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A Pemi Primer

Life at Pemi involves some jargon with which neophytes may not be familiar. Here, then, is a Pemi primer: an introduction to the lexicon of the place. (Definitions with a hyperlink have another blog item devoted to them.)

AC: Assistant counselor. Most cabins have a junior counselor who assists the head counselor. He has just finished his junior or senior year of high school, and is almost always a former Pemi camper.

Bean Soup: Every Monday night the camp convenes in the Lodge for a reading of Bean Soup, a series of articles, some humorous, about the week’s events at camp, read aloud by the editors.

Brave: The Pemi Brave is an award that is earned through a series of accomplishments by an ambitious camper who excels in a variety of fields across the Pemi curriculum: athletics, nature, the outdoors, public service, and more.

Bunk: A bunk at Pemi is an upper or lower bed in a cabin or tent. Some camps use the term “bunk” for cabins, but Pemi doesn’t.

Cabin: A cabin is the camper’s home for the summer. There are also three heavy-duty canvas tents on platforms at Pemi– Junior Tent, Hill Tent, and the Lake Tent.

Chief: The Chief is the highest achievement at Pemi, earned by only eight to ten boys in Pemi history. Like the Brave but much more difficult to earn, the Chief award is obtained only by the Pemi boy who has demonstrated remarkable achievement across all aspects of the Pemi program. It takes multiple years to complete the requirements for a Chief.

Distance swim: In order to be permitted to take a boat out solo when the waterfront is open, a boy must first complete his distance swim: a closely supervised swim, about .5 mile long, from the high dive at the Junior waterfront to the high dive at the Senior waterfront.

Division: There are four divisions at Pemi: Junior (ages 8 – 11), Lower Intermediate (ages 11 – 13), Upper Intermediate (ages 13 – 14), and Senior (ages 14 – 15).

Dope stop: After a hiking trip, Pemi campers stop for candy and a soda. It’s not the best part of a hiking trip, but it’s pretty darn good. The term “dope” derives from the early New England slang for soda pop.

Flat Rock: Diagonally across from camp on Lower Baker Pond, this rock sticks out into the water (not surprisingly, the rock is flat). Most nights at camp, in lieu of a meal in the Mess Hall, a cabin of boys and their counselors will canoe across the lake and cook their dinner over a fire.

Free swim: Every afternoon at 5 pm, campers have the option of enjoying Free Swim, which is held in both the Junior Camp and Senior Camp. Campers are closely supervised by counselors, and must swim in groups of either two or three. Because this activity is included with the price of tuition, it is considered doubly “free.” (We kid, we kid.)

Gilbert and Sullivan. Every summer, Pemi performs one of four Gilbert and Sullivan operettas: HMS Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance, Mikado, or Iolanthe. These productions take an entire season to put together, and the results are frequently soaring.

Hanover Day: During Pemi Week, the senior campers get to spend a day in town. Shopping! Pizza for dinner! A movie! Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! Need we say more?

Inspection: Every day, after breakfast, the campers and counselors clean their cabins.

Junior Brave: This award, like the Brave, is earned by a camper in the Junior division who achieves success in the outdoors, nature, athletics, and more.

Lower Baker Pond: This is the lake that Pemi is on. No exaggeration: it’s one of the most beautiful places around.

Metal Boy: A fictional character of Pemi lore. He’s made entirely of metal. Watch out for rainy days!

Mess Hall: The dining hall: a beautiful sloped-roofed, high-ceiling building perched on a hill overlooking camp, where all meals are eaten, family-style.

Occupations: The daily, structured activities, based on lesson plans. There are three occupational hours before lunch, and for juniors, a fourth after rest hour.

Pagoda: The bathroom—for going “number two.” See the entry for “Squish” below for the Pagoda’s partner in crime.

Pemi Hill: Behind the Intermediate and Junior camp there is a wooded hill rising up about Pemi. A short, steep trail up the hillside takes Pemi campers to a wooden shelter that sits beside a fresh spring. Each cabin has the opportunity to spend a night up there at least once a season, and cook breakfast over the fire in the morning. It’s close enough to camp to still be able to hear that bugle calls, but far enough away to still feel like camping.

Pemi Week: The last week of Pemi, when the normal schedule of occupations ceases and daily events celebrate the season: Games Day, Woodsdude’s Day, the Triathlon, the Art Show, the performances of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, and more. It concludes with the Final Banquet, the Final Bean Soup, and the Final Campfire.

Pine Forest: Like Flat Rock, Pine Forest is a dining location across the lake which cabins can canoe to with their counselors and cook dinner over the fire.

Polar Bear: Every morning, campers leap out of bed with a glad cry (“huzzah!”), do quick exercises to wake up, and then jump in the lake. (Required for the first week that a boy is at camp for the summer, it’s optional afterward.) Just for fun, here’s a video of a young Pemi camper jumping into Lower Baker Pond.

Pink Polar Bear: Why jump in the relatively warm lake to wake up, when you can dunk in a very cold stream first thing in the morning? Many boys choose this option.

Rest Hour: After lunch, for a blissful hour, the campers relax on their beds and quietly read, write, or listen to music. There is a chance that counselors might even enjoy this break more than the campers.

Soap bath: Every Sunday, campers are obliged to be weighed, and then take a quick bath in the lake, using their biodegradable soaps. While hot showers are available all week long, some campers are occasionally reluctant to bathe themselves of their own initiative. Thus, the soap bath.

Squish: The bathroom. But only if you have to go “number one” or brush your teeth.

Tecumseh Day: Pemi’s historical, epic athletic rivalry with Camp Tecumseh. Think Athens vs. Sparta, but instead of bows and arrows and chariots, think baseball, soccer, swimming and tennis. And better sportsmanship. And no killing.

Two-day, three-day, four-day: Overnight trips. Junior cabins go on two-day long hiking trips; Lower Intermediates on three-days and Upper Intermediates on four-days. Seniors can go on a series of ambitious and optional trips, such as climbing Mt. Katahdin, paddling the Allagash waterway in Maine, or traversing the Presidential range in the White Mountains.

Bugle Calls:

Pemi is one of the few places where you don’t really need to carry a time piece: the bugle calls, played by a counselor, let you know what time it is. Here are some of the most common ones.

Reveille: Played at 7:30 sharp, this bugle calls pierces the quiet morning air with an upbeat and clear message: get out of bed! Former Pemi counselor Lance Latham sent along this great video he shot in the summer of 1987 of counselor Dean Ellerton playing reveille. Tom Reed, Sr., is seen on the hill, helping to encourage the boys out of bed.

First call: Played five minutes before a meal begins. Here’s a cheesy YouTube video, not affiliated with Pemi, that demonstrates the call.

Tattoo: Played at 8:45 pm, this bugle call means that it is time to start getting ready for bed. Here’s another YouTube video, also not affiliated with Pemi (and somewhat weird), that demonstrates the call.

Taps: The bugle call, played at 9 pm, when it is time to sleep. Here’s an excellent History Channel clip about the origins of the call.

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