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

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

 

The Amazing Camp Pemi

by Ian Hohman, age 9

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

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

 

SUMMER

by Caleb Tempro, age 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MY FIRST YEAR AT CAMP PEMIGEWASSETT 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SUMMER VACATION

Rafe Forward, age 12

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

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

Here was my schedule for the first week.

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

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

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

 

…EXCERPT FROM A BOARDING SCHOOL ESSAY

Jack Purcell, age 14

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

 

A VOICE IN THE DARK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HOW ROOFBALL CHANGED MY LIFE

Josh Kaplan, 17 (College application essay)

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

 

Confessions of a Bean Soup Editor, by Sky Fauver

For starters, I’ll admit that I have been suspect of this whole digital Bean Soup concept. For the purpose of self-preservation, I could only imagine how my words from a decade ago could be taken out of context in a court of law and how that would play out with my cellmate:

“What’re you in for?”

“I embellished the time that someone spent in the pagoda.”

Along these lines, I must applaud TRJR for having the foresight that this digital age would come, as I now know why he never claimed any envelope-pushing articles and instead attributed them to his own flesh and blood (sorry, Doc Reed and Daniel). Brilliant. Many of us, on the other hand, feel like we’re donning Editors’ New Clothes. Yes, our names are attached to such hyperbole and misremembering that TMZ would consider us high risk.

My second reservation stemmed from the glorious tradition of receiving Bean Soup during the Holidays.   Like an egomaniac, I would search the annals for the simple mention of my name. And now, we have subscribed to societal standards and we have provided near-instant gratification. The deliberate turning of pages, if one chooses, has ceded to utilizing search terms. Remember the hubbub over the satellite TV in the Junior Lodge? Watching World Series from our diaper-wearing years? That was child’s play. This is like comparing 10’s baseball against Lanakila – (sorry, Danny) – to 15’s soccer vs. Tecumseh.

And third, the traditionalist in me feared that such a move was a gateway to some day having our dear Larry Davis replaced by this guy. Irrational? Absolutely, but that’s what Pemi does to you, and serving as an editor to Bean Soup has fed my delirium.

It should be known that the lens of a Bean Soup editor is entirely skewed, and I am torn as to whether that enhanced or devalued my summers at Pemi. You see, as long as there is no long-term physical or psychological damage, an editor is hoping for fodder.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were schadenfroh, but we did revel in a Dreaded Heel Catch just as we rejoiced when hearing monosyllabic grunts in a Mess Hall announcement.  Frustration and guilt both played into my mind as I left a Campfire that was full of great songs, memorable stories, and a fire that never went out. “Great,” I’d think, “nothing for Monday night with that one.” So much came down to what was worth reporting at the Soup or what could be distorted to the point that it could be reported.

Preparing for the Soup was a lesson in inefficiency, procrastination, unpreparedness, and everything else that I encourage my students to avoid. Without fail, Monday’s dinner was out of the question. We elbowed each other to get access to the lone printer in the Lodge as the seats filled, and we wrote “Things to Look for… “ while in front of the Pemi community.  I recall the bellows of “We want the Soup!” emanating from the Lodge, and I frequently wanted to say, “No, you really don’t. This isn’t as funny as you want and deserve. Seriously, it isn’t.” A few Monday nights felt like distance swims against a front blowing in from the west. The crickets cliché does no justice to those evenings, as there was inevitably a courtesy chuckle; and crickets don’t chuckle. Inevitably, a young, unfiltered camper would let us know on Tuesday morning that we had wasted an evening of his life. However, there were other nights when the energy was as high as straight out of Fenway.

While the ladeling provided unforgettable experiences, much of the fun came in the preparation. Bean Soup can’t be one person’s show, for a collective versatility is paramount. I was part of some great teams and one troika was especially memorable:, The Mean Guy whose humor derived from here, The Nice Guy who could seamlessly go here, and Me. Essentially, I was primarily responsible for Lower One to the compassionate adult – life as a moderate was good. Yes, great fun was had considering what couldn’t be read, but putting together a Monday serving was an absolute joy.

As one who is expected to communicate in written form with regularity, it is hard not to revert to my Bean Soup roots, and even more difficult to remind myself that it’s not allowed. And as we venture further into the Digital Age, I implore that we all keep in mind just how special Pemi and all of its traditions have been to us. Sure, you are now free to access digital versions of Soups past, but enjoy sifting through old boxes to get your hands on the real deal. If you can’t, there is a market!

____________________________________________

Were you at Pemi during the 1950’s or 1960’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1950-1969 (’50, ’54, ’59, ’60 and ’68 unavailable at this time), please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form.  We continue to work on digitizing the remaining issues. You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.

~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

 

 

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

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

1.     Stick with the tried and true

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

2.     Take credit for other people’s work

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

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

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

4.     Choose your co-editors wisely

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

5.     Identify staff members who are good sports:

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

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

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

~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

Lessons That I Learnt from Being a Bean Soup Editor by Justin Thomson Glover

I have been asked to write an introduction to the Saffer, Geoff Morrell (yes that one!), Karl See, and Justin T-G years of Bean Soup, which range between – according to my slightly hazy memory –  1987 through to – in various fits and starts – to the early/mid 90s.

 As I have a fair amount of trouble remembering events such as: the previous week, why I went into the kitchen, or what I may or may not have done to upset my wife and children – it is with some trepidation that I cast my mind back 25 years ago to a small community about 4000 miles away from where I am currently sitting (Spreyton, Devon, England).  But to kick start some thoughts, I thought a list of lessons that I learnt from being a Bean Soup editor is as good as place to start, since the experience of writing, speaking, and listening to the journals of the Pemi community was a fairly influential part of my existence – up til now.  Or at least that’s what my therapist says.

Anyway a list of jumbled and ill-thought-out comments follow below, which already does much to remind me of the mind-set that I experienced as an editor all those years ago.

Pemi Editor List:

  1. Giving yourself time to write an article is generally a good thing but a situation that never seemed to occur due to enormous amounts of “faffing” (an English word – not sure if it exists across the pond?!),  idleness, and constant belief that the whole thing might go away if you waited long enough;
  2. Giving yourself no time at all is stressful, scary, and not necessarily a good thing but remains my ongoing professional and social modus operandi.
  3. Not being funny is generally a bad thing and can lead to mental scarring;
  4. Tom Reed Jr’s standard of article writing means that at least one part of Bean Soup can compete with the best writing in the world. I’m currently working with a couple of vaguely famous screenwriters and I bet they couldn’t have written the epic oeuvre “One Armed Brake-person”;
  5. Sitting on a precariously balanced metal chair 4 feet up on a rickety table over a group of bemused looking 8-year-olds is not advisable;
  6. Having a co-editor who can write very funny articles at a drop of hat is a bad thing, and the noise of a highly appreciative audience’s laughter at his very funny article is a terrible thing to hear when you realize that the article you are about to read parodying an event involving a canoe, a camper, and a cake might not work as well as you initially hoped;
  7. Any article that contains a list is probably a good thing as there is an expectation from the audience that at least one item must be funny.  Even if none of the items do succeed in hitting the spot, the audience do at least appreciate that you can count.  It also allows you to include the word “pagoda,” which never fails to amuse, unless you try and use it in front of a room full of accountants as part of a detailed business presentation or as a way to break the ice with a potential girlfriend;
  8. Reading an article, finishing, and then being able to hear a pin drop is character forming;
  9. Being in the Lodge hearing 200 people laugh at an article and feeling the electricity of a unique camp community buzz all around you and realizing that you are part of one of the great communities in the world is a good thing;
  10. Parodying a Pemi song is life-affirming:

A Song that could be parodied:

Bloomer Girl

In the style of Rakim, KRS – One, Snoop Dogg, and Dr Dre:  Very much unaccompanied with a fair amount of blowing and self-inflicted drum beats with a slight look of wariness and humbleness combined with a pinch of macho pride.

****: ****; *****:  ! ! !
Bloomer Bloomer Girl;
*******; ******:
***;
********; *****,
Bloomer Girl.

 

A new song called “Pagoda” – in the style of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

I would hope that if we could get the Junior camp to memorise the words it might go viral very quickly.

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad smell

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oooh!
Oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh!
Caught in a bad smell

Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah!
Pago-Pag-o-dah!
Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!
Ooh what a bad smell

Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah!
Pago-aha-da-ah!
Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!
That’s quite a bad smell.

Were you at Pemi during the 1980’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1980-1989, please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form.  You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.  ~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

Soups Up! Bean Soup: Going Digital

Pemi must really be coming out of the Stone Age, if the most determinedly Luddite of its institutions, Bean Soup, is in the process of digitizing all of its past numbers. What’s next? Virtual Polar Bears? Infrared webcams for night patrol? Spy satellites in stationary orbit over Camp Tecumseh? Tweets from the One-Armed Brakeman? Actually, Bean Soup began its descent into the technological maelstrom several years ago when editors Josh Fischel, James Finley, and Ian Axness regularly slunk to the front of the Lodge on Monday nights with laptops in hand, leaving many of us wondering whether they had actually written the material they were reading or if it was simply streaming from internet sites like The Onion, Al Jazeera, or Damn You, Autocorrect! But it’s true. Eat your heart out Bob Dylan: we are scanning and digitizing all of our back pages. Moth and worm may corrupt all those thousands of paper copies strewn out across the decades and the time zones, but nothing short of solar flares that muscle out past the orbit of Mercury will take all those incomprehensible Junior One articles, all those oh-so-politically-incorrect Ogontz (or Wyoda, or Lochearn, or Merriwood) Day articles, all those endless strings of Tecumseh Day articles out of our collective ken. For former campers, it’s going to be like having every day be candy day. For former counselors, it’s going to be like having days off four times a week and nights the other three. For former Bean Soup editors, it’s going to be like a nightmare where you can never, ever escape your lurid past. Seriously, this is a GOOD THING for reasons even cynical Bean Soup humor can’t obscure. We all owe a special vote of thanks to the folks who are making this happen, Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano, Ander Wensberg, and especially Robie “Calvin” Johnson. Their efforts (and the support of the Pemi Board) have been remarkable.

Here’s the deal. We’re going decade-by-decade, generally working from the present back into in the past. In case those moths and worms have been active in your own personal bookshelves, any of you who were eligible for a print copy of our esteemed journal in any past year can request a searchable pdf copy of the same. Blast notification will go out as each decade becomes available, and if you want to exercise your digital option, simply email Nikki. We will also occasionally re-publish select sections of various numbers for celebratory or informational reasons – and anyone interested in a legitimate historical or familial project that requires access to larger portions of the archive is welcome to request that. We’ll do our best to oblige in ways that appropriately respect the privacy of past campers and staff.

Nikki informs me that each decade’s release will feature a preface (or perhaps a legal disclaimer) from a distinguished Bean Soup editor of the past: the likes of Justin Thompson-Glover, Sky Fauver, Brad Saffer, or Karl See. For this first notice, she’s asked what Rob Grabill would alternatively call “an extinguished ex-editor” – that would be me – to do the honors. Well, I was indeed an editor for portions of three decades, beginning in the late sixties and ending in the late eighties. (If you don’t believe me, look at how much hair I’m missing.) Adding to that my earlier years as a camper and counselor and subsequent years as a director, I can say that I have laughed (and sometimes grimaced) my way through over fifty years of “Monday Night Fever.” When I think about Pemi, I think about campfires a lot. I think about Gilbert and Sullivan and singing in the messhall. I think about Tecumseh Days and hut trips to the Presidentials. But, in many ways, Bean Soup is the single thing that – if it could indeed be described to anyone – I would offer as a window into the soul of Pemi. Sure, part of the reason is because it documents a lot of what we actually do and say and think at camp (and a lot, too, of what we most certainly never did or said or thought!) But it’s the flow of good feeling, and common engagement, and masterful language, and often wicked humor that we witness every Monday up there that says it all – or, if not all, then at least so, so well. In the words of Doc Reed’s Campfire Song, Bean Soup often enough documents “mistakes of the head” – and it may, in fact, be guilty of a few of its own. (There have been times when a few folks here and there may have thought the Beans had been traded in for the Means. In fact, way back when, new campers were told to carve those wooden spoons because there would indeed BE bean soup served up at 7:30 in the Lodge. It was a bald-faced lie!) But “good will in the heart” has almost always prevailed, and more boys (and now gals) than I are likely to have learned how to be observant, and smart, and cutting but caring as much from Bean Soup as from anywhere else in life. What a blessing to come to a place like Pemi where you can do so much, meet so many worthwhile and welcoming people, grow in so many ways – and all with the constant reminder that you can care a lot about a lot of things without taking yourself too seriously.

So, let’s all take a moment to celebrate the Joe Campbell’s, and Rollie DeVere’s, and Bill Westfall’s, and Rob Grabill’s who have over the years invented the sport of Gummidge, and the Adventures of  Doorlock Sholmes, and Things to Look For, and the Ol’ Perfessor and Clive Bean. As Doc Nick used to say about Pemi’s history in the first Sunday Meeting of the year, “Yea, it is a goodly heritage.” (I think, in fact, he was plagiarizing from the Bible!) So it is with Bean Soup’s own storied history. Here’s to its rebirth in a form such that “age cannot wither it, nor custom stale its infinite variety.” (I think I may be plagiarizing, too. Just can’t quite remember.)

And now, on with the Soup.

~      Tom Reed, Jr.

 

Were you at Pemi during the 1970’s?  If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1970-1979, please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form.  You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.  ~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano

The True Legend of the One-Armed Brakeperson

From the Pemi archives comes this wonderful poem by Tom Reed, Jr., originally written in the 1970s but shared more recently at campfire. The subtitle is A Sentimental, Moral, Melodramatic Tragi-Comedy in Tetrameter Couplets. We hope you enjoy this poem, which begins with the conventions of the ghost-story genre– and ends with an unexpected twist.

In former years, a woman’s fate

Was sadly in the home to wait

While menfolk ventured forth each day

To earn their daily bread some way.

But now and then a female few,

In search of something bold to do,

Abandoned dresses, skirts, and shawls

To seek a job – in overalls.

 

In New York town, in 1910,

One woman thus hood-winked the men

And won a job for all her pains,

One working New York Central trains.

She tucked her hair up in a hat

And bound her chest down extra flat,

Said “Dang” instead of “goodness sakes,”

And joined the crew that manned the brakes.

 

It went just fine for several years:

She’d join the boys for days-end beers,

Then hurry home to spend her nights

Engaging in a woman’s rites.

She’d let her hair down, brush her curls,

Adorn her throat with broach and pearls,

And now and then bewail the strife

Occasioned by her double life.

She had respect, and weekly pay,

Secure employment day to day –

But what a price to pay for these –

To curb all femininities!

 

By middle June, in 1912,

She’s almost vowed her job to shelve

And find a line of work, perchance,

That called for persons, not just pants.

But times were changing far too slow

To give our friend an option, so

She soon resolved one Saturday

To force the issue, come what may.

 

To soothe her soul, it was her plan

To start one work day as a man

But change her clothes to skirt and blouse

Before the train left stationhouse.

She’d do her job just as before,

But play the man she would no more.

“It’s as I am I’ll work,” she said –

But hearken what befell instead.

 

The train was packed that fateful day

With campers bound for far away,

In flight from Gotham’s filthy air

In search of sylvan settings fair.

Among the throngs that boarded then,

A group of stalwart Pemi men

And neophytes, yet to be boys;

The coaches rang with joyous noise.

The whistle blew. They took their seats,

Descending on the fruits and sweets

Their mothers had, with loving care,

Provided for their travelling fare.

Some told of summers spent before

Along the Lower Baker shore,

While others boasted, proud and flushed,

How old Tecumseh’s teams they’d crushed.

 

They passed through Greenwich, Stamford too,

Then north towards Hartford fairly flew.

The day was clear; the rails were fast;

New England’s landscape hurtled past.

The engine belched out smoke and steam;

‘Twas bliss to hear the whistle scream.

Said engineer to fireman, “Son,

It’s apt to be a record run.”

 

Then suddenly, above the din

Of racing engine, whistling wind,

There came a sound he knew too well –

The dread alarm, the brakeman’s bell.

 

With brakes engaged, he throttled back.

The engine’s wheels locked on the track;

With thund’rous crash and deaf’ning squeal,

There rose the reek of scorching steel.

Inside the coaches, standees stumbled.

Ladies screamed as luggage tumbled.

All surged forward with a rush,

Then all was still – a deathly hush.

The engine whispered, idling there;

The smoke rose straight in still June air.

 

The train crew, shaking off a daze,

Back through the coaches made their ways

To find the one who’d stopped the train

By yanking on the braking chain.

Between two cars they found a lass –

Her eyes were fixed, and glazed as glass.

She knelt upon the platform there.

Tears coursed her cheeks, bedewed her hair.

“He almost fell,” she murmured then,

Her voice most strange – so thought the men.

“He wandered out. I saw him go.

I didn’t know his purpose, though.”

Again, that voice – familiar sound:

The men gazed quizzically around.

A little boy was standing there,

A Pemi cap on tousled hair.

 

“I almost fell. I came so near.

She saved me. Her. This lady here.”

The woman stood. They eyed her face.

A sudden silence seized the place

‘Til, to a man, they recognized

The wench who’d worked with them, disguised.

“What’s this?” asked one, the engineer.

“I smell a rat. It’s Joey here!”

“Not Joe,” cried one, “Perhaps Joanne,

A tom-boy dressed up like a man.”

 

Some laughed aloud, some quipped and joked,

But others felt their anger stoked

And scorned the woman who could deign

To hide her sex to work the train.

“You had no right,” they yelled with rage.

“You should know better, at your age:

A woman’s place is in the home.

This world’s for men to rule and roam.”

 

‘Midst slurs and insults such as these

She crumpled once more to her knees.

They turned to leave – but then the lad

Cried, “Please, sirs, look. I think it’s bad!”

The woman knelt, just as before –

But there, advancing, ‘cross the floor,

A crimson fan, a scarlet flood –

“Oh God,” said one – “I think it’s blood!”

“It’s not just there, look over here,”

Sighed the conductor, drawing near.

“That bumper’s covered with the stuff!

Oh no, please God, I’ve seen enough!”

The others turned, then staggered back,

For there, stretched out upon the track,

Half wound in fabric, drenched in gore,

A human arm – attached no more.

 

A hammer blow, straight to the brain,

Could not have dealt these men more pain.

Their words of cruelty echoed loud

For e’en the harshest of the crowd.

In silence there they stood as dead,

‘Til bowed by grief, the fireman said,

“We’re sorry ma’am. We didn’t know

The crashing cars had hurt you so.

We didn’t mean those things we spoke.

Forgive us please. Our hearts are broke.”

 

“Forgive?” she sighed, with distant air

While staring at each train man there.

“I think I’ve heard too much today

To give forgiveness any play.”

With that, she lost all consciousness.

 

They cared for her, I must confess.

They put her in a doctor’s care

And paid for all expenses there.

Once she was well, and passing strong,

They asked if she would come along

And join them daily, once again,

As brakeman on the New York Train.

With cool politeness, she declined.

She said, “I’ve got a yen to find

A place where I can change the ways

That men treat women all their days.”

 

Her task was hard, her search was long,

As any quest to right a wrong,

But now and then her thoughts returned

To the Pemi lad whose loved she’d earned.

To make an epic story short,

She soon resolved her best resort

Was haunting woods on Pemi Hill –

No, not to torture, maim, or kill

But just to do the things she could

To banish wrong and foster good.

 

So Pemi men, and Pemi boys,

When next you hear an eerie noise,

Examine well your heart and mind

And tell us, truly, what you find:

If you think women equal, peers,

Compose yourself, allay your fears;

The one-armed brakeperson is here

To bring you comfort, joy, and cheer.

But if your way’s to take a poke

At womankind, in tale or joke,

Prepare yourselves – for one night soon,

You may be moved to change your tune.

For though she’s loathe to slash and bind,

The one-armed brakeperson’s inclined

To sit you down and lecture you

Until you for forgiveness sue.

 

In midnight woods, ‘midst bugs galore,

She’ll let you know what lies in store

For domineering males and those

Who make of half our race their foes.

 

So there you have it, straight and true –

What one-armed brakepeople will do:

They seldom terrorize the place.

Their task? To heal the human race.

 

–TRJR (possessed by the spirit of someone)

© 2011