.

“We don’t know of many camps that do this, and it’s an initiative of which we are very proud.”

The passion of our instructors is evident to anyone lucky enough to see our full-time staff in action.  Occasionally, though, we are fortunate to have Visiting Professionals join our ranks to raise our already first-rate instruction to even greater heights. Some of these experts from the outside world can offer a week or more of their time to our program, while others offer singular afternoon events that leave the boys thirsty for more.

One wildly successful example was the Silk Painting Workshop held the past two Sunday afternoons by Zosia Livingstone-Peters. Zosia, a graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York with a focus in Fashion Design, has found great success bringing her workshop to elementary schools and wellness centers in Vermont.  The boys at Pemi love it as well, as it offers them the chance to experiment with different mediums while creating their own individual works of wearable art.  Many of the silk scarves will soon be traveling homeward as gifts for you lucky mothers.  [Ooops. Did we forget our spoiler alert?]

Jim Dehls, a Pemi boy from 1959-1965 and an Assistant Counselor in 1968¸added to our already stellar music staff earlier this summer, during Week 2.  Jim, a former high school choral and general music teacher, currently offers private piano and voice lessons as well as hospice music therapy.  During his stay with us, Jim worked with the Gilbert and Sullivan Pirates chorus, arranged and sang The Marching Song with the a cappella group, and created our first ever Drum Circle occupation, focusing on a variety of types of percussion instruments and non-conventional devices.  Jim’s love for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas began at Pemi in the early sixties, and they are something that still engage his time and sustain his interest.

During week three, Brian and Alison Mitchell visited, lending their hands to the Lacrosse and Diving programs respectively.  Brian, a soccer and lacrosse coach at the Boys Latin School in Baltimore, MD, and Alison, a former springboard diver at Virginia, combine their expertise with their love for Pemi.  The boys enjoyed learning the fundamentals of diving from Alison, working on the timing of their jump and the use of their hands for a smoother entry.

Trey Blair, one of the Varsity Baseball coaches at the Kentucky Country Day School in Louisville, has enhanced our baseball program over the past two weeks and is guiding our instruction for this week’s culminating five baseball match-ups against Camp Tecumseh.  Trey, a four-year standout player at Kenyon College, works with large, eager groups during the occupations and then offers individualized instruction after our structured occupations for those boys interested in learning the nuances of fielding, hitting, or pitching.

Finally, Susan Perabo, one of Tom Reed’s colleagues and Writer-in-Residence at Dickinson College, recently offered poetry workshops in the Library, inspiring the participants to lend apt words to their many varied experiences and perceptions at camp and in life generally. As always, getting the chance to meet with someone “new to camp” who nonetheless so clearly cares about their development as young and creative individuals offers the boys rewards that far surpass what they might have anticipated. We don’t know of many camps that do this, and it’s an initiative of which we are very proud.

That’s it for now. When your son returns home come mid-August, be sure to ask him for details about who’s been teaching him what – and what he’s learned. Better yet, ask him to play that Frankie Hubbard tune, demonstrate that change-up, or explain where he found that Luna moth or the natural dye for that wool.

Recollections of My Experience as a Bean Soup Editor by —Brad Saffer

On the heels of my esteemed colleague Justin Thomson-Glover’s submission, I offer my own thoughts on my time as Bean Soup editor.

1.     Stick with the tried and true

It is better to repackage old articles and jokes rather than present an original work that falls flat.  As studies have shown, Junior campers will laugh at anything no matter how many times you present it.  In fact, they laugh harder the more often you repeat it.

2.     Take credit for other people’s work

While it is true that Tom Reed Jr. writes side-splitting “staff meeting” articles, you are the one up there reading it, and THAT is the key to the humor!  You may disregard the fact that that article is even funnier when you read it to yourself.

3.     “Pagoda” and “Squish” are useful devices

Yes, those two words will elicit laughs every time. First from the Juniors (see Rule #1), and then from the rest of the audience who love to hear Juniors laugh (I call this the “trampoline” effect.)  You can’t overuse those words.  Seriously.  Think about it.  Pagoda.  Squish.  Pagoda-oda.  Squish. Knish.  Squish again.  See?  You are laughing right now.

4.     Choose your co-editors wisely

My first co-editor was Geoff Morrell, who went on to become a reporter for ABC and Pentagon Press Secretary.  If you watch one of Geoff’s press conferences today, you would have no idea how much he wanted to push the bounds of decency in Bean Soup.  Karl See was fantastic.  His oft-used phrasing “he was meaner than a really, really, REALLY mean guy” still doubles me over.  And Justin Thomson-Glover was unbelievable, especially with his song parodies.  It also didn’t hurt that he had a style and manner that generated laughs no matter what he was reading.  In fact, he once read the Wentworth Yellow Pages for a full hour to the howls and laughter of the audience.  That’s a tough trick to top.  In sum, working with these talented folks inspired me each and every week.

5.     Identify staff members who are good sports:

If I wasn’t able to poke fun at Charlie Malcolm (“Kim have you seen my keys?), Larry Davis, Rob Grabill, Robert Naylor (“Come here, Mr. Fly!”) and others, I don’t know how much material I could have generated.  These people were good sports about having their names read aloud in a humorous, not so factually based light.

I am sure there is much more I could add, but best to quit while I am behind. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my six years as editor as much as anything I did at Pemi, and it was a great honor and privilege to take my (wobbly) seat each Monday evening.  I will always cherish the memories.

Were you at Pemi during the 1990’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1990-1999, please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form.  You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.

~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

Packing for Pemi: Learn from Dr. Piles

More than a few parents have mentioned a son’s struggle with organization, his inability to keep track of things, and their general hope that he will be more responsible with his belongings while at camp. There are simple ways that you can set him up for success in this quest, which, a little like the case of a picky eater who learns to try new foods when away from mom and dad, can be a great outcome of the camp experience.

Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. A.A.Milne

No matter how old your son is, he can and should be involved with packing for camp. If he’s not at the age where he refers to the packing list and packs by himself, then he ideally should lay eyes on and/or touch every single item that goes into his duffle(s). The process might take longer than if you pack for him, but being centrally involved—especially in his familiar home setting—makes him aware of what it is that you (and we) hope he’ll keep track of far better than if he sees it all for the first time when he’s unpacking in his new camp setting, when he is far more likely to be distracted. You can always guide and simplify his decision-making with a little behind-the-scenes prep. For instance, the packing list says “6 T-shirts” beyond the “Pemi Blues” and “Pemi Whites.” So you might pull out 10 or 12 T-shirts that are possibilities, but then step back and let him decide on the 6 that he will bring. (You can do this with anything that comes in multiples: from underwear to sets of sheets to flashlights). What if the six T-shirts he chooses are all green? What if he insists on his “favorites” that he won’t let you give away in spite of that cool-aid stain or the stretched out collar? What if the new T-shirts you purchased especially for camp are in the reject pile? Just bite your tongue, smile, and roll with it, knowing that the very process of his deciding which among many to bring just might imprint the items on that soon-to-be distracted brain, leading to his better oversight of them. In addition, wearing old favorites can provide a bit of comfort and familiarity during an adjustment time and you’ll be a step ahead in back-to-school shopping with those untouched new purchases. It’s a win-win without a battle.

Who needs Dr. Phil when you’ve got Dr. Piles?

Give your son a leg-up by learning from Dr. Piles. Known for 363 days a year as Charlie Malcolm, Pemi’s Director of Athletics morphs in mid-July and at the end of camp into Pemi’s own Dr. Piles, delighting the assembled camp community in the messhall with his lesson on efficient packing. “Do NOT put a single thing into your duffle until you make piles!” he explains. “Put similar items together: your shirts in one pile, your shorts in another pile; your bedding in one pile, your underwear in another pile; your sports equipment in a pile, and your shoes in yet another pile. Put everything you own in piles and in piles that make sense! This way you can see what you have and what you might be missing.” Good advice, Dr. Piles. Providing a staging area at home for camp preparations will allow your son to see everything he is taking and will need to be responsible for. He’ll see how much space it takes up and, with all his belongings in logical piles, he will see the sense of it all. This will make the packing at the end of camp more efficient too. On a side note, a longtime Pemi camper, now a counselor and division head, just posted a photo on the staff facebook page of his packing to return to the states from a year in Peru. The picture showed his piles of clothing and other belongings, neatly organized, with the caption “Dr Piles rolled through earlier this morning.” THIS is what you want for your son!

A name is a kind of face whereby one is known. Thomas Fuller

When everything going to camp is laid out in piles, and before anything goes into the duffle(s), have your son check to see that each and every item has his name on it. Perhaps you ordered Pemi logo wear from the Camp Spot and had them sew in name tags for you, or perhaps you have ironed in name tapes or have taken a sharpie to the inside collar, waistband, etc., of each item of clothing. If you haven’t, now’s the time to get out your needle and thread, your iron, or your permanent marker. But don’t stop with clothing. Label everything that comes to camp. Shoes and athletic items often are unidentified orphans in Lost-and-Found, and many a mom and dad is dismayed when a new tennis racquet or new cleats remain at camp long after parents have reclaimed their sons. Consider this like going through travel security: if you’re flying and you have your ID ready, the process goes much more smoothly and you won’t make the security staff grumpy. Now consider the packing process as if each and every item has to go through travel security. Nothing pleases you, us, and the Lost and Found camp aide more than finding the left cleat, Pemi sweatshirt, beach towel, water bottle, tennis racquet, Crazy Creek chair—you-name-it—and reuniting it with its owner, thanks to pre-camp labeling.

Keeping it all together

While he’s at camp, your son will be supported in his organizational efforts through daily cabin inspection and by the ritual of “packing” each morning—according to his day’s occupations—in the drawstring bag or backpack or sports duffle that he brought from home. This simple routine of looking ahead, planning on what will be needed for each activity, and keeping it all together in one bag cuts down on cleats stranded on the ski dock, a tennis racquet perched on the Nature Lodge porch, or piano music abandoned under the bench by the lax field, and can lead to good, lifelong habits. Of course cabin counselors and staff are always there to help your son and are as involved as each boy’s level of need requires.

And Finally…

The item most often forgotten at home? A pillow. You’ve been forewarned!

~Dottie Reed