Newsletter 8: Farewell to 2013

We’re back, after a modest hiatus, to offer a final newsletter for the 2013 season. While the boys have been home for over two weeks, we’ve not been entirely idle. We completed the 31st Annual Rittner Run on a glorious August Monday, finishing in record time with over 50 runners participating. The Shareholders, Board of Directors, and Senior Staff and Program heads have all had their end-or season meetings, reviewing a fine year and beginning to plan for 2014. The physical plant has largely been put to bed – floats and docks stacked on shore, tennis courts and soccer goals disassembled, boats ashore and stowed in cabins, etc. Today, while Kenny Moore mows the athletic fields on the Ferris, new gutters are going up on the Lodge, and Reed Harrigan and crew are finishing up the painting of the Messhall – inside and out. Danny managed to grab a few days and head over to Deer Isle Maine with Julia, staying at a charming little B&B while they caught their breath – and Dottie and Tom are just back from three days on the western border of Algonquin Park in Ontario, where they enjoyed some time with family, scenic canoeing, and a couple of lazy afternoons in the sun. Now, though, there are final reports to write, software systems to roll over for a new year, the 2014 application to prepare, and winter Open Houses to schedule. Mild but contented exhaustion yields to anticipation and excitement yet again. As we begin to look forward, though, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at two of the signal moments of Pemi Week – the opening night of our annual Gilbert and Sullivan performance and Danny’s toast for the Final Banquet. We hope you enjoy these two final windows into Pemi, 2013.

Clive Bean Reviews Iolanthe

Tuesday night (August 6th!) witnessed the triumphant return to the Pemigewassett Opera House of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, last produced on these shores in 2003.  As musically complex as it is memorable, the show is unusual for us in that it requires two distinct sets and especially elaborate costumes – all considerations that led to the hiatus in performances. Anyone lucky enough to be in the audience on Tuesday or Wednesday will acknowledge, though, that the challenging revival was more than justified by the performance. No less a G&S aficionado than Dorin Dehls’ father Jim – camp alum and lifelong musical professional – said it was the most energetic and entertaining Pemi performance he had ever witnessed. This reviewer is not inclined to question that judgment.           

Ian

Music Director, Ian Axness

Much of the credit for the stellar quality of the show obviously goes to our musical staff, with Music Director Ian Axness being aided this year by fellow Oberlinian and pianist superb Josh Hess. As a result, Ian was able to concentrate on musical direction as Josh manned the keyboard. Never have the men’s or “girls’” choruses been stronger, and few shows could boast similar finish or verve in the leads. With Josh playing for the performances, Ian was able to conduct each night from the orchestra pit (aka a low bench and pillow) and further sharpen the show even as it unrolled. We should also mention that Ian joined Josh at the pianoforte for the show’s overture, which they delivered with the varied lyrical grace and power one might expect from a duo that has been sharing the same keyboard all summer.           

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George Cooke as Iolanthe

Iolanthe opens with the entrance of a flock of fairies. The first to step – or perhaps flit – onto the stage was Matt Cloutier, who managed to appear shorter and more solid than a fire hydrant and more pixie-ish than Taylor Swift in a giggle fit. Matt had recently shaved his beard, but a healthy crop of chest hair gave due notice that the Peers would have some tough ethereal customers do deal with to deal with. For a full roster of Matt’s winged Fairyland compatriots, look for the full program in this year’s published Bean Soup; but we’ll note here the dramatic and musical strength of Tucker Jones as Leila, Jacob Berk and Andrew Altherr as Celia (first and second nights), and Will Adams as Fleta. The most powerful fairy of all was the Queen Herself, frighteningly played by Nick Ridley in a long flowing tutu that nonetheless managed to reveal some buff biceps that wouldn’t look bad on Brian Urlacher. No wonder the Peers were terrified of him. Rounding out the Fairy brigade was the title character herself, Iolanthe, played by George Cooke with a dramatic flair that ended up garnering him the Johnnies’ Plaque. Never was George out of character as he represented the fetching female who risked her life for love.          

trioSM

Larry Davis, Teddy Gales, Tom Reed Jr.

Anchoring the men’s chorus were G&S veteran counselors Henry Eisenhart, Fred Seebeck, Ben Ridley, and Dan Reed, ably abetted by Ben Chaimberg, Nick Bertrand, and a host of talented campers. (Again, see Bean Soup). Chaimberg came close to matching George Cooke in character consistency, playing lordly arrogance and privilege in a way that only someone from Hanover NH could manage. Larry Davis and Tom Reed, Jr. reprised their past roles at Lords Mountararat and Tolloller, no doubt cashing in on their years’ experience as college professors to play two self-absorbed gentlemen who think the world revolves around them. Their innate sense of superiority was nowhere more apparent than when, in the lovely quartet “Perhaps I may incur your blame,” Hugh Grey as the lowly Private Willis broke into their number like Cinderella coming to the Ball. Who was this upstart pipsqueak in scarlet? Well, we say, nothing less than one of the best performers of the night, in this reviewer’s humble opinion. Bravo, Hugh Grey – and good on the Fairy Queen for finally choosing you as a husband rather than this pair of entitled ninnies.          

EthanDorinSM

Ethan Pannell and Dorin Dehls

Ethan Pannell gave us Strephon with a strength and confidence – both musically and dramatically – that garnered him this year’s Scott Withrow Gilbert and Sullivan Award. No one worked harder on this role than Ethan, and no one gave a more creditable performance. Contesting the right to be deemed the most professional player of the night, though, were Dorin Dehls as Phyllis and Teddy Gales as the Lord Chancellor. Dorin matched her truly operatic voice with Oscar-worthy acting, reminding us yet again how lucky we are to have a person of her talent in our ranks. Meanwhile, Teddy mastered what is likely the most demanding role in all of G&S, whipping through his three patter songs with the finish and confidence of a musical Demosthenes and playing his Mildly Dirty Old Man role with a dexterity that makes it clear Teddy wasn’t lying in his resume when he told Danny he was going into the theater as a career. If his “Nightmare Song” wasn’t the show-stopper, his trio with Davis and Reed was. Everything Teddy touches seems to turn to gold, so we caution all of you to avoid at all costs shaking hands with him.          

Deborah

Deborah Fauver

Thanks for a terrific production also go to Penelope Reed Doob, as Producer/Director, and Ezra Nugiel, who migrated this year to the other side of the curtain as Assistant Director. The look of the show was immeasurably enhanced by Associate Producer and Costume Director Deborah Fauver, who spent countless hours and days assembling the togs and props the show required. Major kudos also to Megan Fauver Cardillo (Jake’s mom), who brought vibrant new life to Betsy Reed’s original sets. Speaking of whom, easily the most moving moment of the night came in the Fairy Queen’s love solo when she delivered a verse recognizing Betsy for over fifty years of service to Pemi as the founder and sustainer of the annual Gilbert and Sullivan extravaganza. The show literally stopped, as the audience rose to applaud the person without whom none of these wonderful evenings would ever have happened. In a show about fairies, you look for magic. The real magic opening night was Betsy blowing the cast a kiss from her 96-year-old lips. Wow!  

Wow indeed. What a show! If you missed it, make sure to pick up the dvd. Never has a Pemi show been more engaging or had more energy or talent poured into it. The bar moves ever higher. Here’s to 2014, when our distinguished repertory company turns its attention to HMS Pinafore. Book early. Little Buttercup is already topping up her inventory.    — Clive Bean

And now for Danny’s toast, offered at the start of the Final Banquet on Thursday, August 8th, after Al Fauver, Tom Reed, Jr., Dan Reed, and Ian Axness had delivered the customary four-part, a capella banquet grace.

DannySM

Danny Kerr

Here’s to the summer of 2013 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 106th in Pemi’s proud history – a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, almost ten weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic, the Nature Clinic, or Life Guard Training Clinic, and 13 weeks ago for the gang that met in Nahant, Mass on that rainy weekend in May to begin sharing our dreams, ideas, and inspirations for this 106th Pemi summer.

Here’s to a summer that ends with days growing shorter and temperatures low enough to merit sleeping bags at night, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.

Here’s to the 257 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from 23 states of the United States and 7 foreign countries, and here’s to the Slovakian, Czech, and Hungarian 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, Ben Chaimberg, Nick Bertrand, Nick Thomas, Arthur Root, and Matt Kanovsky, here’s to campers in their eighth.

Here’s to the dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2013 – to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors who share close quarters and become family with the boys, and who, for some magical reason, are able to inspire, mentor, and capture the imagination of their campers in ways even their own parents cannot.

Here’s to the program staff at Pemi that so enthusiastically shares their own knowledge with our boys and have perhaps inspired them to follow in their footsteps in whatever their field of expertise may be. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Pemi boy has discovered a passion, while at camp, that lasts a lifetime.

Here’s to the hard-working crew that Reed Harrigan leads so vigorously each day – Brandon and Ken and Jason and Jacob and Chris, who allow us to take full advantage of this beautiful campus; to Heather, Kim, and Judy in the office who never get enough credit; to Stacey, Ruth, Nancy, Betty, Chloe, Servacs, David, Daniel, Vladimir, David, and Tibor, who spoiled us each day with delicious food cooked from scratch, and fresh produce from the nearby farms of New Hampshire. And, of course, here’s to Monica, Laura, and Kellyn, who cared for us and nursed us back to health when the Coxsackie virus made its way through the ranks.

And here’s to the Reed Family and the Fauver Family 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 for keeping everyone moving in the right direction; here’s to Deb and Amy down in Art World; to Charlie and all the coaches in the athletics program; to Tom and the dozens of trips that he was able to send out this summer, despite the cantankerous weather pattern; to maestro Ian and the beautiful music we enjoy; and to Larry and Deb and the world-class nature program they manage.

Here’s to the weather this summer, despite its vicissitudes – the crisp mornings, blazing afternoons, and peaceful golden haze across Lowe Baker Pond at day’s closing that we enjoyed in these final weeks; and here’s to our capacity to get the most out of the stormy days we braved in the first part of the summer.

Here’s to the things that made 2013 feel unique: helicopters and Iolanthe; the new two-day changeover and a day at a Whale’s Tale’s water park that our full season campers enjoyed; all-camp Frisbee Running Bases in the outfield of the big baseball diamond; the “serious duty” that Junior Camp staff performed; and the British Invasion that brought us so many talented international staff this summer.

Here’s to those things that are so uniquely Pemi: the Pee-Rade, Pink Polar Bear, Sound-Painting, Larry’s stories at Campfire, distance swims, Woods Dude’s Day, dope stops, the Pemi Kid, and the ever-lasting quest to discover “what’s a bean?”

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi: Bean Soup when we laugh at ourselves and anticipate “things to look for”; Campfire, when we are treated to, amongst other things, beautiful music, riddles, Greek myths, or even the opportunity to watch someone lick his elbow; and here’s to Sunday Meeting, when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as the storied history of Pemi, the unlimited potential for rakers not leaners, and the heartfelt reflections of a group of campers entering their final week as Pemi “boys.”

And finally, here’s to our 15-year-old’s – to the leadership they provided and to the lifelong friendships that they have created. I know from experience you’ll be in each other’s weddings, be godparents to each other’s children and, hopefully, be the next generation of counselors at Pemi.

Bryce, Hugh, Daniel, Zach, Nick, Ben, Arthur, Max and Matt, Julian, Rosie, Cole and Ethan, Jack, Theo, Patrick, Nick, Jackson, Matt, Graham and Nick; thank you for being models each day of what it means to be a Pemi boy – and for your uncanny capacity to say just the right things to those many younger boys who look up to you.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett, 2013.

Good luck, long life and joy!

 

With that traditional, tripartite Pemi wish, we’ll sign off with this year’s newsletters. We look forward, though, to being in touch via other channels in the very near future and throughout the year. For now, thanks to all Pemi parents for your indulgence and trust. We hope your sons have come back to you with a bounce in their steps, a twinkle in their eyes, and an arresting tale or two of happy and productive times in our midst.

— Tom and Danny

Newsletter # 7: Pemi’s Nature Program

Matt

Matt Kanovsky, 8-year Pemi camper

Most people who are new to Pemi are struck by the breadth of opportunities offered. Indeed, we encourage our campers to stretch their boundaries of experience by exploring our four program areas: Sports, Nature, Music Art & Drama, and Trips. However, we like to think that equally impressive is the depth of instruction that an older camper can enjoy should he choose to hone his skills in a particular area. This past Sunday, several of our 15-year old campers spoke on the role that Pemi has played in their lives. Matt Kanovsky, in his 8th and final year as a camper, reflected on his experience with Pemi’s Nature Program and how he was able to dig deeper and deeper as his interest in the natural world grew. How fitting, then, to have Larry Davis, Director of Nature Programs and Teaching, offer this week’s newsletter, in which he describes how this particular program area has responded to the “thirst for more” from campers who develop passion and focus.

Pemi’s Nature Program encompasses a wide range of activities including collecting trips, day-long excursions to places such as Crawford Notch, informal outings, and overnight caving trips. But the heart of the program is our formal instruction, which takes place during the occupation periods. Each week we offer 14-16 different activities over a range of “skill” levels, from beginning to advanced. For example, during Week 6 we taught at the beginning level: Rocks and Minerals, Butterflies and Moths, Ponds and Streams, Junior Nature Book, Birding, and Nature Drawing; at the intermediate level: Wild Foods, Digital Photography, Rocks and Minerals, Darkroom Photography; and at the advanced level: Mosses, Caddisflies, Butterfly and Moth Field Studies, Reptiles and Amphibians, and Bush Lore, for a total of 15 choices. Over the course of the summer, we offered a total of 37 different activities. Some appear every week, others appeared a couple of times, and a few appeared only once.

In this newsletter, I want to tell you a bit more about our occupations. While I will describe a range of these, I want to focus especially on some new, advanced ones that we developed this year. Our hope was not only to offer some challenges to the campers who spend a lot of time with us in the Nature Lodge, but also to give everyone a chance to explore aspects of our environment that they might not have noticed in the past.

Traditional Occupations

Some of our boys come to us with extensive experience in nature field studies. However, most do not. So, we want to offer attractive activities, in a variety of areas, that will allow them to begin their exploration of nature. While time and space do not allow a detailed description of these, I can discuss some of the characteristics that these “introductions” share.

(1b) Per at StreamFirst, our overarching objective is to get the boys to look at and observe the world around them. We want to help them “see.” This idea is stated in our Mission Statement for the Nature Program (modeled after one written by Allen H. Morgan of the Massachusetts Audubon Society):

To capture the attention of the inquisitive mind, bring to it an affection for this planet and all of life, and to foster an intelligent understanding of man’s position in the natural balance of things.

In order to do this, we have to take them out into nature, not just talk about it. We want to show them, not just tell them. Our 600 acres provide us with a wonderful variety of plants, animals, rocks, and more to look at, and we can easily access most of what we need to see during an occupation week of five, 50-minute periods.

(2) R&M Deb:Plate T (D)Second, all our beginning occupations have set, detailed lesson plans. Our objectives include introducing the boys to the “nature” of the subject matter. For example what “makes” an insect or a butterfly or a moth. Or, “what’s” a mineral? We also want them to learn how an animal lives, how a mineral is formed, why some plants like shade and others like full sunlight…. We want them to learn about basic collection and preservation techniques. Finally, we want them to become familiar with some of the basic terminology that scientists use to describe things, not too much jargon, but enough so that they can read further if they wish (and many do).

Lastly, we hope to bring them to the point where they will formulate their own questions. “Why do moths fly toward light?” “Why are the leaves on the seedlings in the forest so big?” “Why can’t the piece of coal that I found in Mahoosuc Notch come from there?” Science is about questions, not memorization of facts. You must seek answers directly from nature and only observation of what’s “out there” can lead you to them. This gets us back to the first objective that I mentioned, getting the boys to look at and observe the world around them. If they do this then the questions (and maybe, the answers) should follow.

Staff

If we are successful in our introductory occupations, then we leave the campers wanting more. In order to provide this, we need staff with specialized knowledge. Beyond that, they also need to understand about teaching in the outdoors and that is one of the reasons why we run a pre-season Nature Instruction Clinic.

This summer we worked hard to find staff that could fill some of the gaps in our knowledge base. As most of you know, both Deb Kure (Associate Head of Nature Programs) and I are geologists. While we have extensive knowledge of most things natural, it is generally of the self-taught variety. We have always had a “bug person” too, most recently, Conner Scace (who was back with us as a visiting professional this year). His bug “specialties” are ants, wasps, and bees, along with dragonflies and damselflies. We wanted staff with formal training in ecology, wetlands, other insect groups, and related areas such as nature photography. We were very fortunate to find excellent people to fill our gaps. I’d like to reintroduce them to you.

Daniel (“Danno”) Walder has a degree in conservation biology from Plymouth University in England. He has done research on bracken in the British Isles and has also worked on projects in Mexico and Spain. Prior to arriving at Pemi, he spent many weeks trekking in Sri Lanka. He comes from a farming family. His knowledge of ecology and wildlife is extensive.

Kevin Heynig is studying for a degree in biology at Northern Michigan University, with an ecology concentration. His interests focus on aquatic insects and their environments. He has done research on caddisflies in Lake Superior and field research on other aquatic insects.

Mark Welsh is studying biomedical science at the University of Dundee. Besides his abilities in biology, he is also a serious photographer who works with both film and digital media. He said in his application materials, “Photography is a great passion in my life and I would relish any opportunity to pass it on to anyone, be they young or old!”

Matt Cloutier will be entering Middlebury College this year, studying for a degree in biology with an emphasis on entomology. Matt became passionate about butterflies and moths as a Pemi camper and, in 2011, was the 12th recipient (since 1974) of the Clarence Dike Memorial Nature Award.

Conner Scace (Visiting Professional) just completed his M.S. degree in environmental science at the University of New Haven. He did thesis work, with me, on fish populations in interior ponds on San Salvador Island, Bahamas. In the fall he will be entering a one-year-long program that will end with his becoming a certified biology teacher in Connecticut. As I said above, his passion is ants and related insects. We were very fortunate that he was able to join us for three weeks this summer.

Stephen Broker (Visiting Professional) is newly retired from teaching ecology in New Haven Public Schools. He also taught wetlands ecology at the University of New Haven. He is the Connecticut State Bird Recorder and an expert in “reading the landscape,” that is, reading the record of human occupation from characteristics of the landscape as seen in the field. Steve’s father was waterfront director at Pemi in the late 1930s so his week with us was, in a way, a homecoming for him.

New Occupations

While we have always had “advanced” level occupations in butterflies and moths, geology, and various insects, and specialty occupations in non-flowering plants, wild foods, photography, and wilderness skills, the backgrounds of our staff allowed us to offer many new and even more advanced activities this summer and to substantially update some that we have offered occasionally in the past. It is worth listing them all below before I use the rest of my time and space to describe a few of them.

Caddisflies
Bees and Wasps
Ants
Aquatic Insects
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Butterfly and Moth Field Studies
Ecology
Animal Homes and Signs
Reptiles and Amphibians
Wetlands Ecology
Bush Lore
Reading the Landscape
Mosses
Advanced Darkroom Photography
Mushrooms

Caddisflies

caddisflies

Caddisfly larvae cases and adults

Caddisflies are aquatic insects with a two-stage life cycle. The larvae are fully aquatic and most build cases out of twigs, stones, or leaves. They feed on detritus, small insects, and plants. The cases serve as both camouflage and protection. But, since they have to drag them around while foraging, the construction material depends on how heavy they need to be to keep the larva from being washed away. So, if the habitat is a stream, then sand or small pebbles are used. If a shoreline or quiet pool, then leaves or twigs might be the choice. In fast-moving streams, the cases are attached directly to rocks and, rather than foraging, the larvae wait for the stream to bring food to them. The case construction and design is specific to a specific species (which in turn is adapted to live in a specific habitat). The adults are the reproductive stage and, as is common with many aquatic insects, they do not feed. All of this forms the background for this specialized occupation. Both adults (they fly readily to light) and larvae (along with their cases) can be collected and observed. Most important, however, is the observation of how they adapt to their preferred habitat and the questions about why they have those specific adaptations. This can lead to thinking about trade-offs between protection and energy expenditure for foraging versus the energy obtained from the food. We have at least 30 different kinds of caddisflies here (maybe more as we are just beginning to look at them) so the possibilities for study are wide.

Ants

Ants

collecting ants

Of course, anyone who’s ever had a picnic, knows about ants. They are everywhere. At Pemi, we have at least 10 kinds and some, such as carpenter ants (they tunnel and bore into wood) and Appalachian Mound Builders (they bite) are troublesome. Regardless they all display a sophisticated level of social organization that can be observed both in the field and in captivity. Our ant occupation includes study and discussion of social organization, observation of foraging behavior, collection of examples, collection of queens, and temporary establishment of captive colonies for observation in the Nature Lodge (later released back into the environment). Sometimes we get to observe ant “wars” where two separate colonies battle over territory. The questions that can be generated are legion. How and why did ants develop the social structures that they have? What are the advantages of this structure? Why are almost all ants female and almost all sterile (except the queens)? As always, we try to generate answers to these by observation in the field (which includes the uncertainties) rather than by looking up the answers on the internet (which, of course, are always right).

Ecology

Quadrat

Ecology quadrat

Ecology is, of course, a very broad field of study. The main purpose of this occupation is to teach the campers about data collection techniques, analysis, and interpretation. This summer, we looked at plant distribution and diversity in several Pemi habitats including grassy fields, open meadows, and the forest floor. The basic tools for this work include a “quadrat” (basically a one-meter-square “frame” that can be placed anywhere), a hand lens, and identification books. The quadrat is used to “select” areas of equal size and all plants and animals within it are counted and catalogued. Our grassy fields are, of course, manmade habitats. Forest floors are in deep shade while open meadows are usually in full sunlight. This selection of habitats provides starkly contrasting examples of diversity (the number of different species) and population (the number of individuals of each species). What we found was that the manmade habitat was the least diverse (we prefer to have our grassy areas just grass and spend hundreds of millions of dollars assuring this result). The open meadows were the most diverse, with the forest floor in between (although with generally low diversity). These are, however, just facts and the fun comes from asking “why?” and then testing the possible answers to see what fits best. This is, of course, the scientific method. But, instead of just talking about it, in our ecology occupation we are actually doing it. Beyond that, this is no canned laboratory experiment. We are generating questions to which we really don’t know the answers.

Butterfly and Moth Field Studies

fieldWe have been collecting butterflies and moths at Pemi since the beginning of the Nature Program in 1929. Of course, back then, this is how nature was “done.” While we continue to collect butterflies and moths, we have tried to modernize it. We limit collection to just one of each species. We teach proper collection and preservation techniques. We strongly encourage the labeling of collections not only with the name of the species, but also with information about when and where it was collected. Still, this is only one of the ways that these insects are studied today. One important newer technique is to capture, mark, and recapture. This is a way of estimating population numbers. It works particularly well with butterflies. A location is chosen and butterflies are captured. But, rather than killing them, their wings are marked (using an indelible pen) so that the individual can be identified. Then, they are released. The key is to return to the same site on successive days. Of course, some of the captured butterflies will be ones that are already marked. In fact, the more days you do this, the more greater the percentage should be of marked butterfly recaptures. Through a series of arithmetical manipulations of the data, it is possible to estimate population numbers based on the proportions of new captures to recaptures. The real power of this technique is when it is used in successive years to observe population changes (and we intend to do this). The questions generated from the data (again, just “facts”) might include why different species have different relative populations, how populations change over time, how populations change with changing plant succession (could be coupled with the techniques of ecological quadrat studies), and much, much more.

Bush Lore

BushLoreBesides natural history studies, our program also includes some introduction to wilderness and outdoor skills. Bush Lore was first introduced by Nuwi Somp in the 1990s. Nuwi brought the bush savvy that he gained in the jungles of Papua New Guinea to us here in New Hampshire. He built, with the campers, fish traps, snares, fish spears, and other tools using age-old techniques and patterns from his homeland. His only rule was that you had to eat whatever you caught. It turned out, however, that what worked in PNG did not necessarily work with our animals here—a very interesting lesson. This year we instituted a new version of this. It included map and compass reading, tracking, a discussion and simulation of hunting skills that would have been used by Native Americans here in northern New England, a discussion and simulation of field dressing of animals, shelter building, tinder bundle firestarting, and more. In other words, we tried to present, in five days, as complete a snapshot of ways to survive in the woods while living off the land as we could. This could also be followed by more advanced activities where we actually try to build skills in some of the shelter building, wayfinding, and tracking techniques.

Conclusions

I hope that you have enjoyed this foray into our new, expanded list of occupations. We instituted these because we wanted to offer our campers a chance to go beyond introductions. Older campers need new challenges as they continue to return. We need to be able to keep the interest of both the boy who wants to specialize and the one who has been here for seven or even eight years and who wants something new. I believe that we have succeeded. We will continue to refine the occupations that we have instituted this summer (along with those that have been in place for years and years) and, I hope, produce new offerings in years to come.

~ Larry Davis
Director of Nature Programs and Teaching

Summer 2013: Newsletter # 6

[For those of you who missed the special segment on SportsCenter, here is Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm’s overview of Pemi-Tecumseh Day 2013!]

The day arrived with great anticipation for the lads of Lower Baker and Winnipesaukee.  From the date the “hat” made the long drive from Moultonborough Neck Road to the friendly confines of the Baker Valley, our friends at Tecumseh have been busy recruiting athletes and exploring ways to get as many athletic boys as possible to remain or return for the big contest against Pemi. Here at camp, last week’s cheers were loud in the mess hall, the preparation was moderately frantic, and the sunsets were spectacular.  Each Pemi team practiced for four days, though many campers still took advantage of opportunities to climb mountains, chase butterflies, and perform at campfire.

As always, the Tecumseh Day bugle sounded at 6:30 AM, with the morning mist gliding through the valley to meet the boys.  The seniors blasted rock music and led the Juniors and Intermediates in exercises and a charging Polar Bear before heading up to breakfast for a quick meal before the buses carrying the 10s and 15s left camp at 7:37 AM.  This year, Tecumseh sent advanced vans with each starting unit ahead of their buses and arrived earlier then usual.  You immediately got the sense that Tecumseh was particularly serious about this year’s contest.  Over the last three seasons, Pemi has actually won two more total events than Tecumseh, so clearly, Tecumseh was determined to get back to their winning ways of the Blue and Grey.

Morning Events at Pemi:

SurajThe 11-and-under tennis team stepped onto the courts in the first time slot and played a very competitive match.  Spencer Hill won his number-one singles match 8-0 as did four singles Quinn McConnaughey 8-5. Unfortunately, Suraj Khakee lost in a tie breaker 9-7 at number-two singles, demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship throughout the match.  Number-one doubles of Scott Cook and Ryan Bush won their match-up, though Pemi 11s eventually fell 4-3 in their opening match.

The 12’s soccer game was the most challenging event to watch on many levels and exemplified Tecumseh’s singular determination to make a statement that this year would be different.  Pemi’s footballers were playing Tecumseh’s strongest unit loaded with newly recruited club-level talent.  Timmy Coe fought tenaciously for Pemi at midfield but to no avail as Tecumseh skillfully possessed the ball.  The boys from Winnipesaukee scored early and often and by half time Pemi was down 4-0.  In the opening moments of the second half, Tecumseh scored a 5th goal and coach Roberts made the wise move of pulling many of his top players, most of whom would be playing tennis in the next contest.  Tecumseh chose to keep the ship moving full speed ahead, adding seven more goals in the second half.  Coach Roberts did a remarkable job subbing in players and keeping the boys engaged despite the difficult circumstances.

The 13’s swim team kept the contest close in the early stages before falling to a deep and talented Tecumseh team 33-17.  The highlights of the meet was the work of Ezra Nugiel, Kevin Lewis, Lyle Seebeck, Noah Belinowiz, Lucas Janszky, and Robert Cecil as they swam their hearts out.

From the opening pitch, Tecumseh was also off to the races in the 11’s baseball game.  Charles DeVos and Ryan Cowles made some nice plays in the field while Suraj Khakee delivered Pemi’s only two hits on the day.  The team’s character and mettle were tested throughout the contest as Tecumseh poured it on during a 13-0 rout and our boys had difficulty handling the set-back.

On the tennis court, a strong Pemi 12’s team received victories from Timmy Coe, Gavin Sultan, and Ben Ackerman. With the overall score knotted 3-3, the doubles team of Lucas Gaffney and Ben Burnham fought back from a 7-2 deficit before falling short.  It was this effort by Pemi that provided a glimmer of hope that the boys could begin to rally and meet the challenge of the day.

PattersonThe 13’s soccer team played an aggressive Tecumseh group in what would be a highly competitive match.  Pemi took control of the first fifteen minutes of the match, as Carson Hill, Patterson Malcolm and Ted Orben combined to create a dangerous attack. Tecumseh gradually began to put Pemi back on their heels, but the tenacious play of Lyle Seebeck and Nick Toldalagi denied Tecumseh quality scoring opportunities.  Throughout the match, Sam Berman played well in the net for Pemi.  Ten minutes into the second half, Ted Orben sent Malcolm in on a partial breakaway, but the Tecumseh keeper bravely came off his line and stuffed the play for a game-saving play, even though he was injured on the play.  As the second half wore on, Tecumseh’s overall fitness and desire to win eventually wore down Pemi and they pushed home three quality goals late in the contest for a 3-0 victory.  The 13’s soccer team and the fight and determination from Gaffney and Burnham suggested Pemi could compete if they were willing to embrace the challenge.

The Morning at Tecumseh:

The Doc Nick’s Wonders ten-and-unders found themselves facing a very talented baseball opponent.  Tecumseh’s side-arm pitcher mowed down the Pemi bats while he and his teammates delivered a blistering offense.  Defensively, Jamie Acocella and Whit Courage made great plays in the field as Pemi fell 13-0.

Fortunately, the 10s left their disappointment behind on the little field as soccer coach Bryce Wallis skillfully regrouped the troops and focused their efforts on the challenge ahead.  Tecumseh scored ten minutes into the game, but Pemi answered when Charlie Howe picked a ball out of a scrum near the 18 and chipped the ball over the Tecumseh keeper for a 1-1 tie at half.  After numerous spectacular saves by Gordon “Banks” Robbins in the Pemi net, Tecumseh seized the lead six minutes into the second half, but Pemi kept pushing forward as Eric Bush and Max Blohm worked tirelessly on Tecumseh’s massive soccer field to create scoring opportunities.  With the time running down, Pemi gave up a late goal for the 3-1 final score, but the boys deserved tremendous credit for their extraordinary effort.

MaxArthurThe 15 tennis team garnered victories from the Duval brothers at number-one doubles and Bill O’Leary at third singles, while Arthur Root and Max Pagnucco, and Jack O’Connor and Will Jones delivered doubles triumphs for the 4-3 victory.  However, the 15’s baseballers found themselves down 5-1 early despite outstanding defense from Ben Chaimberg in center and a Zach Leeds at short.  With Pemi trailing 6-2 in the last inning, Hugh Grey hit a triple to deep left center to ignite a Pemi rally.  Pemi narrowed the score to 6-4 with key base hits from Julian Hernandez-Webster, Arthur Root, Will DeTeso, and Bert Oberlander.  With the bases loaded and one out, Leeds hit a sharp comebacker to the mound that resulted in a game-ending double play. It was a frustrating loss, given Pemi had ample opportunities to score but hit the ball hard at people and just couldn’t deliver that one timely hit to break open the game.  As the Tecumseh team stormed the field, Pemi made the long walk back to the mess hall knowing they had gone 1-3 in the morning events at Tecumseh. The news from Pemi would be even worse.

Lunch at Pemi and Tecumseh: “We can still win!!!” and “I’m not going to sugar coat this!”…

After Tecumseh left the dining hall, Pemi gathered around the piano to briefly discuss the morning and re-calibrate their efforts for the afternoon.  Pemi clearly was facing a very prepared and motivated opponent, clearly out to send Pemi a message that last year’s victory was not well received in the Tecumseh community.  I spoke to the Boys about our commitment to each other and importance of being great teammates, especially when the contests were not going well.  There was a brief moment of silence when, all of the sudden, a voice blurted out, “We can still win!”  Well, down 9-1, Las Vegas would make that a historic long shot. Nevertheless, there was something in that young voice that broke the somberness of the situation and inspired all of us to rake a little harder, and perhaps, not take ourselves so seriously.

At Tecumseh, Kenny brought together the boys under the big oak tree overlooking Winnipesaukee.  “I’m not going to sugar coat this,” he confessed. “The results from this morning were disappointing. We can mail it in now — or we can choose to play for something that matters to us.  We have this choice before us.”  With Pemi trailing 9-1 at lunchtime on the road with our youngest campers in tow, the fifteen-and-unders had to come to grips with a very tough situation and respond.

At Pemi, when the 11’s arrived at the Dining Hill, they were an age group in turmoil.  They had let a winnable tennis match slip away and had been creamed in a baseball game.  Some of the lads weren’t necessarily handling the adversity and pressure of the day with the grace and determination necessary to move forward.  This is when excellent counseling could come in, as Payne Hadden, Will Meinke and the rest of the 11’s staff refocused the boys and guided them to one of the best performances of the day on the soccer pitch…

The Afternoon at Pemi:

…From the opening whistle, Pemi outhustled Tecumseh to every 50/50 ball, and seized a 1-0 lead when Sasha Roberts sent Ryan Bush in alone for the score.  In the second half, Tecumseh pushed forward but the defense of Will Laycock, Owen Lee, and Henry Seebeck held strong until Pemi goalie Jasper Nussbaum made an incredible save on a penalty kick to preserve a much needed victory.

The 12’s baseball team stepped onto the diamond to face another very talented side from Tecumseh. Tecumseh quickly shut down the Pemi bats while their talented short stop from Philadelphia delivered a 3-4 effort as our rivals built a 6-0 lead.  Noah Hooper and Jack Elvekrog pitched well for Pemi to keep us in the game and James Minzesheimer broke up the shut-out in the sixth inning with a clutch base hit for the final 7-1 score.  Despite the loss, Pemi played eighteen boys in this game while keeping the game close.

OwenFriedAfter Carson Hill delivered steady victory over an overtly frustrated Tecumseh opponent for Pemi’s 13’s tennis team at first singles and Jackson Trevor and Ketan Parekh won handily at first doubles, Pemi found themselves down 3-2 and needing some clutch victories to defeat the Tecumseh line-up.  After Robert Loeser defeated his gritty opponent with his own unyielding determination at fourth singles, the doubles teams of Owen Fried and Ted Orben at third doubles clinched the match when they chose to play aggressively at the net. With victories in 13’s tennis and 11’s soccer, Pemi appeared to restore some of their missing mojo.

The 12’s age group had lost all three contests heading into the swim meet.  The team came together and fought hard in the water to get a result.  Pemi won the medley relay (Elvekrog, Mangan, Boruchin, and Silver) and received first-place finish in the breast stroke (Byron Lathi) while taking second place finishes in the breast (Jack Elvekrog) Butterfly (Grady Boruchin) and free style (Luke Silver).  To win the meet, Pemi needed a second and third place finish in the free relay.  Coach Payne Hadden wisely broke up his first relay team to share some speed with his second team, and the decision was a splashing success as Pemi took first and third place to win the meet 27-25!  Well done, coach!  Well done, boys!

The 11’s mermen team swam hard but didn’t quite have the horses to deliver the victory. Frank Applebaum won the butterfly while Henry Seebeck took the breaststroke. Scott Cook actually came out of the Health Center and swam well, taking third in the IM (which Pemi won.) Medley Relayers Spencer Hill, Seebeck, Applebaum, and Ryan Bush came in ahead of their rivals, but overall the team came up short at 24-31.

OscarThe 13’s baseball team, fresh off their well-earned victory in tennis, came out and played a flawless baseball game.  Oscar Tubke-Davidson stymied Tecumseh’s bats with outstanding pitching while the defense of Patterson Malcolm at short, Jivan Khakee at third, and Grady Nance in center closed the door on any potential big innings.  Key hits by Nance and Billy Rudnick pushed Pemi to a 3-2 victory – and a 2-2 split on the day for the thirteen-and-under age group.

The Afternoon at Tecumseh:

The 10’s tennis team fell 5-2 to a very strong Tecumseh squad.  Even with Whit Courage winning fourth singles and Jamie Acocella and Eric Bush taking second doubles, Pemi unfortunately came up short in two tie-breakers in what was a very close match. Nevertheless, it was clear to everyone that the ten-year -olds had given it their all.

While the 10’s were playing tennis, the majority of both camps came to watch the fifteen-and-under soccer match.  Without much fanfare, but with a quiet determination, Pemi’s 15’s stepped onto the pitch determined to win this match.  Historically, the 15’s game is one of the most watched and hotly contested fixtures of the day.  Tecumseh rolled out a physical, kick-and-run side against Pemi’s smaller, more technical team.  In the center of the pitch, Julian Hernandez-Webster and Nick Bertrand controlled the ball and built Pemi’s attack down the flank where, Theo Long, Arthur Root, and Brandon Somp worked their magic.  When Tecumseh did hit long balls over the top, Ben Chaimberg shut down and denied any significant opportunities. Zack Leeds, shaking off his disappointment from the 15’s baseball game, delivered an incredible effort on the left flank, fighting through many hard Tecumseh challenges.  Twenty minutes into the game, Leeds pressed forward to keep the ball in Tecumseh’s half and was fouled, creating a free kick.  It was from this restart that Charlie Scott opportunistically redirected a ball home for the 1-0 Pemi lead.  Later, Hernandez-Webster, working off a set-piece corner kick carefully crafted by Coach Mark Baddeley, volleyed home Scott’s serve for the 2-0 victory.

Any past Pemi fifteen-year-old who has swum his last race at Tecumseh after a long day knows something about this coming-of-age experience on the Tecumseh waterfront.  This year’s fifteen-and-unders arrived at the waterfront feeling proud about their efforts and the result on the soccer pitch, and they channeled those feelings towards their junior companions.  Facing an historically deep and talented team with little prospect of victory, the 15’s put their total big brother energy behind Doc Nick’s wonders.  The tens, who had gone down in defeat in each of the previous contests, needed this boost of support.  The 10’s swim contest was easily one of the best of the day.

The Junior Camp Boys immediately seized control of the meet when Jack Griffiths, Charlie Howe, Grady Burke, and Kevin Miller delivered a first place in the Medley Relay.  It was all Pemi from that point forward, as Finn Lincoln, Peter Dunkel, Whit Courage, Harrison Tillou, Max Blohm ,and Ted Applebaum all delivered points for Pemi.  These boys worked hard all week, and it was impressive to see them deliver an effort and performance when swimming for pride.

Returning the Hat:

With the ring of the Mess Hall bell at Pemi, the dining hall quickly quieted for the anticipated transfer of the hat.  Danny Kerr reminded the participants to review their preparation and performance after the fashion of ski racer Bode Miller, telling them that as long as they felt they had done everything they could to play their best, they should let go of any disappointment over the result.  If they came up short on this checklist, he said, then they should make adjustments and move forward.  Mark Luff, the Tecumseh Program Director and long-time ambassador forn all things Tecumseh-Pemi (he also directs Tecumseh’s G&S), reminded us all of the unique combination of friendship and competition between these two camps.  He declared that the closeness of recent year’s contests had increased the rivalry between the two camps, yet not at the expense of the relationship.

After Danny and Mark spoke, it was my turn to give The Hat back to Tecumseh.

“Over the years, I have asked several Tecumseh campers if they knew the story of The Hat – what actually happened in early August of 1967.  They replied, “Yeah, your Director said he liked George Munger’s hat and Mr. Munger said if you beat us, you could have the hat.”  Well, knowing Tom Reed Sr.’s values and purpose in life and the deep respect George Munger likely had for competition and the work necessary to achieve at the highest levels, I can guarantee you that exchange didn’t happen. You see, back in 1967 Pemi and Tecumseh played home-and-home matches, and when Pemi lost 9-3 on the initial day, the Pemi community was upset with their performance and dedicated their remaining summer to beating Tecumseh – which, after an amazing weeks-long preparation effort, they managed in the second meeting of the year (hyper link to History of the Hat) It was Munger’s deep appreciation for Pemi’s effort that led to the tradition of The Hat.”

“Last year you lost to Pemi, and your camp community made a similar commitment to each other to reverse the result.  Your baseball teams were incredibly prepared, your soccer teams ran through the ball, your tennis players delivered clutch performances in numerous tie-breakers, and your swimmers hit the water with purpose.  In the end, winning the hat represents all of your commitment and journey together. The actual score of the day is a bi-product of hard-work and dedication to each other – and in this spirit of respect for your efforts, Camp Pemi returns this Hat to Camp Tecumseh.”  The Pemi community then rose and delivered the traditional cheer, and both camps filed out for flag lowering and a few more handshakes.

So in the end The Hat was lost, but perhaps more important life lessons were gained in the day’s journey as Pemi had to get off the mat and compete.  Counselors stepped up and delivered high quality coaching and counseling, Pemi athletes learned the importance of commitment in times of adversity, and the boys found opportunities to lead when times were challenging.  All of these learning experiences and the ranges of emotion one experiences on Tecumseh Day make up one of the many great chapters over the course of seven weeks on the shores of Lower Baker.  By the time you have read this newsletter, a group of seniors will have climbed Katahdin or the Presidential Mountain range.  Another group of uppers will have completed the Mahoosucs, and another the Kinsmans. Dozens of boys will have completed their distance swim, taken their first nature occupation, performed at campfire, or finally mastered their part in this year’s G&S, Iolanthe.  (Good seats are still available!)  Life goes on, and we are all a little richer for our annual testing with our ancient rivals. Win or lose.

Charlie Malcolm

Summer 2013: Newsletter #5

Hello again from Wentworth, where we are well into the fifth week of the 2013 season. As many of you veteran readers will recall, our storied rivalry with Camp Tecumseh is customarily renewed at the end of every Week Five, and this summer is no exception. We have engaged with our esteemed and talented rivals from Lake Winnepesauke virtually every year since 1908, and there is no question that this is the most important day in our entire athletic schedule. Think Harvard-Yale; Michigan-Ohio State; Red Sox-Yankees; Redskins-Cowboys. Think Super Bowl, but with over 150 boys from each camp competing in four sports (baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis) in five age groups (10-and-under, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 15-and under.) True, we pride ourselves on being a well-rounded camp. But Friday is the athletic equivalent of the Allagash Canoe Trip for the Trip Program – or the Advanced Caving Trip for the Nature Program – or the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and Annual Art Opening for the Arts and Music Program. As with these other events, even boys who are not participating take a keen interest in what their cabin-mates and colleagues are doing, living the truth that community can sometimes be as much about respectful attention and support as about personal participation.

Next week’s Newsletter is slated to come from Charlie Malcolm, our inspirational Director of Athletics who spends the off-season teaching History at Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, where he also coaches the boys’ varsity soccer team. This week’s, though, largely comes from Trip Counselor Dan Reed, recently returned from said Allagash canoe outing. Before we turn to Dan’s account of this most ambitious and wild of Pemi expeditions (barring, of course, Pemi West, which recently wrapped up after a spectacular 3-plus weeks in the Washington State’s Olympics including a succesful ascent of the eponymnous peak!!!), let us indulge in a little historical segue.

Early travel to Tecumseh

Early travel to Tecumseh

In the early days of camp, the pilgrimage to Tecumseh itself smacked almost as much of the trip program as of athletics. The event began with Pemi campers and staff packing sports gear, bedding, and clothing for three days and then walking the three and a half miles to the train station in Wentworth. A two-hour journey brought them to The Weirs, where they boarded the steamship Governor Endicott and travelled another hour or so to the cove where Tecumseh has its waterfront, then shuttling in small boats to get to shore. There, they established camp on the sandy beach and grass verges of the big lake, where the Four Docs built cooking fires and supervised the preparation of supper. After an evening of song and, no dount, heroic tales of past Pemi-Tecumseh clashes, everyone bedded down on the beach for the night. Shades of Henry’s troops before Agincourt (perhaps). Word has it that the mosquitoes were brutal, and rumors routinely spread that the Tecumseh management had specially ordered in millions of the tiny pests to suck the blood from their opponents of the following day. Current Pemi Nature Director Larry Davis assures us that the concept of mercenary mosquitoes was as unlikely then as it is now, but sound sleep was evidently hard to come by for our aspiring warriors on the shores of Winnepesauke. Then again, when Tecumseh journeyed to us (as they always did in what was then the home-and-home annual exchange), the tables were turned and our lads may have had the advantage of a miniscule version of blood doping. In any event, once the day’s competition was over, it was another supper and night on the beach, re-embarkation on the Endicott, a return to the train at The Weirs, then back to Wentworth for the long walk home to Pemi. You’ve all heard those stereotypical tales of how our parents or grandparent walked every day to school through five-foot snowdrifts – and uphill in both directions. In this case, there’s hardly any exaggeration involved. But, while the modern Pemi kid rides to Moultonborough Neck in a plush school bus and dines, shoulder-to-shoulder, with his Tecumseh rivals in their screened dining hall, the competition is no less intense or fulfilling. Stay tuned for Charlie’s detailed account in next week’s missive. (Read Charlie’s 2012 newsletter recounting Pemi’s 11-8-1 win!)

Now for Dan’s rendering of the Allagash trip.

It was a glorious week of paddling, bald eagle sightings, great food, and the sense of total independence from the rest of the world.  The Pemi Trip Program offers campers incredible opportunities all summer long.  We hike in the White Mountains.  We go caving in Schoharie, NY.  We explore natural wonders both local and distant.  And, for our oldest campers, we send an annual canoeing trip to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine.  Someone with an appreciation of puns might call this the “flagship” of our Trip Program.  This term also accurately describes the journey’s significance, as it is a celebrated trip open only to Pemi’s full-season 15-year-olds.  This year the trip was populated by ten young men – Ben Chaimberg, Zach Leeds, Nick Bertrand, Bryce Grey, Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, Matt Kanovsky, Daniel Bowes, Jack Green, and Ethan Pannell – and led by former cabin counselor and division head Andy Kirk and current trip counselor Dan Reed.  The adventure was comprised of four full days paddling the Allagash, with a day on either end spent driving the 8 hours between Wentworth, NH and Allagash, ME. 

Our first day started at the ripe hour of 4:30am, when the yawning but excited crew loaded into a van at Pemi and started the long drive north.  We were soon greeted by the sunrise, and enjoyed a beautiful morning on the road.  Around noon we stopped for a refreshing lake dip in Maine’s Baxter State Park, and quickly followed with lunch at a local pizza joint.  Then we met the able crew of Katahdin Outfitters, who supplied us with canoes, paddles, and life jackets.  They drove us the final three hours along backcountry logging roads to Churchill Dam, where we set up camp for the first night.  We were greeted there by our friends the blackflies, deerflies, and horseflies, who would keep us company for the entire trip.  After setting up our tents and enjoying a dinner of burgers, spaghetti, and fresh vegetables with ranch dressing, we went down to check out the river that would carry us the entire 62 miles over the next five days.  With Andy lifeguarding, we enjoyed a belated polar bear before zipping ourselves into our tents and enjoying our first night’s riverside sleep.

Velocipede

Velocipede!

As we would for the next several days, we pulled up on shore for lunch around midday.  We refueled with sandwiches (ham/kielbasa/pepperoni and cheese, sunbutter and jelly, etc.) and a candy dessert, took a quick dip in the river, then set off across Umsaskis Lake.  Our campsite at Sandy Point was at the far end of the lake, and we pulled in at around 4pm.  Like the first night, we set up camp and enjoyed some time swimming in the river.  Dinner was plentiful with a huge pot-full of spaghetti with meat sauce.  The ever-helpful boys gladly finished off the pot and offered to clean dishes.  Another camp group pulled in and stayed at the next site over. Our experience with them and with subsequent groups reminded Andy and me of how Pemi boys’ maturity and respectful behavior on trips really sets them apart.  No wonder the AMC staff in the White Mountain huts is always happy to see a Pemi group come through!

After another good night’s sleep, we started the third day with toasted English muffins, bacon, and fried eggs.  The weather looked promising at first, but the clouds darkened as we made our way across Long Lake.  We took a break on a beach covered with flat round stones – so the obvious response was to have a rock-skipping contest.  Hugh Grey, Ned Roosevelt, and Zach Leeds ended the session at the top of the heap, each with a toss of around 20 skips.  As we paddled the latter half of the interminable lake, the skies broke open and treated us to a downpour.  Fortunately we had all our gear packed in waterproof bags, and so could enjoy the free shower, the sound of the rain on the water, and the perfect symmetrical splash made by each rain drop as it hit the surface of the river.  But New England weather is predictably unpredictable, and the sun was out and shining brightly by the time we stopped for lunch.  We enjoyed a sunny afternoon, with the occasional sighting of a bald eagle overhead or a river otter alongside the boats. 

We pulled up to the Outlet campsite on Round Pond in the mid-afternoon, with our camp setup accelerated when we observed some threatening thunderheads on the horizon.  We unearthed what we affectionately termed the Tarp Mahal, a huge 40 ft. x 24 ft. blue tarp, which would for the next few days protect our eating area from the occasional deluge.  Indeed, soon after we began making the dinner of couscous and chili, a massive thunderstorm moved overhead and parked itself there for an hour or so.  We enjoyed our immunity from the rain while eating dinner, and then settled down to sleep, enjoying the sound of the rain on our sturdy tents.

Allagash PaddlersOur third full day was a long one: fifteen miles along the river to majestic Allagash Falls.  We saw our only moose of the trip that morning, lounging in the river about 150 yards ahead of us.  The sight of twelve humans staring in awe must have made her self-conscious, because the moose climbed up the riverbank and disappeared into the forest as we came closer.  The day continued with many sightings of bald eagles.  In the minutes leading up to our arrival at our campsite that afternoon, we paddled to the growing roar of the falls ahead of us.  After having come ashore well in advance of what would have been an exciting but perhaps ill-fated waterfall experience, we set up camp and headed down below the falls for a quick swim.  Here the water is deep with a fast current, and we let ourselves float downstream a few times before calling it a day and enjoying a dinner of beef stew, mashed potatoes, and homemade tortilla chips with cinnamon and sugar. 

Our last full day on the river started with more heavy rain.  We kept dry under the tarp during breakfast, and the short day of paddling ahead of us meant that we could stay put and wait out the downpour for a few hours.  During a lull in the rain, we carried our canoes and gear down the quarter-mile path to a safe launching point downstream of Allagash Falls.  We went swimming once more beneath the falls, this time jumping from riverside rocks into the deep pool gouged out over time by the falling water.  A short 2-hour paddle brought us to East Twin Brook campsite, where we would spend our last night on the river.  There we ate an early dinner of leftovers, then went to bed along with the sun.

TentsiteA dark, pre-sunrise morning greeted us as we got up on our last day.  By now experts in campsite setup and take-down, we quickly packed up our tents, tarp, and other gear, and got onto the river as the sun came up.  We only had an hour’s paddle to our destination, where we came onshore, packed our gear into our waiting van, and started the long drive south.  Ten hours later we pulled into camp, greeted by both the familiar and new faces of Pemi’s second session.  After a week of brilliant canoeing, we were all excited to be back home.  Thanks to all the Allagash guys for a fantastic trip.  Now our attention turns to the enjoyment of the final few weeks of the summer, back on the (often) sunny shores of Lower Baker Pond.

Many thanks to Dan for this evocative account. We should say in passing that one of the pleasures of the outing for both staff members was that, thirteen years ago, Dan was an eight-year-old camper in Andy’s cabin, Junior One. Little could either of them have predicted that, over a dozen years hence, they would be co-leaders on Pemi’s most celebrated trip, Dan sharing van-driving duties with his former mentor. That’s one of the joys of Pemi, though – that longevity and continuity regularly allow for this kind of “years later” serendipity. It’s one of the things that makes us feel as much like a family as anything else.

That’s it for now. Come Friday, keep an eye on the ticker at the bottom of your ESPN screen. Win or lose, though, we’ll be throwing ourselves wholeheartedly and joyously into one of the great and timeless rituals of Pemigewassett.                                   

— Tom and Danny

Summer 2013: Newsletter #4

It’s just past 9AM on Tuesday, July 16, and we’re enjoying our fourth or fifth consecutive day of sunshine!!! To those of you who sent dry (or drying) thoughts our way over the past several weeks, many thanks. Your psychic efforts seem to have paid off. Quite unbelievably, though, we’re now at the mid-season mark. Yesterday, 90-plus first session boys left us for other summer undertakings. Today, their bunks and bug nets will be taken by 90-plus others, looking forward to their own Pemi summer. Yesterday’s departures were marked by many sincere thank-yous and not a few welling eyes. We’ll sorely miss our companions of the opening three-and-a-half weeks, but we’re grateful for their cheerful and productive company and look forward to welcoming those to whom they are passing the baton.

CookoutAs some of you may know and others will have intuited from the above, our changeover procedure has been a little bit different this year. Inspired by Assistant Director Kenny Moore (who’s unique gift seems to be the ability to think equally well inside and outside “the box”), we split what used to be one hectic day into two leisurely ones. As a result, our full-session campers were afforded what turned out to be a pretty special day yesterday. At 10AM, they all boarded our two school busses, accompanied by 15 or so non-cabin staff, and headed off to The Whale’s Tale, a local water park. There they most assuredly beat the heat of a high-80’s day, on and in the various slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers. Meanwhile, their cabin counselors stayed at Pemi, finishing up their midseason letters to parents (which you families of first- and full-session campers will be receiving very soon.) At 5PM, the water-parkers arrived back at camp – cool, happy, and lightly chlorinated – to be met at the Senior Beach by Tom and Larry Davis, who were grilling steaks while Bob Marley and The Allman Brothers blared on the music system. On a perfect New Hampshire late afternoon – sun brilliant as it settled over Pemi Hill, a moderate breeze rippling the pond and keeping the heat at bay – the 150 or so full-session campers and staff settled into one of the mellowest beach parties these shores have ever seen. With make-your-own sundaes topping it all off, all agreed that this was an innovation with tradition written all over it. Same for what followed – a screening in the Lodge of The Sand Lot, complete with individual bags of Smartfood for all cinemaphiles, young and old.

doughnutsDottiePolarBearToday dawned with one other innovation. Sort of. In the Old Days of camp (we’re talking pre-1920s), directors, counselors, and campers alike began each day with a run to the point that juts into the pond half way down its western edge. This was the location of the camp potato patch and also, given the steep drop off of the shoreline, the perfect spot for Polar Bears (our traditional morning dip – infinitely more refreshing and character-building than a warm shower.) When, in the later 20s, the Junior Camp was founded by John Herbert Nichols (#4 of “The 4 Docs”), the practice was suspended, most Polar Bears then being taken closer to the cabins of what became, by default, “the Upper Camp.” So, with the thought of doing something new that was also very old, we conceived the notion that this mass collective run to the Junior Point should be resurrected in 2013. We also thought that it would be fun to have something to nibble on when we got down there – not to suggest the original dippers gnawed on raw potatoes or anything like that in the old days. So, Chefs Stacey, Betty, and Nancy whipped up a big batch of home-made cinnamon doughnuts and a big vat of hot chocolate and the tradition of “Dunkin’ Docs” was born. Appropriately (we are an all-American institution, after all), reveille was moved from 7:30 back to Seven-Eleven to make some extra time for the event. With those Seniors still in camp inspiring the troops in the Intermediate Camp (10 of their colleagues are currently on a five-day canoe trip on the Allagash in Maine, on which more later) and Kenny Moore whooping it up at the point, a jolly and bonding time was had by all. So inspiring was the event that Dottie Reed, who had come down to take pictures of the festivities and dressed to greet parents, was moved to relinquish her camera, remove her watch, and dash fully-clothed into the waves, whooping all the while. Talk about being moved by the spirit!

LimericksWith the first of our second-session boys about to roll in, we’ll now think about reunions and new greetings. To fill out the remainder of these pages, though, we’ll forward the limericks written by Ian Axness and Jamie Andrews (with a half-dozen by old hand Tom Reed Jr.) for reading at Sunday’s Birthday Banquet. The drill here, as you may know, is for boys and staff to get cheers in the Messhall on their actual birthdays – but no cakes (or poems) until this one day of joint celebration. Then, at the requisite moment in the evening’s program, the Bean Soup editors step up to the podium and read a limerick for each Birthday Person. Here are this year’s:

 

Hello and bon soir and good eve!
We’re up on this bench here to cleave
To a Pemi tradition:
Poetic attrition.
(If you’re likely to heave, kindly leave.)

 

To ye masses we’ll dutifully answer
With limericks, each an enhancer
Of the natal day joys
For all girls and boys—
Each a Leo, or maybe a Cancer.

 

For you, the directions are clear
Stand up when your own name you hear.
Do not be nonchalant:
For the audience wants
To see whether you smile or sneer.

 

So these are the poems we’ve penned
We hope that to them you’ll attend.
But if you can’t swallow
Them or find them hollow
Just zip it and clap at the end.

 

[Will Ackerman]
Ackerman’s hip to this scene,
A Pemi kid, boots to his bean.
But he’s met with the menace
Who teaches us tennis
In one-on-one lessons with Greene.

 

[Andre Altherr]
Andre’s caught the performative bug
But you’d never consider him smug
For after he croons
His incredible tunes
He finishes up with a shrug.

 

Ian Axness is so OCD
If I don’t rhyme he’ll massacre me
So I shouldn’t recite
Words like “orange” or “vacuum”…|
(I should go hide in a tree.)

 

[Noah Belinowiz]
When painting with saxophone sound,
Belinowiz aims to astound,
But sometimes his alto
Sounds more like Balto
When it honks out a noise like a hound.

 

[Victoria Blumenfeld]
Vicki-B teaches tennis with power—
On the court her competitors cower.
But her uncle is scary,
Her brother’s lip-hairy,
And she takes a relaxing fourth hour.

 

[Charlie Bonetti]
Young Chuck was apparently ready
To party with cake and confetti
But since we’re at camp
His plans got all damp—
We’ve only this poem for Bonetti.

 

Any fool with two eyeballs can see
Robert Cecil’s as tall as can be.
Truth be told, we have heard
He attracted a bird
Who was looking to nest in a tree.

 

Observe the domestic Matt Cloutier
A professional doing his duty, eh?
He is so keen to be
Our Mess Hall maitre d’
Second half he’ll start wearing a suit-ier.

 

[George Cooke]
The G&S leads have been booked—
At tons of raw talent we looked!
When auditions were through
Somehow we just knew
Iolanthe would have to be Cooked.

 

Jack Davini digs all things sustainable.
When he learned that his eyebrows were trainable,
He conceived ‘twould be fun
To get by with just one.
Want his other one? Sure. It’s obtainable.

 

[Henry Eisenhart]
Henry’s discovered the trick
To teaching his team how to kick:
The creed of his corps?
Simply SOCCER IS WAR!
He’s best known as Drill Sergeant Rick.

 

If you’re down for a walk in the bogs,
Lend an ear to the croaks of the frogs.
Some go “Crickety Crack.”
Some go “Jiggedy Jack,”
But the big ones emit “Elvekrog”-s.

 

[Reed Falkenrath]
This camper in Junior 2 hath
Some signs of a young psychopath.
With him we’ve had words
For his killing off birds—
It all stems from Reed’s falcon wrath.

 

[Al Fauver]
When writing a lim’rick for Al
It is tough to keep up one’s morale.
His best lim’rick was done
Back in nineteen 9-1
But attempt to surpass it we shall.

 

So Al’s in his ninety-eighth year,
Still married and driving I hear.
Indeed, Bertha and he
Were just destined to be
Matrimonially sound and sincere.

 

Peter Fauver, the grandson of Gar,
In New Hampshire was called to the bar.
When he rose to the bench
He gave Exxon a wrench,
Saying “Keep your darn gas in the car!”

 

Upper Three’s studly jock, Owen Fried,
Is a lax player gifted indeed.
His attacks on the net
Are the sickest, you bet…
Unless Owen gets tripped by a weed.

 

[Teddy Gales]
This is his first year on staff,
So Gales is due for a gaffe.
But it’s no ballyhoo
For our Teddy’s the true
Embodiment of the big laugh.

 

[Szervac Halmai]
Szervac, one may justly surmise
(When you see the wide look in his eyes)
Is real new to these parts.
Though he’s dear to our hearts
He is endlessly filled with surprise.


[Kevin Heynig]
Our resident bug thug is super
And he studies just south of the Yooper.
A true max level Scout
This guy is, without doubt,
An entomological trooper.

 

Nick Holquist, Nick Holquist, Nick Holquist
His whole frame of mind is a goal quest.
For him soccer would seem
Like a criminal scheme:
Take the ball, take it back— that’s the whole gist.

[Judy Ireton]
From purchasing pounds of confetti
To ordering tons of spaghetti
When looking for cash
It’s to Judy we dash—
For this gal no transaction is petty.

 

Kurt Koons is a jovial chum.
In rugby he powers the scrum.
This game he is loving
Reminds him of shoving
Through crowds in New York, where he’s from.

 

[Heather Leeds]
Heather is simply incredible
And she’ll tell you the whole truth, instead o’ bull.
She’ll unwrap all your boxes
Shin-guards and knee-sockses,
But confiscate anything edible.

As a waiter one must meet all needs
And cater to each whom he feeds.
Leave nothing to chance—
It is more like a dance
And wouldn’t you know it: Zach Leeds.

 

Mr. Leunis thought he had it made
In charge of our boats as camp aide
But Olivia’s in
Much to Antoine’s chagrin
So now he just wants to get paid.

 

Ms. Martin likes finding a nook
To hide away with a good book.
But don’t mess with her mood
She might poison your food,
For Chloe’s our quirky new cook.

 

[Will Meinke]
Will has a manner laconic,
And a curriculum, well, economic.
He is strikingly brave
When he’s getting a shave
Just like that hedgehog named Sonic!

 

[James Minzesheimer]
In baseball, he covers home plate.
James Minzy hands runners their fate
An eminent catcher
He’s someone we’ll bet’cher
Plays ball full of love, not with hate.

 

[Ezra Nugiel]
Ezra’s supposedly able
To waiter the new “Planning Table,”
But when serving that locus
It’s harder to focus
When channeling Frederic or Mabel.

 

Debbie Pannell is so smart
And she’s made it so cool to do art,
But we’re now halfway through
And there’s still lots to do—
The campers may never depart!

 

A retiring athlete he’s not.
On the soccer pitch this dude’s so hot
That when rain comes, it seems,
He just sizzles and steams,
Does footballer intense, Tate Suratt.

 

[Caleb Tempro]
Young Tempro’s got fash’nable tips
And real studs in his ears, they’re not clips.
But en route to the Carters
He could have been smarter—
Don’t forget earring cleaner on trips.

 

Dan Walder’s a traveling sort
And he’s more keen on Nature than Sport.
But now he might say
The outdoors are passé
And he’d rather be at a resort.

 

[Paige Wallis]
At the lake we all answer to Paige.
Her safety procedures are sage,
But don’t swim like a fool
Or you’re out of the pool—
Goofing off at free swim makes her – angry.

 

Jackson Welsh swam his distance this year
But the story is rather severe,
For the guys in the boat
Stranded him on the float
Shouting “Hey, you big jerks! I’m still here!”

 

That’s it!  We sure hope you’ve been sated
And limerically re-celebrated.
Big thanks to TR
Who helped us make par.
(I hope we’re not going to be graded.)

We’ve got to wrap up and we’re stuck
I suppose we’ll just pack up the truck.
Now the last thing to say
On this pro-natal day
Is much JOY, LONG LIFE, and GOOD LUCK.

 

Many thanks to Ian and Jamie for this epic undertaking, reminiscent (in our jaded minds) of the songs of the scops in the ancient mead halls of our collective past. Smiling faces, full bellies, and heroic verse. What could be better? Before we close, though, thanks also to the first-session boys and parents who made 2013.1 so joyous and fulfilling for us all. Your good spirit, efforts, and trust are hugely appreciated. Here’s, also, to all the full-session campers and families who are keeping the summer’s ball rolling – and to all the newcomers and their clans who will invest 2012.2 with the energy and enthusiasm that we’re certain they will. That’s it for now – except to repeat that signal contemporary phrase of approbation: “It’s all good.”

                                               

— Tom and Danny

 

Summer 2013: Newsletter # 3

Hello again to all of our gentle readers. It’s been an eventful week, replete with all the usual activities and also with our annual Fourth of July celebrations and a big athletic day thrown into the mix. The weather continues to keep us on our toes but, once again, there’s not a whole lot that we haven’t been able to do, especially if we’ve been willing to wait out a shower or two and be flexible with our schedule. Today, for example, we’re sending out two backpacking trips that had originally been slated for yesterday (an Upper 4-day to the Carter Range to the northeast of Mt. Washington and a Lower 3-day to the Kinsmans this side of Franconia Notch), four additional overnights (Lower 3-days to Mts. Moosilauke and Osceola, a trip for Upper 4 to Greenleaf Hut in the Franconia Range, and a short hike for Junior 3 up to the Pemi Shelter), and a lunch trip across the lake to Flat Rock (for Lower 1). Lots of boys have been very patient as they’ve waited for the right weather window to get off on an exciting jaunt, and we’ve been extremely impressed by the way they’ve coped with the hard realities of sensible planning.

IMG_3035After a wonderfully indulgent half-hour delay for wake-up on the Fourth, we kicked off the Big Day with our annual Pee-rade. All cabins participated in what is always a dizzyingly creative potpourri of floats/skits that treat the history of the camp, the nation, and the globe – and occasionally risk a glimpse into the post-apocalyptic future of Pemi. The entire Junior Camp made a bid to re-enact the Revolutionary War, half of them dressed in Patriot Blue, half in Tyrannical Scarlet. After being enjoined by what we think must have been an a-historical referee to engage in “a nice clean war,” the two sides clashed thunderously together until cooler heads prevailed – leading to a truce sealed when Kevin Miller and Marco Zapata laid aside their imaginary weapons and shook hands in explicit preparation for being allies in WW II. Given the number of Brits we have on our staff, it was good to see our past national differences so happily set aside.

IMG_3043Amongst the Lower Lowers, Cabin 3 garnered the esteemed judges’ top honors with a highly-topical skit about the Pemi Investigative Agency (yes, we’ve heard about the NSA up here) foiling various murky activities about camp. The highlight was Rafe Forward popping out of a laundry bag to bust a ring of clothing thieves. Also worth noting was the inaugural appearance in Pemi “lore” of Heather Leeds, one of the lynchpins of our office staff. Played in the skit with chilling verisimilitude by Jackson Morrell, Heather can now rest assured that she has achieved mythic status at Pemi. Laurels amongst Upper Lowers were snatched by Lower 5 with “A Pemi Infomercial,” documenting all sorts of institutional mismanagement from Waterfront Head Paige Wallis being more interested in texting than minding the safety of her swimmers to staff members crippling innocent campers in a fierce game of Frisbee Running Bases. Nick Ridley’s boys, led by smooth-voiced narrator Lucas Gaffney, earned a big bag of Skittles for their efforts. Sadly, all of them have been named by Danny in a defamation suit about which you should soon be hearing in the national news.

IMG_3080Upper 3 snatched up a motif from Danny’s earlier Sunday Meeting talk about the musical influences in his life and traced the history of “The Pemi Five” all the way from a 1908 a capella group through the foundation of The Silver Cornet Band. Music does live on at Pemi, and Henry Eisenhart’s boys parleyed that truth into scads of sucrose. Fortunately, the judges were weighing acting talent more heavily than musical chops, as Miles Davis has nothing to fear from Kevin Lewis’s trumpet playing – nor Carlos Santana or Eric Clapton from Caleb Tempro’s or Owen Fried’s chops on guitar. Finally, Senior Three jammed authentic Pemi History into a tried-and-true Hollywood formula with “The Pemi Justice League,” casting things as recent as the Mystery of the Disappearing Pickle Barrel (ask your sons!) and as ageless as our rivalry with Camp Tecumseh into the mode of Super Hero vs. Arch Villain confrontation. Special kudos go to Hugh Grey as the spitting image of Head of Staff and Former Trippie Jamie Andrews – and Matt Kanovsky as a bug-net clad preserver of the natural world. All in all, this year’s Pee-rade made it clear that imagination, energy, and irreverence live on in equal measure in the seething brain of The Pemi Kid!

oreoThe afternoon involved the entire camp being divided into six teams (mixed age-groups, with Juniors pitching in with Seniors as equal partners) playing a round-robin tournament in various whiffle-ball venues and competing in such arcane activities as dice-stacking (five at a go, arrangeable only with the assistance of the plastic cup in which they came) and Forehead-to-Mouth Oreo Transfer (look, Ma! No hands!). Maybe you had to be there! The afternoon was sunny and warm, and a good time was had by all – everyone, btw, slathered in sunscreen and hyper-hydrated.

That evening, in the Messhall, Danny awarded silver Revere Ware bowls to the campers and staff for whom this is the fifth year here. We’re always especially happy to recognize folks for whom Pemi has been such an important and constant enterprise. This year’s campers were Andrew Appleby, Noah Belinowitz, Sam Berman, Nick Case, Dylan Cheng, Alex and Jon Duval, Crawford Jones, Hugh Jones, Andrew Kanovsky, Kevin Lewis, Alex Marshman, Tom Moore, Greg Nacheff, Reed O’Brien, Nick Oribe, Dash Slamowitz, Caleb Tempro, Nicholas Gordon, John Stevenson, Graham Cromley, Bryce Grey, Henry Jones, and Nick Toldalagi. 5-year staff veterans included Buck Baskin, Nick Davini, Dorin Dehls, Heather Leeds, Stan Barlow, Nathan Tempro, and Brandon Hendrickson.

Wrapping up the day was the annual Fourth of July Vaudeville, ably hosted by Ian Axness and Teddy Gales. We’ll be sparing with details, as this letter is threatening to run long, but we must mention that the 106th embodiment of the Pemigewassett Silver Cornet Band lived up to every expectation. Among stellar camper soloists were Noah Belinowitz on saxophone, Matt Edlin on French horn, and Emmanual Abbey on drums. Other noteworthy camper acts included Robert Loeser singing “America the Beautiful” (when does Robert ever not stop the show?) and Reed O’Brien with a remarkably skilled piano improvisation. Chopin or Keith Jarrett, watch out. Finally, and almost literally bringing down the house, this year’s iteration of “The Little People” (now known as the Pemi Peewees) made camp history: four wee ones, two boys as always (played by staff brothers Nick and Ben Ridley) and, for the first time ever, two girls (Paige and Bryce Wallis). The theme was Merriwood Day – that flirtatious time of year when our older campers fraternize with the lasses up the valley at an excellent girls’ camp – and the effect of it all was a split-screen look at the fevered preparation on both sides of the gender line. We’re not sure if a Pemi audience has ever laughed harder.

We’ll leave our account of the past week at that. Now for a brief word from Danny on one of the more interesting recent developments in the camp program.

Greetings from Lower Baker! It is hard to believe that we are beginning our third week at Pemi and that plans are already well under way for end-of-first-half festivities like the Birthday Banquet and mid-season awards. Despite the somewhat unpredictable weather of these opening days (as we say in New England, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes!”), the first two weeks have been incredibly busy, with our four program areas – Athletics, Arts & Music, Trips, and Nature (so beautifully coordinated by Assistant Director extraordinaire Ken Moore) – all re-establishing themselves as vibrant facets of life here at Pemi. As I walk from the playing fields to the waterfront, from the Nature Lodge to the Art Building, and from music lessons to the archery range each day, it is inspiring to see our talented teachers sharing the expertise and love of their particular activities. Indeed, after envisioning just this scene all winter, it is quite uplifting to see it in action!

One of the most exciting opportunities we offer our boys each summer is the chance to take occupations with staff members whom we refer to as “Visiting Professionals,” the veteran and professional teachers, craftsmen, and scholars who come to Pemi each summer for a “visit” and to share their passion and knowledge in their field of expertise. Most of our Visiting Professionals are teachers, retired teachers, or professionals in their field who would love nothing more than to spend their entire summer at Pemi but who can commit only to a shorter stint because of the demands on their time back in their “real lives.” So, feeling mutually that it’s a “win/win” to have these folks here for part of the summer, we bring them in, tell the boys about the opportunities that await them, and then witness and enjoy the infusion of energy, wisdom, and skill these highly skilled and energetic people bring to Pemi each summer.

Who are these Visiting Professionals, you ask? In the past couple of summers, we’ve had visits from people like Andy Bale, who teaches photography at Dickinson College, Trey Blair, head baseball coach at Kentucky Country Day School, and Phil Laundry, who runs a fly-fishing business in and around his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. In 2013, we are fortunate enough to have four Visiting Professionals join our learning community: Dave Huippi, Jim Dehls, Stephen Broker, and Conner Scace. Let me tell you a bit about each! 

SteveBrokerSteve Broker is a retired high school and college ecology teacher and current state bird recorder for the great state of Connecticut. Steve joined the Nature Program and spent the first week at Pemi teaching ornithology and an occupation called “reading the woods,” which taught the boys how to unravel the history of our beautiful wooded area through the lingering clues of prior settlement and development, the natural environment, and wetland ecology. Stephen was introduced to Pemi many years ago, as his father Tom was the Waterfront Director here in the 1930’s! When asked about his return to Pemi this summer, Steve offered this: “It was a thrill to finally follow in my father’s footsteps. He always spoke so reverently about his days at Pemi. I look forward to returning next summer and hopefully for many summers beyond.” Sounds good to us, Steve!

DaveDave Huippi comes to us via Northfield Mount Hermon School, where he teaches math and is the varsity boy’s lacrosse coach as well. Dave’s past includes stints coaching and teaching at both the Salisbury School in Lakeville, CT and the Bement School in Deerfield, MA after having played lacrosse for sixteen years at Milton Academy, Trinity College, and for Finland’s national team beginning in 2005. “I’ve heard so much about Pemi from my friend and colleague at Northfield Mount Hermon, Charlie Malcolm. There’s nothing I enjoy as much as teaching lacrosse, no matter what level my players are. It is a pleasure and honor to join the Pemi community for three weeks this summer!” It’s great having Dave with us, especially given that claim to get as much of a charge out of teaching boys who have never held a lacrosse stick as from coaching advanced players.

Jim Dehls is a former Pemi camper and counselor (1959-1965 and 1968) and now parent to daughter Dorin Dehls who is back for her fifth summer at Pemi. Jim’s passion is music, and while at Pemi this week he will be teaching drum circle, assisting with Gilbert and Sullivan, and teaching a cappella. Jim taught high school chorus in Groton, CT for 25 years and is presently the Director of Music at Christ Church Episcopal in Pomfret, CT., where he also teaches private voice and piano lessons. Jim says about his time at Pemi, “I get more back than I give! I love the place so much, how nice for me to be able to re-join the staff again after so many years away!” Jim, by the way, was a primo water-ski instructor in 1968 and one of his goals for this week is to get back out on a slalom ski after years and years on dry land. That’s just the kind of spirit we love to see in Pemi alums!

Conner Scace is no stranger to teaching at Pemi, having worked here the past three summers. This year, Conner’s teaching and schooling schedule prevented a full summer in Wentworth, but we are thrilled to be able to take advantage of his expertise as an entomologist once again. During the year, Conner is studying to teach science full-time in the classroom. “I wish I could be here full-time again this summer, but I am so excited to at least be able to spend three weeks at Pemi, despite the demands on my time!” We share in his excitement – and only wish you could see how excited Conner is able to get your sons about this or that species of ants. Talk about energizing our awareness of even the tiniest denizens and elements in our valley!

So, while we feel very confident that our day-to-day summer staff provides excellent instruction every day for the boys, this infusion of professional instructors for a few weeks each summer is quite the boon. They bring not only their expertise but also, in each case, a real love of education and an appreciation of all that Pemi does so well.

Well, we reckon that about does it for this week. Farewell for now. When next we write, our first-session boys will almost unbelievably be home – and our second session campers will have just arrived for their own 3½ weeks. We can’t wait to greet them, but we will assuredly miss our companions of these most recent slightly dampened weeks. Here’s to a wonderful rest of the summer for all.

— Tom and Danny

 

Summer 2013: Newsletter #1

All’s quiet on the Wentworth front – at least for the moment. It’s Rest Hour on a spectacular June day (the 24th, to be exact) and, after a tasty lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, french fries, and fresh green salad, campers and staff members alike are back in their cabins taking a break in the midst of a busy and productive day. Occupations – our arcane name for instructional activities – started this morning, and by the end of the afternoon, our 168-odd campers will have participated in 4 hours of varied offerings; close to 50 different options in land and water sports, nature study, art and music. 16 intermediate campers just met with our trip counselors (Charlotte Pringle, Matt Bolton, Roisin Beggan, and Dan Reed) on the porch of the messhall, getting filled in on 2 multi-day overnights backpacking jaunts slated to start tomorrow. Tonight, it’s Bean Soup in the Lodge – our weekly equivalent of The Daily Show. Pemi 2013 season is up and running!

Arrival Day (to fill in those of you whom we didn’t have a chance to greet on the shores of the Pond) was handled this year a little differently than in the past, and largely to very good reviews. Veteran boys being driven to camp were invited to arrive in the morning rather than the customary afternoon. As a result, they had a chance to settle into their cabins and, more importantly, connect with their friends from past summers prior to the new boys’ arrival. At the same time, the likes of Danny and Dottie had a chance to catch up with veteran parents in a leisurely fashion over muffins and juice in the Lodge. At lunch, Danny gave a stirring invitation to the returning boys to start demonstrating their leadership right off the bat, welcoming newcomers that afternoon and helping them get their feet on the ground at Pemigewassett. No one took the task more seriously than tow-headed twin brothers Jack and Nick Carter (sons of alum Chris Carter), who stood at the junction of the roads to the Intermediate and Junior camps in their new camp tee-shirts waving energetically and shouting “Welcome to Pemi!” to every passing car. Oh for a video!

One of the innovations an altered schedule allowed for was a brief, informal meeting in the Lodge where Danny, Tom, and Dottie had a chance to speak with new parents about Pemi’s hopes and plans for their sons, the challenges which they as parents might face climbing back into their cars and driving away from their boys, and the growth opportunities the next 3 ½ or 7 weeks would afford to both young and old. The clear highlight of the session, though, involved veteran parents Tripp and Robin Jones, Michael and Caroline Moore, and Karen Grey sharing their observations on what Pemi had done for their boys over the years. Caroline, who lives just across the Connecticut River in Vermont, brought down the house when she confessed to driving back to Pemi during the first week of her son’s first season and parking across the lake with a pair of high-powered binoculars, waiting for an hour to catch a glimpse of the lad. (So it’s not just the NSA that has its eyes on us!) Only when she saw him traipsing happily across a field with a gaggle of new friends did she satisfy herself that he was indeed in the right place. The general laughter that greeted her brave remarks testified to the fraught emotions many were naturally feeling – but also went a long ways towards assuaging some anxieties. It’s hard work being a new camp parent, something both Danny and Julia and Dottie and Tom have gone through themselves and will be more than happy to chat about if any of you wish.

RobertLoeserAlexGoldmanBy 5:55, we were all headed up to the Messhall for the traditional opening meal of pizza and Rockets (an ice-cream confection you ought to know about if you don’t already.) Chef Stacey had outdone herself in both the quality and quantity of the pies, and it was a happy and sated group of young men who found their way down to the Lodge for the inaugural campfire of 2013. A light drizzle and some lowering clouds had indeed forced us indoors, away from the traditional stone circle next to the Senior Beach, but the atmosphere was as electric as ever as the program began. Stalwarts among our younger performers were Alex Goldman and Will Katcher, both performing commendable voice and guitar solos (“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” for Alex and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” for Will), and Saturday-night mainstay Andre Altherr with an a capella rendition of an ethereal Puckish ditty from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The camper performance of the night, though, came (not very surprisingly) from Robert Loeser, who delivered himself of a soulful and truly professional rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good.” You could have heard a pin drop when he finished – until, that is, the old log building rocked with thunderous applause and whistling. Hard to believe any act could have been anything like as well-received in the wake of Robert’s sock-knocking performance – but darned if counselor Teddy Gales (vocals and harmonica) didn’t team up with fellow staff members Matt Cloutier (guitar) and Jack Pierce (fiddle) and improvise a Flight-of-the-Conchords-style number that had everyone apoplectic with mirth. Look for “Move-In Day” to move up the charts faster than the Pemi Kid chasing the Ben and Jerry’s truck. By the time everyone was back in the cabins and tucked in for the night, it was obvious that no one was worried about spotty cuisine or dull entertainment here in 2013. Here’s to more memorable eats and acts in the coming weeks.

Opening Day came, of course, only after a lengthy and diverse training period for staff. Kicking it all off were an on-site Red Cross Lifeguard Training course and the annual Nature Instruction Clinic taught by our Director and Associate Head of Nature, Larry Davis and Deb Kure, aided and abetted by former camper and counselor Russ Brummer (now head of the Science Department at the New Hampton School.) Counselors Kevin Heynig, Dan Walder, Mark Welsh, and Matt Cloutier were joined by a dozen other participants – some staff members at other camps and some graduate students at the University of New Haven – in this nationally-recognized educational clinic. As aforementioned Trippies Roisin, Matt, and Charlotte attended the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mountain Leadership course in Crawford Notch and the surrounding peaks (Dan took the course last summer), the rest of the cabin staff were certified on campus in Wilderness First Aid. It’s hard to overestimate how reassuring it is for us to know that virtually everyone on the staff has had two full days of training in wilderness medicine. Here’s hoping it’s a safe and healthy summer for all, but you could hardly be in a better place for immediate and informed first response. It was also nice for Danny to receive the following from the program coordinator two days after the course: “Dear Danny. Here is the paperwork from your recent WFA course that Courtney taught. Judging by the evals, the course went terrifically, and Court said it was one of the best camp groups she has ever worked with. You must do a great job selecting your staff.” Music to our ears – and we hope to yours as well.

Early on in the week, Danny led a general meeting on “Positive Counseling,” offering some extremely useful guidelines for coaching campers in making the most of their life experiences, here and elsewhere. Look for a fuller iteration of the principles in an upcoming Blog post, but we thought we’d share some portions here:

The key to helping children or adults work their way through difficult situations is to help them understand and identify what choices they can make to make things better for themselves. We try hard here not to step in and “fix” problems for campers, but rather to help them see their options for helping themselves.

For instance, if a camper “Bobby” were unenthusiastic about a particular activity (“Art is so boring!”), someone’s typical response might be either to ask him what makes it so boring, or to ignore the behavior, or try to entertain him in another way while the rest of the group goes down to Art World. None of these solutions, though, engage the camper himself in making the situation better, and some create even bigger problems. In Positive Counseling, we encourage the boy to see the choices he can make to change the situation. We would invite “Bobby” to explore how he wants to feel (“Do you want to stay bored in Art Class, or can you imagine having fun there?”). Then we would help him make a plan that can move him toward what he does want (having fun in Art). Hopefully, he will quickly have some workable suggestions  (“I can ask if I can sit next to my friend.” “ I can ask to pick out my favorite colors.” “ If I finish early, I can draw a picture.”)  If he struggles to come up with strategies, his counselor can offer suggestions, too. Once a plan is formulated, the counselor can support him as he follows through and can check in later to see how it went. Sometimes a new plan needs to be created; sometimes success comes right away. Either way, the follow-through is essential until the camper is back “in balance.”

Steps in Positive Counseling

What do you want?
What are you doing to get it?
Is it working?
What do you see as your options now?
Would any of these be better than what you are doing now?
Take a next step!

Key lessons in empowerment, these – reminiscent of that useful old proverb about teaching a man to fish.

Thursday evening brought one training element that probably deserves notice. Tom led a supper trip up Cardigan Mountain, an impossibly scenic little peak to our southwest offering 360-degree views of the White and Green Mountains alike. The main purpose of the jaunt was, again, to give some hand-on training to the cabin staff who would be leading day trips. We were joined, though, by most of the other staff as well – including our six kitchen assistants, who hail from the Czech Republic (David), Hungary (Daniel, David, and Szervac), Slovakia (Tibor) and Mexico (Vladimir). We can’t remember the last time we were accompanied on this kind of outing by members of the chef’s crew, and the feeling of inclusive solidarity was as special as the sparkling afternoon as it softened into a golden evening. See a group photo taken on the peak of Cardigan and read staff bios, here.

Finally, we thought we’d add a little something to the note Danny sent by email regarding the off chance that some of you will be receiving “The Letter” some time this week. One of our directors, years back, enrolled his eight-year-old daughter in a reputed girl’s camp on Lake Sebago in Maine. The drop-off seemed to be okay – maybe Jill (as we’ll call her) being a little quiet, but there being every promise of a quick adjustment and happy stay. Three days later, “the letter” arrived, falling out of a tear-stained envelope. “Dear Mom and Dad,” it began. “This is no place for a sensitive person. Please take me home.” A few similar missives followed, only to evolve with dizzying suddenness into a newsy and cheerful communiqué addressing all the things Jill hoped to accomplish in coming summers as well. So it often goes.

With that time-validated observation, we’ll close for the week. Look for the first photos of the season on Thursday and then every Sunday and Thursday to follow, with Newsletters, generally, on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, thanks for entrusting us with your sons. We’re relishing our time together.

— Tom and Danny