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

2016 Final Newsletter (#8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clive Bean Reviews Pirates of Penzance 

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“Police” directing traffic

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

Pemi Pirates of Penzance, Owen Lee

Pirate Lieutenant Samuel, Owen Lee

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

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Wards of Major General Stanley

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

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Rob, as Ruth

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

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

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George Cooke

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

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Oliver Giraud and Michaella Frank

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

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

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

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

— Tom

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to 2014…

Summer 2014: Final Newsletter of the Season

It’s Sunday morning, August 17th, and a gentle rain is falling in the Lower Baker Valley. The clouds are low, and we have to take it on faith that the top of Pemi Hill is still there. Aside from the occasional call our local loon, the place is unbelievably quiet, having said farewell to 170 campers yesterday morning and currently bidding fond farewells to dozens of staff members this forenoon. We hope that our previous blog postings have conveyed something of the quality (and diverse activities) of the 2014 season, which we would certainly rank in the first echelon. For this, our last epistle of the summer, we’ll revert to our recent formula and conclude with a transcript of Danny’s toast at the final banquet this past Thursday evening and Clive Bean’s (that’s Clive Barnes’s New Hampshire second cousin, thrice-removed, on his aunt Petunia’s side) glowing review of this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, H.M.S. Pinafore. And so, with no more ado…

Danny’s Banquet Toast – August 14, 2014

May I propose a toast…?

Here’s to the summer of 2014 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 107th in Pemi’s rich and storied history, a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, nine weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic the Life Guard Training Clinic and the first ever shop clinic, and 14 weeks ago for the grey beards who met in Gloucester, Mass way back in May to begin sharing our dreams, ideas and inspirations for this 107th Pemi summer.

Danny Kerr, Final Banquet

Danny Kerr, Final Banquet

Here’s to a summer that concludes about as late in August as a summer at Pemi can end, with days growing shorter, leaves turning an autumn tint, and boys playing roof ball in the evening with barely a shred of daylight light, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible by the collective efforts of the Pemi men and women in this room.

Here’s to the 259 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, 86 of whom were here for the full session, the largest number in my short tenure at Pemi, campers from 27 states of the United States and 8 countries around the world. And here’s to the new flags representing campers and staff from Poland, Colombia, Sierra Leon and Monaco that Larry added to our collection in the mess hall this summer. Here’s to the 81 campers who made the decision to attend sleep-away camp for the first time this summer; and, yes, Charlie Scott, Harry Tuttle, Per Soderberg, Ezra Nugiel, Patterson Malcolm and Andrew Virden, here’s to campers in their eighth.

Here’s to the talented and dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2014, to the cabin counselors and assistant counselors, ten of whom are former Pemi boys returning for their first summer back after a year or two or more away, the young men who shared closest 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 and we senior staff cannot.

Here’s to the influx this summer of young professionals and young families to our staff, to their wisdom, and experience, to their appreciation of community and also to their very young children who graced our community this season; is there anything more heartwarming, pure, and innocent to behold than watching those beautiful children explore the wonders of Pemi, dance unabashedly to Pemi songs, and remind us that camp is, after all, a child’s world.

Here’s to the hard-working crew that Reed Harrigan leads so vigorously and affably each day; Jeremy, Ruth, Sam, Kenny and Chris, the folks who allow us to take full advantage of this beautiful campus…to Office Manager extraordinaire, Heather, who never gets enough credit, and to Kim, who masterminded our ACA accreditation process this summer and deserves most of the credit for the 100% we received on those 200 plus standards. Indeed, no camp is perfect, but on August 5 Kim had us as close to perfect as you possibly can be for our ACA visitors.

Here’s to our magnificent kitchen crew—our blushing bride Stacey, Pappie, Nancy, Betty, Dale, Servacs, Bonifacs, Victor, Michael, Zybenek, and Micoh—who spoiled us with their herculean task of providing delicious and plentiful meals three times a day; something tells me we’ll have a chance to thank them again later this evening.

And a special shout out to our remarkable young nurses, Emily and Megan, whose enthusiasm, great cheer, and warm care was so vital in battling the virus that made its way through the ranks this summer. Thank you Emily and Megan for remaining so upbeat, positive, professional and resolute despite the unexpected curveball that was thrown your way in your very first summer as camp nurses…bravo!

Here’s to the amazing program at Pemi, to Kenny, the ”kid from Cleveland” who masterminds it all, to Laura down in Art World who proved to us that there really is life after Deb Pannell, to Charlie and all the coaches in the athletics’ program who always put values such as sportsmanship first….boom! To Tom and the trippies who sent us tramp, tramp, tramping each day out to the majestic mountains and the mighty rivers nearby, to Dorin and the beautiful music she and her staff helped us produce, to Olivia, Paige, and Emily and all the safe fun we had in the water, to Harry O in the shop, Chris on the courts, Larry and Deb in the Nature Lodge, Jonathan on the archery range, Sam down in Lax world, and all of the other teachers who brought major energy and mojo to occupation periods every day!

Here’s to Dottie – for anything and everything!

Here’s to the weather this summer, so many glorious and beautiful NH days, the crisp, quiet mornings, those blazing July and August afternoons, and the peaceful, golden haze across the Lower Baker Pond at day’s end that never gets old to behold.

Here’s to the things that made Pemi 2014 feel unique: “FAST” weeks and stick ball tournaments, a new Upper 4 and a newer Upper 5, ten-year ties, more barrel ball and chess than anyone can remember, sculling, Uncle Ed, the new path out of the Messhall, the morning sound of the “bangers and screamers” that kept the geese away, yogurt-gate, Lebron returning home, Jon Bernthal walking live for a visit, Pemi Westers being sent off by Pemi Easters, our new song book and the beautiful face lift in Senior Lodge that allows us to collectively gaze over the glassy, reflective lake beyond.

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we laugh at ourselves and anticipate “things to look for,” Campfire when we entertain ourselves to the setting sun, and to Sunday Meeting when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as the great Messhall fire of 1965, the flood of 1973, Roland, our knight with the unexpected star on his shield, and how one at-bat changed everything for the Red Sox Nation.

And of course, here’s to our 15-year-olds, to their three wins on Tecumseh Day, to the leadership they provided, and to the lifelong friendships that they have created. I know from personal experience that some day you’ll participate in each other’s weddings, be Godparents to each other’s children and, hopefully, become the next generation of counselors at Pemi.

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

And finally here’s to our firm belief that Pemi is a place where, with every new summer, campers have another opportunity to be the person they want to be, to meet challenges with success and pride, to thrive in an inclusive community, to learn independence, to gain confidence, to become fine young men and adults.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2014.

Good luck, long life, and joy!

 

Clive Bean Reviews Pinafore

The Wentworth, New Hampshire dramatic season came to a triumphant climax this past Tuesday and Wednesday evening with this year’s Pemigewassett Gilbert and Sullivan production, H.M.S. Pinafore. The directing debut of first-year Head of Music Dorin Dehls, the show was marked by strong ensemble singing and acting and exceptional performances from a number of talented leads. The first operetta ever produced at Pemi was this same Pinafore back in 1951. And, in answer to the Beatle’s timeless question, we can say with absolute certainty about G&S “Yes, we’ll still need you, yes, we’ll still feed you, when you’re sixty-four.”

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Details, details…

Ms. Dehls was the emblem of patient persistence all season long as she brought both the “girls’” and sailors’ choruses up to a very high standard indeed. The whole show turns on a dramatic moment when Captain Corcoran finds himself as exasperated as Ben Ridley discussing the theory of general relativity with Alex Duval—and consequently lets out an explosive D-word. Both choruses are meant respond with a complex, syncopated expression of musical horror and, while this reviewer has been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 20 Pemi Pinafore’s, he can never remember the cast getting it perfectly right until Tuesday night. And, damme, if it wasn’t perfect Wednesday night as well. Sir Joseph’s band of adoring female relatives, featuring Graham Purcell, Eli Brennan, James Minzesheimer, Owen Lee, Walker Goodridge, Henry Moore, Matt McDonough, Tucker Jones, James Kemp, and Matt Cloutier, were as flawlessly musical as they were beautiful—especially once “Matilda” Cloutier had shaved off her Middlebury mountain-man beard. Opposite them, Alex and Jon Duval, Harry Tuttle, Pierce Haley, Hugh Jones, Michael Kerr, Theo Nichols, Will Katcher, Sam Seymour, and Fred Seebeck manned the Pinafore and courted the girls with all the energy and excitement of male pit bulls at a poodle fashion show. Strutting the boards for the first time this season was Director Danny Kerr, seeking temporary refuge from the stress and loneliness of all-camp command by fleeing to the nautical mosh pit that was the ship’s forecastle. We’re sure his wife Julia was happy to see that Danny’s tattoo featured her name and not something really silly—like “Uma.”

Sailors

Sailors

Sisters, cousins, and aunts

Sisters, cousins, and aunts

 

Nick Gordon as Bill Bobstay

Nick Gordon as Bill Bobstay

Tom Reed, Admiral;  Dan Reed, Captain Corcoran

Tom Reed as Sir Joseph Porter and Dan Reed as Captain Corcoran

This year’s leads were equally strong. Andrew DeGaetano turned in a solid performance as Carpenter’s Mate Bob Becket (no relation to Samuel), handling the bass line of the “British Tar” trio with singular volume and assurance. Nicholas Gordon literally rose from his hospital bed to give us a compelling Bill Bobstay, Boatswain’s Mate. Despite a fever in excess of 102 on Wednesday night, he sassed Dan Reed’s Captain Corcoran with the edginess of Lindsay Lohan back in traffic court again. Becky Noel was as winning on stage as she has been at campfires all summer, finally snagging Sir Joseph as a husband and proving that persistence gets you what you want, even if it involves a marriage so tight it would be illegal in any of the lower 48 states. Speaking of Sir Joseph, Tom Reed returned to the role he must have done ten times if he’s done it once. Never before, though, had he been able to bolster his dismissive attitude towards Captain Corcoran with all of the real-world frustration built up over the years trying to get son Dan to turn off lights in the Reed house in order to save the planet. Or at least trying to have everything else his own way.

Larry Davis as Dick Deadeye

Larry Davis as Dick Deadeye

Will

Will Henry as Little Buttercup

Larry Davis was never better as Dick Deadeye, especially on Wednesday night. Even though Larry finally has internet-access in the Nature Lodge and has every reason to feel blissfully happy, he managed to play with total conviction a character so dark and bitter he makes John Boehner seem like Kermit the Frog. Stealing the show more often than not, however, was Will Henry as Little Buttercup. From the time he first stepped out onto the stage to sell Gold Bond, Skittles, and Axe body wash to the amorous sailors, Will and his hairy chest were absolutely unforgettable elements of the production. So alluring was Mr. (or is it Ms.?) Henry that van driver Kenny Morrell confessed directly after Tuesday night’s show that he’d fallen in love with the dude. -Ette! Ah, the power of art!

Robert Loeser as Ralph Rackstraw

Robert Loeser as Ralph Rackstraw

Jacob Berk as Josephine

Jacob Berk as Josephine

Speaking of art, first-time leads Robert Loeser and Dan Reed were flawless in their roles as Ralph Rackstraw and Captain Corcoran. Robert managed to deliver with perfect clarity lines of dialogue as tangled as a junior cabin’s rope in the Woodsdudes’ Day bear-bagging event. The part of Ralph is fraught with notes most people would have to sit in ice water to reach, but Robert nailed them with the ease of a Pavarotti – proving that he’s a clone of more musical mega-stars than just Adele. Meanwhile, Dan Reed gave us the simple but well-meaning Captain with a singular dramatic flair, making the show especially relevant for Junior campers with short attention spans by making it clear that Victorian sailors, too, worried about things like yogurt rations and Tecumseh Day. Dan was onstage for the bulk of the second act, and his capacity to deliver number after demanding number with undiminished energy, precision, and dramatic flair speaks well to his potential for starring in the next Baz Luhrman filmic extravaganza, The Walking Dead Learn to Run. Rounding out the principals was Jacob Berk, for whom this was not actually the first lead. He had shared the role of Celia in last summer’s Iolanthe, playing the first night before being whisked off for an exclusive gig with Cher at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. This summer, though, he had Josephine all to himself, and he positively owned the role handling his solos with dramatic flair and pinpoint musical accuracy and easily matching Robert/Ralph in their icy hot duet, “Refrain Audacious Tar.” It clearly hadn’t hurt that Jacob had previewed his performance at Greenleaf Hut for an enraptured audience from a local girls’ camp.

We have already mentioned rookie director Dorin Dehls remarkable job whipping the show into such impressive shape. One-man orchestra Josh Hess was masterful at keyboard, even though it was rumored that he had refused a thousand-dollar bonus had he been willing to sport a nautical tattoo on the back of his shaved hear. Deborah Fauver’s weeks of hard and creative work as wardrobe mistress and backstage manager contributed incalculably to the success of the show. And, perhaps for the first time ever, the set and lighting drew appreciative applause from the both nights’ audiences as soon as the curtain first opened. We understand that special thanks are owed to Reed Harrigan and Ken Morrell for their invaluable technical assistance in these to realms.

Will Clare and Dan Walder, guards

Will Clare and Dan Walder, guards

Finally, a special shout out to curtain-pullers and nautical bouncers Will Clare and Danno Walder, who somehow managed to steal the show by standing there and trying to look stern and impassive. There must just be something about these two guys that makes it absolutely ridiculous when they try to act serious. In any case, it was two nights truly to remember. Looking forward to the 2015 production of The Mikado, we advise you to book early. Tickets are bound to fly out the door as quickly as Mitch McConnell leaves a meeting with President Obama. Until then, happy theater going!

~ Clive Bean

With thanks to Clive, we’ll close the last official newsletter of the 2014 season. It’s been an excellent year, and as we begin (unbelievably) to put Pemi to bed for the winter, we thank as well all of you parents who entrusted your boys to us for the summer. We hope to see all of them who can return in June or July of 2015. To that end, look for applications to be made available to veteran families on or about October 15 (and to new families towards the end of the month.) For now, goodbye, and have a wonderful Fall.

~ Tom and Danny

 

 

 

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.          

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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.          

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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.

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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

Summer 2012: Final Newsletter, #8

It’s Tuesday, August 14th, and boy is it quiet here at Pemi! The sun is out, there’s a soft but steady breeze wafting down the lake, the grass has greened up after some Pemi Week showers – but there are about ten people, total, on camp grounds. Our 105th Reunion is coming up this weekend, with some 170 folks scheduled to attend, but we’re currently enjoying a brief lull between the regular season and that special alumni event. Many of the staff who will be helping out at week’s end are grabbing some much-deserved time off – some in Boston, some in Vermont, and a major group spearheaded by Jay and Andrew McChesney paddling down the Saco River from Conway NH to the state of Maine. So, all in all, it’s a perfect time to scribe the last Newsletter of the 2012 season.

It seems appropriate to begin with a toast Danny offered at our Final Awards Banquet last Thursday evening. It does a wonderful job reminiscing about many memorable aspects of the season – with appropriate gratitude for the inspiring and often selfless contributions of so many.

Danny offers a toast at Final Banquet

May I propose a toast…

Here’s to summer 2012 at Camp Pemigewassett, the 105th in Pemi’s proud history, a summer that began seven weeks ago for campers, eight weeks ago for staff, and as many as ten weeks ago for counselors attending the Wilderness First Aid Clinic, the Nature Clinic, or Life Guard Training Clinic. (We won’t even try to calculate how many weeks ago Zach Barnard began his summer.)

Here’s to a camp season that ends with days growing shorter and the first hints of autumn in the air, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.

Here’s to the 270 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond, campers from over twenty of these United States and twelve foreign countries; and here’s to the Chilean and United Arab Emirates flags that we added to our collection in the mess hall this summer, as well. Here’s to campers in their first year at Pemi and, yes, TH Pearson, here’s to a camper in his eighth.

Here’s to the dedicated counselor staff at Pemi in 2012, to the cabin counselors and AC’s who become family with the boys, to the program staff that teach them skills that will inspire them for a lifetime, and to the administrators who do their best to support and guide both the staff and the campers throughout the summer.

Here’s to the hard-working maintenance crew that Chris Jacobs leads so vigorously each day, allowing us safe access to this beautiful campus; to Heather Leeds and Kim Malcolm in the office (who never get enough credit), and here’s to Stacey Moore and her crew who confirmed for us what we hoped was true – that the days of delicious food cooked from scratch and fresh produce from the nearby farms of New Hampshire and Vermont can still a part of the Pemi dining experience.

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

Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and to Kenny Moore for keeping everyone moving in the right direction; here’s to Deb Pannell down in Art World, to Charlie Malcolm and all the coaches in the athletics program, to Tom Reed and the dozens of trips that head to the mountains each week, to maestro Ian Axness and the beautiful music we enjoy, to Larry Davis’s world-class nature program, to Jeff Greene and Boomer [the robotic ball feeder] and the thousands of tennis balls we hit each summer, and to all of the great things that happen down on the waterfront.

Here’s to the weather, so many beautiful days— long days with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons, and that peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s closing that we never tire of stopping to admire. Here’s also to the thunderstorm on July 17th that gave a unique welcome to our new second-half campers and that left its mark on a tree outside the mess hall, a subtle reminder of the power of Mother Nature.

Here’s to athletic contests against our friendly rivals in the Baker Valley, contests hard-fought, the victories, the ones that got away, and of course, here’s to our Tecumseh Day victory (wow, did I just say that?) and to the celebration that ensued, not just here at camp, but throughout the ranks of Pemi alums scattered around the world.  And, thank you Charlie for so poetically explaining to us that the Hat “does not represent winning; it represents our journey together. You, Camp Pemigewassett, are the Hat….”

Here’s to the things that are so uniquely Pemi: leaning flag poles, Pink Polar Bear, the Pee-rade, saxophone on senior beach at sunset, FRB, distance swims, Woods Dude’s Day, dope stops, the Pemi Kid, and the everlasting quest to discover “What’s a bean?” And of course, here’s to Metal Boy (Tom’s personal creation) and to the wonderful mid-season performance this summer that he inspired. 

Here’s to all-camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we’re loud and we laugh at ourselves, Campfire when we’re creative and artistic, and Sunday Service when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as history at Pemi, the beauty and power of water, “tipping points,” life-changing travel experiences, and the notion that there are many ways to be a Pemi Kid.

But most importantly, here’s to the life-long friendships that are created each summer at Pemi – and to the reality that Pemi is a place where you will likely discover worthy passions to inspire you for the rest of your life.

Here’s to Camp Pemigewassett 2012.

Good luck, long life and joy!

Many aspects of the Banquet itself are rich in tradition and significance: the salute to the chefs (this year especially fervent given Stacey Moore’s wonderful success on the culinary front); the penultimate singing of “The Marching Song,” basically Pemi’s national anthem; the annual observation that, for all of the accomplishments celebrated at this “awards feast,” perhaps the most meaningful memento to be carried away is the simple triangular felt banner that each diner finds at his place (this year, obviously, “Pemi ’12”) signaling not a deed or an act or a victory over self or opponent – but simply being a member of a committed and supportive community. That said, each year’s “special awards,” voted on by the entire staff, bring the evening to an emotional conclusion in ways that will not soon be forgotten. Think Academy Awards, but about exemplary boys, and many of them totally off-script. We’re not sure we’ve ever shared all of the inscriptions, so it makes sense to offer them to you here, together with 2012’s “winners.”

Jivan Khakee and Jack Purcell

The Johnnie’s Medal, “For Dramatics,” went to Nick Gordon for his stellar rendition of the title character in the first-session Pemi-premiere musical, Metal Boy. Earning the Scott S. Withrow Gilbert and Sullivan Award for his lead in Pirates of Penzancewas Ezra Nugiel. And the third of the “performing arts awards” – Doc Reed’s Musician Trophy, “In memory of Doc Reed for . . . the camper who has contributed most to the music at Pemi” – recognized both Jivan Khakee (clarinet) and Jack Purcell (guitar).

Byron Lathi and Sam Grier

Sam Grier and Byron Lathi shared the Pemigewassett Competitive Swimming Trophy, “Awarded to that member of the team whose swimming ability, competitive spirit, and sportsmanship combine to make him a leader among his teammates.” The Pemigewassett Soccer Trophy, recognizing “that boy who has demonstrated the greatest command of the sport of soccer, exemplified by his interest, determination, ability, and sportsmanship, went to Pepe Periel and Jamie Nicholas. Al Fauver, iconic former director, read the inscription not only for the Swimming Trophy (Al was a star swimmer at Oberlin, one of the early collegians to adopt the butterfly stroke) but also for the Fauver Baseball Trophy, “In memory of Doc Gar and Doc Win and the competitive spirit exemplified by them”: the winner this season was Oscar Tubke-Davidson, star pitcher and hitter for the 12-and-under team. Culminating the athletic awards, as always, was the Counselors’ Athletic Trophy, “for fine sportsmanship and all-around athletic proficiency and interest.” This year, the award went to Thomas Bono and Patterson Malcolm. Surely one of the highlights of the evening was Athletic Director Charlie Malcolm reading his son’s name for this honor (after carefully recusing himself from all discussion.)

Caleb Tempro

It is not every summer that the Courage Award is granted. The inscription is as follows: “To the boy in camp who has displayed exceptional courage in overcoming pain, adversity, or self-doubt; in confronting danger to himself of his fellows; in standing by his convictions; or in defending the rights and convictions of others – and so has helped us all to find and draw upon our own reserves of inner strength as we meet the tests of life.” Bravery has always been very much in evidence at Pemi, whether it be facing a hurler with a wicked curve ball or a trail steeper than one thought possible. We have never thought this award, though, is about anything vaguely “routine,” even if it is something like coping with the pain of a broken bone. This year, however, marked the culmination of one wonderful camper’s multi-year journey from an all-consuming fear of deep water to becoming a valuable member of the competitive swimming team and ultimately “swimming his distance,” covering half the length of the lake in water over fifty feet deep. Caleb Tempro’s name was met with a palpable rush of recognition and appreciation.

Andrew Kanovsky, Phineas Walsh, and Hugh Jones

Every year, it’s truly remarkable how each of these special awards commands the rapt attention of the whole camp family – and how thunderous is the response not only to the naming of the recipients but also to that moment when the winners hang the plaques back on the wall in anticipation of next season. None of the honors, however, equal these last three in terms of communal impact and appreciation. They are not about physical skills – or easily-measurable deeds – or formally-calibrated acts. They are about character, and about the opportunities, both individual and communal, that any educational institution like Pemi holds closest to its heart. The Achievement Trophy reads “Inscribed each year hereon is the name of him who has made the greatest all-around achievement, measured by the dual consideration of distance gained and goal achieved.” Winners this year were Andrew Kanovsky and Phineas Walsh (Juniors), Nicholas Gordon (Lowers), Hugh Jones (Uppers), and JJ Murray (Seniors.) The Divisional Citizenship Trophy goes to “the best all-around citizen in each division whose generous and unselfish spirit gives success, happiness, and self-esteem to others.” (What greater gifts to others?) Singled out from a strong group of nominees for 2012 were Teddy Foley and Tate Suratt (Juniors), Nick Toldalagi (Lowers), Pepe Periel (Uppers), and Zach Leeds (Seniors.) And finally, the Founders’ Citizenship Trophy: “In memory of Doc Gar, Win, and Reed, on this trophy is inscribed each year the name of him who is considered to have contributed most to camp beyond the line of duty.” This year’s winner was in his fifth year at Pemi, coming to us all the way from Papua New Guinea. Unremittingly active, continually sunny, infallibly kind and considerate, Sompy Somp brought the house down when his name was read and he strode modestly to the front of the room. This was Pemi operating on a global scale, and a truly fitting ending to a festive and emotional occasion celebrating a banner Pemi year.

Finally, the promised review of Pirates of Penzance, submitted (as always) by Clive Bean, North Woods cousin of Clive Barnes and maven of all things cultural in the upper Baker Valley.

Folks in the theater world sometimes say that a shaky dress rehearsal augurs a great show. If you’d been in the Pemigewassett Opera House this past Monday evening, you might therefore have been moved to predict that Tuesday’s Opening would be a triumph. Either that or . . . total Armageddon.  That final practice session was about as smooth and professional as the Boston Red Sox season so far.  But, lo and behold, when the curtain parted on the day that really counted, what ensued was one of the most spirited and finished Gilbert and Sullivan productions in recent Pemi memory – maybe of all time.           

Ezra Nugiel and Dorin Dehls

Anchoring the show were Ezra Nugiel and Dorin Dehls as the romantic leads, Frederic and Mabel (well before Mabel started sneaking Splenda and flinging that silverware!)  Sterling performer in skirts in multiple past productions, Ezra stepped back into trousers with all the dramatic cachet and vocal deftness that Pemi audiences have come to expect of him. In make-up vaguely reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s in his own Pirates shows, Ezra convincingly and quickly won the tender heart of Dorin, who partnered him in the show’s set of lovely duets with truly professional finish.  Her acting, moreover, was consistently beyond the mark.           

Robert Loeser, Phineas Walsh, and Andre Altherr were wonderful as Mabel’s co-daughters of the paternally preternaturally prolific Major General Stanley, Edith, Kate, and Isabel. (Proof, incidentally, that a show CAN have its Kate and Edith too!) The trio handled their older sister’s idiosyncratic dating proclivities with real sensitivity and tact – and subsequently inspired the Penzance constabulary’s mortal combat with some convincing maidenly bloodlust. Back on the piratical side, John Stevenson was a highly effective Samuel, providing his seafaring bros the odd life preserver and dark lantern with all of the efficiency of a Victorian Amazon.com.           

Henry Eisenhart

Pirates can’t work without a strong Ruth, and Henry Eisenhart played the none-too-bright piratical-maid-of-all-work with all of the daffy energy of Ben Walsh announcing cabin soccer matches. Henry is headed off to Australia for the coming year, and his remarkable knack for having fun in ladies’ clothing bodes well for his success in Brock Ellis’s upcoming Down Under revival of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – which, if you don’t know it, is about three Aussie Pemi Kids who decide it would be way cooler to be Bloomer Girls. Good luck, Henry. Just watch out for those rough lads in short shorts from Australian Rules Football.           

Robert Loeser, Larry Davis, and Andre Altherr

Returning to his role as the fiercely independent Pirate King, Larry Davis outdid himself with self-righteous bluster, liberally sprinkled with credulous simplicity. Veteran Major General Tom Reed, Jr. matched Larry in confusion and irritability in the show’s fabled “orphan/often” dialogue, the two college professors amply proving that having a PhD degree is no guarantee of an ability to communicate with any kind of clarity.           

One of the hallmarks of the Ian-Axness-era G&S is impeccable choral work, and both the “girls” and mens’ ensembles delivered themselves of sharp and engaging performances. Will Adams, Sam Berman, Richie Carchia, George Cooke, Jack Elvekrog, Hugh and Tucker Jones, Suraj Khakee, Ben Ridley, and Dash Slamowitz made it clear that, just because you slam Camp Tecumseh, that doesn’t mean you can’t look smashing in a dress. (Bridgid Ruf, by the way, was terrific as a girl – even though she didn’t have to pretend! Tra la la, tra lal la, tra la la la! The Wellesley Blue for me!) Meanwhile, on the x-chromosome side, Nick Bertrand, Ben Chaimberg, Teddy Farkas, Owen Felsher, Hugh Grey, Max Nugiel, Dylan O’Keefe, TH Pearson, Fred Seebeck, and Ian Steckler honored their tattoos, scars, and bandannas with bang-on cut-em-up performances.           

Police

All this was wonderful. Positively stealing the show, though, was the chorus of Police, with Jamie Andrews, Bryce Grey, Pierce Haley, Dan Reed, Owen Ritter, and Dan Willard making poignant cowardice visible (and audible) in ways that haven’t been seen since Monty Python’s Brave Sir Robin “personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill.” Deftly orchestrating their lily-livered lunacy was Mike Plecha as their ‘beater-wearing Sergeant. There have been great Sergeants in the past, including Larry Davis and Fred Seebeck; but Mike inhabited this role like none before him. A flawless Cockney accent all but guarantees that, if Mike is ever in search of a job, all he needs to do is go on a crash diet and he can easily take over from the Geico gecko.      

Ian Axness and Owen Fried (page turner)

Special thanks go to many folks behind the scenes. To Zach Barnard for his exhaustive refurbishing of the sets and for all of his other tech and production work. To Dorin Dehls for indispensable direction assistance and vocal coaching. To Deborah Fauver for her sustained and generous work with costumes. To Penelope Reed Doob for her great sensitivity and wit in staging.  Top kudos and mega thanks, though, go to Ian Axness, as always the lynch pin to Pemi’s Gilbert and Sullivan productions as both musical director and pianist extraordinaire. This was Ian’s sixth show here – two Pinafore’s, two Mikado’s, and two Pirates. He has never been better at making sure everything happened when and as it had to, from casting the show through early rehearsals to the finished production. Given the state of the dress rehearsal we refer to at the top, he never had to be so patient. The proof, though, is in the pudding. And all of the top drama critics in the Greater Wentworth area agree that this was one of the best G&S shows in decades, if not since the original London production in 1880. Pour, o pour the private sherry.  It’s time to celebrate!

[Thank you Clive. May your sugar bush run copiously come March – and keep braking for moose!]

Well, it is time more broadly to celebrate a wonderful Pemi season, capped nicely by both the Tecumseh Day victory and the upcoming 105th. As we wait for the next set of cars to rumble across our bridge with their eager (and somewhat older) occupants this coming Friday, we also look forward to next June and July, when you, our gentle readers, bring your sons back to us for another season. In the mean time, enjoy having them back in the nest, thank you for your trust, and have a wonderful Fall.

— Tom and Danny

 

 

 

Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

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

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

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

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

 

“Peggy” Read

Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

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

Chorus:

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

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

Chorus:

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

Chorus:

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

Chorus:

Ned Read, Pemi alum

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

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

 

Summer 2012: Newsletter #5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pemi’s Nature Program: 87 Years and Counting

by Larry Davis

The Nature Lodge at Pemi

The Nature Lodge soon after it was built

This is my 42nd year (1970-present) as Director of Nature Programs and Teaching at Pemi. My predecessor, Clarence Dike, was here for 41 years (1929-1970). Given my new longevity “record,” it seems like a good time to reflect on the history of natural history at Pemi.

Founding of the Nature Program

Pemi’s nature program began in 1925. The Seniors were split into five groups, and each group took “Nature” for one week, concentrating on collecting and identifying plants, shrub leaves, trees, and flowers. Clarence Dike came in 1929, and in 1930, the Nature Lodge was built. The building was named for Rev. and Mrs. Paul Moore Strayer of Rochester New York. He was a great amateur naturalist, and the Minister at Doc Win’s (one of the founding Fauver twins) church in Rochester.

Pemi Nature Lodge interior

Nature Lodge interior, 1930's

The interior of the Nature Lodge today is strikingly familiar to that of the 30’s. The two large tables with yellow birch legs are still in use today (although in very different positions). The workbenches are still in place and we still have most of the original benches to sit on, and the two original insect display cases are still in use. There have, of course, been many changes. The first is the addition of the “department” signs above the windows. These were in place when I arrived. We’ve also added a lot more lighting including two skylights. The original building had no electric lights and there were only two bulbs in place during my first years.

In 1995 we added the Phillip Reed Memorial Nature Library. This gave us about 65% more space and a weather-proof area to house our burgeoning book collection (now at about 1000 volumes). Local artisans, Roger Daniels and Richard Sharon, built the addition using native woods and the same, unusual, log construction as the original lodge. Phillip Reed was Tom Reed, Jr.’s cousin. He was a well-known environmental lawyer who passed away at a tragically early age (I actually first met him while wearing my other “hat” as an environmental science professor). He was passionate about the outdoors, and the library, built at the suggestion of and with the support of his family and friends, is a fitting and lasting tribute to him. Today, the library serves not only as a book repository, but also as a teaching station and a place where, during free time, campers and staff gather to talk about nature and dozens of other topics. I know that Phil is pleased.

Program

Making butterfly nets

Clarence Dike and camper, making a butterfly net, 1940's

While today’s program is more extensive than it was in Clarence Dike’s day, it is very much built on the foundation that he laid. We are still making butterfly nets the same way…mosquito net bags sewn onto a bent coat hanger hoop and attached with electrical tape to a trimmed stick. We are still using those nets to collect butterflies, moths, and many other insects, which we pin out on the very same spreading boards that he made (which can be seen in the 1930’s photograph of the Nature Lodge).

Other program elements begun by “Mr. Dike” include the tree walk, the “What-is-it?” contest, study of ponds and streams, and the Junior Nature Book. These all continue today. Some things we do not do any more. For example, it was common, in the 1930’s, to routinely shoot and skin birds and animals for display. We continue to display those in place since the birds are long dead and we’ve got the display. But we always make it clear that this was an old way of doing things and we now realize that this is harmful to ecosystems and the natural balance of things.

Boys in the Nature Program at Pemi

In the early days of the program, campers took a general "Nature" occupation.

We also used just to offer general “Nature” as an occupation. In fact, this was still the way we did it during my first 8 years at Pemi. We usually had 20-30 boys all wanting to do different things. We never knew, until our first meeting, just who wanted to do what.

Note how, in the picture on the left, there are two  groups of boys doing two different things. In 1977, we experimented with a new format. We offered a “Butterflies and Moths” occupation for the first time. Since then, we have offered only this kind of specific activity. We are able to plan our lessons more carefully, separate beginners from more advanced campers (and indeed, offer more advanced lessons), and offer a much wider variety of topics.

Going beyond

Ants

Today, occupations offer focused topics, such as "Ants."

The advent of individual activity occupations has allowed us to build on the solid foundation that Clarence Dike laid and to go far beyond it. We now offer 14-18 different nature occupations each week. Some, such as Beginning Butterflies and Moths or Beginning Rocks and Minerals, are available every week. Others such as Orienteering or Non-Flowering Plants may be available only once or twice a summer. Many of these activities are taught at an  advanced level so that campers can grow in their knowledge and skills within a field that holds particular interest for them. In total, we offered close to 40 different occupations this summer. These include “interdisciplinary” activities with the arts such as Photography (both darkroom and digital), Environmental Sculpture (inspired by the work of Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy), and Dyeing Woolie Critters along with Dyeing and Weaving (more on these below).

In the early 1990’s, Russ Brummer, as part of his Masters degree work at Antioch New England, developed a special occupation, Junior Environmental Explorations, that was designed to introduce Juniors to the Nature Program. It is a five-day curriculum that takes the campers through a series of activities in the woods, in the swamp, in the streams, and in the Nature Lodge, all of which are intended to acquaint them with the world around them, sharpen their observational skills, and let them know about the range of other nature occupations available to them. It is one of only two required activities at camp (the other is instructional swimming to Level 4) and all first-time juniors are automatically “enrolled” in their first week at Pemi.

Art Show at Camp Pemi

Cyanotype, digital, and darkroom photography are featured in the annual Art Show

Our “interdisciplinary” art/nature occupations are particularly satisfying. They include Nature Photography, Nature Drawing, Environmental Sculpture, and both Dyeing & Weaving and Dyeing Woolie Critters. Photography has really expanded under the guidance of our own talent (Dan Reed on digital and Peter Siegenthaler in the darkroom) and visiting professional Andy Bale, who is on the faculty at Dickinson College. Many campers have their work displayed at the annual end-of-year Art Show.

Environmental sculpture at Pemi

Environmental Sculpture encourages careful observation.

Environmental sculptures are created out of natural materials and they are frequently ephemeral, lasting only a few days or even a few hours. Besides exercising campers’ artistic instincts, the activity also strongly encourages careful observation of the natural world. I have frequently seen boys pick up and discard a dozen different rocks before selecting just the right one for their sculpture.

dyed wool

Natural dyes create colorful wool.

A more recent innovation is the use of natural dyes to dye wool. This is a lot of fun, as combinations of plants and different mordents (the metal or substance used to “fix” the dyes) can lead to unexpected results. We have dyed yarn and woven it and, for the last three years, dyed raw (but cleaned) wool and used it to needle felt “woolie critters.” Thus the occupation name, “Dyeing Woolie Critters.” We get our wool from a farm right here in Wentworth, and we have even been able to go there and see sheep shearing.

Wild Foods at Pemi

Collecting milkweed pods to cook back at the Nature Lodge

Finally, we come to the single most requested nature occupation, Wild Foods. This is taught each week, but is only open to 8 boys at a time. We were getting 50-60 requests for it each week. So, two years ago, we began limiting it to uppers and seniors only. The boys love it because they get to taste some interesting food. For me, however, the most important lesson comes with the context. We are always thinking about what it would have been like to make a living from this hard New England soil 600 years ago, before the first Europeans made permanent settlements here. We talk about gathering food, preserving it for winter, knowing what as edible and poisonous, and how that information was passed on. Three years ago, we started a “farm” where we grow the “three sisters” (corn, beans, squash) using varieties as close as we can get to those used by the Indians. We get the seeds from Plimouth Plantation where they grow and maintain stocks of these old, old strains.  In the end, we hope that the boys gain an appreciation for the hunting and gathering lifestyle and for the work that was involved in just feeding yourself and your fellows each day, let alone storing enough for those long New England Winters.

Trips

Palermo Mine; Camp Pemi field trip

Collecting minerals at Palermo Mine with Deb Kure

We started taking our first nature trips in 1971. They were to mineral collecting areas, and one of the first was to the Palermo Mine in North Groton, NH. Forty years later we are still going there, guests of the owner, Robert Whitmore of Weare, NH. In fact, he has given us keys to this world-famous locality and donated some spectacular specimens, found at the mine, for us to display. We usually run one of these trips each week, and they give the campers a chance to collect some really interesting minerals.

caving trip; Pemi Nature program

Older boys have the chance to go caving

One of the truly different things that we do through the Nature Program each summer is to run two caving trips to the Karst (cave) region of New York State, about 30 miles southwest of Albany. These are both adventure and geology trips and, as a geologist who studies hydrology in these areas (while wearing my University “hat”), I lead them. Pemi caving trips and photographs are featured in detail in Caving Trips with Camp Pemi, an article that you might enjoy reading.

We also take trips to sites of geological or ecological interest. This summer, for example, Associate Head of Nature Programs, Deb Kure, led geology field trips to Crawford and Franconia Notches. In past years, we have gone to the virgin spruce-fir forest in the Connecticut Lakes Region of extreme northern New Hampshire, to remote bogs in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, to Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and for fossil collecting on the Lake Champlain Islands in northwestern Vermont.

The Nature Instruction Clinic

In 1992, Rob Grabill, Russ Brummer, and I gave a workshop on teaching nature at camp at the International Camping Association meeting in Toronto, Ontario. This led to the establishment, in 1993, of the pre-season nature instruction clinic. This 5½-day class is designed to train instructors from other camps (and some of our own too) to teach natural history in a camp setting. It is a way in which we can share our experience and spread the good work to far more children than we personally could ever reach. The clinic is broken into two main segments. In the first, we introduce the participants to the natural history of the area. In the second, we work on teaching skills, including lesson planning and exhibit making. Everything is hands-on and tailored to the specific needs and interests of each year’s group.

In 2009, the Nature Instruction Clinic was accepted as a three-credit (graduate or undergraduate) course at the University of New Haven, the institution at which I teach. It is the capstone course in our new Environmental Education Concentration within the Master of Science in Environmental Science Program. This year we had five University of New Haven students participating along with two staff members from Pemi and five from other camps.

Closing Thoughts

It has been a long journey for Pemi Nature since 1925. Over the past 87 years, we have introduced thousands of boys to the natural world around them. Some have gone on to careers in geology or ecology or natural history teaching. Deb Kure, our current Associate Head of Nature Programs, came to the first Nature Instruction Clinic as a newly minted geology graduate. She went on to a distinguished career as an outdoor educator, having worked for the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, among other places. She now does after-school nature instruction for Camp Fire International in Austin, Texas. Most, however, have simply taken what they learned here at Pemi and used it to enrich their lives and the lives of their families. All of this was made possible by the vision of the Four Docs who provided the impetus, the place, and the people that were needed to make Nature a key part of the Pemi experience. Over the years, every Pemi director has supported the vision and the expansion of the program to what it is today. I feel immensely privileged to be a part of the legacy and see Pemi’s Nature Program continuing to grow and evolve far into the future.

 

 

Summer 2011: Newsletter #7

Thank you for your patience in waiting for this last of 2011’s newsletters. We closed just a week ago, and the days since have been filled with putting the camp to bed for the winter, a staff banquet and farewells, a wonderful memorial gathering for Tom Reed, Sr., the 29th annual Rittner Run, board meetings, and closing up the kitchen. This, too, hard on the heels of Pemi Week, with its tennis, soccer, triathlon, pentathlon, swimming, and archery championships; Games and Woodsdudes’ Days; two performances of The Mikado; the final Art Show; a lavish awards banquet; the final Bean Soup (at which counselors Jeremy Keys and Nick Ridley shared the coveted Joe Campbell Award), and the final Campfire – not to mention packing for travel home. It was a hectic but most satisfying close to a banner season. We wish we could recount all of the specifics here, but time and space militate against that. We’ll content ourselves, instead, with reproducing the approving review of the Gilbert and Sullivan show – recommending that you grill your sons for information on everything else. (Assuming, that is, that they haven’t already cornered you and delivered the goods with the tenacity of the Ancient Mariner.)

Clive Bean Reviews The Mikado

Jeremy Keys as Katisha

This year’s G &S production, The Mikado, opened triumphantly on Tuesday night last before powering to a tie for the longest run ever by a musical drama in the Pemigewassett Opera House – two. This reviewer honestly can’t recall a production that packed more energy and polish than this one, as the large and well-drilled cast rocked the stage with their dramatic fervor and melodic panache. Stealing the show was first-time leadJeremy Keys as the bloodthirsty femme fatale, Katisha, whose aggressive taste for younger men makes Cougartown look like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. JK’s powerful falsetto and over-the-top antics served notice that if Lady Gaga ever hangs up her act, Jeremy is the right man to slip into her meat mini-dress. Katisha more than met her match, though, in the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko, played by veteran lead Jamie Andrews. Ko-Ko’s reprehensible ethics, stretching all the way from bribery to lying to marital opportunism, doesn’t speak particularly well for the moral qualities of Jamie’s college, Kenyon – but no-one on the stage threw himself into a role more thoroughly than Andrews, whose ear-splitting screams of anguish and despair must have been practiced on especially tough days on the trip program.

Thompson Bain as Pish-Tush

Thompson Bain was smooth and professional as Titipu elder Pish-Tush, proving that his chops aren’t limited to Weezer and Eagles covers, while Sam Day and Zander Buteux took a walk on the wild side by donning lipstick and ladies’ clothes and nailing their roles as two of the Three Little Maids from School, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing. Sam more than evidenced his extensive university background in musical theater, complementing a solid vocal performance with some stunning acting. And Zander’s mom, who caught the second show, confessed that she might actually prefer her number one son as a girl. Larry Davis excelled as Pooh-Bah – a corrupt and arrogant official who allows that he “was born sneering.” Rumor has it that there were opposition-party operatives in the audience who were so impressed with Larry’s dramatic style that they approached him after the show asking if he was interested in a presidential run in 2012. Larry’s response was evidently unprintable. Tom Reed, Jr., was predictably type-cast as the unhinged and malicious Emperor of Japan and managed to scare everyone in the Opera House except his fawning lackey Peter Siegenthaler, whose innate fear of his master was overcome by bribes of candy.

Zach Barnard and Dorin Dehls

The romantic leads were played splendidly by Dorin Dehls, as the curiously named Yum-Yum, and Zach Barnard, as imperial runaway Nanki-Poo. Dorin brought truly professional vocal skills to the part – as impressive as this reviewer has ever heard in this venue – but added to her triumph with as nuanced and convincing an acting job as could be imagined. Meanwhile Zach – who supplemented his stage work with hours and hours of tireless work behind the scenes – presented Nanki-Poo with the vocal perfectionism we’ve come to expect of him and an understated dramatic flair that was perfect for the part of the only sane man in the whole pack. The two worked the charming kissing duet with unmatched timing and wit, turning what is sometimes one of the awkward and cloying moments of the show into a true highlight.

The chorus of schoolgirls

When all is said and done, though, it was the choruses who set the standard for the performance and sustained the energy throughout. Andre Altherr and Robert Loeser were camper stand-outs in the girls’ chorus (as anyone who’s been to campfires won’t be surprised to hear), while Sylvia Parol burst onto the Pemi dramatic scene with some remarkable singing and acting. Meanwhile, Ted McChesney, cast as the biggest girl, Mutton-Chops, got into his role so thoroughly that days later he’s still mincing around camp giggling. On the Noble side, Dan Fulham filled the stage (literally!) with his dramatic flair and booming baritone, while Dan Bivona annoyed the heck out of everyone with a laugh that sounded like a hamster getting an unexpected root canal.

 

ian Axness

Final and top kudos, though, must go to Maestro Ian Axness, whose deft and dedicated management of so many aspects of the production made a spectacular show possible. Aided and abetted by Producer/Director Penelope Reed Doob and a host of other dedicated folk, Ian hit the balance between making demands and being supportive in a way that allowed everyone in the cast to reach their full potential. Who more than Ian earned that big smack on the cheek from Sam Day during the final curtain call? Ian, you rock! Mikado, you’re a great show. Pemi, you’re a lucky community. This year’s G&S run was a triumph!

Wish you all could have been there. There IS, however, a DVD of the show available. If you’re interested, please contact us.

We’d like to offer one more insight into the last week or so – the toast Danny offered at the start of the Awards Banquet. It suited the event to a T, and seems like a fitting way to wrap up our newsletters for the year.

Danny Kerr

May I propose a toast…

Here’s to summer 2011 at Pemi, a summer that began more than nine weeks ago for some, when it still felt as much like winter as summer, a summer that ends with the days growing shorter and the first hints of autumn in the air, a summer that by all accounts has been a spectacular success, made possible mostly by the people in this room.

Here’s to over 270 campers who graced the shores of Lower Baker Pond this summer, campers from half way around the world, campers from 20 miles away in Hanover, campers from more than ten different countries, campers in their first year at Pemi and campers in their eighth.

Here’s to the amazing counselor staff at Pemi in 2011, cabin counselors, AC’s, program staff, administrators and program heads; here’s to the hard-working crew that Chris Jacobs leads so vigorously each day, to the folks in the office who never get enough credit, to the kitchen staff that takes on the herculean task of feeding us three times a day and, of course, the Reed Family and the Fauver Family who, in their loving and supportive way, continue to expect nothing short of excellence from all of us each and every day.

Here’s to the wonderful program at Pemi and the fine teaching that helps to facilitate it, to the arts and the athletics, the trips and the music, the nature program and tennis and all of the great things that happen down on the waterfront.

Here’s to the weather this summer, so many beautiful days, long days with crisp mornings, blazing afternoons and the peaceful golden haze across the pond at day’s closing. Here’s also to the brief heat wave that we endured (which revived a bit of Chillin’ with Lit), here’s to the powerful rain storms that sent us scurrying indoors and the all-clear signal that sent us scurrying back out.

Here’s to athletic contests against our friendly rivals in the Baker Valley, contests hard fought, the victories, the ones that got away, and a Tecumseh Day that ended in a tie but which reinforced what I think we already knew, that it’s OK to win and that anything is possible.

Here’s to the things that are so uniquely Pemi, Polar Bear, caving trips, sound painting and comedy olympics, FRB, all camp capture the flag, counselor baseball, distance swims, graffiti art and 161 miles completed on the Appalachian Trail.

Here’s to all camp events at Pemi, Bean Soup when we’re loud and we laugh at ourselves, Camp Fire when we’re creative and artistic, and Sunday Service when we’re reflective and thoughtful about such things as history at Pemi, the importance of written letters, the beauty of music, life in foreign lands and the belief that “nothing is impossible.”

But most importantly, here’s to the understanding that Pemi is the perfect place to try new things, a place where you may very well make the best friends you’ll ever have and a place where we so often become the person we most want to be.

Here’s to Pemi 2011. Good luck, long life and joy!

Well, that’s a wrap. Parents of second-session campers will receive a final report from their boys’ counselors within the couple of weeks, and Danny will be writing to parents of full-season boys very soon as well. For everyone fourteen and younger, applications for the 2012 season will be available in October. As for fifteens, interest in Pemi West 2012 has already begun to mount, building on the remarkable success of this year’s Washington-state session. We’ll be in touch with details on the application process. For now, thank you all so much for your trust in Pemigewassett. It’s been a truly wonderful year!

— Tom and Danny

Imagination and Improvisation at Pemi

The following article comes from Dwight Dunston, counselor in Senior 3 and Bean Soup co-editor.

I believe that in all aspects of camp life, and life outside of camp as well, there may be situations when one needs to be able to think and react quickly. Thus, the importance of a fun occupation that I teach: comedy improvisation.

During the second week of camp, I had the opportunity to teach the comedy improv occupation with counselors Wesley Eifler and Jeremy Keys. In a class with about 14 boys ages 10-15, we played a number of different games that often required us to create our own worlds in which we would act out a scene, most of which ended up being a bit ridiculous but were still very entertaining. There was one game in particular which required all of the boys to work together to make a story simply from a title suggested by the group. When one of the counselors pointed to a camper, the camper began narrating the story and would continue to do so until the counselor pointed at someone else. The next boy would first have to finish off the word or sentence of the previous participant, and then add his own twist to the story. Needless to say, the stories didn’t always relate to the initial title, but the entertainment value was much higher than the care for attention to detail. Although each game had certain guidelines and rules, the main goal was not to see how well the kids could play the games– we simply wanted the boys to be as creative and innovative as possible even if it meant looking a bit silly.

Comedy improv forces an individual to use his imagination, to react in a timely manner, and to be comfortable with looking a bit silly. If the boys took nothing else away from the occupation, I hope they learned that improvising is a way to better the imagination. And I hope that they had a laugh doing the occupation, as well.

-Dwight Dunston